Vanguard Press

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Vanguard Press
FoundedMarch 1926; 98 years ago (March 1926)
FounderRoger Baldwin
Scott Nearing
Trustees of the Garland Fund
Defunct1988; 36 years ago (1988)
SuccessorRandom House
Country of originUnited States
Headquarters locationNew York City
Key peopleRex Stout (1926–1928)
James Henle (1928–1952)
Evelyn Shrifte (1952–1988)
Publication typesBooks

The Vanguard Press was a United States publishing house established with a $100,000 grant from the left wing American Fund for Public Service, better known as the Garland Fund. Throughout the 1920s, Vanguard Press issued an array of books on radical topics, including studies of the Soviet Union, socialist theory, and politically oriented fiction by a range of writers. The press ultimately received a total of $155,000 from the Garland Fund, which separated itself[clarification needed] and turned the press over to its publisher, James Henle. Henle became sole owner in February 1932.[1]

Eschewing radical politics after 1929, the Vanguard Press operated as a respected independent literary house for 62 years. Its catalog of fiction, poetry, non-fiction and children's literature included the first books of Nelson Algren, Saul Bellow, Marshall McLuhan, Joyce Carol Oates and Dr. Seuss. With a valuable backlist of 500 titles, the company was sold to Random House in October 1988.[2]

In his history of book publishing, Between Covers (1987), John Tebbel wrote, "Vanguard never became a large and important house, but it continued to publish quality books year after year."[3]

Institutional history[edit]


The May 1926 meeting of the directors of the American Fund for Public Service, better known as the Garland Fund, allocated $100,000 to establish the Vanguard Press.[4] The new publisher was intended to reissue left-wing classics at an affordable cost and to provide an outlet for the publication of new titles otherwise deemed "unpublishable" by the commercial press of the day.[4] The initial officers and directors of the new publishing house included Jacob Baker, Roger Baldwin, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Clinton Golden, Louis Kopelin, Bertha Mailly, Scott Nearing and Rex Stout.[4] Stout accepted the post of president and held it until 1928, when the Garland Fund ended its subsidy and James Henle became president.[5]

The Vanguard Press emulated the Little Leather Library, the first company to mass-market inexpensive books in the United States, and the Little Blue Books of Emanuel Haldeman-Julius. Vanguard depicted itself in promotional advertising as "destined to be the Ford of Book Publishing" through its inexpensive offerings of "all the grand old idol breakers."[6]

In June 1926, the new publisher made an offer to sundry "labor and liberal organizations", offering to finance half the cost of publishing any book of "permanent educational value", whether it be an original manuscript or a reprint of an existing title. Vanguard Press would print a run of 2,000 copies, with the issuing organization paying for only 1,000 at 25 cents a copy, leaving Vanguard to sell the other 1,000.[4]

Vanguard raised its prices over time but still remained an economical source of hardcover books. By 1928 the standard price for Vanguard titles, such as the books of the series entitled "Studies of Soviet Russia" and "Current Questions", was 75 cents per copy. The series on "American Imperialism" edited by Harry Elmer Barnes and launched in 1928 bore a cover price of $1.00 per copy. In 1927 Vanguard published a collection of H.G. Wells's writings (Wells' Social Anticipations), edited by Harry W. Laidler. Vanguard also published the 1927 edition of the American Labor Year Book on behalf of the Socialist Party-affiliated Rand School of Social Science, which sold for $1.50.[7]

The Garland Fund ultimately supported Vanguard Press to the extent of $155,000.[4]

The publishing house of Macy-Masius was merged into the Vanguard Press in June 1928. For a short time the company operated under the joint direction of George Macy, president of Macy-Masius, and Jacob Baker, Vanguard's managing director.[8]

With the onset of the Great Depression after 1929, Vanguard Press steadily moved away from radical political publications and toward more mainstream literary titles as well as apolitical titles of topical interest, such as studies of Charles Lindbergh and organized crime in Chicago.

