William English Walling Papers, 1871-1962

Summary Information
Title: William English Walling Papers
Inclusive Dates: 1871-1962

  • Walling, William English, 1877-1936
Call Number: U.S. Mss AH; Micro 653

Quantity: 1.2 c.f. (3 archives boxes) and 3 reels of microfilm (35mm)

Archival Locations:
Wisconsin Historical Society (Map)

Papers of William English Walling, noted liberal author and lecturer on social and economic problems, and a founder of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society, the Women's Trade Union League, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Correspondence, 1871-1962, deals primarily with family affairs, but occasional letters discuss the breakdown of Czarist rule in Russia and the development of revolutionary spirit in Poland and Russia (1905-1906), race riots in Springfield, Illinois (1909), the Socialist Party and its problems prior to and during World War I, and the Negro and trade unions (1929). Some references to American Federation of Labor policies and conventions are also scattered in the correspondence. The collection also contains typewritten copies of a few of Walling's articles and speeches on labor, the national economy, racial problems, and foreign relations, as well as newspaper clippings and miscellaneous materials pertaining to his career. Among the writers of letters to Walling are Albert J. Beveridge, Francis Biddle, Bruce Bliven, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Glenn Frank, John P. Frey, William Green, Hamilton Holt, W. L. Mackenzie King, Raymond Moley, Edward A. Ross, Upton Sinclair, William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, and Matthew Woll. Copies of a few letters written by Walling to Mrs. O. H. P. Belmont, Eugene V. Debs, H. M. Hyndman, Theodore Roosevelt, and President Woodrow Wilson are also among the papers. In the family letters written by Mr. and Mrs. Walling (Anna Strunsky) there are some scattered, and usually very brief, allusions to Clarence Darrow, Samuel Gompers, Herbert Hoover, Jack London, Henrik Shipstead, Rose Stokes, and others with whom they had associations.

Language: English

URL to cite for this finding aid: http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/wiarchives.uw-whs-us0000ah
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William English Walling, twentieth century author and lecturer, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, March 14, 1877, and died after a short illness in Amsterdam, Holland, September 12, 1936. While he was a youth he moved with his parents, Dr. Willoughby and Mrs. Rosalind (English) Walling, to Chicago, where he was graduated with honors from the University of Chicago in 1897. He returned to the University in 1899 and 1900 to do graduate work in economics and political science.

For a short time he served as a factory inspector for the state of Illinois, engaged especially in enforcing the state's child labor law and its regulations for safety and sanitation. From 1902 to 1905 he was a resident of University Settlement in New York City, and between 1905 and 1907 traveled widely in Europe, studying political and economic conditions and talking at length with social reformers and labor leaders, many of whom were of national importance.

As a journalist in Russia after the revolution of 1905, Walling became acquainted with Tolstoy and met many others there-- intellectuals, noblemen, and commoners. In 1906 he was married to Anna Strunsky, a noted writer on social problems, and late in 1907 they were arrested and held for a short time in Russia. On his return to the United States he published his first book, Russia's Message, a work translated into Russian and German and circulated in English as well as American editions.

Mr. Walling had already attracted attention in the United States as a lecturer and writer. He was one of a group of American liberals, many of them wealthy, who worked in behalf of social reform early in the century, and frequently referred to himself as an “independent socialist.” On March 9, 1910, Walling wrote to George H. Shibley of Philadelphia, “Recently I have even joined the Socialist Party.” However, according to an article appearing in the AFL Weekly News Service, September 19, 1936, “Along with other prominent American socialists he left the official Socialist party about 1917...”, and thereafter devoted himself to advancing socialism as he interpreted it.

On May 5, 1917, Woodrow Wilson wrote to Walling asking him to be a member of a commission the President planned to send to Russia “to show our interest and sympathy at this critical juncture in Russian affairs...” Although Walling was in frequent consultation with the Secretary of Labor, he declined to become a member of the commission. Two years later, at the request of President Wilson, he accompanied Samuel Gompers and the American labor delegation to Europe, and was present at the first congress of the Trade Union International.

