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Arthur Desmond (c. 1859 – 26 January 1929), also Arthur Uing, Ragnar Redbeard (speculated), Richard Thurland, Desmond Dilg, and Gavin Gowrie, was a British-born politician, poet, and author.

Arthur Desmond
Arthur Desmond

ca. 1859
DiedJanuary 23, 1929 (aged 69-70)
Resting placeWaldheim Cemetery, Gary, Indiana, U.S
Other namesRagnar Redbeard (speculated), Arthur Uing, Richard Thurland, Desmond Dilg
OccupationAuthor, reporter, journalist, Bookseller
Known forPseudonymous publications
Spouse(s)Fredericke "von" Woldt

He is believed to be the author of the book Might Is Right, written under the pen name Ragnar Redbeard. Might Is Right is an essay illustrating the author's support of Social Darwinism and its belief that power, strength, and dominance are the mark of a superior human being and that inherent human rights are nonexistent.

He is also known for his book Rival Caesars.


Early yearsEdit

As with most aspects of Arthur Desmond's life, there is a snag by starting his biography with his birth statistics. Arthur Desmond spent his adult life concealing his origins as well as his identity, which is understandable when one considers his radical persona, Ragnar Redbeard, and his daring, anti-political and heretical Victorian book, Might Is Right.

This is why George G. Reeve, Desmond's first biographer, could honestly write that "To many another person seeking his acquaintance Desmond held aloof, and to a great extent surrounded himself – 'behind the veil' as it were – by a 'mystery halo' and a sacrosanctness hard to penetrate."[1] Desmond’s second biographer, Darrell W. Conder, concurs and indeed, after presenting the tangle that constitutes Desmond’s life in New Zealand, Australia and America, questions not only Desmond's origins, but his actual birth name. This doubt is based on Desmond's continuous use of pseudonyms and aliases throughout his adult life. George G. Reeve continues "Arthur Desmond, for that was the real name of 'Ragnar Redbeard' was a native of Hawkes [sic] Bay, New Zealand, where he was born about the year 1842 of Irish ancestry."[2] In 1921 The International Communist carried a short article on Desmond in which it was claimed that he was "… a native of Napier, Hawkes [sic] Bay, Maoriland". (The International Communist for Saturday, 17 September 1921, p. 2 article "Redbeard in Sydney" by 'Gullangulong') New Zealand National Dictionary biographer Rachel Barrowman adds: "Arthur Desmond was unknown to the electors of Hawke's Bay when he stood for Parliament in 1884. 'We only know that Mr. Desmond is a cattle-drover, and that he is of Radical tendencies', the editor of the Hawke's Bay Herald wrote. He was said to be 25 years old [placing his birth in 1859], born in New Zealand of Irish descent. He had been in Hawke's Bay since the late 1870s, and had worked as a musterer in south Taranaki. Of his background and personal life nothing more is known."[3] Of the three candidates in the electorate,[4][5] Desmond came last.[6]

However, the most detailed information about Arthur Desmond's origins come from records after his immigration to the United States in 1895–96. On the occasion of his first appearance in a US census record in 1900, Desmond declared that he was born in England in the year 1859 of parents who were also born in England. This declaration was backed by Desmond's Illinois death certificate on which his son stated that Desmond and his father were both natives of Northumberland, England. This information is corroborated by Desmond's 1904 Chicago marriage record. In that instance Desmond declared that he was born in place called Claud, Northumberland, England in 1859 to Samuel Desmond and Sarah Ewing.[7] Nevertheless, to compound matters, in the 1910 US census record Arthur Desmond claimed his birthplace as California, but changed that to England in his last census appearance in 1920.[8]

Whatever the truth of his origins, the first concrete evidence of Arthur Desmond’s life comes when he stood for parliament in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand in 1884. His two addresses to the Electors of Hawke’s Bay still survive. In one of the addresses, Desmond said: "You, yourselves, are principally to blame for allowing this in the past. You have allowed great squatters of the worst type to rule you to their own advantage; they have themselves grabbed the good land, and they attempt to pose as your friends by offering you the crumbs that fall from their table. You have the power in your own hands now, and if you do not wish to be for ever serfs of territorial gods almighty; if you have got any of the energy of your progenitors, you will not stand this kind of injustice any longer. You will say to them with me — Wealth that we make for you, money we earn; give us our share of them, give us a turn. If you have the pluck to say this, then return me as your representative, and I will lead you."[9]

With only a dismal 190 votes, Arthur Desmond lost the 1884 election.[10] However, he didn’t give up on politics and sought out the patronage of Sir George Grey, former Governor of South Australia, twice Governor of New Zealand, former Governor of Cape Colony in South Africa, former Premier of New Zealand, a prolific writer and founder of the prestigious Grey College in Bloemfontein and Grey High School in Port Elizabeth. Since Sir George was a staunch defender of the Māori, Arthur Desmond also took up their cause, a move that was no small issue in the New Zealand of his day.