Vanguard maintained its offices on Fifth Avenue in New York City, initially occupying space at 80 Fifth Avenue before moving to 100 Fifth Avenue in 1928.[9] In the mid-1930s the firm moved to a new building in New York City, located at 424 Madison Avenue.[10]

Sale to James Henle[edit]

In February 1932, James Henle, president of Vanguard Press for three years, became sole owner of the publishing house.[1] A former labor reporter for the New York World, Henle signed a number of muckraking journalists. One of Vanguard's greatest successes was 100,000,000 Guinea Pigs (1933), an exposé about dangerous consumer products written by Arthur Kallet, who three years later would found the Consumers Union and Consumer Reports magazine.[2] It was followed by a sequel nearly as successful called 'Counterfeit', in which the author called for the end of production for profit, and identified himself as a Communist.

Among many novels of social realism, Vanguard published more than 30 books by James T. Farrell. Those comprising his Studs Lonigan trilogy (collected in a single volume in 1935) and Donald Henderson Clarke's Female (1933) were the subject of bitter court fights on obscenity charges.[11]

"Vanguard was singled out in the censorship controversies," wrote media historian John Tebbel, "not only because it published Our Fair City, edited by Robert Allen, a collection of essays demonstrating that civic corruption had not changed since the days of Lincoln Steffens, but because it had issued Calder Willingham's End as a Man, an indictment of military school life, and James Farrell's Studs Lonigan trilogy. Vanguard was also under investigation by the House Un-American Activities Committee on the ground that in the twenties and thirties it had published some books by Communist and left-wing writers. HUAC later apologized for the investigation."[12] It was discovered that Vanguard had purged communists from the organization in the late 1940s, including founder Arthur Kallet.

The Vanguard Press earned a reputation for publishing promising new fiction, poetry, literature for children and young adults, and non-fiction. Vanguard published the first two books of Dr. Seuss and Saul Bellow, and the first books of Nelson Algren, Calder Willingham and Marshall McLuhan. It published Auntie Mame (1955), a comic novel rejected by a dozen publishers before it became a runaway bestseller.[13] Vanguard published Pierre Boulle's The Bridge over the River Kwai (1954) and Planet of the Apes (1963). It published Joyce Carol Oates' first book, and 20 more — including her novel, Them, winner of the National Book Award in 1970.

Evelyn Shrifte, an editor who had joined the Vanguard Press in the early 1930s, became its president in 1952. She was one of the first women to head a book publishing company.[14]

Sale to Random House[edit]

Evelyn Shrifte had been president of the Vanguard Press for 36 years when, in October 1988, the company was sold to Random House. She told The New York Times that the sale of the 62-year-old independent publishing house was prompted by the poor health of some of Vanguard's investors. The valuable 500-title backlist of the Vanguard Press was merged into that of Random House, although for 10 years they were to be identified on the title page as Vanguard Press books.

"Random House will take good care of our books and authors," Shrifte said. "But it's as if all my children were being sent to a foster home. I'm trying not to cry while I break the news to our authors."[2]

The archives of the Vanguard Press from its conceptual origins in 1925 through approximately 1985, including over 129,000 documents, was donated by Random House to Columbia University in New York City in 1989.[15] Evelyn Shrifte's papers are in the collection of Syracuse University.[16]

Vanguard Publishing[edit]

An unrelated imprint, Vanguard Productions, was founded by J. David Spurlock in 1991. They registered their trademark in 2006: Trademark office Registration Number 3429227. Vanguard is commonly known as Vanguard Publishing with a primary website of "Vanguard" [1]. As of 2014, the Vanguard publishing trademark reached "Incontestable" status under Section 15 of the Lanham Act. Vanguard has been critically acclaimed for their art books and graphic novels. Theirs is the only authorized, registered trademark for publishing of books under the brand name, Vanguard. Vanguard has granted limited co-existence agreements to the Vanguard Group, Vanguard Animation and Perseus Books Group. [17] [18]

Perseus Book Group[edit]

An unrelated imprint, Vanguard Press, was established in 2007 by publisher Roger Cooper. The new Vanguard Press[19] is an imprint of Perseus Books Group.[20]


Authors' names are followed by their known dates of association with the Vanguard Press.[21]

Bibliography of titles published in the Garland Fund period (1926–1931)[edit]

Note: Dates of first edition included in parentheses when known, per direct observation of title pages,, and WorldCat.

