About The menace. (Aurora, Mo.) 1911-1920
Aurora, Mo. (1911-1920)
- The menace. : (Aurora, Mo.) 1911-1920
- Place of publication:
- Aurora, Mo.
- Geographic coverage:
- Phelps & McClure
- Dates of publication:
- Began Apr. 15, 1911; ceased in 1920.
- Aurora (Mo.)--Newspapers.
- Lawrence County (Mo.)--Newspapers.
- Also issued on microfilm by the Library of Congress Photoduplication Service.
- Archived issues are available in digital format from the Library of Congress Chronicling America online collection.
- Description based on: No. 7 (June 3, 1911).
- Latest issue consulted: No. 391 (Oct. 26, 1918).
- Publishers: Menace Publishing Co., Oct. 12, 1912-Aug. 29, 1914; United States Publishing Co., Sept. 5, 1914-<Dec. 25, 1915>
- sn 89066178
- Succeeding Titles:
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The Menace and The New Menace
The Menace was established in Aurora, Missouri, by Wilbur Franklin Phelps and his stepson, Thomas Earl McClure, as an anti-Catholic publication. Launched on April 15, 1911, the Saturday four-page paper began with 22 subscribers, but with a low subscription cost of fifty cents per year, its circulation grew quickly. In less than three years, the paper had over one million subscribers. Upon reaching this milestone the Menace wrote, "We have shouted from the house-tops the danger to this republic, and a sleeping people have...acknowledged our shouts with a magnificent response." Aside from the newspaper, Phelps and McClure used their publishing plant in Aurora to print books and pamphlets denouncing the Catholic Church. The popularity of the Menace during the 1910s was so great that the post office in Aurora established a sub-station on the railroad to handle the overwhelming task managing its circulation. In the mid-1910s, the annual cost of postage to publish the Menace was $40,000, and this weekly paper from a small southwestern Missouri town had more readers than many daily newspapers published out of New York City or Chicago.
The newspaper was not opposed to Catholic religious beliefs, as such. Rather, the Menace railed against what Phelps and McClure viewed as the political machinations of Rome and the Catholic Church’s interference in American institutions and government. They campaigned against Roman Catholics running for elected office and denounced the "gigantic power of wealth, and votes, and influence" of the Catholic Church in American politics and business. They felt that a Catholic's first loyalties lay with Rome, not the United States, and that Catholics therefore could not be trusted to uphold the Constitution of the United States. At first, the Catholic Church ignored the paper, perhaps expecting it to fade away. As its circulation skyrocketed, however, the Menace became more difficult to ignore. In 1914, after reaching its milestone of one million subscribers, the newspaper incorporated under the name of the United States Publishing Company, with Marvin Brown (formerly head of circulation and leader of the campaign to reach one million subscribers) as president and managing editor. Nationwide efforts to suppress the newspaper began in earnest, led by the Knights of Columbus. In 1916, the Knights led an attempt in Philadelphia to suppress the Menace by trying to exclude delivery of the paper by the postmaster general. However, the postmaster general was required by law to ensure the delivery of the mail. Efforts to change the laws of mail delivery also failed, so a final attempt was made to sue the Menace for slander and libel with the hope that the newspaper would be buried under legal fees. With an influx of cash from the sale of anti-Catholic books and pamphlets alongside the subscriptions of over a million people, the Menace had plenty of money to combat this legal challenge. In July 1916, after receiving many threats, the Menace’s offices were rocked by three explosions that damaged the building and caused a small fire, but which left the presses undamaged and failed to delay publication of the paper by even one issue.
During World War I, Americans shifted their attention away from Catholics and more toward the German enemy. Subscriptions to the Menace dropped off as quickly as they had grown. Nevertheless, the paper continued to publish unhindered until December 19, 1919, when the Menace's press was destroyed, not by bombs or arson, but by a fire in the basement caused by live coals falling from the furnace. The building was a total loss, and the mailing list was the only item saved from the flames. The destruction of the building brought an end to the newspaper, but with the mailing list in hand, Gilbert O. Nations and Billy Parker soon decided to pick up where the Menace had left off and launched the New Menace in April 1920. Publication began in Branson, but the paper moved back to Aurora in 1922. The widespread popularity of both newspapers was due in large part to the timing of the publication in the course of American history. A militant Protestant movement was on the rise, and Ku Klux Klan organizations began to spring up across the country, in large part as an anti-Catholic organization. The New Menace proudly reported the slaying of a Catholic priest by a Methodist Klan member in 1921, and the paper would defend of the actions of Klansmen throughout its run. Nations and Parker continued the tradition of raging against "papal tyranny" until 1931, when the New Menace finally ceased publication.
Provided by: State Historical Society of Missouri; Columbia, MO