Emanuel Julius was born in Philadelphia on July 30, 1889, the son of a Jewish bookbinder who had emigrated with his family from Russia. Harassed as a child for being Jewish, Julius developed a distain for all religion. After leaving school at age 15, Julius worked at a variety of menial jobs. He also read voraciously, in particular literature and pamphlets published by socialists, which was inexpensive and readily available. Convinced of their truth, Julius joined the Socialist Party before World War I. He became a journalist and in 1915 moved to Girard, Kansas, as editor of Appeal to Reason, an influential socialist newspaper with a large national circulation. The following year he married Anna Marcet Haldeman (whose name he added to his own in hyphenate), daughter of a wealthy local banker and niece of the social worker Jane Addams.
Inspired by the cheap ten-cent paperback editions of classic works he had purchased as a 15-year-old (Wilde's Ballad of Reading Gaol had struck him in particular), Julius nurtured the idea of publishing small, inexpensive paperback pocketbooks to provide information, in particular works of classic literature as well as those expressing common-sense knowledge, a wide range of ideas, and various points of view, to both the working and "educated" classes. He purchased the presses and 175,000-name subscriber list of his former employer, Appeal to Reason, and in 1919 began publishing Appeal's Pocket Series on cheap pulp paper, stapled and bound in a stiff red paper cover, for 25 cents each. The series name and color of the binding changed over the first few years, before settling on "Little Blue Book" in 1923. The pamphlets, which measured 5 x 3 1/2 inches, and cost 5 cents, were enormously popular, finding their way into the pockets of laborers, scholars, and the average citizen; their small size and low price made the books especially popular with travelers and transient workers. Beginning in 1925, Haldeman-Julius also published the "Big Blue Book" series, measuring 8 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches, costing 10 cents each; many, but by no means all the titles in this series were reprints of titles in the Little Blue Book series, in a more "agreeable" format. Both series sold an estimated total of 500 million copies. The St. Louis Dispatch called Haldeman-Julius "the Henry Ford of literature", and Haldeman-Julius and his wife became rich.
Following World War II, the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover viewed the Little Blue Books' treatment of subjects such as socialism and atheism, and the frank treatment of sexuality, as subversive, and placed Haldeman-Julius on its "enemies" list. This caused a rapid decline in the number of bookstores willing to carry Haldeman-Julius' publications, and they sank into obscurity. Haldeman-Julius and his wife legally separated in 1934. Marcet died in 1941, and the following year Haldeman-Julius married Susan Haney, an employee. He drowned in his swimming pool on July 31, 1951. His son, Henry, took over the presses and continued to print and sell the pamphlets until the printing house burned down on July 4, 1978.
"Emanuel Haldeman-Julius: The Paper Giant", http://axelibrary.blogspot.com/2007_09_01_archive.html (accessed September 15, 2009).
Burnett, Betty. "Haldeman-Julius, Emanuel." American National Biography. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Jacoby, Susan. Freethinkers: a history of American secularism. New York: Henry Holt, 2004.
Haldeman-Julius : Pocket Series and the Little Blue Books, http://www.haldeman-julius.org (accessed September 15, 2009).
Haldeman-Julius' papers are held by the Leonard H. Axe Library, Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, Kansas, http://library.pittstate.edu/spcoll/ndxhjulius.html (accessed September 15, 2009).
Inventory of Big Blue Books held by the Lilly Library, Indiana University Library, http://www.indiana.edu/~liblilly/shorttitle/bigbluebooks.html (accessed September 15, 2009).