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American National Biography Online Flower, Benjamin Orange (19 Oct. 1858-24 Dec. 1918), editor and social reformer, was born near Albion, Illinois, the son of Alfred Flower and Elizabeth Orange. Albion was founded in 1818 by Alfred Flower's father, George Flower, an immigrant from England. Benjamin Orange Flower studied at a private school near Albion on the farm of his father, a Disciples of Christ minister. At eleven he had already compiled a self-illustrated primary schoolbook and a long moral novel. Later, young Flower moved with his family to Evansville, Indiana, where he attended high school. Intending to become a minister like his father and an older brother, George Edward Flower, Benjamin Orange Flower attended the Disciples of Christ's School of the Bible at Kentucky University in Lexington. Changing theological perspectives, which ultimately led him to Unitarianism, sent Flower back to Albion, Illinois. There he won control of a local four-page newsletter, the Egyptian Republican, and transformed it into the American Sentinel, a weekly news magazine, which he edited in 1880-1881. Benjamin Orange Flower sold the American Sentinel in 1881 and moved to Philadelphia. He moved to Boston, where he was a secretary in the mail order medical business of his brother, Dr. Richard C. Flower. In September 1885 Benjamin Flower married Hattie Cloud of Evansville, Indiana; they had no children. When Richard Flower opened a sanatorium-hospital with a sea-grotto swimming pool, Benjamin took charge of its house organ, the American Spectator. For three years he lectured and edited the journal; he was especially interested in revitalizing American drama and placing psychic research on a scientific basis. In 1889 Benjamin Orange Flower founded a monthly review, the Arena, and merged it with the Spectator. With confidence in the progress that an enlightened and free democratic conscience would guarantee, Flower made the Arena a platform for advocates of direct democracy, populism, the single tax, and women's rights. He encouraged young writers of realist fiction with a moral purpose: Stephen Crane, Hamlin Garland, James A. Herne, Jack London, Frank Norris, Upton Sinclair, and others. Besides editing and publishing the Arena, Flower published books (many of them first serialized in the Arena) and contributed frequently to other periodicals. His most influential book of this period was Civilization's Inferno; or, Studies in the Social Cellar (1893). Its expose of life in the city's slums did for Boston what Jacob Riis had done in New York. By 1894 Flower was organizing local groups of Arena readers into a national Union for Practical Progress, which had a mail order university and supplied its member units with lecturers and supplementary readings. Flower's critique of the moral corruption of concentrated wealth won for him a reputation as "father of the muckrakers," and he was proud that the Arena was the only major eastern journal to endorse William Jennings Bryan for president in 1896. The most creative period of Flower's life ended when he had a nervous breakdown in 1895. Although he recovered by the end of the year, in 1896 Flower was forced out as editor of the Arena; the same year his wife was diagnosed as "completely insane" and hospitalized for the rest of her life. In June 1897 Flower joined Frederick U. Adams of Chicago to coedit New Time, "a magazine of social progress" once titled New Occasions. In December 1898 it merged with Arena. Flower founded and coedited the Coming Age with Anna C. E. Reifsnider in 1899 until it too merged with Arena in November 1900. He served on Arena's editorial staff until 1904, when he became its editor again. When Arena collapsed in 1909, Flower founded and edited another reform journal, Twentieth Century Magazine, from October 1909 to November 1911. His most significant book of the period, Progressive Men, Women, and Movements of the Past Twenty-five Years (1914), is an important memoir of the progressive movement in American history. Much interested in psychic research, Flower believed that the reality of a future life would ultimately be proven. He was national president of the National League for Medical Freedom and of the Free Press Defense League. In his last years Flower became convinced that a "monarchical" Roman Catholic church, which was "in effect a government within our Government," threatened American democracy. As president of the Menace Publishing Company of Aurora, Missouri, and editor of the Menace, he sought to arouse the public against the menace of Roman Catholicism. His Patriot's Manual (1915) was a handbook of facts "Showing Why Every Friend of Fundamental Democracy Must Oppose Politico-Ecclesiastical Romanism in Its Un-American Campaign to Make America 'Dominantly Catholic!' " A later work, Righting the People's Wrongs (1917), offered a similar warning. Flower died in Cambridge, Massachusetts, believing that the pope had instigated the wreckage of civilization in World War I. Bibliography Benjamin Orange Flower apparently destroyed his personal papers, but a box of Howard F. Cline's correspondence about Flower's life is in Widener Library at Harvard University. A useful contemporary source is Edwin M. Bacon and Richard Herndon, Men of Progress . . . in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (1896). Some important secondary sources are F. C. Mabee, "Benjamin Orange Flower and the Arena, 1889 to 1896" (master's thesis, Columbia Univ. 1938); Howard F. Cline, "The Mechanics of Dissent" (senior honors thesis, Harvard Univ., 1939); and Cline, "Benjamin Orange Flower and the Arena, 1889-1909," Journalism Quarterly 17 (June 1940): 139-50, 171. See also Cline, "Flower and the Arena: Purpose and Content," Journalism Quarterly 17 (Sept. 1940): 247-57; David Dickason, "Benjamin Orange Flower: Patron of Realists," American Literature 14 (May 1942): 148-56; Roy P. Fairfield, "Benjamin Orange Flower: Father of the Muckrakers," American Literature 22 (1950): 272-82; Arthur Mann, Yankee Reformers in the Urban Age: Social Reform in Boston, 1880-1900 (1954); Peter J. Frederick, Knights of the Golden Rule: The Intellectual as Christian Social Reformer in the 1890s (1976); and Roger Stoddard, "Vanity and Reform: B. O. Flower's Arena Publishing Company, Boston, 1890-1896," Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 76 (1982): 275-337. An obituary is in the New York Times, 25 Dec. 1918. Ralph E. Luker Back to the top Citation: Ralph E. Luker. "Flower, Benjamin Orange"; http://www.anb.org/articles/15/15-00227.html; American National Biography Online Feb. 2000. Access Date: Copyright (c) 2000 American Council of Learned Societies. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. Note: This email has been sent in plain text format so that it may be read with the standard ASCII character set. Special characters and formatting have been normalized. Copyright Notice Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of the American National Biography of the Day and Sample Biographies provided that the following statement is preserved on all copies: From American National Biography, published by Oxford University Press, Inc., copyright 2000 American Council of Learned Societies. Further information is available at http://www.anb.org. 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