Benjamin R. Tucker papers

Collection History

The collection includes many of Tucker’s correspondents, yet it cannot be determined whether Tucker assembled most of the portraits primarily before the fire that destroyed his bookshop (and offices), or after. Most of the photographs date from the end of the 19th-century, and the sitters are largely European, by European photographers; Tucker could have acquired them in Paris at any time. The portrait collection came to NYPL with Tucker’s papers, the gift of his daughter, Oriole Johnson Tucker Riché, in 1971.


Benjamin Ricketson Tucker (1854-1939) published The Radical Review from 1877 to 1878, and the anarchist magazine Liberty from 1881 to 1908. The journal’s banner read “Liberty – Not the daughter but the mother of order,” signaling Tucker’s stance as a philosophical or individualist anarchist. His magazine was the first to publish George Bernard Shaw in the U.S., and to translate Pierre Joseph Proudhon. Tucker also published other works considered radical at the time, such as Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, Tolstoy's Kreutzer Sonata, and Oscar Wilde's Ballad of Reading Gaol.

A curious contradiction perhaps was Tucker’s deep commitment to the fine points of typesetting for all his publications. For his eightieth birthday in 1934, friends reprinted his 1892 text Why I Am An Anarchist (Berkeley Heights, N.J.: Oriole Press 1934) in a limited edition of 100 copies with “Initial and embellishments . . . by Frederic W. Goudy," the modern master American book and type designer with a consciously archaic style.

Born to an old Massachusetts family, Tucker attended M.I.T. and lived in France before working for the Boston Globe. He moved to New York in 1892, and later opened the Unique Bookshop, which specialized in the works of anarchists, atheists and freethinkers. The bookstore burned beyond recovery in 1908, and Tucker and his lover Pearl Johnson, with their 6-week old infant daughter, moved first to France, before relocating permanently to Monaco.

Related Resources

Ishill, Joseph. Benjamin R. Tucker; a Bibliography. With an appreciation by G. Bernard Shaw. [1959]

McElroy, Wendy. The Debates of Liberty: an Overview of Individualist Anarchism, 1881-1908. (c2003)

Collection Data

Benjamin Ricketson Tucker (1854-1939) was the publisher of the anarchist publication Liberty from 1881 to 1908, and The Radical Review, 1877 and 1878; owner of the Unique Bookshop in New York City; specialist in and translator of Pierre Joseph Proudhon; and publisher of works considered radical at the time, such as Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, Tolstoy's Kreutzer Sonata, and Oscar Wilde's Ballad of Reading Gaol. After his bookstore was destroyed by fire in 1908, Tucker moved to France and lived there until his death. Collection consists of correspondence, business and personal records, manuscripts of Tucker's translations from Proudhon, scrapbooks, photographs, material concerning his relationship with Victoria Claflin Woodhull, and anarchist books, periodicals and pamphlets. Correspondence, some of which is in French, dates from ca. 1866 to 1950. Tucker's correspondents were friends, political colleagues, readers of Liberty, and representatives of journals, publishing houses, and various organizations. Miscellaneous papers, 1870s-1930s, include records of the Unique Bookshop, of Liberty and The Radical Review, and of Tucker's activities as a book publisher; photographs (chiefly cabinet card and carte de visite portraits) of radicals and others, notably major European cultural figures; biographical miscellany of a variety of political and cultural figures; manuscript of Tucker's autobiography; and autobiographical file with correspondence, notes, essays, and other personal papers. Scrapbooks, 1870s-1930s, contain clippings of articles on political, literary and other topics. Also, large group of anarchist books, periodicals and pamphlets, 1860s-1970s, in various languages; some engineering books; books and pamphlets published by Oriole Press; and books and other printed materials on medical matters.
Tucker, Benjamin Ricketson, 1854-1939 (Creator)
Dates / Origin
Date Created: 1860 - 1979 (Approximate)
Library locations
Manuscripts and Archives Division
Shelf locator: MssCol 3040
Creation (Literary, artistic, etc.)
Publishers and publishing -- United States
Journalism -- Editing
Biographical/historical: Individualist Anarchist; author, editor, publisher, and translator. Tucker was the publisher of the influential Anarchist publication Liberty, 1881-1908, and of the short-lived quarterly Radical Review, 1877-1878; owner of the Unique Bookshop in New York; specialist in and translator of the French Anarchist philosopher Pierre Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865); and publisher of books considered radical in his day. These included Diary of a Chambermaid, Octave Mirbeau; The Kreutzer Sonata, Tolstoy; Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman; Ballad of Reading Gaol, Oscar Wilde; The Ego and His Own, Max Stirner; and works by Proudhon, George Bernard Shaw, and Emile Zola. Born in South Dartmouth, Mass., Tucker attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1870-1873. After a period in France, Tucker settled in Boston where he began his work as an editor and publisher while earning a living as a staff member of the Boston Globe. Tucker moved to New York in 1892 and remained there until 1908 when a fire at the Unique Bookshop destroyed his entire operation. Soon after, Tucker, with his companion Pearl Johnson and their infant daughter Oriole Johnson Tucker (later Riché) moved to France. The family moved to Monaco in 1926, and Tucker died there in 1939.
Physical Description
Extent: 27 linear feet (39 boxes and 40 v.)
Type of Resource
Still image
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b11652251
MSS Unit ID: 3040
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): 675652a0-c614-012f-c7ec-58d385a7bc34
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