Mr. Walling was one of the founders of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society (later the League for Industrial Democracy); he was one of the organizers of the National Child Labor Committee; with Mrs. Mary K. O'Sullivan of Boston he founded the Women's Trade Union League; and he and Miss Mary White Ovington of New York founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In the 1920's he was a staff writer for the International Labor News Service, often publishing without signing his articles. He was deeply interested in the American Federation of Labor, and collaborated with both Samuel Gompers and Mathew Woll in writing books.

He was a frequent contributor to publications such as Independent, World's Work, The Outlook, World Today, Colliers Weekly, and Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. The following books are credited to William E. Walling:

  • Russia's Message (1908)
  • Socialism As It Is (1912)
  • The Larger Aspects of Socialism (1913)
  • Progressivism and Socialism of Today (1916)
  • Whitman and Traubel (1916)
  • State Socialism, Pro and Con (with Harry Laidler) (1917)
  • Sovietism (1920)
  • Out of Their Own Mouths (with Samuel Gompers) (1921)
  • American Labor and American Democracy (1927)
  • The Mexican Question Under Calles and Obregon (1927)
  • Our Next Step - A National Economic Policy (with Matthew Woll) (1933)

The Wallings made their home in Greenwich, Connecticut, where their four children, Rosamound, Anna Strunsky, Georgia, and William Hayden English, were reared. In 1924 Mr. Walling was a candidate for Congress from the Fourth District of Connecticut, and in 1928 he wrote the foreign affairs section of the Democratic party platform.

Of particular interest to Wisconsin scholars is the fact that about 1906, when Walling was in Italy, he met a young Polish student, Selig Perlman. He was so impressed with Perlman that he sent the student to America and provided funds for his education. This personal interest was rewarded when, in later years, Perlman became one of the nation's leading economists and succeeded John R. Commons as head of the Department of Economics at the University of Wisconsin.

Scope and Content Note

The Walling Papers are available both in original paper form and on microfilm produced by the Wisconsin Historical Society.


Correspondence in the Walling Papers is arranged chronologically and covers a period from 1871 to 1962. The letters are mostly personal until 1906, at which time Walling wrote to his father from St. Petersburg that he believed he had better access to information than any man in Russia, writing that “The Reds tell me what they tell no one else.” He wrote also of interviews with ministers of state, of peasant attacks on landlords, of the threat of inflation, and of the ineffectiveness of the Douma.

A 1909 letter reported on the race riots in Springfield, Illinois later described by Walling and Miss Ovington as the birth of the NAACP. The race question was also discussed in an exchange of letters with John P. Frey in 1929, concerning Frey's speech on the Negro and trade unions.

Hamilton Holt wrote in 1909 that Walling seemed to be a bit too radical, but offered to join with him; and in that same year Walling's letters to H. M. Hyndman discussed socialist anti-war policy, progressive taxation, and anti-imperialism. To Eugene V. Debs, Walling expressed regret at what he believed was a reactionary policy of the AFL, and suggested that socialists should make propaganda with the so-called educated classes. In one letter of 1910 he asked, “Is not the Republicanism of La Follette, or the Democracy of a Tom Johnson, preferable to laborism or socialism with the democracy left out?”; and in another he discussed the socialist movement in relation to woman suffrage. His correspondence in 1934 with Mathew Woll pictured the laborer as consumer as well as producer, and referred to the effect of low wages on the economy.

The correspondence includes the following:

Letters to Walling from:

