The Arena

The Arena, an American literary and political magazine, was founded by the radical journalist, Benjamin Flower. It first appeared as a 100 page monthly journal in December, 1889. Flower, influenced by the ideas of Edward Bellemy and Henry George, used the magazine to publicize the need for social reform. Over the first few years Flower published a large number of articles on poverty, sweatshops, slum clearance, unemployment and child labour.

One of his early campaigns was an attempt to persuade the government to raise the age of consent to eighteen. Flower also published several articles on socialism and unlike most magazines, gave support to attempts by workers to form trade unions.

Benjamin 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."

Flower argued that all literature should be didactic and believed that all novels and poems should have a social purpose. Flower promoted the work of novelists such as Frank Norris, David Graham Phillips and Upton Sinclair. In an article, The Highest Function of the Novel, Flower praised those writers who were "the champions of the world's helpless millions".

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.

In the early 1900s the circulation of The Arena reached over 30,000. However, the magazine was never economically successful. It lost $37,809 in its first year and although the situation improved, the journal only made an annual profit in four of the twenty years it was trading. The last edition of the magazine appeared in August, 1909.

© , September 1997 - April 2014

Primary Sources

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

The 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.

The 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 though-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.