In 1887 Desmond astood for Parliament for a second time, this time running on a platform that consisted of a concentrated attack on landlords, bankers and monopolists. Desmond advocated land reform, the nationalisation of large estates and banks, and promoted Henry George's single taxation—a proposal that taxation should be confined to land rent, since, in Desmond's view, land was the real source of wealth. When he publicly denounced bank directors as "scoundrels", estate owners as "blood-sucking leeches" and the local press as "hirelings of monopoly", Desmond was essentially standing on a socialist platform.[citation needed] Additionally, Desmond championed the Crown's right of pre-emption of Māori land, which meant the resumption of the Treaty of Waitangi agreement whereby only the Crown could buy land from the Māori. This move made Desmond a lot of enemies among European New Zealanders, but made a respectable showing of 562 votes to the 968 of the sitting member, Capt. William Russell.[11]

An unemployed and no doubt discouraged Desmond left town to find work in the timber mills of Poverty Bay and on the farms of the Waikato. Of those latest hard times he would write: "Many a time when lying on my back in a bush whare or a tent after a day of grinding toil, have I resolved that if ever I had a chance to sweep away such a brutal system, it would not be neglected."[12]

In February 1889, 60-year-old Te Kooti, the leader of the Hau Haus, decided to visit Gisborne, the land of his birth. This impending visit caused an uproar among the European population because they were convinced that the chief was there to prevent the sale of Maori land. For Arthur Desmond Te Kooti's action was disastrous since he found himself in the untenable position of supporting the chief against New Zealand's European population over an issue that had been a major plank in his parliamentary aspiration—the Crown's right of preemption.

In Poverty Bay, at a packed schoolhouse in Makaraka, Arthur Desmond faced a meeting of some five hundred angry settlers on Te Kooti's behalf. Amidst talk of armed resistance and bloodshed, Desmond explained to his brethren that he knew many of the chief's supporters and that the Maori meant them no harm. His arguments were not convincing, and in the resulting chaos some of the settlers grabbed Desmond and bodily threw him from the schoolhouse.

Several days later another meeting of some eight hundred settlers took place, and a resolution was passed to stop Te Kooti's visit—by force if necessary. Once again Arthur Desmond was there to speak in favour of the chief. When he let it slip that he had been in contact with the Maori leaders and went on to forcefully threaten that the settlers had no legal or moral right to interfere with Te Kooti's visit, fights erupted. This time police officers had to escort Desmond from the meeting for his own protection. In the New Zealand Herald Desmond was called the "pakeha [white] emissary from the Hau Haus" and was reported lucky to have left the meeting alive.

In the end the crisis was averted when Te Kooti and seventy of his followers were arrested by the government and thrown in jail. Desmond went on to pen a poem dedicated to Chief Te Kooti, which he titled the "Song of Te Kooti."[13]

According to the preface of the 1896 edition of Might Is Right, which was released with the title of The Survival of the Fittest, it was in the aftermath of his 1887 parliamentary bid that Arthur Desmond first conceived of and began writing Might Is Right. Obviously the book had not taken its final form because in 1890 Desmond submitted an article to Zealandia magazine that was published in the June issue with the title of "Christ as a Social Reformer." The article was so well received that Desmond decided to publish it as a booklet and, as added prestige, used one of Sir George Grey's personal letters as a preface. Although it sounds odd for the future "Ragnar Redbeard" to pen such an article, a careful reading of "Christ as a Social Reformer" reveals it to be nothing short of a shrouded call for Christian men to take up arms in a socialist revolution.

Whatever the intended outcome of the article, one that was not foreseen was the charge by Desmond's enemies that he had plagiarised "Christ as a Social Reformer" from an American magazine. The charge was serious enough that a highly embarrassed Arthur Desmond finally worked up the pluck to write to Sir George Grey. However when one reads his protestations of innocence to Sir George, they seem to be an admission that the charges were correct.[14]

Charges of plagiarism were not confined to "Christ as a Social Reformer". When Desmond’s poem "The King that is to Come" was reprinted as "The Leader of the Future," he was accused of plagiarising the piece from American poet James Whitcomb Riley's "The Poet of the Future". A comparison of the two poems does bear out the charge of plagiarism, which doesn't bode well for Desmond's innocence in the earlier charge.[15]

Amidst this controversy, Desmond was very active on behalf of workers' rights. During the Maritime Strike of 1890 Desmond wrote: "How can we expect just legislation and equal laws when those who control private plundering concerns are our legislators."[12] Desmond was relentless with his condemnation of employers and those who, he said, had a "strangle hold" on Auckland’s commerce. At the head of his list was the Bank of New Zealand, which he charged was rife with corruption (and had to be bailed out by the Government in 1894).

