Ramparts (magazine)

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EditorWarren Hinckle
Managing editorJames F. Colaianni
CategoriesPolitical magazine
PublisherEdward M. Keating
Year founded1962
Final issue1975
Based inMenlo Park, California

Ramparts was a glossy illustrated American political and literary magazine, published from 1962 to 1975 and closely associated with the New Left political movement.[1] Unlike most of the radical magazines of the day, Ramparts was expensively produced and graphically sophisticated.

Establishment and activities[edit]

Ramparts was established in June 1962 by Edward M. Keating in Menlo Park, California, as a "showcase for the creative writer and as a forum for the mature American Catholic".[2] The magazine declared its intent to publish "fiction, poetry, art, criticism and essays of distinction, reflecting those positive principles of the Hellenic-Christian tradition which have shaped and sustained our civilization for the past two thousand years, and which are needed still to guide us in an age grown increasingly secular, bewildered, and afraid".[2]

The early magazine included pieces by Thomas Merton and John Howard Griffin, but one observer compared its design to "the poetry annual of a Midwestern girls school".[3] Under editor Warren Hinckle, the magazine upgraded its look, converted to a monthly news magazine, and moved to San Francisco. Robert Scheer became managing editor, and Dugald Stermer was hired as art director.[3]

Ramparts was an early opponent of the Vietnam War. Its April 1966 cover article concerned the Michigan State University Group, a technical assistance program in South Vietnam that Ramparts claimed was a front for CIA covert operations.[4] For that story, Ramparts won the George Polk Award for Magazine Reporting.[3] In August 1966, managing editor James F. Colaianni wrote the first national article denouncing the US use of napalm in that conflict.[5] "The Children of Vietnam",[6] a January 1967 photo-essay by William F. Pepper, depicted some of the injuries inflicted on Vietnamese children by U.S. attacks. That piece led Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to oppose the war publicly for the first time.[3]

In March 1967, Ramparts revealed links between the CIA and the National Student Association (NSA), raising concerns about CIA involvement in domestic issues. The CIA knew about the revelations in advance, and tried their best to limit the extent of the scandal.[7][8] Nevertheless, financial clues led to further stories by the press, revealing CIA ties to groups like Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty and the Asia Foundation. In the estimation of historian John Prados, the ensuing scandal "marked a sea change for the agency".[9]

One of the magazine's most controversial covers depicted the hands of four of its editors holding burning draft cards, with their names clearly visible.[10] Ramparts also covered conspiracy theories about the Kennedy assassination. The magazine published Che Guevara's diaries, with an introduction by Fidel Castro, and the prison diaries of Eldridge Cleaver, later republished as Soul on Ice. Upon his release from prison, Cleaver became a Ramparts staff writer.[3]

The magazine's size and influence grew dramatically over these years. Moving to monthly production, combined subscriptions and newsstand sales increased from just under 100,000 at the end of 1966 to nearly 250,000 in 1968, a figure more than double that of the liberal weekly, The Nation.[11]

Beginning in 1966, American authorities began investigating the magazine's funding, suspecting Soviet financial connections. CIA Director William Raborn asked for a report, and files were gathered on many of the editors and writers.[12] According to a book published in 2008, it was the first time the CIA had targeted a US publication, a violation of the National Security Act of 1947.[12] The CIA failed to find communist ties.[13]

The magazine also published articles written by Anthony Russo, one of the men involved in the leaking of the Pentagon Papers, about the RAND Corporation.


Despite its impressive circulation figures, high production and promotional costs made Ramparts operate at a heavy financial loss during the last years of the 1960s, with its operating deficit topping $500,000 a year in both 1967 and 1968.[14] Bankruptcy and a temporary cessation of production followed.[14] The magazine's temporary shift to a biweekly format and an expensive trip to cover the 1968 Democratic National Convention led to financial instability, as did a drop in subscriptions. With a reduced budget and a smaller staff, Ramparts continued publication.

In 1970, Ramparts contributor Susan Lydon wrote "The Politics of Orgasm". The male editorial board first laughed at Lydon's proposed article, but she persisted. Upon publication, the article sparked widespread discussion of the fake orgasm, and it was later brought into the scholarly literature about women's sexuality. Ramparts editor Robert Scheer acknowledged "The Politics of Orgasm" as "one of our great articles."[15]

In June 1972, the magazine printed the wiring schematics necessary to create a mute box (a variant of the blue box).[16] All sold issues were recalled or seized from newsstands by police and officials of Pacific Bell, causing financial loss to the magazine.[17] The magazine ceased operations for good in 1975.


