Tiny portrait

James F. Morton was an anarchist writer and political activist of the 1900s through the 1920s especially on the topics of the single tax system, racism, and advocacy for women. After about 1920 he was more known as a Bahá'í, a notable museum curator, an esperantist and a close friend of H.P. Lovecraft.


Early yearsEdit

Morton was born in Littleton, Massachusetts, lived in Andover, New Hampshire.Harvard University (1884) General Catalogue Issue University, pp. 214, 260, 280, 474, 480, 483, 487, 490. His family reached back to the pilgrims landing in 1620, his grandfather was Rev. Samuel Francis Smith. A newspaper article from 1906 refers alittle to his youth - that he worked as a "newsboy, bootblack, an organ blower, and an employe(sic) in a jelly factory". In 1892 he earned Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts degree from Harvard University, (March 1942). Memorial of James F. Morton unspecified pub., p. 200–202.Paterson NJ Morning Call of Oct 8, 1941 which was reprinted in  (October 1941). James F. Morton unspecified pub.. simultaneously, in Classical Philology, earning a "Gorham Thomas" scholarship, graduated cum laude and was a member of the honors society Phi Beta Kappa. He was a classmate of W.E.B. Du BoisKatz, Esther (1999). Morton, Jr., James Ferdinand (1870-1941). The Margaret Sanger Papers Electronic Edition: Margaret Sanger and The Woman Rebel, 1914-1916. Model Editions Partnership. Retrieved on Nov 3, 2014. and carried on some correspondence with him.* Morton, James F., Jr. (May 26, 1908). Letter from James F. Morton, Jr. to W. E. B. Du Bois, May 26, 1908.. W. E. B. Du Bois Papers (MS 312). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries. Retrieved on Nov 7, 2014.

Even at this early period he was actively involved in the amateur journalism movement, appearing in newspaper coverage of the developing practice in 1891,Template:Cite news and elected President of the National Amateur Press Association (NAPA) in 1896. In his earlier days in New England he explored a number of alternatives to mainstream culture. (EXP: An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia)​

Anarchism and the Tour to the West and backEdit

He converted to anarchism, especially as individualist anarchism in the United States, anarchism and issues related to love and sex and freethought and went on a cross-country speaking tour 1899-1900 to the West supporting these ideas.Candace Falk (1 April 2008). Emma Goldman: A Documentary History of the American Years Made for America, 1890-1901 University of Illinois Press, p. 393. Several of these talks appeared in newspapers.*

  • By 1901 he was active on the West Coast.
  • When living in the West Morton wrote for or edited various anarchist journalsErnesto A. Longa (2 November 2009). Anarchist Periodicals in English Published in the United States (1833-1955): An Annotated Guide Scarecrow Press, pp. 6, 18, 20, 40–52, 83–86, 94, 153, 182, 186. such as Free Society,Morton is noted in many editions of Free Society - see James F. Morton, Jr.. Radical, Libertarian, Individualist and Anarchist Periodicals: An Index (4 May 2013). Retrieved on Nov 7, 2014. Discontent, The Demonstrator, Truth Seeker, and Emma Goldman's Mother EarthJames F. Morton, Jr.. The Libertarian Labyrinth (10 May 2014). Retrieved on Nov 7, 2014. and lived at the Home, Washington anarchist commune which had been raided though Morton was not arrested,Template:Cite news and was still present when the news of the assassination attempt against US President William McKinley arrived. (March–April 2013). The Anarchists must go unspecified pub.. Morton's writings clarified that he favored a "non-retaliatory" anarchism. In 1904 he made his way back to the East coast*Template:Cite news
  • and a talk of his on anarchist/free-thought and morality was carried in several newspapers.


As early as 1903 Morton is visibly against racism in his writing for the anarchist Distcontent, campaigned actively for civil rights for blacks, published The Curse of Race Prejudice (1906) The curse of race prejudice self published. and challenged productions like Thomas Dixon's The Clansman. in 1906, which the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's The Crisis listed among its suggested reading materials in many editions over the years,*  (March 1911). Books National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Perhaps no other subject consumed Morton's energy and focus in the earlier half of his life than the subject of a single-tax as originated by Henry George - it was one the topics he spoke across several years about.

A third topic was of lasting concern to Morton - the facets of advocacy for women - suffrage.

In addition to particular topics that had his voice across the decades, and practicing law for some years in New York and Massachusetts, he wrote or gave talks on a wide range of topics:

  • racism against red-heads
  • then recent antisemitism in Russia
  • conventionality in religion and politics,
  • Thomas Paine
  • tyranny in the postal system (which got echoed in more than one newspaper)
  • work's rights and social reform
  • funerals in general and of Thaddeus B. Wakeman in particular
  • baseball games on Sunday
  • "Mob spirit"
  • contraception*  [1916]. (1 November 2007). "Prevention of conception as a duty". Birth Control, Or, the Limitation of Offspring Wildside Press, p. 195–204.
  •  (May 1919). Origin and Workings of the Comstock Laws unspecified pub., pp. 3–5, 18.
  • radicalism

Literature and friendshipsEdit

In addition to various individual topics he was also invested in several over a long term. From about 1915 he was a prominent member of the Blue Pencil Club of Brooklyn, named after the traditional Blue pencil editor's corrections, and supported appreciation of literature in a number of talks.

Association with LovecraftEdit

Morton was a key member of the Kalem Club, the close circle of friends around Lovecraft in New York City in the mid 1920s. (EXP: An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia)​ During the early part of that period he lived in Harlem, New York City, a predominantly black neighborhood.