While openly writing against the government and big business, in 1890 Arthur Desmond used a typewriter to produce twenty-five copies of what he would later designate as the first edition of Might Is Right. Using the pseudonym "Redbeard" ("Ragnar" would be added to the name five years later), this first edition filled only 16 small pages and was titled Might Is Right Logic of To-Day. This edition also carried the notation "for private circulation" and "printed in Sydney" on the title page.[16]

Emigration to AustraliaEdit

On 10 Oct 1892 Arthur Desmond forever left New Zealand behind when he walked down the gangplank of the S.S. Houroto into Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.[17] The truth of Arthur Desmond’s emigration from New Zealand is summed up by Len Fox, who in his 1968 article observed that Desmond "seems to have had no particular love for any country".[18] But Desmond did have an unquenchable thirst for political activism and social agitation, and upon arriving in Sydney he became associated with William Morris Hughes, later Prime Minister of Australia during WWI. Desmond collaborated with Hughes on a political broadsheet which evolved into the radical periodical they entitled The New Order, and he became part of the circle surrounding McNamara's Bookshop[19] at 221 Castlereagh Street (demolished in 1922), associating with Louisa Lawson and her son Henry, Jack Lang, Tommy Walker and Alfred Deakin, also later Prime Minister before WWI.[20] Then on 11 June 1893 the first issue of a new periodical instigated by Desmond and Lang appeared under the name of Hard Cash, a seditious and provocative publication that was printed in a secret location, and promoting the "Active Service Brigade" devoted to disrupting political rallies of opponents: a practice which eventually necessitated Desmond's fleeing the country with warrants out for his arrest. The "bush poet" Henry Lawson composed a poem in defence of Desmond which appeared in the New Zealand periodical Fair Play in Wellington on 30 Dec 1893; and reads in part:

Arthur DesmondEdit

They are stoning Arthur Desmond, and, of course its understood
By the people of New Zealand that he isn't any good.
He's a plagiarist, they tell us, and a scamp – but after all,
He is fighting pretty plucky with his back against the wall.

They are damning Arthur Desmond for the battle that he fought –
For his awful crime in saying what so many people thought.
He was driven from the country – but I like to see fair play –
and to slander absent brothers – why it ain't New Zealand's way.

Once I met Arthur Desmond "and I took him by the hand",
But I scarcely think the action spoilt my chance for the Promised Land;
And I think of Arthur gazing, with his earnest, thoughtful eyes,
Out beyond the brighter ages that we cannot realise.


In Might Is Right, perhaps writing as Ragnar Redbeard, Desmond outlines his philosophy of society, authority, power, violence and religion. Believing Judaism and Christianity to be religions of the weak, his book contains many anti-Christian and anti-Semitic statements. The opening lines of Might Is Right: "Death to the weakling, wealth to the strong", illustrate his belief that weakness correlates with death and strength correlates with life. Desmond explains that supporting weakness is unnatural and dangerous for species survival; competition, strength, and dominance being prime natural values.

Desmond was a proponent of Social Darwinism and believed organised religion was particularly harmful to personal growth and ambition. His views on inalienable human rights proposes that they are entirely non-existent. Desmond describes rights as "spoils" of the conquering man and only something to be enjoyed when they are earned or won, rather than given.

One theory states Desmond's work is actually satire and that his actual beliefs were closer to Socialism.

Publication, legal troubles, and association with socialismEdit

Some of Desmond's work, including Might Is Right has been called satire and it is theorised he actually supported Socialism and a workers' revolution. Culminating with the release of Might Is Right, Arthur Desmond's literary career consistently advocated open revolution against the government. Desmond's friends, future Australian Prime Minister Billy Hughes and John Andrews, would call him "the Poet of Revolution" and "poet, actuary and revolutionary".[21] This observation is backed by another of Desmond's Sydney friends, future New South Wales Premier Jack Lang, who remembered Desmond as "a real revolutionary".[22]

