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Ramparts Magazine

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Title: Ramparts Magazine  
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Subject: Phreaking, Rex Stout, Robert Scheer, Thomas Mooney, Teach-in, Arica School, Andrew Kopkind, Preparedness Day Bombing, San Francisco Foghorn, Operation CHAOS
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Ramparts Magazine

editor Warren Hinckle
managing editor James F. Colaianni
Categories left-wing politics
Frequency monthly
Publisher Edward M. Keating
Year founded 1962
Final issue 1975
Based in San Francisco, California

Ramparts was a glossy illustrated American political and literary magazine, published from 1962 through 1975. Unlike most radical magazines of the day, Ramparts was expensively produced and graphically sophisticated, effectively reaching an audience that may have been put off by the grittier "movement" publications of the time.



Ramparts was established in June 1962 by Edward M. Keating in Menlo Park, California as a "showcase for the creative writer and as a forum for the mature American Catholic."[1] The magazine declared its intent to publish "fiction, poetry, art, criticism and essays of distinction, reflecting those positive principles of the Hellenic-Christian tradition which have shaped and sustained our civilization for the past two thousand years, and which are needed still to guide us in an age grown increasingly secular, bewildered, and afraid."[1]

In actuality, the early magazine's content proved to be tepid and dry, likened by one observer to "the poetry annual of a Midwestern girls school."[2] Change was in the wind, however. Located as it was on the outskirts of San Francisco, the West Coast epicenter of 1960s explosion of opposition to the Vietnam War and anti-establishment counterculture, the magazine's orientation radically changed along with the world around it.

Ramparts was an early opponent of the Vietnam War. Its April 1966 cover article concerned the Michigan State University Group, a technical assistance program in South Vietnam that Ramparts claimed was a front for CIA covert operations. In August 1966, managing editor James F. Colaianni wrote the first national article denouncing the U.S. use of napalm in that conflict. One of the magazine's most controversial covers depicted the hands of four of its editors holding burning draft cards, with their names clearly visible. Ramparts also unearthed the first conspiracy theory about the Kennedy assassination. The magazine published Che Guevara's diaries, with an introduction by Fidel Castro, and the prison diaries of Eldridge Cleaver, later republished as Soul On Ice.

The magazine's size and influence grew dramatically over these years. Moving to monthly production, combined subscriptions and newsstand sales skyrocketed from just under 100,000 at the end of 1966 to nearly 250,000 in 1968 — a figure more than double that of the staid liberal weekly, The Nation.[2]

Beginning in 1966 American authorities began investigating the magazine's funding, suspecting Soviet financial connections. Central Intelligence Agency Director William Raborn asked for a report and files were gathered on many of the editors and writers.[3] According to a book published in 2008, this marked the first time the CIA had targeted a US publication — a violation of the National Security Act of 1947.[3]

Despite its impressive circulation figures, owing to high production and promotional costs Ramparts actually operated at a heavy financial loss during the last years of the 1960s, with its operating deficit topping $500,000 a year in both 1967 and 1968.[4] Bankruptcy and a temporary cessation of production followed.[4]

Emergency from bankruptcy

In June 1972, the magazine printed the wiring schematics necessary to create a mute box (a variant of the Blue box).[5] All sold issues were recalled or seized from newsstands by police and officials of Pacific Bell, causing financial loss to the magazine.[6]

Demise and legacy

The magazine's temporary shift to a biweekly format and an expensive trip to cover the 1968 Democratic National Convention led to financial instability, as did a drop in subscriptions. With a reduced budget and a smaller staff, Ramparts continued publication, but finally closed its doors for good in 1975.

The archival records of Ramparts magazine are housed at the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley.

Several former staffers went on to found their own magazines, most notably Mother Jones and Rolling Stone. Robert Scheer later became a featured columnist in the Los Angeles Times and is now the editor of Truthdig and a regular participant in the NPR program Left, Right and Center. Another Ramparts editor, James Ridgeway, is a senior correspondent in the Washington DC bureau of Mother Jones and the author of many muckraking books.

James F. Colaianni went on to represent the radical Catholic perspective with the books Married Priests & Married Nuns and The Catholic Left. Two editors, David Horowitz and Peter Collier, later underwent political conversions and became neoconservative critics of the left. For a brief time, the magazine's Washington correspondent was Brit Hume, now of the Fox News Channel.


Further reading

  • Jeffrey M. Burns, "No Longer Emerging: Ramparts Magazine and the Catholic Laity, 1962-1968." U.S. Catholic Historian, vol. 9, no. 3 (June 1990), pp. 321–333.
  • Adam Hochschild, "Ramparts: The End of Muckraking Magazines," Washington Monthly, vol. 6, no. 4 (June 1974), pp. 33–42.
  • David Horowitz, Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey. New York: Touchstone-Simon and Schuster, 1997.
  • Peter Richardson, A Bomb In Every Issue: How the Short, Unruly Life of Ramparts Magazine Changed America. New York: New Press, 2009.

External links

  • complete run of PDF issues,
  • Pam Black, "Ramparts," Folio: The Magazine for Magazine Management, April 1, 2004.
  • Daniel McCarthy, The American Conservative, January 1, 2010.
  • Jack Shafer, "Scoop," New York Times Sunday Review of Books, October 8, 2009.
  • Sol Stern, City Journal, Winter 2010.
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