  • Beveridge, Albert J., 1899, Jan. 23
  • Biddle, Francis, 1935, March 8
  • Bliven, Bruce, 1929, Feb. 26
  • Bishop, Hillman M., 1929, March 1
  • Clark, J.M., 1934, March 19
  • Christman, Elizabeth, 1929, April 23
  • Draper, Ernest G., 1935, May 14
  • Frank, Glenn, 1929, Feb. 20
  • Frey, John P., 1929, Jan. 10, 15
  • Green, William, 1929, March 27; 1930, June 18
  • Godoy, Paul, 1931, May 26
  • Gorki, Maxim (wife), 1910
  • Holt, Hamilton, 1929, Feb. 20; 1909, Feb. 1
  • Hopkins, J.A.H., 1929, Oct. 14
  • King, W.L. Mackenzie, 1921, Aug. 10
  • Milne-Bailey, Walter, 1930, June 12
  • Moley, Raymond, 1934, March 21
  • Moskowitz, Henry, 1928, Aug. 31
  • Roosevelt, Theodore, Jr., 1939, Feb. 20
  • Ross, E.A., 1932, March 23
  • Short, William, 1918, July 13
  • Sinclair, Upton, 1914, Aug. 12
  • Taft, William Howard, 1917, March 23; 1918, March 28
  • Thomas, Albert, 1929, Aug. 2; 1931, April 20
  • Wilson, Woodrow, 1917, May 5, 21
  • Winslow, Erving, 1919, May 2
  • Woll, Matthew, 1934, Nov. 16; 1935, Dec. 16
Letters from Walling to:
  • Belmont, Mrs. O.H.P., 1910, March 10
  • Debs, Eugene V., 1909, Dec. 14

In 1962 and 1965, additions to the Walling Papers were received and incorporated into the original collection. These consisted of about 300 letters and many clippings. Most of the letters are concerned with family matters and fall into three periods: 1914-1917, when Walling was away from home writing or traveling; 1923, when Mrs. Walling was in France; and 1927-1933, when the Walling daughters were in college. The remainder are business letters and contain scattered references to national and international events. A letter of 1905 describes Walling's trip to Poland to meet with revolutionists and Socialists, several letters refer to American entrance into World War I and policies of the AFL, and an undated letter from Elizabeth Gurley Flynn concerns her work on behalf of the I.W.W. There are occasional references to Rose Stokes, Clarence Darrow, Samuel Gompers, Herbert Hoover, Henrik Shipstead, and others with whom the Wallings associated through the years.

Articles and Speeches:

Typewritten copies of a few of Walling's articles and speeches on labor, the national economy, the race question, and foreign relations are included in this collection. In addition there are a large number of printed magazine articles.

Newspaper Clippings:

There are a number of newspaper clippings dealing with reports on Walling's lectures, political activities, and writings. Some concern the LaGuardia campaign for mayor of New York in 1929 on the Republican- Fusion Ticket, some are reviews of Walling's books, and others seem to have been gathered because they were related to subjects on which Walling worked and wrote. Filed in Box 3 are printed copies of many newspaper articles and editorials written by Walling, particularly concerning labor.

Other Manuscript Material:

Included in papers presented in 1962 was an English translation of court testimony in the breach of promise suit brought against William English Walling in 1911 in Paris, France, by Bertha Grunspan. The typescript of the translation includes 159 pages; but is incomplete, as the first 53 papers of the court procedure and testimony are missing. Accompanying the transcript are nine pages in William E. Walling's handwriting outlining his defense against the charges made by Miss Grunspan, whom he had known before his marriage to Anna Strunsky. The case appears to be primarily important as a biographical episode.

Administrative/Restriction Information
Acquisition Information

Presented by Mrs. William English Walling, New York, N.Y. through the University of Wisconsin Library in 1960, 1962 and 1965.

Processing Information

Processed by Frank DeLoughery, KS, and MH, June 30, 1965.

Contents List
Box-folder   1/1-3
Reel-frame   1/1
Box-folder   1/4
Reel-frame   2/1
Box-folder   1/5
Reel-frame   2/72
Box-folder   1/6
Reel-frame   2/258
Mail Addresses
Box-folder   2/1-4
Reel-frame   2/320
Printed Articles and Addresses, 1900-1936
Box-folder   2/5
Reel-frame   2/794
Typed Articles and Longhand Notes, 1917-1936
Box-folder   2/6
Reel-frame   3/1
Breach of Promise Suit-Testimony and Notes, 1911
Box-folder   3/1
Reel-frame   3/204
Clippings and Reviews
Box-folder   3/2
Reel-frame   3/239
Miscellaneous and Clippings
Box-folder   3/3
Reel-frame   3/303
Programs and Leaflets
Box-folder   3/4
Reel-frame   3/310
Clippings and Articles