Arthur Desmond’s ability to promote his ideas can be seen by the influence he exerted on his associates. One of these was the Australian poet Henry Lawson, who was the brother-in-law to the aforementioned future New South Wales Premier Jack Lang. After his friendship with Desmond, Lawson's poetry took a radical turn. (Of Arthur Desmond, Prime Minister Billy Hughes recalled "His command of scarifying language was appalling.... Poetry oozed out of him at every pore."[23] Desmond exerted some influence on Lawson, and one critic has charged Henry Lawson with fascism, racism and even Nazism by drawing a comparison of his poetic sentiments to Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf.[24] However, Manning Clarke[25] and Colin Roderick[26] have refuted such claims, pointing to Lawson's own unambiguous statement in print in the Albany Observer (Western Australia) from 1890: "Class, creed and nationality are words which should find no place in the vocabulary of the Australians, because these words are synonymous with everything that is hostile to peace and happiness in the world."[27]

Throughout his time in Sydney, Arthur Desmond worked to start a revolution with himself at its head. He was involved in the Active Service Brigade, producing their journal, Justice for the Active Service Brigade, which was ultimately superseded by Desmond’s own journal, Hard Cash, subtitled "A magazine for finance, politics and religion."[28]

In her book In Our Time: Socialism and the Rise of Labor, 1885 -1905, Verity Burgmann notes that the ASB has been described as "highly centralised and secretive" and that the organisation "described itself as a ‘strictly disciplined organization’. The Declaration signed by each member promised to assist in electing the ASB’s Supreme Directing Council, ‘and when duly elected and installed to obey their lawful commands — without question.’" The Brigade’s objectives were thus stated: "For the Nation — Social Co-operation. For the Citizen — Emancipation from Poverty Conditions, Competitive Commercialism, Industrial Wage Slavery, Tyrannical Authority, and Mental Bondage."[29]

Dr. Bob James writes: "Vance Marshall has claimed that ‘for six years… [Desmond’s] finger was traceable in every decisive movement associated with the [Australian] working class." 'Baarmutha' reminisced: "In the early days of the political labor movement in this state [NSW], associated therewith as a molder of its platform and policy and tactics was a remarkable, spectacular character, Arthur Desmond, author of Might Is Right one of the greatest books ever written."[30]

Hard Cash and other writings of Desmond's succeeded in infuriating authorities and superiors. During a cabinet meeting Colonial Secretary George R. Dibbs is reported to have held up a copy of Hard Cash and paid Arthur Desmond a threatening compliment: "This thing has cost us £3,000,000. What is the detective force of this city doing?"[31] A high level of pressure being brought to bear, Sydney’s police attempted to shut down Hard Cash and to put Arthur Desmond in prison.

Not being able to locate Desmond and bypassing William Hughes and Jack Lang, who helped Desmond publish Hard Cash, authorities arrested news agents William McNamara and Samuel A. Rosa for a show trial named the Sydney Anarchy Trial of February 1894. Both McNamara and Rosa, faced with jail, stayed loyal to Desmond and refused to name him as the journal’s publisher. Justice Foster sentenced McNamara six months in Parramatta Gaol and gave Rosa three months.

New South Wales Police Detective Jules Pierre Rochaix pursued Desmond and received a promotion for his attempts at apprehending him. Desmond was not successfully arrested by Rochaix and 4 November 1893 edition of the Sydney Worker carried a front page caricature of Rochaix surrounded by his newsagent victims and a Satanic figure. This figure is thought to have represented the editor of Hard Cash, meaning Arthur Desmond.

With McNamara and Rosa in jail, Hard Cash closed down, Arthur Desmond continued to publish incitement against the government. Detective Rochaix then targeted the Active Service Brigade and its journal, Justice. The detective's attempts still failed, although by June he had arrested five men in Desmond’s stead and Sydney held another anarchy trial.

The Sydney Anarchy Trial of June 1894 saw Henry Tregarthan Douglas, John Dwyer, printer William Mason, Thomas Dodd and printer’s assistant George MacNevin standing before Justice Sir George Long-Innes in the Central Criminal Court, Sydney. The charge was criminal libel, which arose from a single paragraph published in Justice on 21 April 1894. The trial lasted little more than a day and on 13 June, after only a thirty-minute deliberation, the jury returned guilty verdicts for all defendants. Judge Long-Innes, saying that it was "not desirable to stir up class hatreds in the community," handed down terms of hard labour: Douglas, Dodd and Mason each received a nine-month sentence; Dwyer received six months and MacNevin one month. Long-Innes also ordered the prisoners sent to different prisons in an attempt to break up their association.

After the notorious anarchy trials, the Australian Labor Party offering Desmond a seat in the New South Wales Parliament representing Durham in 1894. However, Desmond refused the position "… vehemently denounced those responsible for the canvass and absolutely refused to go for Parliamentary honors."[32] Instead, Desmond produced another journal, aimed at denouncing and attacking Justice Minister Thomas Slattery. This time, Desmond's journal, The Standard Bearer, named him openly as the editor.

