MIA: History: USA: Publications: The Camden Voice of Labor

The Camden Voice of Labor

A limited run of the Camden Voice of Labor


THE VOICE OF LABOR / NEW JERSEY LEADER (Camden, NJ — c. 1911 to 1917) Camden, New Jersey, located across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, was an industrial city of about 100,000 people in the first decades of the 20th Century. While the history of the socialist and labor movement in such major urban centers as New York City and Philadelphia is frequently studied and more or less well-known, the few surviving issues of The Voice of Labor and its successor, the New Jersey Leader, both published in Camden, provide evidence of the existence of a vital socialist movement in this and other small cities of the industrial Northeast during the Debsian era of the Socialist Party.

Only a few issues of these publications have survived, ensconced in the New Jersey State Archives in Trenton and only recently discovered on microfilm. Working backward from the volume date of the earliest surviving copy, it seams that The Voice of Labor was launched in 1911 — a high point of socialist activity and optimism. The broadsheet weekly was privately owned, published every Friday by the Camden County Socialist Publishing Co., with James E.W. Cook serving as both editor and business manager of the paper by the summer of 1915. The paper was well-illustrated with political cartoons and included editorials, reports of local socialist meetings, reprints written for others by such socialist worthies as Charles Ervin, publisher of the New York Call, and Max S. Hayes, publisher of the Cleveland Citizen.

Seven issues have survived from the watershed year of 1917, enough to provide evidence that the paper took a strong and principled anti-militarist stance during American participation in the Imperialist War. Such papers were almost all shut down by the post office department during the war, which in general refused to deliver printed anti-war publications and which terminated delivery of first class mail to newspaper offices — thereby making the collection of subscription money and delivery of papers to subscribers impossible. It is extremely likely that The Voice of Labor was terminated as a result of post office action. The last surviving issue is dated September 22, 1917.

Postal repression continued in the United States through 1919, beginning to ease up only in 1920. It was then that a new publication finally emerged in Camden, The New Jersey Leader. This was not a successor publication to The Voice of Labor, properly speaking, being published by a new publishing association under the guidance of a new editor, William J. Fielding, and making use of a new series of volume numbers. Names of participants on the masthead and content of the one surviving issue indicate a strong preponderance of party regulars rather than left wing proto-communist dissidents.

Only one copy of this second publication has survived, whole number 11, dated May 11, 1920. This intimates a launch of the publication around the first of March of that year. With Socialist Party membership experiencing a veritable free fall during this period, nearly mortally wounded by the Socialist-Communist split, it seems likely that this second publication was short-lived. Indeed, whether it survived 1920 seems an extremely dubious proposition.

Tim Davenport
Corvallis, OR
December 2018

August 8, 1915, Vol. 4, No. 47

March 25, 1916, Vol. 5, No. 27

April 15, 1916, Vol. 5, No. 30

July 22, 1916, Vol. 5, No. 44

January 20, 1917, Vol. 6, No. 18

February 3, 1917, Vol. 6, No. 20

February 10, 1917, Vol. 6, No. 21

May 5, 1917, Vol. 6, No. 33

July 21, 1917, Vol. 6, No. 44

September 8, 1917, Vol. 6, No. 51

September 22, 1917, Vol. 7, No. 1

May 11, 1920, Vol. 1, No. 1 [This is the single issue of The New Jersey Leader]

Last updated on 3 November 2018