Perhaps the most vibrant and innovative magazine of its day, The Masses was founded in 1911 as an illustrated socialist monthly, and it was soon sponsoring a heady blend of radical politics and modernist aesthetics that earned it the popular sobriquet “the most dangerous magazine in America.” The magazine had three editors during its first two years—Thomas Seltzer, Horatio Winslow, and Piet Vlag (the magazine’s founder)—but for the remainder of its short life The Masses was brilliantly edited by Max Eastman, who—with Floyd Dell, as managing editor—helped turn it into the flagship journal of Greenwich Village, the burgeoning bohemian art community in New York. The magazine staked out progressive positions on issues like unionization, co-operation, freedom of speech, racial equality, birth control, free love, and women’s suffrage; and with investigative reporting and war dispatches by radical journalists John Reed and Louise Bryant, it inveighed against sweatshop labor at home and militarism abroad. Into this pot of socialist politics The Masses mixed experimental visual and literary arts; the two came together on its lavishly colored covers as well as in an array of political cartoons by the brilliant Art Young and striking illustrations by John Sloan and Boardman Robinson. The magazine also published the work of numerous major American writers—poetry by Carl Sandburg, Louis Untermeyer, and Amy Lowell; fiction by Jack London, Upton Sinclair, and Sherwood Anderson—whose modernism took root at home rather than in London or Paris. Eastman claimed that the magazine’s policy was “to do as it Pleases and Conciliate Nobody, not even its Readers.” Not surprisingly, The Masses found itself constantly entangled in lawsuits claiming libel brought by major corporation and syndicates (most notably the Associated Press), and eventually the government, invoking the Espionage Act of 1917, barred it from the mails in August 1917 for its critique of the U.S.’s involvement in World War One.
The Modernist Journals Project would like to thank the NYU library for making available to us the raw scans they created from their original hard copy of The Masses; our edition of the magazine would have not been possible without this generous gift. We encourage our readers to visit the website that NYU has developed for its own digital edition of The Masses (http://dlib.nyu.edu/themasses/). We would also like to thank the following libraries for providing us with scans of the following pages: the University of Chicago Library, Special Collections Research Center (for issue 4.3: pp. 1-2, 19-20), Brown University Library (for issue 6.6: pp. 1-2, 23), Princeton University Library (for issue 8.5: pp. 27-28), and Yale University Library (for issue 10.1: pp. 38-44).