Social Science Classics[edit]

Social Philosophies[edit]

Note: Although in 1928 Vanguard Press was announcing the title What is Communism? as "in preparation", it was not until 1936 that Vanguard published a mass market paperback by that title written by the General Secretary of the Communist Party USA, Earl Browder.

Current Questions[edit]

  • 61. Charles H. Wesley, Negro Labor in the United States.
  • 62. Coleman, Hayes, and Wood, Don't Tread on Me.
  • 63. A.S. Sachs, Basic Principles of Scientific Socialism. (April 1927; previously issued by Rand School of Social Science in 1925.)
  • 64. Harry Laidler and Norman Thomas, eds., New Tactics in Social Conflict: A Symposium. (1926; published for the League for Industrial Democracy)
  • 65. Scott Nearing, The British General Strike. (late 1926)
  • 66. Upton Sinclair, The Profits of Religion.
  • 67. John M. Work, What's So and What Isn't. (1927; first published in 1905)
  • 68. Warren Edwin Brokaw, Equitable Society and How to Create It.
  • 69. Leon Whipple, The Story of Civil Liberty in the United States. (March 1927)
  • 70. C.H. Hamlin, The War Myth in U.S. History.
  • 71. Norman Thomas, Is Conscience a Crime? (March 1927; first published by Huebsch in 1923)
  • 72. Scott Nearing, Where is Civilization Going? (April 1927)
  • 73. Robert W. Dunn, Company Unions. Introduction by Louis Budenz.
  • 74. B. Liber, The Child and the Home.
  • 75. Harry Laidler and Norman Thomas, The Socialism of Our Times. (published for the League for Industrial Democracy)
  • 76. Hugo Bilgram, The Remedy for Overproduction and Unemployment.
  • No number. Charles Erskine Scott Wood, Heavenly Discourse. Drawings by Art Young. Frontispiece by Hugo Gellert. Foreword by Floyd Dell. (June 1927; published for The New Masses)
  • No number. Harry W. Laidler and Norman Thomas, eds. Prosperity? A Symposium. (November 1927; published for the League for Industrial Democracy)

Studies of Soviet Russia[edit]

Note: Launched on the 10th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution. Series Editor was Jerome Davis.
  • 91. H.N. Brailsford, How the Soviets Work. (November 1927)
  • 92. Karl Borders, Village Life Under the Soviets. (November 1927)
  • 93. Scott Nearing and Jack Hardy, The Economic Organization of the Soviet Union. (November 1927)
  • 94. R. Page Arnot, Soviet Russia and Her Neighbors. (November 1927)
  • 95. Julius F. Hecker, Religion Under the Soviets.
  • 96. Avrahm Yarmolinsky, The Jews and Other Minor Nationalities Under the Soviets. (1938)
  • 97. Anna J. Haines, Health Work in Soviet Russia. (March 1928)
  • 98. Jessica Smith, Woman in Soviet Russia.
  • 99. Robert W. Dunn, Soviet Trade Unions. (March 1928)
  • 100. Lucy L.W. Wilson, The New Schools of Soviet Russia.
  • 101. Roger N. Baldwin, Liberty Under the Soviets. (November 1928)

Fiction and Biography[edit]

  • 111. Upton Sinclair, Love's Pilgrimage: A Novel. In Two Volumes.
  • 112. William Edge, The Main Stem.
  • 113. John Reed, Daughter of the Revolution and Other Stories. Introduction by Floyd Dell. (August 1927)
  • 114. Grace Scribner, An American Pilgrimage: Portions of the Letters of Grace Scribner. L. Winifred, editor. (1927)
  • 115. Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward.
  • 116. William Morris, News from Nowhere.
  • 117. Upton Sinclair, The Jungle.
  • 118. Ivan Cankar, Yerney's Justice. Translated by Louis Adamic. (1926)
  • 119. M.H. Hedges, Dan Minturn.
  • 120. R.W. Postgate, Out of the Past.

