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Socialism History Collection

Ms. Collection No. 641




Political movement favoring government ownership, increased power for Labor, social equality, and other liberal causes. Expressed by the Socialist Party of Kansas, formed after the Populist Party lost power in the 1890s. More influential in southeast Kansas and among immigrant groups.

Primarily records of the Socialist Party of Kansas. The collection contains correspondence, newsletters, member lists, financial records, minutes of meetings, constitutions, ballots, publications, and other materials.


1910-1956 (bulk 1934-1941)


0.8 ft. (2 boxes)


Socialism History Collection


Ms. collection no. 641


Kansas State Historical Society (Topeka)


Socialism as a political force in Kansas essentially grew from the power vacuum left by the Populist Party failure of the 1890s. Southeast Kansas, with its large southern and eastern European immigrant population and coal and zinc mining industry, soon became the hub of the nascent movement in Kansas. Around the turn of the century, when J. A. Wayland began publishing the socialist newspaper Appeal to Reason in Girard, and after the founding of the Socialist Party of America in 1901, it soon became one of the major hubs of socialism in the United States. This part of the state was a favorite place to visit for prominent socialists, such as Eugene V. Debs. In 1912, socialists swept nearly all of the county offices in Crawford County. This was the high point of socialism in Kansas, as well as all over the country. However, World War I brought this to an end. Many socialists who were against the war were imprisoned and their publications suppressed. The socialists were additionally weakened in 1919 when the communists defected to form their own party. The Appeal, which had essentially stopped being a socialist paper several years prior, was discontinued in 1922. The movement regained some popularity during the Great Depression; however, that soon ended when the New Deal programs began taking effect and World War II created a general prosperity. In the following decade, McCarthyism further weakened all left-wing groups. By that time, the Socialist Party was effectively impotent and would never again see the successes they achieved in the early decades of the century.

Scope And Content

The Socialism history collection is primarily composed of the administrative records of the Socialist Party of Kansas (SP-KS). The inclusive collection dates are from 1910 to 1956, but the material from both the early and the later years is extremely sparse. The years from approximately 1934 to 1941 are the most completely documented. The collection consists of correspondence, newsletters, member lists, financial records, minutes of meetings, constitutions, ballots, publications, and other miscellaneous materials, which also includes some material from the Socialist Party of America (SPA). The materials appear to be mainly what was saved by four of the State Secretaries of the SP-KS during the 1930s and 1940s. These secretaries, in order of their tenure in office, were Ross Magill, Lawrence Piercey, George Whiteside, and Pearlanna Briggs. The Socialism history collection could best be used to gain insight into the inner workings and decision making processes of a small, marginalized, left-wing political party, and information on the types of people who would belong to such an organization.

This collection is organized into thirteen series: (1) Correspondence, (2) Constitutions, (3) Platforms, (4) State Executive Committee, (5) State Conventions, (6) Candidates for Elections, (7) Financial Records, (8), Records of Dues, (9) Member Lists, (10) Kansas Socialist, (11) Young People’s Socialist League, (12) Miscellaneous, and (13) Publications. Each series is arranged chronologically with undated material placed at the end of each series.

Contents List

Series Description

Series 1. CORRESPONDENCE, 1920-1956. 11 folders (folders 1-11 [box 1])
Letters written to and from the State secretaries of the Socialist Party of Kansas (SP-KS) to the party’s state committee members and local branch officers. The main correspondents include Anton Schuler, C. R. Ingraham, Arthur Roberts, and Ted C. Hager. There are significant gaps in this series occurring in the 1920s and mid-1940s to mid-1950s. The main topics of the letters relate to the secretaries asking for opinions regarding policy decisions, arranging and organizing meetings, and requesting that certain people serve on a committee or run for election. Also included are the replies of the committee members and branch officers making excuses why they can not do this, and why they or their locals have not been doing all they could for the cause. Occasionally motions voted on by members of the State Executive Committee are included (see also Series 4).

Series 2. CONSTITUTIONS, 1934-1937. 1 folder (folder 12 [box 1])
Copies of the constitution of the SP-KS from 1934 and 1937. There is also a copy of amendments added in 1936.

Series 3. PLATFORMS, 1930-1940. 1 folder (folder 13 [box 1])
Copies of the platforms for the SP-KS during the election years of 1930, 1936, and 1940.

Series 4. STATE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE RECORDS, 1934-1937. 2 folders (folders 14-15 [box 1])
The State Executive Committee was the governing body of the SP-KS, and this series contains minutes of their meetings and motions voted on by the committee members. Some of the motions voted on include choosing delegates for the national convention of the party, choosing dates for the state convention, and changing how the State secretary was paid his or her salary. Some related information found in Series 1.