Paterson MuseumEdit

Morton was an active student of mineralogy and a leading member of the Thomas Paine Natural History Association. In the mid 1920s he was offered and took the post of head museum curator at the new museum at Paterson, New Jersey - then a regional locus of anarchism - where he would build a mineralogy collection which was admired by nationally and internationally. This job enabled him to marry the writer Pearl K. Merritt in 1934 though the couple had no children. Morton became a leader in the American Association of Museums, and a leading member of the New York Mineralogical Club. Locally he enjoyed walking with the radical Paterson Rambling Club.

In the 1934 he was interested in his family history and wrote congratulating a local historian on research important to overcoming some limits in his own research. An avid walker, he died in 1941, due to being struck in the back while walking to a meeting by a moving car.


Beginning in 1907 Morton also published a series of articles under "Fragments of a Mental Autobiography" in a journal named Libra (May 3, 2014). Letters to James F. Morton (Kindle Edition ed.). Hippocampus Press. which outlines his religious background beginning with Baptist family heritage, goes through Unitarian relatives, and Theosophy exploration, (May 3, 2014). Letters to James F. Morton (Kindle Edition ed.). Hippocampus Press. (he was president of the Boston Theosophical Society in 1895) and placing Jesus and the Buddha among those on the highest level of his admiration even if he found fault with all scripture and organized religion. In this period Morton was an avid "evangelist" atheist (EXP: An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia)​ and often spoke out against religion but he had already encountered the Bahá'í Faith which:

At first, I regarded it with amused interest, as one of many little cults; but gradually I found myself drawn into closer and closer relation with it. There was a wideness in its attitude which I had not found elsewhere. It held place for what was best in Christianity, Judaism, Mohammedanism, Buddhism, Freethought and all the rest, warring with none of these, but finding each of them definitely serviceable to the larger spiritual plan of the universe. It is the great reconciler and harmonizer. I have discovered in it an abiding-place which I had sought in vain for many restless years. It increases, rather than decreases, my eagerness to continue the investigation of truth without bias, and to labor energetically in all branches of human service. I have no fault to find with the differing conclusions of other truth-lovers, and am ready to work with them all as occasion offers." (near 1910)William C. Ahlhauser (1919) Ex-presidents of the National Amateur Press Association: sketches W. P. Cook, p. 55–6.

He became a convert to the religion in later life. (EXP: An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia)​ (1 December 1996). A Subtler Magick: The Writings and Philosophy of H. P. Lovecraft Wildside Press LLC. Morton is visibly in Bahá'í circles from 1915 on the program of presenters at Green Acre,Template:Cite news a Bahá'í center of lectures and conferences from about 1912, and got into some debates with a critic of the religion circa 1916.The debates followed the publication of  (August 1915). The Persian Revival to Jesus, and his American Disciples unspecified pub., pp. 460–483. - see  (March 1931). The Rise and Fall of the Parliament of Religions at Greenacre unspecified pub., pp. 129–166. He also served as a alternate delegate from New York to a national convention of the religion in 1918. (May 17, 1918). Monday Afternoon Session Baha'i News service, p. 50–53. He received two letters (aka "Tablets") from 'Abdu'l-Bahá, then head of the religion, in 1919 which were later published in the Bahá'í journal Star of the West.*  (January 19, 1920). Recent Tablets from Abdul-Baha to American Bahais; James Morton Baha'i News service.

*  (February 7, 1921).  Tablet to Bahais in American received in 1919 and 1920; James Morton, Jr   Baha'i News service. Morton increasingly gave public talks related to the religion from the late 1910s through the 20s and into the 30s

Similarities, parallels and connectionsEdit

It is worth noting perhaps that other Bahá'ís were interested in the single tax movement originated around the ideas of Henry George, and other ideas also in common with the young Morton. (1985) The Baha'i Faith in America - Wilmette, Il.: Baha'i Publishing Trust, pp. 8, 86–88, 91–93, 106–108, 188. Among these were Paul Kingston Dealy and Marie Howland. Both had joined the religion some years earlier around 1897-8. Dealy and Howland had joined the religion in different cities - Chicago, the first national community of Baha'is in the US in the case of Dealy, and Howland in Enterpririse Kansas, the second such in the States. Dealy had also previously run for office under the People's Party circa 1895 but in Chicago. Howland and her husband had also been interested in the ideas of sexual freedom against the norms of the day and the cultural situation of women though Howland's husband soon died. Both Dealy (and his family) and Howland, independently, also moved to commune of sorts although this one was different, at Fairhope, Alabama, circa 1898-9. There Howland established the first library and worked on the first newspaper, another interest of Morton's, of the colony. Another Bahá'í couple - Honoré Jaxon and Aimée Montfort show similar interests as well. Jaxon had been an anarchist a decade before and been involved in another commune of sorts at Topolobampo Mexico, and then joined the religion about 1897 in Chicago shortly before Aimée. They had married and pursued worker's rights involvements though their long term interested turned to Canada.Donald B. Smith (2007) Honoré Jaxon: Prairie Visionary Coteau Books, pp. 66–76, 102–108.Will C. van den Hoonaard (30 October 2010). The Origins of the Bahá’í Community of Canada, 1898-1948 Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press, p. 18–35. It is not known if Morton, Dealy, Howland, Jaxon or Montfort ever knew of each other. Additionally Thornton Chase, called the first Bahá'í in the West, was a student of Morton's grandfather, Rev. Samuel Francis Smith, in his youth. (2002) Thornton Chase: First American Bahá'í Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá'í Publishing Trust.



Further readingEdit

  •  (March 1942). Memorial of James F. Morton unspecified pub., p. 200–202.
  • H.P. Lovecraft, Letters to James F. Morton, Hippocampus Press, 2011. (This book also has memoirs of Morton by those who knew him).
  • S.T. Joshi, Lovecraft's New York Circle: The Kalem Club, 1924-1927, Hippocampus Press, 2006.
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.