Julius Wayland was born in Versailles, Indiana, on 26th April, 1854. Four months after being born a cholera epidemic took the lives of his father and four of his brothers and sisters. The surviving members of the family lived in abject poverty and after two years schooling, Wayland was forced to find work.
Wayland was employed as a printer's apprentice on the Versailles Gazette. After learning the trade he worked for neighboring newspapers as a printer and typesetter. By 1872 Wayland had saved enough money to become a part owner of the newspaper. Two years later he became its sole proprietor and eventually turned it into a highly profitable newspaper.
Wayland became converted to socialism after reading books such as The Cooperative Commonwealth: An Exposition of Modern Socialism (Laurence Gronlund) and Looking Backward (Edward Bellamy). When he expressed these views in his newspaper he so upset the conservatives in the town that a mob put a rope around his neck and talked about lynching him.
After this incident Wayland decided to move to Pueblo, Colorado. In April, 1893, Wayland began publishing the radical journal, The Coming Nation. Within fifteen months the journal had a circulation of 60,000 and was the most popular socialist newspaper in America. With the profits from the newspaper Wayland helped to fund a utopian colony, the Ruskin Co-operative Association, on 2,000 acres of land near Tennessee City.
Named after one of his his heroes, John Ruskin, Wayland wrote that he intended to provide "every convenience that the rich enjoy, permanent employment at wages higher than ever dreamed of by laborers, with all the advantages of good schools, free libraries, natatoriums, gymnasiums, lecture halls and pleasure grounds." He added that "one practical success showing that man can live and love in peace and plenty, will do more about bringing the Brotherhood of Man than a thousand speakers."
Wayland had difficulty making his community work and in July, 1895, he left Ruskin after handing over his land and The Coming Nation to the Ruskin Co-operative Association. He settled in Missouri, and in August, 1895, began publishing the socialist journal, Appeal to Reason. The journal was a mixture of articles and extracts from radical books by people such as Tom Paine, Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, John Ruskin, William Morris, Laurence Gronlund and Edward Bellamy.
Wayland moved to Girard, Kansas, and in 1900 employed Fred Warren as his co-editor. Warren was a well-known figure on the left and managed to persuade some of America's leading progressives to contribute to the Appeal to Reason. This included Jack London, Mary 'Mother' Jones, Upton Sinclair, Scott Nearing, Joe Haaglund Hill, Kate Richards O'Hare, Ralph Chaplin, Stephen Crane, Helen Keller and Eugene Debs. By 1902 its circulation reached 150,000, making it the fourth highest of any weekly in the United States.
In 1904 Warren commissioned Upton Sinclair to write a novel about immigrant workers in the Chicago meat packing houses. Wayland provided Sinclair with a $500 advance and after seven weeks research he wrote the novel, The Jungle. Serialized in 1905, the book helped to increase circulation to 175,000. When published by Doubleday in 1906, the novel was an immediate success. Within the next few year it was published in seventeen languages and was a best-seller all over the world.
In 1905 William Hayward (general secretary of WFM) and Charles Moyer (president of WFM), were both been kidnapped in Colorado and taken to Idaho to stand trial for the murder of Frank R. Steunenberg, the former governor of Idaho. This upset Warren as a few years earlier the authorities had refused to arrest and charge William S. Taylor, the former governor of Kentucky, with the murder of the progressive politician, William Goebel. Taylor fled to Indiana where he became a wealthy insurance executive.
Fred Warren wrote an article about the William Goebel case in Appeal to Reason and advertised a reward of $1,000 for anyone willing to capture William S. Taylor and to take him back to Kentucky. As a result of this article Warren was himself arrested and charged with encouraging others to commit the crime of kidnap. After a two year delay was found guilty and sentenced to six months hard labour and a $1,500 fine. Soon afterwards the governor of Kentucky, Augustus Everett Willson, pardoned Taylor, Caleb Powers, and four other people for their part in the murder.
Wayland and Warren were once again in trouble in 1911 when they published a series of articles in the Appeal to Reason about corruption and homosexuality in Leavenworth Prison. Although senior figures running the prison were dismissed, Wayland and Warren were charged were charged with sending "indecent, filthy, obscene, lewd and lascivious printed materials" through the post.
As the popularity of the Appeal to Reason increased, so did the attacks on Wayland and Warren. The paper's offices were repeatedly broken into in an effort to find evidence of criminal activity. Research was carried out about Wayland's ancestors and reports in the Los Angeles Times claiming that they had been involved in cases of arson and murder. In 1912 the newspaper reported that Wayland was guilty of seducing an orphaned girl of fourteen and who had died during an abortion in Missouri.
Julius Wayland, depressed by the recent death of his wife and the continuing smear campaign against him, committed suicide on 10th November, 1912. He left a suicide note that said: "The struggle under the competitive system is not worth the effort." After Wayland's death his children won considerable damages after they sued the newspapers about these libelous stories.