Edward Bellamy

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Edward Bellamy
Edward Bellamy - photograph c.1889.jpg
Edward Bellamy, circa 1889
Born(1850-03-26)March 26, 1850
Chicopee, Massachusetts
DiedMay 22, 1898(1898-05-22) (aged 48)
Chicopee, Massachusetts

Signature Appletons' Bellamy Edward signature.png

Edward Bellamy (March 26, 1850 – May 22, 1898) was an American author, journalist, and political activist most famous for his utopian novel, Looking Backward . Bellamy's vision of a harmonious future world inspired the formation of numerous "Nationalist Clubs" dedicated to the propagation of Bellamy's political ideas.


After working as a journalist and writing several unremarkable novels, Bellamy published Looking Backward in 1888. Looking Backward was one of the most commercially successful books published in the United States in the 19th century, and it especially appealed to a generation of intellectuals alienated from the dark side of Gilded Age. In the early 1890s, Bellamy established a newspaper known as The New Nation and began to promote united action between the various Nationalist Clubs and the emerging Populist Party. He published Equality , a sequel to Looking Backward, in 1897, and died the following year.


Early years

Edward Bellamy was born in Chicopee, Massachusetts. His father was Rufus King Bellamy (1816–1886), a Baptist minister and a descendant of Joseph Bellamy. [1] His mother, Maria Louisa Putnam Bellamy, was a Calvinist. [2] She was the daughter of a Baptist minister named Benjamin Putnam, who was forced to withdraw from the ministry in Salem, Massachusetts, following objections to his becoming a Freemason. [3]

Bellamy attended public school at Chicopee Falls before leaving for Union College of Schenectady, New York, where he studied for just two semesters. [1] Upon leaving school, Bellamy made his way to Europe for a year, spending extensive time in Germany. [1] Bellamy briefly studied law but abandoned that field without ever having practiced as a lawyer, instead entering the world of journalism. In this capacity Bellamy briefly served on the staff of the New York Post before returning to his native Massachusetts to take a position at the Springfield Union. [1]

At the age of 25, Bellamy developed tuberculosis, the disease that would ultimately kill him. [1] He suffered with its effects throughout his adult life. In an effort to regain his health, Bellamy spent a year in the Hawaiian Islands (1877 to 1878). [1] Returning to the United States, Bellamy decided to abandon the daily grind of journalism in favor of literary work, which put fewer demands upon his time and his health. [1]

Bellamy married Emma Augusta Sanderson in 1882. The couple had two children.

Literary career

Bellamy's early novels, including Six to One (1878), Dr. Heidenhoff's Process (1880), and Miss Ludington's Sister (1885) were unremarkable works, making use of standard psychological plots. [4]

A turn to utopian science fiction with Looking Backward, 2000–1887, published in January 1888, captured the public imagination and catapulted Bellamy to literary fame. [1] The publisher of the book could scarcely keep up with demand. Within a year the book had sold some 200,000 copies and by the end of the 19th century it had sold more copies than any other book published in America up to that time except for Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe and Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace. [5] The book gained an extensive readership in Great Britain, as well, with more than 235,000 copies sold there between its first release in 1890 and 1935. [6]

In Looking Backward, a non-violent revolution had transformed the American economy and thereby society; private property had been abolished in favor of state ownership of capital and the elimination of social classes and the ills of society that he thought inevitably followed from them. [7] In the new world of the year 2000, there was no longer war, poverty, crime, prostitution, corruption, money, or taxes. [7] Neither did there exist such occupations seen by Bellamy as of dubious worth to society, such as politicians, lawyers, merchants, or soldiers. [7] Instead, Bellamy's utopian society of the future was based upon the voluntary employment of all citizens between the ages of 21 and 45, after which time all would retire. [7] Work was simple, aided by machine production, working hours short and vacation time long. [7] The new economic basis of society effectively remade human nature itself in Bellamy's idyllic vision, with greed, maliciousness, untruthfulness, and insanity all relegated to the past. [7]

The Bellamyite movement

Although Bellamy retrospectively claimed he did not write Looking Backward as a blueprint for political action, but rather sought to write "a literary fantasy, a fairy tale of social felicity", [8] the book inspired legions of inspired readers to establish so-called Nationalist Clubs, beginning in Boston late in 1888. [9] Bellamy's vision of a country relieved of its social ills through abandonment of the principle of competition and establishment of state ownership of industry proved an appealing panacea to a generation of intellectuals alienated from the dark side of Gilded Age America. By 1891 it was reported that no fewer than 162 Nationalist Clubs were in existence. [10]

Bellamy's use of the term "Nationalism" rather than "socialism" as a descriptor of his governmental vision was calculated, as he did not want to limit either sales of his novel or the potential influence of its political ideas. [11] In an 1888 letter to literary critic William Dean Howells, Bellamy wrote:

Every sensible man will admit there is a big deal in a name, especially in making first impressions. In the radicalness of the opinions I have expressed, I may seem to out-socialize the socialists, yet the word socialist is one I never could well stomach. In the first place it is a foreign word in itself, and equally foreign in all its suggestions. It smells to the average American of petroleum, suggests the red flag, and with all manner of sexual novelties, and an abusive tone about God and religion, which in this country we at least treat with respect. ...[W]hatever German and French reformers may choose to call themselves, socialist is not a good name for a party to succeed with in America. No such party can or ought to succeed that is not wholly and enthusiastically American and patriotic in spirit and suggestions". [12]

Bellamy himself came to actively participate in the political movement which emerged around his book, particularly after 1891 when he founded his own magazine, The New Nation, and began to promote united action between the various Nationalist Clubs and the emerging People's Party. [13] For the next three and a half years, Bellamy gave his all to politics, publishing his magazine, working to influence the platform of the People's Party, and publicizing the Nationalist movement in the popular press. This phase of Bellamy's life came to an end in 1894, when The New Nation was forced to suspend publication owing to financial difficulties. [14]

With the key activists of the Nationalist Clubs largely absorbed into the apparatus of the People's Party (although a Nationalist Party did run candidates for office in Wisconsin as late as 1896 [15] ), Bellamy abandoned politics for a return to literature. He set to work on a sequel to Looking Backward titled Equality, attempting to deal with the ideal society of the post-revolutionary future in greater detail. In this final work, Bellamy turned his mind's eye to the question of feminism, dealing with the taboo subject of female reproductive rights in a future, post-revolutionary America. [16] Other subjects overlooked in Looking Backward, such as animal rights and wilderness preservation, were dealt with in a similar context. [16] The book saw print in 1897 and would prove to be Bellamy's final creation.

Several short stories of Bellamy's were published in 1898, and The Duke of Stockbridge; a Romance of Shays' Rebellion was published in 1900.

Death and legacy

Edward Bellamy died of tuberculosis in Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts. He was 48 years old at the time of his death.

His lifelong home in Chicopee Falls, built by his father, [17] was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1971. [18]

Bellamy was the cousin of Francis Bellamy, famous for creation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Bellamy Road, a residential road in Toronto, is named for the author.

Published works


Short stories

See also

Related Research Articles

<i>Looking Backward</i> 1888 novel by Edward Bellamy

Looking Backward: 2000–1887 is a utopian novel by Edward Bellamy, a journalist and writer from Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts; it was first published in 1888.

Laurence Gronlund United States socialist

Laurence Gronlund was a Danish-born American lawyer, writer, lecturer, and political activist. Gronlund is best remembered for his pioneering work in adapting the International Socialism of Karl Marx and Ferdinand Lassalle to the American idiom in his popular 1884 book, The Cooperative Commonwealth, and for his influence upon the thinking of utopian novelist Edward Bellamy, newspaper publisher Julius Wayland, and the American socialist movement of the 1880s and 1890s.

Edward Bellamy House United States historic place

The Edward Bellamy House is a National Historic Landmark at 91–93 Church Street in the Chicopee Falls section of the city of Chicopee, Massachusetts. Its landmark designation was in honor of journalist and Utopian writer Edward Bellamy (1850–1898), whose home it was for most of his life.

The Republic of the Future: or, Socialism a Reality is a novella by the American writer Anna Bowman Dodd, first published in 1887. The book is a dystopia written in response to the utopian literature that was a dramatic and noteworthy feature of the second half of the nineteenth century.

The Diothas; or, A Far Look Ahead is a 1883 utopian novel written by John Macnie and published using the pseudonym "Ismar Thiusen". The Diothas has been called "perhaps the second most important American nineteenth-century ideal society" after Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward (1888).

Arena Publishing Co.

Arena Publishing Company was an American book and magazine publishing firm of the late 19th century, founded by author and editor B. O. Flower.

Young West: A Sequel to Edward Bellamy's Celebrated Novel "Looking Backward" is an 1894 utopian novel, written by Solomon Schindler, radical rabbi of Boston. As its subtitle indicates, the book was one of the many responses and sequels to Edward Bellamy's famous 1888 novel Looking Backward, and was one volume in the major wave of utopian and dystopian writing that distinguished the later nineteenth century.

Frederic Heath American journalist

Frederic Faries "Fred" Heath (1864–1954) was an American socialist politician and journalist who was a founding member of the Social Democratic Party of America in 1897 and the Socialist Party of America in 1901. He was an elected official in Wisconsin for nearly half a century.

Marie Stevens Case Howland was an American feminist writer of the nineteenth century, who was closely associated with the utopian socialist movements of her era.

