The American Non-Conformist was first published in 1879 in Tabor, Iowa, by Leopold and Henry Vincent as a weekly journal devoted to greenback and later union labor causes. In 1886, the Vincent brothers moved the paper to Winfield, Kansas, renamed their journal The American Non-Conformist and Kansas Industrial Liberator, and continued to embrace a Union Labor Party outlook. In 1891, the Vincent brothers again moved the paper, this time to Indianapolis, where they hoped the paper would prompt the growth of Indiana's new People's Party. In the mid-1890s, the Non-Conformist was estimated to have a weekly circulation of 30,000.
In the paper's inaugural Kansas issue on October 7, 1886, the Vincent brothers asserted that the purpose of the Non-Conformist was to educate farmers, workers, and producers in matters important to them, and it would strive to “take the side of the oppressed as against the oppressor.” This continued the tone that the paper had taken in Iowa, where the Vincents had described their paper as dedicated to fighting against wage slavery to railroads and to the wealthy and powerful. Over its first few years in Kansas, the Non-Conformist became a leading voice of Populism in Kansas and the Midwest, and its editors joined other reform-minded journalists in forming the National Reform Press Association.
The editors consistently railed against attempts to water down the Populist message. In 1888, for example, the Non-Conformist argued that it was absurd that reformist Republicans could seriously advocate change through existing GOP structures. In 1891, it maintained that the election of brand-new converts to Populism “would sound to the world as a very mediocre type of reform” (January 15, 1891). And in 1895, the paper strongly argued for upholding the Omaha Platform instead of surrendering to the fusionists who wanted to transform the People's Party into a single-issue silver party.
The Vincents lost control of the Non-Conformist in the Panic of 1893. The paper itself did not long survive the disintegration of the People's Party after the election of 1896. The Non-Conformist moved to Omaha, Nebraska, in 1898 and was published through 1899.
Kirstin L Lawson
See also: Greenback Party ; Omaha Contract ; People's Party ; Plains and Midwest, Populism in the ; The Press and Populism ; Silver Republicans
Argersinger, Peter H. Populism and Politics: William Alfred Peffer and the People's Party. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1974.
Goldberg, Michael Lewis. An Army of Women: Gender and Politics in Gilded Age Kansas. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997.
Goodwyn, Lawrence. The Populist Moment: A Short History of the Agrarian Revolt in America. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1978.