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Sycamore author pens book on historic Utopian movements

Published: Thursday, May 9, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

The era of the Great Depression of the 1930s, according to Professor Donald Whisenhunt of Sycamore, produced a number of schemes to end the depression. These movements were all unsuccessful, but they represent the American spirit of seeking solutions to problems that may overwhelm us.

Whisenhunt writes about these movements in his new book “Utopian Movements and Ideas of the Great Depression: Dreamers, Believers, and Madmen.”

These movements reflect the American belief in the idea of progress and show that at the core of the American experience, Americans are essentially Utopian in their thought.

The topics covered in the book include Father James Cox, a Catholic priest from Pittsburgh, who ran for president in 1932 for the Jobless Party, Henry C. McCowen, a newspaper editor from New Mexico, who promoted a scheme he called “Moneyless Government” for the last 40 years of his life, and Congressman Maury Maverick of Texas who founded a self-help community called the DIGA colony in San Antonio. These three men were founders of Utopian communities during the Great Depression.

Also included in the book are chapters on the Socialist Party that rewrote the Declaration of Independence in 1933 at a conference in Washington, D.C., and Ralph Turton of Kentucky who wrote a “World Constitution” in the late 1930s. Turton also believed he was the rightful king of the United States.

Also included is a chapter on the Utopian Society of America, an organization founded in 1934 in California that had as many as 600,000 members at its peak but is totally unknown today. The final chapter is an analysis of Utopian books written during this period that today have fallen into obscurity.

Whisenhunt is a retired professor of history at Western Washington University. He has lived in retirement in Sycamore since 2007. His academic specialty is the United States during the Great Depression of the 1930s. He has published widely in the depression era and in other fields. He has been a Fulbright Professor in China, Korea and Belarus. He also has written weekly columns for newspapers for many years.

The book is published by Lexington Books and is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other websites.

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