1917 July 7

Suppression of Dissent: “The Masses,” Anti-War Magazine, Held Non-Mailable


In the first months of American involvement in World War I in 1917, President Woodrow Wilson’s administration began aggressively suppressing dissent. One of the most important cases involved The Masses, a leading radical magazine before the war and an outspoken opponent of American involvement in the war. On this day, the Post Office notified the editors that it would be barred from the mails. (See the separate entry for the ban on The American Socialist also on this day.)

The Masses challenged the ban and won an important victory in District Court on July 24, 1917, but lost on appeal (November 2, 1917). In a separate action, the Justice Department indicted the editors of The Masses on criminal charges but never won a conviction (see April 27, 1918).

The Masses went out of business in December 1917. The editors founded The Liberator as a replacement, but were careful not to publish anything that would incur the wrath of the government regarding the war.

Learn more about The Masses at Michigan State Universityhttp://www.lib.msu.edu/branches/dmc/collectionbrowse/?coll=124&par=1

Read all the issues of The Masses, including the offending one (NOTE: individual issues are slow to load; be patient): http://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/masses/index.htm

Learn more about Max Eastman, editor of The Masses: Christopher Irmscher, Max Eastman:  A Life (2017)

Read a collection of excerpts from The Masses: William L. O’Neill, ed., Echoes of Revolt: The Masses, 1911–1917 (1966)

Learn more about The Liberator: http://www.marxists.org/history/usa/culture/pubs/liberator/

Read about Postmaster General Burleson: https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fbu38

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