Unusual Tourist Sites: Eugene V. Debs Home Terre Haute, Indiana Part 2

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

Debs was born in Terre Haute in 1855, and maintained his residence there all his life. He began his political career at the age of 25 when he became city clerk, and then 5 years later, he entered the Indiana legislature.

In 1893, Debs formed the 1st industry-wide union (the American Railway Union), and became an eloquent spokesman for the labor movement. "Debs! Debs! Debs!" shouted crowds of immigrant railroaders wherever he appeared. He negotiated and fought for them, and when he refused to comply with a Federal court injunction against a strike, he was jailed for 6 months.

Debs founded the Social Democratic party in 1898, which later became the Socialist party. He was its major spokesman and prime political figure.

A pacifist, Debs made an antiwar speech in 1918 condemning W.W. I, and he was arrested and convicted in Federal court under the Espionage Law. He was sentenced to a 10-year prison term in a Federal penitentiary in Atlanta, from which he ran his 1920 presidential campaign. He received nearly a million votes in that election, running as Convict #2273.

Debs, much to his surprise, was released from prison on Christmas Day, 1921, upon orders of President Harding. "It is the Government that should ask me for a pardon," he said.

When Debs died in 1926, hundreds of dignitaries attended his funeral in Terre Haute, including Norman Thomas, who delivered the day's most moving eulogy.

The Eugene V. Debs home was the residence of Debs and his wife, Kate, from 1890 until his death. They had bought the land for $4,000 and built the house upon it. Mrs. Debs designed the home's interior, planning a fire place in every room except the maid's room (which is now known as Debs's bedroom). Mrs. Debs's favorite color, blue, is predominant throughout the house. The home is a prime example of Midwest mid-Victorian architecture, and it contains many pieces of the original Debs furniture and art objects.

Location: 451 No. 8th Street, 3 mi. north of Interstate 70. Admission: Free. Hours: Open daily except Saturday and Monday, from 1 to 5 P.M.

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