Debs Collection:
Little Blue Books

Sold for as little as a nickel or a dime the Little Blue Books and the larger-format Big Blue Books were published and republished by the Haldeman-Julius publishing house located in Girard, Kansas to foster the ideals of American socialism and to provide a basic education for the working man. Titles began appearing as early as 1919, but the Little Blue Books series was not christened until 1923.

Included were reprints of literature and philosophy. As the series names changed, reprints were replaced by original materials, including courses for self improvement and even legal documents. The major collection of these materials is in the Special Collections Department of the Axe Library at Pittsburg State University, Kansas. The Debs Collection in the Indiana State University also contains holdings of Big Blue Books, which may be searched for by keyword, author and title in the OPAC, excluding the approximately 140 uncataloged titles received as a gift in August 2003. The Little Blue Books are almost wholly uncataloged, but they are identifiable from the bibliography developed by the Axe Special Collection Department or the database, which is dedicated to the study of these fascinating books. Be aware that the Axe lists are arranged numerically, so an author or title search will require use of the "text find" feature provided with the browser of choice. The database allows individuals to search by number, keyword, or name of author, title, etc.

Note that the same issue number was frequently used more than once. Therefore, there are many more Little Blue Books than the 1,915 issue numbers indicate, as there may be as many as five or six uses of the number, depending on the series name, text of the publication, etc. Also, not all the numbers were used consecutively. For example, the numbers 1832-1842 had no titles published. Finally, indicates there are over 2,300 individual booklets.

For a concise discussion of the Little Blue Books, see Gene DeGruson, "Little Blue Books," Encyclopedia of the American Left, New York: Garland, 1990, pp. 429-30. Further questions? Contact us with provided form, the e-mail link at the bottom of the page, or call 812/237-2610.

Not listed here or elsewhere are catalogs for Little Blue Books for 1928 and 1929. The catalogs themselves, unlike the books, they represent are the size of the Big Blue Books. Please request these catalogs if you wish to consult them.