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Gibson, George Howard

The Populist movement attracted social thinkers of many kinds, including George Howard Gibson. Gibson, a Christian Socialist, edited Nebraska's official Populist newspaper, the Alliance-Independent (which he renamed Wealth Makers), in Lincoln from October 1893 through January 1896.

Gibson began his career as a journalist-reformer in Omaha in the late 1880s as the owner and editor of a monthly temperance publication, the Rising Tide (later the Omaha Leader). That publication collapsed after the defeat of a prohibition amendment by Nebraska voters in 1890. Gibson then moved to Lincoln where he joined the staff of the Alliance (later the Alliance-Independent), official organ of the state Farmers Alliance and of the Peoples Independent Party. By October of 1893 he was editor.

In his new position, Gibson changed the name of the Alliance-Independent to Wealth Makers, a name which he felt expressed the solidarity of interests between urban and rural labor. He and the rest of the staff also acquired ownership of the paper and ran it as a cooperative. Gibson used his new position to encourage cooperation in economic and social endeavors and to promote the nationalization of industry. He opposed free silver although it was popular among most other Populists in Nebraska and discouraged fusion with the Democrats.

In late 1894 Gibson began to turn away from politics and to devote more energy to experiments in business and cooperative living. He formed a group which acquired land near Lincoln and established a "farming, stock-raising, fruit-growing, manufacturing and love-educating paradise." However, it soon experienced financial difficulties. Gibson's paper, Wealth Makers, was also in dire straits due to economic depression and his eccentric political views.

Worried by political and financial problems, Gibson sold Wealth Makers and lead a group of Nebraskans to Georgia to found the Christian Commonwealth Colony. Intended to be a self-sufficient cooperative community, it lasted only a few years. Gibson's association with Nebraska Populism was brief but illustrates the variety of people and ideas associated with Populism and the movement's power to attract idealists.

(August 2001)

 

 

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