Mark G. Hearn, after examining the few surviving copies of The Standard Bearer preserved in the Louis Philips Papers, writes that Desmond repeated "the same formula of bank bashing and anti-Semitism'."[33] The Standard Bearer and Hard Kash further escalated the government’s attempts to bring him to justice.

Emigration to the United StatesEdit

With Justice Minister Thomas Slattery breathing fire, in the summer of 1894 Desmond folded The Standard Bearer and its successor, Hard Kash, after only three issues, and decided to take a permanent vacation. Desmond’s friend, John Andrews, writes: "[Desmond] quitted Australia in disgust, and, according to one report, went to South Africa to enlist under Cecil Rhodes, who was then intent on founding a new Republic."[34]

Whether or not Desmond actually went to South Africa to fight with Rhodes is unknown. However, his attitude towards Rhodes was something akin to hero-worship and is a notable feature of Might Is Right. What is certain is that Desmond left Australia one step ahead of the law—a warrant for his arrest for sedition and treasonable utterances already having been issued.[35] Eventually Desmond turned up in England where he turned out numerous revolutionary poetic pieces, most notably his "The Flames of Freedom", which he signed "Catiline". Like the historic Catiline, Desmond advocated purifying the world by fire, which explains why he dared not put his name to the piece. From England Desmond travelled to New York, as his friend Julian Stuart recalled: "Soon after I got a letter from New York saying he was taking another name just for luck".[36]

Desmond had several Australian friends who had contacts in Chicago, which likely explains why he chose Chicago as his new home. He appears in the 1896 Chicago city directory where his occupation is listed as a "reporter". What we do know from the preface to the 1896 Chicago edition of Might Is Right, which Desmond re-titled The Survival of the Fittest, or the Philosophy of Power, is that he spent much of 1895 looking for a publisher. When The Survival of the Fittest was finally published in 1896, Desmond used the pseudonym Arthur Uing, which was a spelling variation of his mother's maiden name, Ewing. It was under Arthur Uing that Desmond registered his copyright in 1896.[37]

One of the first persons to receive a copy of The Survival of the Fittest was Desmond's Sydney friend, John Dwyer. His personal copy of The Survival of the Fittest is now preserved in the Dwyer Papers at the Mitchell Collection of State Library of New South Wales, and in that original one finds that Dwyer had written on the title page under "Ragnar Redbeard" the name "Arthur Desmond".

In 1897 a business called the Adolph Mueller Company was established at 108 South Clark Street, Chicago, whose sole interest seems to have been promoting and selling Ragnar Redbeard's books and writings. It was about this time that Desmond began promoting his doctorate of law (LL.D.) from the University of Chicago. Aided by staff members, Desmond biographer Darrell Conder extensively researched the records of the University of Chicago and found no such doctorate had ever been awarded. In fact, the U of C's first LL.D. was awarded to President William McKinley in 1897, a year after Desmond was claiming his doctorate.[38]

In 1898 Arthur Desmond travelled to London where he published an English edition of The Survival of the Fittest, which was "Printed and published by Arthur Uing, 19 Henrietta St., Covent Garden, London; and at Rose St., Darlington, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1897." While in London he joined with John Basil Barnhill, who used the pseudonym John Erwin McCall, to produce yet another journal, The Eagle and the Serpent, which was founded to promote Friedrich Nietzsche's philosophy. While there Desmond also released a booklet titled Women and War printed by Holbrook & Daniels, London, 1898. The booklet was, in fact, simply a reprint of chapter six of The Survival of the Fittest. Desmond also printed a series of pamphlets he titled Redbeard's Review, which were meant to draw attention to his book.[39]

About this time Arthur Desmond would later claim that he took time off to involve himself in South Africa's Second Boer War, that he was in fact "a member of Gen. 'Bob's’ light horse at Cape Town and Pretoria…" Arthur Desmond also claims to have been in the largest and bloodiest single battle of the Boer War – the Battle of Baardeberg fought near Paardeberg Drift on the banks of the Modderrivier (or "Mud River") in the Orange Free State. As heroic as this information is, as with everything about Arthur Desmond's life, there are a few complications—most notable one being that the dates of the Boer War and Desmond's personal life do not fit. The Battle of Paardeberg (sic) was fought in February 1900. Nevertheless, when Desmond was arrested and put on trial in Chicago in 1904 he made newspaper headlines by claiming to be a Boer War veteran, and by claiming that the rifle he used to hold off a troop of Chicago police officers was one he had captured in the Battle of Baardeberg.[40]

