Gustavus Myers

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Gustavus Myers
Gustavus Myers journalist.jpg
Born (1872-03-20)March 20, 1872
Died December 7, 1942(1942-12-07) (aged 70)
Nationality American
Occupation Journalist and author

Gustavus Myers (1872–1942) was an American journalist and historian who published a series of influential studies on wealth accumulation. His name is associated with the muckraking era of U.S. literature—somewhat erroneously, since his work is not journalistic, does not aim at popular magazine publication and takes an altogether more scholarly investigative approach to its subjects.


Gustavus Myers was born March 20, 1872, in Trenton, New Jersey, the son of Julia Hillman and Abram Myers. He attended school for a time while the impoverished family lived in Philadelphia. His father was largely absent. At the age of 14, Gustavus began working in a factory. He continued his own education by reading avidly and attending public lectures. His older brother, Jerome Myers, became a painter associated with the Ashcan School. Gustavus married Genevieve Whitne, Massachusetts, on September 23, 1904, and they had two children together.[1][2]


In 1891, Myers went to work as a reporter for the Philadelphia Record, leaving the next year for New York City, where he remained for the rest of his life.[3]

In the 1890s, Myers became a member of the People's Party (commonly known as the "Populists"), later joining the Socialist Party of America (SPA).[3] He published 'The History of Tammany Hall' in 1901.

Myers was interested in parapsychology, he published Beyond the Borderline of Life (1910). In the decade of the 1910s, he emerged as a leading scholar of the American socialist movement when he authored a series of volumes for Charles H. Kerr & Co., the country's largest publisher of Marxist books and pamphlets. Between 1909 and 1914, Myers published three volumes on the history of family wealth in the United States, one volume on the same topic for Canada, and a history of the Supreme Court of the United States. These publications were frequently cited and used in an academic setting for several decades, with Myers' History of the Great American Fortunes revived in a single volume format in 1936.[3] This classic work (History of the Great American Fortunes), by far Myers' most important and influential, details and documents at great length the corruption and criminality underlying the formation and accumulation of the great American fortunes of the 19th century that formed the foundations of the American corporate-financial economy, from Astor and Vanderbilt, Jay Gould and Marshall Field, Stanford and Harriman, to Elkins, Morgan and Hill, Whitney, Rockefeller, Dodge, Havemeyer and numerous others, and displays the permanently devastating effects on the structure of the American economy and the quality of life of the vast majority of Americans and on American society. Myers' approach is by no means "Marxist;" his concern is with the legal and administrative enablement of financial crimes and pillage by legislation and the corruption of government bodies nominally delegated to enforce it.

Myers split with the Socialist Party in 1917 over the SPA's position against US involvement in World War I.[3] In 1918 Myers contributed to the US war effort by publishing a book attacking what he called "Germany's Sinister Propaganda" entitled The German Myth: The Falsity of Germany's "Social Progress" Claims.

Myers received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1941, which he used to write a book entitled History of Bigotry in the United States.[3] He died before the work could be published and Random House published the work posthumously.


Gustavus Myers died on December 7, 1942 in Bronx, New York at the age of 70. He is buried in the historic Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.[1]


Myers' papers are housed at the American Heritage Center of the University of Wyoming at Laramie. Included in the 2.5 cubic feet (71 L) of archival material are photographs of Myers and the manuscripts of two unpublished non-fiction books.[4] A finding aid is available on site.

The Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights existed from 1984 to 2009. Founded by an English professor, it took its name in inspiration from Myer's final work. The center was most known for the Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Award, ten of which were given out each year for books which were judged to be "outstanding in helping shed light on bigotry in America."[5]


  • History of Public Franchises in New York City. New York: Reform Club Committee on City Affairs, 1900.
  • The History of Tammany Hall. New York: self-published, 1901.
  • The History of Tammany Hall. Revised edition, Boni and Liveright, 1917.
  • “Bolshevist Propaganda Ninety Years Ago,” The Weekly Review, Vol. I, May/December, 1919.
  • History of the Great American Fortunes. Volume 1; Volume 2; Volume 3. Chicago: Charles H. Kerr & Co., 1909–1910.
  • History of the Great American Fortunes. Single volume expanded edition, New York, Modern Library, 1936.
  • Beyond the Borderline of Life: A Summing Up of the Results of the Scientific Investigation of Psychic Phenomena. Boston: Ball Publishing Co., 1910.
  • History of The Supreme Court of the United States. Chicago: Charles H. Kerr & Co., 1912.
  • A History of Canadian Wealth. Chicago: Charles H. Kerr & Co., 1914. One volume only of a projected two volumes published.
  • "A Study of the Causes of Industrial Accidents," Journal of the American Statistical Association, Vol. 14 (Sept. 1915), pp. 672–694.
  • The German Myth: The Falsity of Germany's "Social Progress" Claims. New York: Boni and Liveright, 1918.
  • Ye Olden Blue Laws. New York: Century Co., 1921.
  • The History of American Idealism. New York: Boni and Liveright, 1925.
  • America Strikes Back: A Record of Contrasts. New York: Ives Washburn, 1935.
  • The Ending of Hereditary American Fortunes. New York: J. Messner, 1939.
  • History of Bigotry in the United States. New York: Random House, 1943. Published posthumously.


  1. ^ a b Samantha Maziarz, "Gustavus Myers," Class in America: An Encyclopedia, ed. Robert E. Weir. ABC-CLIO, 2007; p. 555.
  2. ^ Caryn Hannan, ed., New Jersey Biographical Dictionary. North American Book Distr LLC, 2008; pp. 500-503.
  3. ^ a b c d e Francis X. Gannon, A Biographical Dictionary of the American Left: Volume 4. Boston: Western Islands, 1973; pp. 507-508.
  4. ^ Listing for the Gustavus Myers Papers, University of Wyoming, Laramie. Retrieved July 18, 2010.
  5. ^ Gustavus Myers Center For The Study of Bigotry and Human Rights in North America, "Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights 2002 Award Winners," December 10, 2002. Retrieved July 18, 2010. Archived September 18, 2009, at the Wayback Machine

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