<i>The Scarlet Empire</i> 1906 dystopian political satire novel by David M. Parry

The Scarlet Empire is a dystopian novel written by David MacLean Parry, a political satire first published in 1906. The book was one item in the major wave of utopian and dystopian literature that characterized the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Lucien Sanial American economist

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Nationalist Clubs

Nationalist Clubs were an organized network of socialist political groups which emerged at the end of the 1880s in the United States of America in an effort to make real the ideas advanced by Edward Bellamy in his utopian novel Looking Backward. At least 165 Nationalist Clubs were formed by so-called "Bellamyites," who sought to remake the economy and society through the nationalization of industry. One of the last issues of The Nationalist noted that "over 500" had been formed. Owing to the growth of the Populist movement and the financial and physical difficulties suffered by Bellamy, the Bellamyite Nationalist Clubs began to dissipate in 1892, lost their national magazine in 1894, and vanished from the scene entirely circa 1896.

Socialism in Australia

Socialism in Australia dates back to the earliest pioneers of the area in the late 19th century. Notions of socialism in Australia have taken many different forms including the utopian nationalism of Edward Bellamy, the Marxism of parties such as the Communist Party of Australia, and the democratic socialist reformist electoral project of the early Australian Labor Party.

David M. Parry American businessman

David MacLean Parry was an American industrialist and writer.

Utopian socialism is a label used to define the first currents of modern socialist thought as exemplified by the work of Henri de Saint-Simon, Charles Fourier, Étienne Cabet, Robert Owen and Henry George.

Cyrus Field Willard was an American journalist, political activist, and theosophist. Deeply influenced by the writing of Edward Bellamy, Willard is best remembered as a principal in several utopian socialist enterprises, including the late 1890s colonization efforts of the Brotherhood of the Cooperative Commonwealth (BCC).

<i>New Nation</i> (United States)

The New Nation was a weekly newspaper launched in Boston, Massachusetts in January 1891 by the American socialist writer Edward Bellamy. The paper served as a de facto national organ of the nationwide network of Nationalist Clubs and expounded upon their activities and political ideas, which derived from the best-selling 1888 novel Looking Backward.

<i>The Nationalist</i> (United States)

The Nationalist was an American socialist magazine established in Boston, Massachusetts in May 1889 by adherents of the utopian ideas of writer Edward Bellamy in his 1888 book, Looking Backward. Published by a "Nationalist Educational Association" closely associated with Nationalist Club No. 1 of Boston, the magazine served as the national organ of the Bellamyite movement in the United States until being supplanted by the weekly newspaper The New Nation in 1891.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Howard Quint, The Forging of American Socialism: Origins of the Modern Movement: The Impact of Socialism on American Thought and Action, 1886–1901. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1953; pg. 74.
  2. "Edward Bellamy". Spartacus Educational. Retrieved December 15, 2016.
  3. Joseph Schiffman, "Edward Bellamy's Religious Thought", Transactions and Proceedings of the Modern Language Association of America, vol. 68, no. 4 (Sep. 1953), pg. 716.
  4. Quint, The Forging of American Socialism, pp. 74–75.
  5. Arthur E. Morgan, Edward Bellamy. New York: Columbia University Press, 1944; pp. 148, 252.
  6. Bowman, The Year 2000, pg. 121.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Franklin Rosemont, "Edward Bellamy (1850–98)," in Mari Jo Buhle, Paul Buhle, and Dan Georgakas (eds.), Encyclopedia of the American Left. First Edition. New York: Garland Publishing, 1990; pg. 80.
  8. Edward Bellamy, "Why I Wrote Looking Backward," The Nationalist, vol. 2 (1890), pg. 199.
  9. William D.P. Bliss and Rudolph M. Binder (eds.), The New Encyclopedia of Social Reform. New Edition. New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1908; pp. 810–812.
  10. Morris Hillquit, History of Socialism in the United States. Fifth Revised and Enlarged Edition. New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1910; pg. 289.
  11. Sylvia E. Bowman, The Year 2000: A Critical Biography of Edward Bellamy. New York: Bookman Associates, 1958; pg. 114.
  12. Bellamy to Howells, June 17, 1888, quoted in Bowman, The Year 2000, pg. 114.
  13. Arthur Lipow, Authoritarian Socialism in America: Edward Bellamy and the Nationalist Movement. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1982; pg. 30.
  14. Lipow, Authoritarian Socialism in America, pg. 31.
  15. Casson, Henry, ed. The blue book of the state of Wisconsin 1897 Madison, 1897; pp. 656, 657, 663
  16. 1 2 Rosemont, "Edward Bellamy (1850–1898)," pg. 82.
  17. "A Noted Writer's Abode: The Home of Edward Bellamy at Chicopee Falls, Mass.", Harrisburg [PA] The Daily Telegraph, July 19, 1890, pg. 4.
  18. "Edward Bellamy House: National Historic Landmark summary listing", National Park Service, tps.cr.nps.gov/ Archived October 2, 2012, at the Wayback Machine


Further reading