Nels Anderson, DOCUMENT 22: Marxian Socialist, Soap-boxer, Dogmatic and Undiplomatic, Would Educate “Slaves”
Daniel Horsley is a book seller. His establishment, located at 1237 West Madison street, is the hobo book store, if there is one in the city. Everything the average hobo reads may be found here. The place is known as the “Proletariat” to the men on the “stem.” Here many men who have no other addresses receive their mail. Says one man, “Where is _____ lately, Dan?” “I don’t know, but I suppose he is on his way to Chicago. I have had some mail from him for tow weeks.” The men meet their friends at the “Proletariat,” or they leave things there for safekeeping. They all know Mr. Horsley, and he has the good will of all the ‘bos.
Horsley has been somewhat of a hobo himself, as the following excerpt will show:
My occupation during the past fourteen years has carried me through many grades of labor. First, the coal mining industry for many years my sole occupation. The miner, having more dangers to confront than most workers, does not last long. The industry claimed two of my brothers. After having received a dose of black damps (foul air) my health was not of the best, so I decided the open air would be the more beneficial.
I started with a picture machine to earn my living as I recuperated. I traveled through Nebraska, Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, and Alberta, Canada. In every small town we would generally come across some of the boys (hobos). Returning from the Northwest, I came back East without the machine. I stayed a while in Iowa, and then went back to the West. Previous to and during the war I was in the shipbuilding industry. Leaving there, I worked for a short while in the woods, but decided to come East again. Visiting the eastern seaboard, I saw great industries closing down, so I finally landed in Chicago.
Dan’s work is selling books and periodicals, but he gets his recreation by climbing on the soap-box occasionally. He is a devout student of Marxian economics, and likes nothing better than to talk economics to an audience of workers. At the Hobo College he is known as “Professor,” and he gives lectures there now and then, on economics or his other favorite topic, current history. He is a close student of events, and these talks are instructive.
Horsley still operates the Proletariat. He is rather friendly to me, but feels that I am wasting my time by not adhearing to Karl Marx. He condemns outright all university men. Enter his place at any hour of the day, and there will be a crowd discussing the “economic question,” Marxian style. He has no room in his thinking, for any contribution of any other man. Indeed, he does not think that anyone has made any contribution since Marx. One of his stock phrases is “Now get this into your heads. I am making it simple so that you can understand it.”
Field notes by Nels Andeson. Ernest W. Burgess Papers–Other’s Work, Individual Students and Collaborators, Nels Anderson, Box 126, Folder 11. Department of Special Collections, University of Chicago, Library.