Great Books Made Easy[edit]

Educational Outlines[edit]

  • 161. John Haldane Blackie, The ABC of Art. (August 1927)
  • 162. Vance Randolph, The ABC of Evolution. (1926)
  • 163. Vance Randolph, The ABC of Psychology.
  • 164. Vance Randolph, Your Body: The ABC of Physiology. (1927)
  • 165. Jay L.B. Taylor, The ABC of Astronomy.
  • 166. Allison Hardy [pseudonym of Vance Randolph], Written in the Rocks: The ABC of Geology.
  • 167. Vance Randolph, Flora and Fauna: The ABC of Biology. (1927)
  • 168. Newell R. Tripp, The ABC of Chemistry.
  • 169. Jay L.B. Taylor, The ABC of Physics.
  • 170. W. Lockwood Marsh, Wings: The ABC of Flying. (1929)
  • 171. H.C. Thomas and W.A. Hamm, Foundations of Modern Civilization: The ABC of History, Volume 1.
  • 172. H.C. Thomas and W.A. Hamm, Civilization in Transition (1789–1870): The ABC of History, Volume 2. (January 1928)
  • 173. H.C. Thomas and W.A. Hamm, In Our Times: The ABC of History, Volume 3. (1928)

American Imperialism[edit]

  • No number. Melvin M. Knight, The Americans in Santo Domingo.
  • No number. M.A. Marsh, The Bankers in Bolivia.
  • No number. L.H. Jenks, Our Cuban Colony.

Miscellaneous titles[edit]

  • No number. 1927 American Labor Year Book.
  • No number. The American Labor Who's Who.

Unnumbered 1929 publications by author[edit]

  • Harry Elmer Barnes, The Twilight of Christianity.
  • McAlister Coleman, Pioneers of Freedom: Eleven Short Biographies. Introduction by Norman Thomas.
  • Donald Henderson Clarke, In the Reign of Rothstein.
  • Donald Henderson Clarke, Louis Beretti.
  • H.B. Drake, The Children Reap.
  • James Francis Dwyer, Evelyn: Something More than a Story.
  • C. Hartley Grattan, Why We Fought.
  • Oliver Wendell Holmes, The Dissenting Opinions of Mr. Justice Holmes. Introduction by George W. Kirchwey.
  • Edgar Jepson, The Cuirass of Diamonds.
  • Alexandra Kollontay, A Great Love.
  • Ferenc Molnár, The Plays of Ferenc Molnár. Introduction by David Belasco.
  • Scott Nearing, Black America.
  • Suzanne Normand, Five Women on a Galley. Translated by G.S. Taylor.
  • R.W. Postgate, That Devil Wilkes.
  • M.P. Shiel, Cold Steel.
  • M.P. Shiel, Dr. Krasinski's Secret.
  • Rex Stout, How Like a God.
  • Edward Dean Sullivan, I'll Tell My Big Brother.
  • Edward D. Sullivan, Rattling the Cup on Chicago Crime.
  • John K. Winkler, John D.: A Portrait in Oils.
  • Charles Erskine Scott Wood, A Book of Tales: Being Some Myths of the North American Indians.
  • Charles Erskine Scott Wood, The Poet in the Desert.
  • Voltaire, The Best of All Possible Worlds: Tales and Romances. Introduction by Clarence Darrow.

