Introduction

Compiled here are annotated guides to the periodical literature of the Popular Freethought movement.

Histories of the freethought movement in the United States during the nineteenth century tend to divide the movement into two eras, the popular freethought era (1825-1850) and the “golden age” of U.S. freethought (1860-1890). While my coverage begins with the publication of Robert Owen’s New-Harmony Gazette (1825-1828), I have elected to extend my coverage through 1865 so as to survey works published in the Boston Investigator (1831-1904), a periodical which constituted the backbone of the U.S. freethought movement throughout the nineteenth century, as well as The Regenerator (1844-1854) and Murray’s Review (1854-1856).

By extending my coverage to include submissions to the above mentioned titles from1850 through 1865, I’m able to draw prospective researchers’ attention to the rich body of articles, editorials and correspondence which provide critical insights into the freethought movement’s views on the abolitionist movement and the institution of slavery and which documents the infidel soldier’s unique concerns while serving in the union army during the American Civil War.

The record I have created for each periodical includes the following fields: prospectus, title, subtitles, editors, publishers, publisher locations and frequency of publication, principal contributors, subjects/features, preceding and succeeding titles, notes on subscriber numbers and agent information, and an OCLC number to facilitate prospective researchers in locating copies of each periodical in worldcat.org.

However, the majority of each record consists of citations to and quotes from: feature articles, letters, editorials, lectures, and addresses that best exemplify the opinions and conversations freethinkers had concerning: the relationship between religion and science and religion and morality, legislation on religion (e.g. tax exempt status for churches, laws prohibiting blasphemy and mandating observance of the Sabbath on Sundays, judicial oaths requiring belief in certain religious dogmas, employment of chaplains by legislative bodies, and the use of bibles in schools), and the great reform movements of the antebellum period (e.g. abolition of slavery, women’s rights, temperance, organized labor, etc.).

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