Series 5. STATE CONVENTION RECORDS, 1916-1937. 1 folder (folder 16 [box 2])
This series is very incomplete and only contains the minutes from the state conventions of the SP-KS in 1916, 1920, 1936, and 1937.

Series 6. LISTS OF CANDIDATES FOR ELECTIONS, 1930-1946. 3 folders (folders 17-19 [box 2])
Lists certified by the secretary of state containing the names of candidates running for State office from the SP-KS. Also contains certificates of nomination for the candidates and ballots from members of the party electing these people to be their candidates for office.

Series 7. FINANCIAL RECORDS, 1936-1937. 2 folders (folders 20-21 [box 2])
Account books and the State secretary’s monthly reports.

Series 8. RECORDS OF DUES, 1932-1939. 2 folders (folders 22-23 [box 2])
Reports sent to the State secretary from the local units of the party regarding dues paid by their members. The reports list each member’s name, address, date admitted to the party, and membership status.

Series 9. MEMBER LISTS, 1936. 1 folder (folder 24 [box 2])
Lists of members of the SP-KS. The lists give the names and addresses of members. Related information found in Series 8.

Series 10. THE KANSAS SOCIALIST, 1935-1940. 2 folders (folders 25-26 [box 2])
Issues of the The Kansas Socialist, which was the newsletter of the SP-KS. There are many missing issues, but it appears that the newsletter was issued to the membership on a monthly basis. They contain information about pledge drives, subscribing to party newspapers, meetings, conventions, individual members, and financial matters. Generally reiterates information found in the previous 9 series.

Series 11. YOUNG PEOPLE’S SOCIALIST LEAGUE FILE, 1933-1934. 1 folder (folder 27 [box 2])
In approximately 1934, the SP-KS wanted to start a branch of the Young People’s Socialist League (YPSL) in Kansas. This series consists of materials on how to organize and initially start a branch of the YPSL. It is not clear from the information if a branch was chartered in Kansas, but presumably not.

Series 12. MISCELLANEOUS ITEMS, 1910-1941. 3 folders (folders 28-30 [box 2])
Lists of Kansas subscribers to the Socialist Call, which was the official newspaper of the Socialist Party of America; a list of SPA officials and committee members; the SPA constitution; and a scrapbook containing pictures clipped from magazines of prominent socialists.

Series 13. PUBLICATIONS, [undated]. 1 folder (folder 31 [box 2])
Propaganda pamphlets largely produced by the SPA.

Related Records and Collections

Related materials

Arthur Bridwell Diaries, Kansas State Historical Society microfilm MS 294, available through interlibrary loan.

Pearlanna Briggs misc. collection


Kansas State Historical Society. “Socialism Clippings,” vol. 1, Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. Kansas State Historical Society (KSHS) Library call no. K 335 Clipp.

Kansas State Historical Society. “Socialist Party Clippings,” vol. 1, Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. KSHS Library call no. K 329.8 Sol 3 Clipp.

Shore, Elliot. Talkin’ Socialism: J. A. Wayland and the Role of the Press in American Radicalism, 1890-1912. Lawrence, Kan.: University Press of Kansas, 1992. KSHS Library call no. K B W364.

Index Terms

Access Points

The terms listed below may include names, places, subjects, occupations, titles, and other words describing this collection. These terms are used in the ATLAS catalog used by the Kansas State Historical Society and affiliated libraries in Topeka, http://lib.wuacc.edu/search, as well as libraries and archives subscribing to OCLC, a national library/archives database. Searches on these words should produce a description of this collection as well as other books and collections that may be of interest.

Geographic names


Personal Names (all co-creators and subjects)

Briggs, Pearlanna
Hager, Ted C.
Ingraham, C. R.
Magill, Ross
Piercey, Lawrence
Roberts, Arthur
Schuler, Anton
Whiteside, George



Corporate Names (all co-creators and subjects)

Socialist Party (Kan.)
Young People’s Socialist League
Young Socialist League

Additional Information for Researchers

Custodial history

May 12, 1910, meeting minutes: Found among papers of Arthur Bridwell given to Baker University (Baldwin City, Kans.)

Acquisition information

May 12, 1910, meeting minutes: Gift, Baker University (Baldwin City, Kans.), 1960

Remainder of collection: Gifts; Pearlanna Briggs; 1967, 1969, 1979

Restrictions on access


Copyright / publication rights

The issue of copyright was not addressed when the various parts of the collection were donated. Copyright to papers is, therefore, assumed to belong to the creators or their heirs or assigns.

Preferred citation

[identification of individual item and series]; Socialism history collection, 1910-1956; ms. collection no. 641; Library and archives Division, Kansas State Historical Society.


Future additions to the collection are possible, but none are anticipated at this time.

Processing information

Processed by Holly Wright, Lela Barnes intern, 2000.