The Federated Press was initially organized at a meeting held November 25, 1919. Chief among its founders was E.J. Costello, managing editor of Victor Berger's Socialist daily, the Milwaukee Leader.
Federated Press League
The Federated Press League (FPL) was formally established in April 1922 as a formal organization to provide financial support for the support of The Federated Press.
Basic dues in the organization were $5.00 per year, of which $4.00 went to pay for a subscription to the weekly broadsheet The Federated Press Bulletin, initially edited by Helen Augur before she was replaced by E.J. Costello later in 1921. Membership in the Federated Press League was open to anyone 16 years of age or over who paid membership dues to the organization.
According to the Constitution of the Federated Press League, the primary organizations of the Federated Press League were so-called "Local Councils," of which there were just over 30 established by the fall of 1922. Funds raised by these Local Councils was to be transmitted to the central Federated Press League office in Chicago and from there to The Federated Press itself. The group was to be governed by annual conventions of its members, to be held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Federated Press' member organizations.
First President of the Federated Press League was Robert Morss Lovett. Secretary was Clark H. Getts.
1. First Convention of the Federated Press League -- Chicago -- February 4, 1922
President or the Federated Press League Robert Morss Lovett presided over the first annual convetnon of the Federated Press League. Just 13 delegates were in attendance: Laura B. Johnson (Madison, WI); E.C. Wentworth, Robert Morss Lovett, Anna K. Hulburd, Robert M. Buck, Carroll Binder, and Clark H. Getts (all of Chicago); Erich Stern and Alma Schlesinger (Milwaukee); Mary D. Brite (Cincinnati); William Z. Foster (representing Akron, OH by proxy); Sam Hammersmark (representing Minneapolis by proxy); and George D. Hooker (representing Washington, DC by proxy).
The Financial Report delivered by Treasurer E.C. Wentworth showed receipts for the year of $12,509.45 (of which $2350 were from Federated Press bond sales and the rest membership fees and donations). The Federated Press League expended $4232.22 in obtainingn these funds, with the balance of $5917.23 in cash and $2350 in cash for bonds remitted to the treasury of The Federated Press.
A budget for the coming year calling for support of the Federated Press by the FPL to the sum of $7500 was unanimously approved.
The following officers were elected: President -- Robert Morss Lovett; Vice Presidents -- Frances C. Lillie and George D. Hooker; Treasurer -- E.C. Wentworth; Secretary -- Clark H. Getts.
The Executive Board was directed to draft and implement a new national program. Local Councils of the FPL were to monitor and correct "distortions and misrepresentations" of the "inspired" press, giving national publicity to these distortions through the weekly organ of the FPL, The Federated Press Bulletin, a 8-page broadsheet.
Local Councils were instructed to designate at least 1 person each to supply large news items to the editor of The Federated Press Bulletin . Circulation of this paper was to be increased to at least 5,000 in the coming year. The FPL was also to place 1 or more organizers in the field to establish new Local Councils of the organization. Editor of The Federated Press Bulletin was Clark H. Getts, and Associate Editors were Carl Haessler and Carroll Binder.
[fn. "Proceedings of the League Convention," The Federated Press Bulletin, v. 2, no. 19 (Feb. 11, 1922), pg. 2.]
By the summer of 1922, the Federated Press was in serious financial crisis. Employees of the agency had been forced to accept pay cuts ranging up to 25% to allow ends to be met -- and even then pay envelopes were late. Serious antagonism seems to have existed between Secretary-Treasurer and Managing Editor E.J. Costello and prominent New York-based sources of funds, including Roger Nash Baldwin of the American Civil Liiberties Union. In an attempt to break the deadlock, on July 3, 1922, Costello tendered his provisional resignation from The Federated Press, provided that his opponents first raised $100,000 to retire the existing $50,000 in bonded debt and to allow the press agency an additional $50,000 working capital fund.
The timing of this offer and demand was such to allow the Federated Press to make a claim on a substantial portion of the $750,000 Garland Fund then being established -- a foundation funded by a young radical heir to a million dollar legacy, Charles Garland, of Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts. Federated Press board members Robert Morss Lovett and William Z. Foster (apparently both opponents of Costello) were believed by Costello to be members of the board of directors of this fund; Costello's conditional resignation was to inspire an immediate dedication of a portion of the fund to the Federated Press, with Costello promising to exit the scene if the donation was made.
[fn. E.J. Costello, "Costello to Resign, If--" The Federated Press Bulletin, v. 3, no. 14 (July 8, 1922), pp. 1, 10.]
By the summer of 1922, the Federated Press had aided in the establishment of 8 weekly newspapers, including the South Bend (IN) Free Press, Centralia (IL) Labor World), Iowa Farm and Labor News, Producers Review (IL), Tri-City Labor News (Christopher, IL), The Labor Advocate (Racine, WI), and Cahoka Valley (IL) News. There were a total of 23 member paperss taking the Federated Press service in Illinois, 17 in New York, 7 in California, 5 in Minnesota, 4 in Washington, and about 2 dozen others scattered across the Midwestern and New England states. The service also exchanged information with news services in Russia, England, Holland, Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Australia, and elsewhere.
[fn. "Isn't This a Worthwhile Job?" The Federated Press Bulletin, v. 3, no. 16 (July 22, 1922), pg. 12; "Member Papers of the Federated Press, The Federated Press Bulletin, v. 3, no. 20 (Aug. 19, 1922), pg. 3.]
In early 1923, there were 43 local councils of the league, but they seem to have been mostly inactive. The council at Madison, Wisconsin was the most active, consisting of some 60 members -- nearly 10% of the total of 623 reported by Secretary Ruth Pearson in her Feb. 1923 annual report of the Federated Press League. Pearson declared that "it is planned to develop the league as an auxiliary body, emphasizing publicity work rather than the organization of local councils."
A greatly curtailed constitution for the Federated Press League was initiated at the same time, noting only that "Local councils may be formed... The first object of such councils shall be to assist The Federated Press through publicity, the securing of new subscriptioins to the Bulletin or donations to the work of the press, and through extending the use of The Federated Press news service by local papers."
The designs for a formal FPL membership organization had clearly given way to reality by the first part of 1923.
[fn. Ruth Pearson, "The Federated Press League: Annual Report of the Secretary," The Federated Press Bulletin, v. 4, no. 20 (Feb. 17, 1923), pg. 12.]
"Constitution of The Federated Press League." [as published April 1921] Although the left wing news service The Federated Press is familiar to many historians of American labor history in the 1920s, less known is the fact that there was an apparently short-lived organization established around that service called the Federated Press League, which from April 1921 published its own weekly newspaper, the Federated Press Bulletin. This is the initial set of organizational laws of this membership group. Membership was open to any individual 16 years of age or older, either by individual membership or by groups affiliating with the league en bloc. Primary units were to be groups called Local Councils. Organization was to be done on a state basis, with each state headed by a President and Vice-President, who together with the national Executive Secretary and Treasurer were to form a General Council. This body was to elect a 9 member Executive Board to handle ongoing operations of the League. A sliding scale of dues, payable annually, were established, with regular dues set at $5 per annum, semi-weekly service recipients set at $25, daily service recipients at $50, and life membership set at $1,000. Dues were to be payable to the local councils, who would forward 95% of their collections to the national office of the organization. Local councils were to meet monthly, annual conventions of the organization to be held annually.