David Karsner Papers on the Bill Haywood Espionage Trial
Language of Materials
David Karsner (1889-1941) was a socialist activist, author and newspaperman who served for some years as an editor of the Socialist Party's newspaper, The New York Call. The collection contains correspondence, transcripts and clippings relating primarily to Karsner's coverage of the 1918 trial, The United States of America v. William D. Haywood, et al., held in the District Court of the United States, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division in Chicago.
David Fulton Karsner (1889-1941), socialist activist, author and newspaperman, was born in Baltimore, Maryland. Educated at the McDonough School in Baltimore, Karsner began his journalistic career in Chicago by 1907. There he developed an interest in socialism through his association with Upton Sinclair, and became acquainted with Clarence Darrow, Carl Sandburg, Jack London and other notable leftists. In 1911 Karsner relocated East and worked for a number of newspapers, including the New York Tribune, thePhiladelphia Ledger and theNew York Daily News. He served as Sunday editor and then managing editor of the Socialist Party's newspaper,The New York Call. In 1918, the Call assigned Karsner to cover the trial, United States of America v. William D. Haywood, et al., in which 166 members of the Industrial Workers of the World were charged and convicted of impeding the war effort under the 1917 Espionage Act. The case was tried in the District Court of the United States, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division in Chicago.
Karsner married Rose Greenberg, a Romanian-born Socialist with whom he had a daughter, Walta (named for Walt Whitman). After the marriage dissolved, Karsner married Esther Eberson. (Rose would later marry James P. Cannon, the leader of U.S. Trotskyism.)
Karsner wrote numerous biographies, including two volumes on the socialist leader and five-time presidential candidate, Eugene V. Debs, who became a close friend. Karsner collaborated with the aging Debs on his only published book, Walls and Bars, a prison memoir.
When he died of a heart attack at age 51 on February 20, 1941, Karsner was employed as a copyreader on the New York Post.
Among Karsner's works are: Debs: His Authorized Life and Letters from Woodstock Prison to Atlanta (1919); Horace Traubel: His Life and Work (1919); Talks with Debs in Terre Haute (and Letters from Lindlahr) (1922); Sixteen Authors to One (1928); Andrew Jackson: The Gentle Savage (1929);and Silver Dollar: The Story of the Tabors (1932).
Folders are arranged alphabetically. The collection is organized into one series:
- Series I: Subject Files, 1918-1930.
Scope and Content Note
The collection contains clippings, correspondence and transcripts relating primarily to Karsner's coverage of the 1918 trial,The United States of America v. William D. Haywood, et al. Notable items include correspondence from William D. "Big Bill" Haywood written while incarcerated in Leavenworth, Kansas, and as a fugitive in the Soviet Union; an original sketch made by Haywood in the courtroom; and Karsner's dispatch to The New York Call describing the emotional courtroom meeting of Haywood and Eugene V. Debs. Correspondents include Roger N. Baldwin of the National Civil Liberties Bureau and A.S. Embree and K.B. McDonald of the General Defense Committee of the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W.). Trial transcripts document statements made by defendants prior to sentencing, and clippings relate mostly to the trial and Haywood's subsequent escape to Moscow. The two separated photographs are of George V. Vanderveer, General Counsel for the I.W.W., and Frank K. Nebeker, Chief Prosecutor.
Conditions Governing Access
Materials are open without restrictions.
Conditions Governing Use
Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive has no information about copyright ownership for this collection and is not authorized to grant permission to publish or reproduce materials from it. Materials in this collection, which were created in 1918-1930, are expected to enter the public domain in 2050.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Materials found in collection; provenance is unknown. The accession number associated with this collectionis 1950.241.
Two photographs have been separated to the Non-Print Department of the Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Archives.