Unusual Tourist Sites: Eugene V. Debs Home Terre Haute, Indiana Part 1

About the unusual tourist sites the home of Eugene V. Debs in Terre Haute, Indiana, history of the Socialist and labor movement hero.

Terre Haute, Indiana

Eugene V. Debs Home . . . "While there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free!" Those words, spoken by Eugene Debs more than half a century ago, concisely express the philosophy of the most prominent leader of the American socialist movement. Debs crusaded uncompromisingly for the socialist cause--a crusade that turned him into both a presidential candidate and a prison convict.

Debs has been called a great social thinker by his supporters, and an agitator by his critics. His admirers have been responsible for the preservation of the Eugene V. Debs home in Terre Haute, Ind. The 2-story, unpretentious white frame house has become both a National Historic Landmark and an official Indiana State Historic Landmark.

Since the death of Debs in 1926, several other attempts have been made to establish suitable memorials to the socialist leader. Such a tribute seemed fitting for the man who was a candidate for President 5 times (1900, 1904, 1908, 1912, and 1920), and who founded industrial unionism in the U.S. But there was always opposition to such memorials for an avowed socialist. Neither Terre Haute, nor the State of Indiana, nor the Federal Government seemed to want any part of the proposal in the beginning. A professor at Indiana State University bought the Debs home in the 1940s, hoping to convince the State to assume ownership of it and convince the State to assume ownership of it and convert it into a historic shrine. But when the State declined, the professor finally sold the house to a fraternity.

The Debs home changed hands several more times, and was finally purchased in 1962 by a developer who planned to turn it into an apartment building. But 2 professors and an AFLCIO official were able to buy the house from him at the last minute. They subsequently created the Eugene V. Debs Foundation, and the home was opened to public viewing in 1965. Five of the rooms in the Debs home have been restored and furnished. And each of them is a reminder of Debs's colorful career.

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