Gustavus Myers (1872–1942) was an American journalist and historian who published a series of influential studies on wealth accumulation. His name is associated with the muckraking era of U.S. literature.


Early years

Gustavus Myers was born March 20, 1872, in Trenton, New Jersey, the son of Julia Hillman and Abram Myers. He attended school for a time while the impoverished family lived in Philadelphia. His father was largely absent. At the age of 14, Gustavus began working in a factory. He continued his own education by reading avidly and attending public lectures. His older brother, Jerome Myers, became a painter associated with the Ashcan School. Gustavus married Genevieve Whitney of Springfield, Massachusetts, on September 23, 1904, and they had two children together. [1][2]


In 1891, Myers went to work as a reporter for the Philadelphia Record, leaving the next year for New York City, where he remained for the rest of his life.[3]

In the 1890s, Myers became a member of the People's Party (commonly known as the "Populists"), later joining the Socialist Party of America (SPA).[3] He published 'The History of Tammany Hall' in 1901.

In the decade of the 1910s, Myers emerged as a leading scholar of the American socialist movement when he authored a series of volumes for Charles H. Kerr & Co., the country's largest publisher of Marxist books and pamphlets. Between 1909 and 1914, Myers published three volumes on the history of family wealth in the United States, one volume on the same topic for Canada, and a history of the Supreme Court of the United States. These publications were frequently cited and used in an academic setting for several decades, with Myers' History of the Great American Fortunes revived in a single volume format in 1936.[3]

Myers split with the Socialist Party in 1917 over the SPA's position against US involvement in World War I.[3] In 1918 Myers contributed to the US war effort by publishing a book attacking what he called "Germany's Sinister Propaganda" entitled The German Myth: The Falsity of Germany's "Social Progress" Claims.

Myers received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1941, which he used to write a book entitled History of Bigotry in the United States.[3] Myers died before the work could be published and Random House published the work posthumously.

Death and legacy

Gustavus Myers died on December 7, 1942 in Bronx, New York at the age of 70. He is buried in the historic Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. [1]

Myers' papers are housed at the American Heritage Center of the University of Wyoming at Laramie. Included in the 2.5 cubic feet (71 L) of archival material are photographs of Myers and the manuscripts of two unpublished non-fiction books.[4] A finding aid is available on site.

In 1984, the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights was founded. Loretta Janice Williams (1937-2015), an author, sociologist, and activist, was its longtime director.[5] From 2001 until 2008, the Myers Center gave out annual awards for books which are "outstanding in helping shed light on bigotry in America."[6] Recipients of the award include Toni Cade Bambara, Paula Giddings, Joy Harjo, Ruben Martinez, Nell Irvin Painter, Steven Salaita, and Kenji Yoshino. In 2009, the year of the Myers Center's 25th Anniversary, the center was closed due to lack of funds.[7][8]



  1. ^ a b Samantha Maziarz, "Gustavus Myers," Class in America: An Encyclopedia, ed. Robert E. Weir. ABC-CLIO, 2007; p. 555.
  2. ^ Caryn Hannan, ed., New Jersey Biographical Dictionary. North American Book Distr LLC, 2008; pp. 500-503.
  3. ^ a b c d e Francis X. Gannon, A Biographical Dictionary of the American Left: Volume 4. Boston: Western Islands, 1973; pp. 507-508.
  4. ^ Listing for the Gustavus Myers Papers, University of Wyoming, Laramie. Retrieved July 18, 2010.
  5. ^ Obituary, Boston Globe, 21 June 2015.
  6. ^ Gustavus Myers Center For The Study of Bigotry and Human Rights in North America, "Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights 2002 Award Winners," December 10, 2002. Retrieved July 18, 2010. Archived September 18, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ Loretta J. Williams, The Gustavus Myers Center For The Study of Bigotry and Human Rights in North America website, Boston, Massachusetts. Retrieved June 25, 2015.
  8. ^ Loretta J. Williams, "With Sadness, Myers Center Closes: Announces Awards for Outstanding Titles in Human Rights," Peacework Magazine, New England Office of the American Friends Service Committee, Cambridge, Massachusetts, issue no. 396. Retrieved July 18, 2010. Archived July 21, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.