Unnumbered 1930 publications by author[edit]

  • Anonymous, Ex-"It" (With Guilty Acknowledgements to Ex-Wife, Ex-Husband, Ex-Mistress) — In which Fanny Hill Tells All. Illustrated by L.F. Grant.
  • Robert C. Binkley, Responsible Drinking.
  • James Boswell, The Conversations of Dr Johnson, selected from the "Life" by James Boswell. R.W. Postgate, editor.
  • Louis Brandeis, The Social and Economic Views of Mr. Justice Brandeis. Alfred Leif, editor.
  • Donald Henderson Clarke, Millie.
  • Freda Hauswirth Das, A Marriage to India.
  • Mary Ware Dennett, Who's Obscene?
  • James T. Farrell, The League of Frightened Philistines: And Other Papers.
  • William Floyd, People Vs. Wall Street: A Mock Trial.
  • Joseph Freeman, Joshua Kunitz, and Louis Lozowick, Voices of October: Art and Literature in Soviet Russia.
  • Lev Goomilevsky, Dog Lane.
  • Carroll Graham and Garrett Graham, Queer People.
  • Lynn Haines and Dora B. Haines, The Lindberghs.
  • John Held Jr., Grim Youth.
  • John Held Jr., John Held Jr.'s Dog Stories.
  • Elisabeth Sanxy Holding, Dark Power.
  • Panait Istrati, The Thistles of the Baragan. Translated by Jacques Le Clercq.
  • Emanuel H. Levine, The Third Degree: A Detailed Account of Police Brutality.
  • Norman Matson, The Log of the Coriolanus.
  • Scott Nearing, The Twilight of Empire: An Economic Interpretation of Imperialist Cycles.
  • Louis F. Post, The Prophet of San Francisco: Personal Memories and Interpretations of Henry George.
  • Harry Rogoff, An East-Side Epic: The Life and Work of Meyer London.
  • Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, The Letters of Sacco and Vanzetti. Marion Deman Frankfurter and Gardner Jackson, eds.
  • M.P. Shiel, The Black Box.
  • M.P. Shiel, The Purple Cloud.
  • Rex Stout, Seed on the Wind.
  • Edward Dean Sullivan, Chicago Surrenders.
  • Frank Tarbeaux with Donald Henderson Clarke, The Autobiography of Frank Tarbeaux.
  • Courtenay Terrett, Only Saps Work: A Ballyhoo for Racketeering.
  • Henry David Thoreau, Thoreau: Philosopher of Freedom: Writings on Liberty. Introduction by James Mackaye.
  • John K. Winkler, Morgan the Magnificent: The Life of J. Pierpont Morgan (1837–1913).
  • Clement Wood, The Substance Of The Sociology Of Lester F. Ward.

Unnumbered 1931 publications by author[edit]

