The Truth Seeker

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The Truth Seeker
The Truth Seeker cover dated Sept.-Dec. 2018
Editor-in-ChiefRoderick Bradford
CategoriesHistory, secularism, censorship
PublisherRoderick Bradford / The Truth Seeker Company
First issue1873; 151 years ago (1873)
Based inSan Diego, U.S.

The Truth Seeker is an American periodical published since 1873.[1] It was considered the most influential Freethought publication during the period following the Civil War into the first decades of the 20th century, known as the Golden Age of Freethought. Though there were other influential Freethought periodicals, Truth Seeker was the only one with a national circulation.[1] The headquarters is in San Diego, California. The Truth Seeker is the world’s oldest freethought publication, and one of the oldest periodicals in America. Among general-readership titles, only Harper’s Magazine, The Atlantic, Scientific American, and The Nation are older.[2]


In the first issue, on September 1, 1873, editor D. M. Bennett and his wife Mary proclaimed that the publication would devote itself to: "science, morals, free thought, free discussions, liberalism, sexual equality, labor reform progression, free education, and whatever tends to elevate and emancipate the human race."[1]

D. M. Bennett, founder of The Truth Seeker

Subsequent editors included Eugene and George E. Macdonald,[3] Charles Lee Smith (along with his associate editors Woolsey Teller and later Robert E. Kuttner), James Hervey Johnson, Bonnie Lange,[4] and Roderick Bradford.[5] For several years, Susan H. Wixon had editorial charge of the children's department.[6]

In 1988, Madalyn Murray O'Hair put out several issues under the masthead during the course of an unsuccessful attempt to take over the company; however, the courts ruled against her ownership.[7]

The front page of the Truth Seeker from January, 1874. After being founded in Paris, Illinois, in September, 1873,  D.M. Bennett relocated to New York City where The Truth Seeker remained until 1964 when it was moved to San Diego, CA.

Morris Altman, Mark Twain, Robert G. Ingersoll, Katie Kehm Smith,[8] Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Clarence Darrow, Harry Houdini, Steve Allen, Paul Krassner, and Gay Talese are or have been contributors, subscribers, and supporters of The Truth Seeker.[9]

Past racism[edit]

Starting in the 1950s, the Truth Seeker started publishing explicitly racist content.[10] Under the editorship of Charles Lee Smith beginning in 1937, Smith, Woolsey Teller and their successor James Hervey Johnson championed antisemitism, scientific racism and white supremacy.[11] Anthropologist Robert Sussman described the Truth Seeker as a "virulent anti-Semitic publication".[12]

Since its founding in 1873, The Truth Seeker has championed Thomas Paine.

In 1995, authors Mark Fackler and Charles H. Lippy noted:

"Under Smith and Johnson, the paper became more conservative and advocated white supremacy along with atheism. While Northern European ethnocentrism had been an implicit theme since the paper's founding, its open racism and xenophobia offended many readers. In recent years its circulation has declined to less than a thousand."[13]

Freethought historian Tom Flynn noted that "1950 to 1988 marked its most troubled period, when the periodical embraced racism, eugenics, and anti-Semitism, but precisely because of that achieved the smallest impact in its history."[14]

The Truth Seeker “Family” of editors and publishers since 1873.

After Johnson's death in 1988, Bonnie Lange assumed the role of publisher and editor and the "racism, anti-Semitism, white supremacism, eugenics advocacy, and other marginal interests of the Smith-Teller and Johnson years were conclusively abandoned."[14]

Roderick Bradford, editor/publisher of The Truth Seeker, 2014 to present.


  1. ^ a b c Susan Jacoby. Freethinkers: A history of American Secularism. New York, NY: Metropolitan Books. pp. 155–156.
  2. ^ "The Tale of The Truth Seeker". 13 September 2018.
  3. ^ "George E. Macdonald". Archived from the original on 2015-08-03.
  4. ^ "Truth Seeker Journal of Freethought Since 1873". Archived from the original on 2 April 2012. Retrieved 23 July 2015.
  5. ^ "Contact Us - The Truth Seeker".
  6. ^ Willard, Frances Elizabeth; Livermore, Mary Ashton Rice (1893). "Susan Helen Wixon". A Woman of the Century: Fourteen Hundred-seventy Biographical Sketches Accompanied by Portraits of Leading American Women in All Walks of Life (Public domain ed.). Moulton.
  7. ^ "Jackson v. Truth Seeker Co., Inc., 884 F. Supp. 370 - Dist. Court, SD California 1994".
  8. ^ Passet, Joanne E. (2005). "Freethought Children's Literature and the Construction of Religious Identity in Late-Nineteenth-Century America". Book History. 8: 107–129. ISSN 1098-7371.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Melton, J. Gordon. (2003). Encyclopedia of American Religions. Gale. p. 663. ISBN 978-0787663841 "Around 1950 Smith began to let his dislike of Jews and blacks become visible on the pages of The Truth Seeker, which began to publish an increasing number of racist and anti-Semitic articles. These led to further loss of support and the isolation of the Association from other atheist organizations."
  11. ^ Flynn, Tom. (2007). The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief. Prometheus Books. p. 28, p. 719, p. 746. ISBN 978-1-59102-391-3
  12. ^ Sussman, Robert W. (2014). The Myth of Race: The Troubling Persistence of an Unscientific Idea. Harvard University Press. p. 223. ISBN 978-0-674-41731-1
  13. ^ Fackler, Mark; Lippy, Charles H. (1995). Popular Religious Magazines of the United States. Greenwood Press. p. 471
  14. ^ a b Flynn, Tom (2018-09-13). "The Tale of The Truth Seeker | Center for Inquiry". Retrieved 2022-02-15.


External links[edit]