In 1949 Ray Ginger published a remarkable book, The Bending Cross, subsequently retitled Eugene V. Debs: A Biography (Collier Books, Macmillan, 1962). For more than 30 years Ginger’s lively prose stood as the best available introduction not only to the career of America’s greatest socialist but to the exciting years when radical, even revolutionary hopes about American life first swelled, then foundered. As historical styles and research methods changed, Ginger’s Debs inevitably came to appear a bit old-fashioned. A dramatic and openly adulatory narrative raised appreciation of Debs without really explaining him. The heroic dimensions of the career of the conservative locomotive firemen’s leader, who...
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