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  • What Everyman Should Know: Emanuel Julius’s Radical Little Blue Books Pocket-Series

    By Dylan Wheeler

    In 1905, fifteen year-old Emanuel Julius was browsing through available titles in

    Nicholas L. Brown’s bookshop located on Fifth and Pine Street in his hometown of

    Philadelphia. A used pamphlet edition of Oscar Wilde’s The Ballad of Reading Gaol

    caught Emanuel’s eye, and he purchased the poem for only a dime. Ignoring the cold of

    that winter afternoon, he crossed the street towards a nearby park, and sat under a tree as

    he read Wilde’s ballad cover-to-cover. By the time he finished, the cold had turned

    Emanuel’s hands blue, but he couldn’t be bothered. He was somewhere else entirely.

  • Wheeler      


    That ten-cent booklet stirred something within him that would determine the path of his

    life. How wonderful would it be if thousand of such booklets were available? It is the

    memory of that evening spent reading that inspired Emanuel to create the Little Blue

    Books pocket-series.

      The  series   is  comprised  of   thousands  of   titles,  each  printed   in  a  small   three  

    and  a  half  by   five-­‐inch  staple-­‐bound  booklet.  At   just   twenty-­‐five  cents  per  booklet,  

    these  tracts  were  the  first  form  of  affordable  “paperback”  literature  for  many  in  the  

    working   class.   Even   the   poorest   Americans   could   now   obtain   extensive   personal  

    literary  and  philosophical   collections  ordered   simply   through  a  mail-­‐in   subscriber  

    list.  Thousands  of  works,  both  classical  and  contemporary,  were  compressed  into  a  

    small  text  block  of  roughly  sixty-­‐four  pages.  In  fact,  the  booklets  gained  worldwide  

    popularity   for   their   affordable   price   and   transportable   nature.   How   Emanuel  

    Haldeman-­‐Julius  came  to  achieve  this  feat  leads  to  a  story  of  a  young  revolutionary  

    dedicated  to  bettering  his  fellow  man.    










  • Wheeler      


    Emanuel Julius was born in Philadelphia, in

    1889. He was the son of Russian-Jewish Parents who

    had immigrated to America just two years prior. His

    father, David Julius, worked as a bookbinder. 1 This

    bookish profession created in Emanuel a fascination

    for books from a very young age. However, his

    family did not have much money, and it was difficult

    for Emanuel to find books that he could afford. In

    later recollections about his childhood, Emanuel

    reflected, “seeing a book I could not afford to buy

    was worse than being hungry and looking at a bun in

    the bakery window.”

    Emanuel was often harassed on account of his Jewish background, to the point

    that he decided to leave his religious faith behind altogether. Instead, he adopted a new

    belief, a faith in man. Socialism was rapidly expanding in the early twentieth century.

    Between 1902 and 1912, over three hundred socialist newspapers spread across America

    and published a wide variety of affordable literature. The pragmatism and focus on

    everyday people of socialist print enticed Emanuel. Indeed, the movement’s convictions

    soon became his own. Although his formal education ended at the age of thirteen,

    Emanuel became an avid reader, and his passion for books and knowledge inspired him

    to take up writing. His first article as a teenager, titled “Mark Twain—Radical,” was sold

    to the International Socialist Review and earned Emanuel ten dollars.

                                                                                                                    1  His  father’s  name  prior  to  his  americanization  was  David  Zolajefsky.    

  • Wheeler      


    This success would lead Emanuel to obtain a job as copyreader at the socialist

    newspaper Philadelphia Daily. There his talent for writing provided correspondent

    positions with several other socialist papers, including: The Milwaukee Leader, Chicago

    Daily World, Los Angeles Citizen, and the New York Call. In 1915, Emanuel’s reputation

    as an effective writer landed him also a position at the Appeal of Reason, the Girard, in

    Kansas, based socialist newspaper.

    Appeal of Reason was one of America’s most popular socialist newspapers, with

    nearly 700,000 subscribers by 1912. Founded by J.A. Wayland in 1895, the newspaper’s

    name was inspired by the works of the English born, revolutionary Thomas Paine, whose

    radical and elegance eloquence spurred the American Revolution with influential

    publications such as Common Sense. Although Girard was largely a conservative town,

    where people at first frowned upon what they perceived as the advent of a “wild eyed

    fanatic” in J.A. Wayland. Such apprehensions were quickly laid to rest the moment the

    newspaper became the largest employer of the town and important source of economic


    However, when Emanuel Julius came to Appeal of Reason in 1915, the newspaper

    had begun to experience a sharp decline in popularity. Just three years prior, J.A.

    Wayland, the editor of Appeal of Reason, had committed suicide. Inside a book sitting on

    the bedside table next to where Wayland had shot himself, he wrote the epitaph: “The

    struggle under the competitive system is not worth the effort; let it pass.” Wayland’s

    initial enthusiasm for the socialist cause had diminished in the face of an increasingly

    unsympathetic public. Indeed, just year prior the Social Democratic party itself had been

  • Wheeler      


    split in two over the fundamental debate of whether or not America should enter the

    Great War in Europe.2

    Living in Girard, Kansas, Emanuel Julius met Marcet Haldeman, an aspiring stage

    actress who belonged to one of the town’s most affluent families. Marcet, a fiercely

    independent, well educated, and outspoken feminist, might have seemed intimidating to

    most men. However, Emanuel quickly fell in love and married after only a six-month

    courtship on June 1st, 1916. As a demonstration of their commitment to gender equality

    and mutual respect, Emanuel and Marcet combined their surnames, which changes

    Julius’s name into Emanuel Haldeman-Julius.

    As the two newlyweds settled into married life, Appeal of Reason experienced a

    severe loss of subscribers as a response to larger changing political attitudes in America

    following the end of World War I.3 Julius saw the need to make drastic changes to the

    failing newspaper. With the help of his wife and her substantial inheritance, he purchased

    a controlling interest of Appeal of Reason in January of 1919.

    Julius had learned from Marion Wharton, the head of the English department at

    the People’s College of Fort Scott, just thirty miles north of Girard, that cheap literature

    for college students was unavailable. In homage to the cheap booklet that Julius had

    devoured in his youth, he started printing thousands of copies of Oscar Wilde’s The

    Ballad of Reading Gaol to test the waters of the literary marketplace. He found out that

                                                                                                                    2  The   Sedition   and   Espionage   Acts   passed   by   Congress   towards   the   end   of  World   War  I  and  targeted  dissent  towards  the  government’s  war  efforts.  As  a  result,  many   members   left   the  socialist  movement  out  of   fear  of  being  associated  with   the  anti-­‐ war  rhetoric.   3  The paper had flipped its stance on American militarism to protect itself from the government’s wrath, and loyal subscribers saw this change as a clear sign that the editors were not fully committed to the ideals of socialism.  

  • Wheeler      


    when he sold these copies alongside the Appeal’s standard publication for only twenty-

    five cents, that these cheap Wild booklets were an instant success.

    Emanuel soon conceived the idea of publishing a fifty-book series of classical

    works, dubbed “The Appeal’s pocket-series.” The literary series, which only cost five

    dollars, received over fi