The Open Court as Financial Benefactor

Peirce letter to Carus - 9 June 1892.pdf

Letter by Charles S. Peirce to Paul Carus, June 9, 1892

OC letterpress to Peirce - 10 June 1892.pdf

Letterpress of original letter by Open Court staff to Charles S. Peirce, June 10, 1892

OC letterpress to Peirce - 16 June 1892.pdf

Letterpress of original letter by Open Court staff to Charles S. Peirce, June 16, 1892

CSP letter to editor, Aug 25, 1892.pdf

Letter by Charles S. Peirce to editor, Aug 25, 1892

Peirce’s comment to Carus on 15 July about being preoccupied and suffering from anxiety understated serious personal problems that he and his wife were currently facing. Despite 1892 being a productive year of writing, it was a period of financial hardship that the couple had never before experienced. Peirce’s forced resignation from the Coast Survey terminated 30 years of regular employment as a professional scientist. At around the same time, Peirce had completed his work as a lexicographer for the Century Dictionary, which he had begun in 1883. The losses of income from these positions made critical the money he received writing for the Open Court.

Trying not to overburden Carus with the details, yet desperately in need of money, Peirce on 9 June tells him he has experienced a “succession of misfortunes in the last year [that] has put me for the time being into great straits financially…. Consequently, a few hundred dollars now will be worth to me many thousand a little later.” Peirce requests the favor of immediate payment for “The Law of Mind” and advance payment for “Man's Glassy Essence.” Two notes presumably made by Carus and staff (maybe Hegeler) on the letter indicate sending Peirce the money. He received $200 for “The Law of Mind,” and $100 in advance for “Man’s Glassy Essence.”

This would not be the last time Peirce would seek out a financial favor from the Open Court. Two months later on 25 August, Peirce again asked for an advance payment, this time for his Open Court articles. He explains that he was involved in a mishandled business opportunity regarding a new invention of an electrolytic bleaching process. Peirce had provided technical advice, and was to be paid $500 in cash, and an additional $100,000 in stock, for his engineering suggestions improving the process, but rather he was apparently swindled out of the money. “I received a check. Said check was returned as ‘no good’; and I now find there is a combination of millionaires to use my work and pay me nothing.”

Over the ensuing years, the Open Court under the auspices of its wealthy owner, the zinc industrialist Hegeler, would serve as a crucial financial benefactor for Peirce. In 1893, for instance, Hegeler agreed to pay Peirce $1,750 over the course of a year for a monograph, which never was published despite payment. For these reasons, Hegeler has been called the “Alexander to Peirce’s Aristotle.”