The American Fund for Public Service, commonly known as the Garland Fund, was a philanthropic organization established in 1922 by Charles Garland, the son of a Wall Street stockbroker named James A Garland Jr. (1870–1906) and Marie Louise Tudor Garland. The fund, administered by a group of trustees headed by Roger Baldwin of the American Civil Liberties Union, ultimately disbursed some $2 Million to a variety of radical and left wing institutions, including the Federated Press labor news service, the Vanguard Press publishing house, The New Masses magazine, The World Tomorrow magazine, and to the legal defense fund associated with the 1926 Passaic Textile Strike, as well as a host of similar projects. The fund was terminated in 1941.
Establishment of the fund
In 1920, Charles "Barley" Garland, the 21-year old son of a Wall Street broker, informed the executor of his father's estate that he would refuse to accept a $1 Million inheritance from the estate of his deceased father. Garland explained to a reporter at the time that he would not accept money from "a system which starves thousands while hundreds are stuffed" and which "leaves a sick woman helpless and offers its services to a healthy man." Garland indicated to this reporter that he was not refusing to accept these funds because of socialist beliefs, but rather because as part of his study of the teachings of Jesus Christ and the works of Leo Tolstoy and H.G. Wells, he had come to the earnest belief that the money "is not mine."
Hearing of the young man's decision to refuse his inheritance and his rationale, the socialist author Upton Sinclair urged Garland to accept the money not for his personal gain, but rather to put it to a higher use. Sinclair suggested making $100,000 donations to a set of specific organizations seeking to change the economic and social system of which Garland disapproved. These organizations favored by Sinclair included The Liberator magazine, the socialist daily newspaper The New York Call, the communist daily newspaper The Daily Worker, the Federated Press news service, the Intercollegiate Socialist Society, the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Union Against Militarism, and the magazine edited by 1916 Socialist Party Presidential candidate Allan L. Benson, Reconstruction. While Garland did not immediately take action upon this suggestion, it seems as though the idea of accepting the inheritance in the name of establishing a radical philanthropic organization was planted in his head at this time.
In 1921, Garland was approached by Roger Baldwin, head of the American Civil Liberties Union, probably through ACLU attorney Walter Nelles, a law partner of Swinburne Hale, who had recently married Garland's widowed mother. Baldwin convinced Garland to accept his father's inheritance and to establish with it a "national trust fund" which would aid efforts to expand "individual liberty and the power of voluntary associations."
On July 5, 1921, the American Fund for Public Service was formally incorporated by Lewis Gannett of the New York World, Robert Morss Lovett of the University of Chicago, and Roger Baldwin. The money behind the fund was held in the form of securities at the First National Bank of New York. In preparation for the task of distributing the funds, Roger Baldwin reached out to the Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Russell Sage foundations to determine how those philanthropies handled grant requests.
The board of directors included Roger Baldwin, H. H. Broach, Robert W. Dunn, Morris L. Ernst, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, William Z. Foster, Lewis Gannett, Benjamin Gitlow, Clinton S. Golden, James Weldon Johnson, Freda Kirchwey, Clarina Michelson, Robert Morss Lovett, Scott Nearing, and Norman M. Thomas.
While the board of directors in charge of distributing grants from the Garland Fund exhibited great cooperation during its initial phase, gradually the fratricidal hostility which characterized American radical politics in the 1920s made its way into the board's discussions. The board seemed to split between a Communist left and Socialist right wings, with a small number of centrists tipping the balance.
From an early date the Garland Fund's board of directors determined not to give money directly to political parties, instead targeting funds to groups or institutions engaged in original groundbreaking efforts on behalf of the working class or oppressed minority groups. Some of the institutions receiving significant financial injections included the Rand School of Social Science, Brookwood Labor College, the Furrier's Union, and the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union.
Termination of the fund
On June 18, 1941, the board of directors of the American Fund for Public Service announced that it had voted to terminate the fund, returning its "few remaining assets" to Charles Garland. Garland was assigned $24,626.18 in outstanding loans, as well as the organization's final cash balance of $1,619.13. Over the course of its 19-year existence, the Garland fund had contributed nearly $2 Million to almost 100 enterprises.
Beneficiaries and clients of the fund
- Brookwood Labor College
- Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters
- Commonwealth College
- Daily Worker
- Equity Printing Co.
- Furrier's Union
- Hamburg American Lines
- Industrial Workers of the World
- Labor News Reel Service
- Manumit School
- Minneapolis Daily Star
- National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
- The New Masses
- New York Call Printing Co.
- Novy Mir
- Oklahoma Leader
- Polish People’s Publishing Company
- Rand School of Social Science
- Russian Reconstruction Farms
- Seattle Union Record
- Summer School for Women Workers
- United Mine Workers of America
- Urban League
- Vanguard Press
- Women's Trade Union League
- Harpers magazine, no. 142 (February 1921), pg. 397. Cited in Gloria Garrett Samson, The American Fund for Public Service: Charles Garland and Radical Philanthropy, 1922-1941. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996; pg. 1.
- Sinclair to Garland, December 2, 1920. Cited in Samson, The American Fund for Public Service, pg. 2.
- Samson, The American Fund for Public Service, pg. 2.
- Samson, The American Fund for Public Service, pp. 2-3.
- Robert C. Cottrell, Roger Nash Baldwin and the American Civil Liberties Union. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000; pg. 130.
- Cottrell, Roger Nash Baldwin and the American Civil Liberties Union, pg. 131.
- Cottrell, Roger Nash Baldwin and the American Civil Liberties Union, pg. 132.
- Samson, The American Fund for Public Service, pg. 219.
- American Fund for Public Service records, 1922-1941. New York Public Library. Catalog and finder's aid for 59 boxes and 39 reels of microfilm containing records and correspondence.
- Post on Philanthropic Words about Samson's book American Fund for Public Service