Truth Seeker

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Truth Seeker is an American periodical published beginning during the 19th century.[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.


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]

Subsequent editors included Eugene and George E. Macdonald,[2] Charles Lee Smith (along with his associate editors Woolsey Teller and later Robert E. Kuttner), James Hervey Johnson, Bonnie Lange,[3] Nicholas Rocha,[4] Linda Hironimus,[5] and Roderick Bradford.[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 Truth Seeker was notable for publishing racist content.[8] 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.[9]

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. Since 1989 James W. Prescott has been the editor, and circulation has begun to rebound."[10]

Anthropologist Robert Sussman has described the Truth Seeker as a "virulent anti-Semitic publication".[11]


  1. ^ a b c Susan Jacoby. Freethinkers: A history of American Secularism. New York, NY: Metropolitan Books. pp. 155–156.
  2. ^ "George E. Macdonald".
  3. ^ "Truth Seeker Journal of Freethought Since 1873". Archived from the original on 2 April 2012. Retrieved 23 July 2015.
  4. ^ "Title Page of "Truth Seeker" from Volume 139 (2012)". Archived from the original on 13 June 2016.
  5. ^ "Truth Seeker Company". Archived from the original on 27 April 2014. Retrieved 28 August 2015.
  6. ^ "Contact Us - The Truth Seeker".
  7. ^ "Jackson v. Truth Seeker Co., Inc., 884 F. Supp. 370 - Dist. Court, SD California 1994".
  8. ^ 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."
  9. ^ Flynn, Tom. (2007). The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief. Prometheus Books. p. 28, p. 719, p. 746. ISBN 978-1-59102-391-3
  10. ^ Fackler, Mark; Lippy, Charles H. (1995). Popular Religious Magazines of the United States. Greenwood Press. p. 471
  11. ^ 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

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