"Philosophers of despair": (italicized)Harper's Weekly(/italicized) and the criminalization of American anarchism, 1877-1920

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2023-05
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Cirian, Nathan
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McDonnell, Lawrence T.
Andrews, James T.
Harper, Shannon
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History
Abstract
Anarchists were one of the great enigmas of the Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries. They were terrorists, drunks, misfits, and blood-hungry deviants. They were dirty, long-haired, and shadowy figures that loomed over the American psyche. Did Americans know how to spot an anarchist or were they relying on unreliable stereotypes? In this thesis, I examine the depictions of anarchists within Harper’s Weekly, one of the most widely read magazines at the turn of the Twentieth century. Through its luxurious illustrations and scathing commentary, Harper’s provides an important insight into what Americans thought anarchists were and where they thought anarchists were hiding. This thesis argues that Americans’ fear of anarchists was exaggerated. Anarchist acts of terror were few and far between. Yet, Americans were constantly afraid. This fear of anarchists led American legislators to try and legislate away the anarchist problem. These depictions and strategies to combat anarchism were refined over the decades and, after World War I, were applied to a new threat, Russian Bolshevism.
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