Benjamin Flower

Benjamin Flower

Benjamin Flower was born in Albion, Illinois on 19th October, 1858. After attending the University of Kentucky he found work as a journalist and by 1880 was editor of the American Sentinel.

In 1889 Flower founded The Arena, an American literary and political magazine. Flower left the journal in 1896 but returned in 1904 determined to make it "one of the great conscience forces in the English-speaking world." He added, "let us agitate, educate, organize and move forward, casting aside timidity and insisting that the Republic shall no longer lag behind in the march of progress."

W. T. Stead, the English investigative reporter, argued: "If we may judge of the editor from the magazine he edits, we should say that Mr. Flower is a young man with strong sympathies for the people, whose humanitarian instincts have not yet crystallized. He has great sympathies with socialism, especially in its protests against the slavery of women, but he recoils against any system which destroys liberty and cripples individualism."

Flower employed investigative journalist to obtain information that was part of his campaign for social, economic and political reform. In doing so, The Arena followed the example of McClure's Magazine and began to specialize in what became known as muckraking journalism. He later wrote: "The Arena (in the 1890s) was one of the fourmost magazines that was fearlessly waging a warfare on the unwarranted aggressions and corrupting influence of privileged wealth. The Arena appealed to thought-moulders. It had an enormous circulation among the clergy, to whom special rates had been granted because of the desire of the management that it should become pre-eminently a public educator, and it was felt that by reaching the public opinion-forming agencies we could in many instances start new centres for the diffusion of the light of justice, fundamental democracy, for intellectual hospitality."

After the closure of The Arena in 1909, Flower moved to Boston where he founded the Twentieth Century Magazine (1909-1913) and wrote Progressive Men, Women and Movements (1914).

Benjamin Flower died on 24th December 1918.

Primary Sources

(1) W. T. Stead, Review of Reviews (July 1891)

Mr. Flower is the editor of the Arena. If we may judge of the editor from the magazine he edits, we should say that Mr. Flower is a young man with strong sympathies for the people, whose humanitarian instincts have not yet crystallized. He has great sympathies with socialism, especially in its protests against the slavery of women, but he recoils against any system which destroys liberty and cripples individualism.

Arena is never dull, although it is sometimes mad, or, to speak more correctly, it sometimes publishes a mad article, which, after all, is rather welcome. It is an open arena for the discussion of subjects tabooed by the Forum and the North American. There is more audacity about the Arena than its older rivals. The Arena for June is even more strenuous than usual. The magazine from the first page to the last is strained almost to the breaking point with overcharged earnestness.

(2) Benjamin Flower, Progressive Me, Women and Movements (1914)

The Arena (in the 1890s) was one of the fourmost magazines that was fearlessly waging a warfare on the unwarranted aggressions and corrupting influence of privileged wealth. The Arena appealed to thought-moulders. It had an enormous circulation among the clergy, to whom special rates had been granted because of the desire of the management that it should become pre-eminently a public educator, and it was felt that by reaching the public opinion-forming agencies we could in many instances start new centres for the diffusion of the light of justice, fundamental democracy, for intellectual hospitality.