By 1902 Desmond was living in Chicago using the alias of Richard Thurland[41] and publishing another edition of The Survival of the Fittest, which he re-titled Might Is Right, or the Survival of the Fittest and released in 1903 through Adolph Mueller Publishers. It was during this time Desmond set up an advertising partnership with prominent Chicagoan Will H. Dilg called Thurland & Thurland, of which Arthur Desmond is listed as manager in the 1903 Chicago City Directory. Dilg and Desmond were involved in more than a commercial venture. They also co-wrote a book titled Rival Caesars A Romance of Ambition, Love and War. Being the tale of a Vice-President, a Major-General and three brilliant and beautiful women, using the pseudonym 'Desmond Dilg.'[42] The book was released in 1903 by Desmond's own Thurland & Thurland Publishers, Chicago, which actually was the only book ever printed by the company.

Desmond biographer Darrell W. Conder uses persuasive argument, including quotes from Rival Caesars' blatant 'might is right' philosophy, to show that Desmond's latest book was actually book II of Might Is Right, which "Ragnar Redbeard" had promised would be released when "circumstances demanded it".[40]Rival Caesars wasn't a big success, making surviving copies of the book very rare. In fact, shortly after its release the partnership between Desmond and Dilg ceased.

By 1904 Thurland & Thurland and Desmond Commercial Advertising Bureau were located in the single office of the general manager of the Ser-Vis Ice Cream and Candy Company located at 155 Michigan Street. The reason for the shared address was that Arthur Desmond was the general manager of the Ser-Vis Ice Cream and Candy Company and was using his company office for an advertising sideline. These facts emerged 18 March 1904 when Desmond was arrested in his office—an arrest that made the pages of the Chicago Daily Tribune.

The trouble arose when a telephone inspector wanted to enter the factory for some routine maintenance, and Desmond refused. The man returned with police, and Desmond responded by holding them off with his rifle that, he claimed, he had captured in the Boer War. In the end, Desmond was overpowered and thrown in the Cook County Jail to await trial. However, Desmond's oratory skills convinced a judge and jury that he was the victim and he was set free.[43]

Personal life, last years, and deathEdit

On 1 September 1904 the 45-year-old Arthur Desmond married 22-year-old Fredericke "von" Woldt in the parish house of St. James Episcopal Church (now St. James Cathedral, Chicago). Desmond was notoriously atheistic, but possibly made the conciliation of marrying inside a church because Fredericke's family was staunchly religious. It is the marriage record of St. James Episcopal Church that provides the names of Desmond's parents, although as with everything in Desmond's clandestine career, it is speculated whether he supplied the correct information.

Desmond and Woldt had a son, Arthur Konar Walther Desmond, often found listed in records as Arthur Desmond, Jr., and Arthur Thurland, Jr. By the time the 1910 US census for Illinois was conducted, Desmond was living alone with his young son at 2647 Reese Avenue in Evanston, Illinois and telling the census taker that he was a widower, although Fredericke was alive and living with her family in Gary, Indiana. On 4 May 1913, Fredericke Desmond, age 31, died of pulmonary tuberculosis in a Logansport, Indiana sanatarium. She was buried in the Waldheim Cemetery in Gary, Indiana beside her parents.[44]

In Evanston, Desmond opened a book selling business he called Thurland & Thurland Booksellers, and produced another journal titled The Lion's Paw. This latest journal was anti-government, anti-religion and heavily promoted the philosophy of 'might is right'. At this time Desmond contracted with W. J. Robbins & Co., Ltd., 20 Midhope Abbey Cromer St., Gray's Inn Road, London to reprint a new edition of Might Is Right. Under the Thurland & Thurland imprint, Desmond also produce other books, which he did by removing publishing information and pasting his own labels on the title page. Some of the books have survived and will be found marked "THURLAND & THURLAND, EAGLE & SERPENT BOOK DEPARTMENT, EVANSTON (Suburb of Chicago) ILLINOIS." This includes a 1910 edition of Might Is Right with the Thurland & Thurland label pasted over W. J. Robbins & Co., Ltd.

At some point after 1911 Arthur Desmond dissolved Thurland & Thurland and left Evanston for his old neighbourhood in Chicago's Near North Side where he rented an apartment at 1615 Granville Avenue near the Newberry Library. Just a few blocks from his apartment Desmond opened a used bookstore at 364 Wendell Street calling it the House O' Gowrie, Importers – Publishers – Printers – Booksellers. The House O' Gowrie was run solely by "Richard Thurland", a.k.a., Arthur Desmond.