  • James W. Barrett, The World, The Flesh, and Messrs. Pulitzer.
  • Silas Bent, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes.
  • Heywood Broun and George Britt, Christians Only: A Study in Prejudice.
  • Donald Henderson Clarke, Impatient Virgin.
  • Donald Henderson Clarke, Young and Healthy.
  • Frieda Hauswirth Das, Gandhi: A Portrait from Life.
  • Mary Ware Dennett, The Sex Education of Children: A Book for Parents.
  • Bailey W. Diffie, Porto Rico: A Broken Pledge.
  • Charles W. Gardner, The Doctor and The Devil; or Midnight Adventures of Dr. Parkhurst.
  • Mary Elisabeth Given, artist, The Lord's Prayer.
  • Carroll Graham and Garrett Graham, Whitey: The Playboy of "Queer People" Runs Riot in Manhattan.
  • Ernest Gruening, The Public Pays: A Study of Power Propaganda.
  • John Held Jr., The Flesh is Weak.
  • John Held Jr., Women are Necessary.
  • Panait Istrati, The Bitter Orange Tree.
  • Garibaldi M. Lapolla, Fire in the Flesh.
  • Emanuel Levine, Gimme; or How Politicians Get Rich.
  • Alfred Lief, editor. Representative Opinions of Mr. Justice Holmes. Foreword by Harold J. Laski.
  • Scott Nearing, A Warless World: Is a Warless World Possible?
  • Scott Nearing, Another World War: World War Comes with World Civilization.
  • Scott Nearing: War: Organized Destruction and Mass Murder By Civilized Nations.
  • Katharine Pollak and Tom Tippett, Your Job and Your Pay: A Picture of the World in which We Work.
  • Vance Randolph, The Ozarks: An American Survival of primitive society.
  • Ben L. Reitman, The Second Oldest Profession: A Study of the Prostitutes "Business Managers."
  • James Fred Rippy, The Capitalists and Colombia.
  • Joseph Van Raalte, The Vice Squad.
  • Dean Stiff, The Milk and Honey Route: A Handbook for Hobos.
  • Rex Stout, Golden Remedy.
  • John K. Winkler, Incredible Carnegie: The Life of Andrew Carnegie (1835–1919).
  • Charles Erskine Scott Wood, Too Much Government.
  • Helena Wright, The Sex Factor in Marriage: A Book for Those Who Are About to Be Married. Introductions by A. Herbert Gray and Abel Gregg.


  1. ^ a b "Book Notes," The New York Times, February 16, 1932
  2. ^ a b c McDowell, Edwin, "Vanguard Will Merge with Random House"; The New York Times, October 25, 1988
  3. ^ Tebbel, John, Between Covers: The Rise and Transformation of Book Publishing in America. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987, p. 269
  4. ^ a b c d e Gloria Garrett Samson, The American Fund for Public Service: Charles Garland and Radical Philanthropy, 1922-1941. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1996; pg. 167.
  5. ^ McAleer, John, Rex Stout: A Biography. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1977 (ISBN 0-316-55340-9), p. 197. "But really, in the early years, the person who ran Vanguard was Jacob 'Jake' Baker, Rex's vice president," McAleer wrote.
  6. ^ Samson, The American Fund for Public Service, pg. 168.
  7. ^ Pricing information from the dust jacket of Anna J. Haines, Health Work in Soviet Russia. New York: Vanguard Press, 1928.
  8. ^ "Books and Authors"; The New York Times, June 17, 1928
  9. ^ Addresses derived from the dust jackets of Vanguard Press publications, specifically John Haldan Blackie, The ABC of Art (1927) and Anna J. Haines Health Work in Soviet Russia (1928).
  10. ^ Dust jacket of Bertram B. Fowler, Consumer Cooperation in America: Democracy's Way Out. (Vanguard: 1936).
  11. ^ "Book Found Obscene"; The New York Times, August 25, 1933. "Berg Conviction Upheld"; The New York Times, November 20, 1935
  12. ^ Tebbel, John, Between Covers: The Rise and Transformation of Book Publishing in America. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987, p. 454
  13. ^ "James Henle, 81, Former Head of the Vanguard Press, Is Dead"; The New York Times, January 11, 1973
  14. ^ Woo, Elaine, "Obituaries: Evelyn Shrifte, Longtime Head of Vanguard Press"; Los Angeles Times, September 8, 1999
  15. ^ "Vanguard Press. Records, ca.1925-ca.1985". Columbia University Libraries online catalog of archival collections.
  16. ^ Evelyn Shrifte Collection Relating to Vanguard Press, Syracuse University Library
  17. ^ see Vanguard trademark registration 3429227
  18. ^ for acclaim, see footnotes 19 & 20 at J. David Spurlock
  19. ^ "Welcome to Vanguard Press". Archived from the original on 2019-09-11.
  20. ^ Roger Cooper, Publisher, Vanguard Press; Early Word; retrieved January 16, 2011
  21. ^ "Advanced Search — Vanguard Press 1926–1988". AbeBooks. Retrieved 2014-02-25.

External links[edit]