Several former staffers went on to found their own magazines, such as Mother Jones or joined Rolling Stone. At Scanlan's, editor Warren Hinckle paired Hunter S. Thompson and illustrator Ralph Steadman for what is widely regarded as the first example of Gonzo journalism. Robert Scheer later became a featured columnist in the Los Angeles Times and is now the editor of the Truthdig website and a regular participant in the NPR program Left, Right and Center. Another Ramparts editor, James Ridgeway, was a senior correspondent in the Washington, D.C. bureau of Mother Jones.

James F. Colaianni later represented the radical Catholic perspective with the books Married Priests & Married Nuns and The Catholic Left. Three editors, David Horowitz, Sol Stern and Peter Collier, later denounced the left and became critics of liberal progressivism. For a brief time, the magazine's Washington correspondent was Brit Hume, now working for Fox News. Former correspondent Eldridge Cleaver would continue his advocacy of black nationalism until his return to America from exile, from then on Cleaver identified himself as a conservative Republican and Mormon.[18]


  1. ^ Gottlieb, Akiva (2012) "David Horowitz is Homeless", TabletMag.com, May 2, 2012; Retrieved 27 July 2015
  2. ^ a b "Editorial Policy," Ramparts, vol. 1, no. 1 (June 1962), p. 3.
  3. ^ a b c d e Richardson, Peter (2009). A Bomb in Every Issue. The New Press.
  4. ^ "MSU: The University on the Make". Ramparts Magazine: 11–22. April 1966 – via www.unz.org.
  5. ^ James F. Colaianni (August 1966). "Napalm: A Smalltown Diary". Ramparts Magazine: 46–50 – via www.unz.org.
  6. ^ [http://www.unz.org/Pub/Ramparts-1967jan-00045?View=PDF Unz.org: The Children of Vietnam - Photographs and Text - by William F. Pepper, Ramparts Magazine, January 1967, pp. 45-68]
  7. ^ Prados, John (2006). Safe for Democracy: The Secret Wars of the CIA. Ivan R. Dee. pp. 369–371. ISBN 9781615780112.
  8. ^ Stern, Sol (March 1967). "NSA and the CIA". Ramparts Magazine: 29–39.
  9. ^ Prados, John (2006). Safe for Democracy: The Secret Wars of the CIA. Ivan R. Dee. pp. 372–374 (quote on p. 174). ISBN 9781615780112.
  10. ^ Stern, Sol (23 December 2015). "The Ramparts I Watched". City Journal.
  11. ^ Dwight Garner, "Back When Ramparts Did the Storming," New York Times, October 6, 2009.
  12. ^ a b Michael Howard Holzman (2008). James Jesus Angleton, the CIA, and the Craft of Counterintelligence. University of Massachusetts Press. ISBN 978-1-55849-649-1.[page needed]
  13. ^ Prados, John (2006). Safe for Democracy: The Secret Wars of the CIA. Ivan R. Dee. p. 370. ISBN 9781615780112.
  14. ^ a b "Editorial," Ramparts, vol. 8, no. 10 (April 1970), p. 6.
  15. ^ Woo, Elaine (July 26, 2005). "Susan Lydon, 61; Author of Influential Feminist Essay". Los Angeles Times.
  16. ^ "Regulating the Phone Company In Your Home". Ramparts Magazine. 10 (12): 54–57. June 1972 – via www.unz.org.
  17. ^ Sterling, Bruce (1993). "Part 2". The hacker crackdown: law and disorder on the electronic frontier ([2nd print.] ed.). New York: Bantam. ISBN 0-553-56370-X.
  18. ^ "Eldridge Cleaver Announces Bid for U.S. Senate Seat". Jet. 69 (23). Johnson Publishing. February 24, 1986. p. 25. ISSN 0021-5996. Retrieved May 16, 2012.


  • Jeffrey M. Burns, "No Longer Emerging: Ramparts Magazine and the Catholic Laity, 1962–1968." U.S. Catholic Historian, vol. 9, no. 3 (June 1990), pp. 321–33.
  • Warren Hinckle, If You Have a Lemon, Make Lemonade: An Essential Memoir of a Lunatic Decade, New York: Putnam, 1974. ISBN 9780399110078
  • Adam Hochschild, "Ramparts: The End of Muckraking Magazines," Washington Monthly, vol. 6, no. 4 (June 1974), pp. 33–42. [1]
  • David Horowitz, Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey. New York: Touchstone-Simon & Schuster, 1997.
  • Peter Richardson, A Bomb In Every Issue: How the Short, Unruly Life of Ramparts Magazine Changed America. New York: New Press, 2009. ISBN 9781595585462

External links[edit]