In the 1920s Arthur Desmond met Jack Jones, the owner of Chicago's Dil Pickle Club in Tooker Alley – which was located in Desmond's own Near North Side neighbourhood. In 1927 Jones' Dil Pickle Press used the original, although reworked, Might Is Right printers plates to produce the last Redbeard era edition of Might Is Right. These were sold from Desmond's House 'O Gowrie and from Jones' Dil Pickle Club.

Although during the 1920s Redbeard fans had circulated a number of rumours about his death – that he was really Ambrose Bierce, and that he, having travelled down to Mexico to join Pancho Villa, was stood against a wall and shot during the Madero revolt. Another rumour said that he had died in 1918 fighting with Field Marshal Sir Edmund Allenby's troops in Palestine.

These rumours were false. On the morning of 23 January 1929 Arthur Desmond suffered a stroke in his apartment at 1353 North Clark Street, just a few blocks north of the Newberry Library. He was taken to Cook County Hospital on West Harrison Street where he was pronounced dead. An autopsy was performed by Dr. E. L. Benjamin and found that Desmond had died of a "spontaneous cerebral hemorrhage". Desmond's Illinois death certificate provides some evidence to support the theory that Desmond was the author "Ragnar Redbeard", as the name of deceased is listed as "Arthur Desmond, alias Richard Thurland".

Arthur Desmond's remains were taken to Shute Funeral Directors at 716 North State Street, Chicago. After embalming, his body was removed to Gary, Indiana where it was presumably laid to rest in an unmarked grave near his estranged wife, Fredericke Desmond, in the Waldheim Cemetery.

Lawyer J. Kendall S. Mitchell was hired to handle Desmond's estate. Desmond's bookstore, which was the only tangible asset left after his death, included "15,000 miscellaneous second hand books @ 5¢ each $750.00 4,000 miscellaneous second hand books @ 10¢ each $400.00 [total] $1150.00."[45]


