|This collage of mastheads presents the range of labor and ethnic publications that appeared in Chicago in the late 1870s and 1880s. In various ways, they spoke for and to constituencies that both overlapped and competed with one another. All spoke in counterpoint to the politically mainstream press, which was generally unsympathetic to labor.
The Anarchist began publishing in January 1886. Only a few issues appeared before the police arrested its two main editors, Adolph Fischer and George Engel, after the Haymarket bombing. The most extreme of the papers in the city, the Anarchist was started when Fischer, Engel, and others in the Northwest Side Group of Chicago anarchists decided that the Arbeiter-Zeitung was "nicht radikal genug"ónot radical enough.
August Spies assumed the editorship of the Arbeiter-Zeitung in 1884, the same year Albert Parsons became editor of the English-language Alarm, which began as a weekly but soon switched to every other week. The Arbeiter-Zeitung (or Workers' Newspaper) was a daily that in 1879 had succeeded the tri-weekly Volks-Zeitung (or People's Newspaper), founded in 1877. The Arbeiter-Zeitung's socialist viewpoint contrasted with the much more conservative Illinois Staats-Zeitung, which spoke to middle-class Germans and sharply disapproved of the anarchists. The Vorbote (or Harbinger), a weekly, was the oldest German-language socialist paper in the city. The Fackel (the Torch), a weekly, began appearing in 1878 as the Sunday edition of the Arbeiter-Zeitung. The brief life of the Socialist, on which Albert Parsons served as assistant editor, extended from 1878 to 1879.
Other socialist ethnic newspapers published in the period between the early 1880s and Haymarket included Den Nye Tid ("New Times," or "The New Time") for the Danish and Norwegian communities, and Budoucnost ("The Future") and Lampcka ("The Beacon") in Czech. In this period slightly more than 6 percent of Chicagoans were born in Denmark and Norway, slightly less than 6 percent in what was then known as Bohemia.
The total circulation of all of the socialist papers in Chicago at the time of Haymarket was an estimated 30,000. They had their equivalents in other northern industrial cities throughout the country. While their politics became generally more militant during the mid-1880s, their readership included those interested in general and community news as well as politics. In these papers one could find notices of meetings and social gatherings of all sorts, as well as advertisements for goods and services offered for and by members of different ethnic communities.
The papers featured excerpts from politically-oriented fiction (Emile Zola was a favorite, as were the political writings of Victor Hugo) and poetry (Heinrich Heine and other poets of romantic revolution received the fullest representation), as well as socialist, communist, and anarchist tracts. The papers also carried advertisements for books and pamphlets containing the full text of these and other works.
The English-language weekly Knights of Labor was, as its name implies, a labor paper devoted to advancing the cause of the skilled workingman. Published weekly beginning in 1886, the paper was the voice of the local assemblies of the Knights of Labor rather than of the national organization, which became severely divided over Haymarket. The autobiographies of the convicted anarchists appeared in this publication between the fall of 1886 and the spring of 1887.