  1. ^ Ross's Monthly. Sydney, Australia: March–April 1920, page 4, article "Ragnar Redbeard."
  2. ^ op. cit., page 1.
  3. ^ Barrowman, Rachael. "Desmond, Arthur". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 10 April 2011.
  4. ^ "The Hawke's Bay Election". Hawke's Bay Herald. XXI (6912). 16 July 1884. p. 4. Retrieved 12 March 2015.
  5. ^ "Hawke's Bay Election". Hawke's Bay Herald. XXI (6915). 19 July 1884. p. 4. Retrieved 12 March 2015.
  6. ^ "The General Elections". Southland Times (4985). 23 July 1884. p. 2. Retrieved 23 July 2010.
  7. ^ Information from St. James Cathedral 1904 marriage book, pages 318–319, entry number 892.
  8. ^ 1910 Thirteenth Census of the United States, Illinois, Cook Co., Ridgeville Township, Evanston City, 6th Ward, Sheet No. 23 B, 76–77 See also 1920 U.S. Federal Census, ward 26, Cook (Chicago), Illinois; Roll: T625-336; page: 11A; Enumeration District: 1506. Conder, Darrell W. I Beheld Desmond as Lightening Fall—to Chicago, the Story of Arthur Desmond, "Ragnar Redbeard" & Might Is Right. Port Townsend, WA: Eluciddomain, 2007, chapter one.
  9. ^ Conder, op. cit., page 18, citing James, Bob. Anarchism and State Violence in Sydney and Melbourne, 1886–1896. Broadmeadow, N.S. W.: Newey & Beath Printers Pty. Ltd., 1986, pp. 199–200, citing Vance Marshall, Brisbane Daily Standard, 20 December 1921, and W. Hughes, The Rise and Fall of the New Order, Copy, 1913, p. 6.
  10. ^ Cooper, G. S. (1884). The General Election, 1884. National Library. p. 1. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  11. ^ "The General Election, 1887". National Library. 1887. p. 2. Retrieved 25 February 2012.
  12. ^ a b “Trouble Makers” — Anarchism and Syndicalism. The early years of the Libertarian Movement in Aotearoa / New Zealand
  13. ^ Conder, op. cit., p. 27.
  14. ^ Conder, op. cit., pp 33–34, citing Auckland City Libraries, Auckland, New Zealand, Special Collections; the Sir George Grey Collection, GL:NZ D8.
  15. ^ Conder, op. cit., p. 34.
  16. ^ Footnote 57 of Conder, op. cit., for excerpts of this booklet.
  17. ^ S.S. Hauroto, steerage from Wellington, New Zealand, Inward Passenger List, Reel 511, September–October 1892, NSW Archives, cited in James, op. cit., pp. 179, 200, endnote 9.
  18. ^ Fox, Len. "Henry Lawson and Ragnar Redbeard", Overland. Mt. Eliza, Victoria : S. Murray-Smith publishers, March 1968.
  19. ^ Lyons and Arnold eds. A History of the Book in Australia 1891–1945 (University of Queensland Press, 2001) pp. 146–149.
  20. ^ Colin Roderick The Real Henry Lawson (Rigby, 1982) p.49
  21. ^ James, Bob. Anarchism and State Violence in Sydney and Melbourne, 1886–1896. Broadmeadow, N.S. W.: Newey & Beath Printers Pty. Ltd., 1986, p. 179, citing Tocsin 17 May 1900.
  22. ^ James, Bob. op. cit., p 200, ftn. 3 citing J. T. John Thomas Lang, I Remember. Sydney: Invincible Press, 1956, p. 9.
  23. ^ Burgmann, op. cit., p. 65, citing notes by Mr. Roth, Normington Rawling Papers AB&L.
  24. ^ See McQueen, Humphrey. A New Britannia: An argument concerning the social origins of Australian radicalism and nationalism. Ringwood, Victoria, Australia: Penguin Books, 1970.
  25. ^ Manning Clarke In Search of Henry Lawson (Macmillan, 1978)
  26. ^ Colin Roderick The Real Henry Lawson (Rigby, 1982)
  27. ^ Henry Lawson: Autobiographical and Other Writings 1187–1922 edited by Colin Rodrick (Angus and Robertson, 1972) p.13
  28. ^ Conder, op. cit., p. 50.
  29. ^ Active Service Brigade leaflets in the John Dwyer Papers, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Sydney, MSS2184/2, as cited in Burgmann, op. cit., p. 63.
  30. ^ James, Bob. op. cit., p. 178, citing "Brisbane Trades Hall" speech, December 1921, quoted in Len Fox, "Henry Lawson and Ragnar Redbeard," Overland, March 1968. Also citing Windsor and Hawkesbury River Gazette, 8 October 1926.
  31. ^ Conder, op. cit., p. 82. See also In the article "Redbeard in Sydney" by "Gullangulong." The International Communist Saturday, 17 September 1921, p. 2.
  32. ^ The International Communist, Saturday, 17 September 1921, p. 2 article "Redbeard in Sydney" by "Gullangulong".
  33. ^ Hearn, Mark. Hard Cash: John Dwyer and his contemporaries 1890–1914. Unpublished PhD thesis Department of History, University of Sydney, 2000., p. 140, citing The Standard Bearer, 17 December 1893 and 21 January 1894, in the Louis Philips Papers, Vol 66 "Newspapers and circulars, 1883–1912." A4764 ML.
  34. ^ Andrews, John. Tocsin 17 May 1900, number IV, 'The Verge of Revolution – 1890–1894.'
  35. ^ James, Anarchism and State Violence in Sydney and Melbourne, 1886–1896. Broadmeadow, N.S. W.: Newey & Beath Printers Pty. Ltd., 1986, pp. 199–200, citing Vance Marshall, Brisbane Daily Standard, 20 December 1921, and W. Hughes, The Rise and Fall of the New Order, Copy, 1913, p. 6.
  36. ^ James, op. cit., pp. 199–200, citing Vance Marshall, Brisbane Daily Standard, 20 December 1921, and W. Hughes, "The Rise and Fall of the New Order", Copy, 1913, p. 6.
  37. ^ U.S. Copyright Office, file The Survival of the Fittest, or the Philosophy of Power.
  38. ^ Conder, op. cit, pp. 6–9.
  39. ^ Conder, op. cit., pp. 122–123.
  40. ^ a b Conder, op. cit., chapter six.
  41. ^ 1900 U.S. Census records for Illinois, and Desmond's Illinois death certificate.
  42. ^ Library of Congress catalog information listing authors Arthur Desmond and Will H. Dilg, Conder, op. cit., pp. 134–135.
  43. ^ Chicago Daily Tribune for 18 March 1904, p. 3, Cook County Archives, Term No. 5268, No. 73231A; The People of the State of Illinois VERSUS Arthur Desmond, Indictment for Assault, Arraignment book 60, page 164, Conder, op. cit., pp. 158–161.
  44. ^ Information from Cass County Health Department, Book H-19, page 9.
  45. ^ Book 280, Page 24, File 142391, dated 8-day of April 1929, Probate Court of Cook County, Illinois. Approved in Open Court on 9 April 1929 before Probate Judge Hon. Henry Horner. Archives Room 1113, Richard J. Daley Center, Chicago, Illinois 60602.

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