Profile Major Works Resources

Edward W. Bemis, 1860-1930

 American Institutionalist and urban economist.

Born in Springfield, Massachusetts, Edward Webster Bemis obtained his B.A. from Amherst College in 1880 and served briefly as a journalist in Minneapolis.  He went on to graduate study in economics at the Johns Hopkins University, receiving his Ph.D. in 1885, under Richard T. Ely.

Active in Ely's AEA and an enthusiast for extension lectures, Bemis went on the extension circuit, and eventually was appointed adjunct professor at Vanderbilt University in 1889.  In 1892, Bemis joined the faculty at the newly-founded University of Chicago, to lecture on economics in its extension division. Nonetheless, Bemis was dismissed in 1895 by Chicago president Harper, notionally for incompetence, but also for Bemis's public criticism of railway owners (many of whom were university trustees and donors) in the aftermath of the Pullman strike.

After a period in Illinois, Bemis became a professor at Kansas State in 1897, but left in 1899 to join the public sector.  In 1901, Bemis became superintendent of water works for the city of Cleveland, Ohio.  In 1909,  he moved to New York City, to work as deputy commissioner on public works, consulting with a variety of other cities and commissions.

 Like Ely, Edward W. Bemis was frequently thought of as a strident socialist.  His principal cause was the nationalization of public works companies by municipalities, although he also embraced other "progressive" causes, such as trade unions and immigration restrictions. In a series of lectures in 1887, followed up by articles in the Andover Review, 1888, Bemis was the first to propose the device of literacy tests which he calculated would exclude half of the immigrants arriving in America.  Bemis's proposal was endorsed by Richmond Mayo-Smith, and taken up by politicians like Henry Cabot Lodge and the Immigration Restriction League (f.1894), the literacy test bill passed congress in 1896 but was vetoed by President Grover Cleveland (it was eventually instituted in 1917).



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Major Works of Edward W. Bemis

  • "Local Government in Michigan and the Northwest", 1883, JHU Studies (Mar), p.3
  • "Cooperation in New England", 1886, Pub AEA (Nov), p.335 [js], also JHU Studies, p.13
  • "The Benefit Features of American Trade Unions", 1887, PSQ (Jun), p.274 [js]
  • "Review of E. Chevalier's Salaires aux XIX Siecle", 1887, PSQ (Sep), p.518 [js]
  • "Restriction of Immigration", 1888, Andover Review (Mar), p.251
  • "The Distribution of Our Immigrants", 1888, Andover Review (Jun), p.587
  • "Cooperation in the Middle States", 1888, JHU Studies, p.141.
  • "Mine Labor in the Hocking Valley", 1888, Pub AEA (Jul), p.177 [js]
  • "Municipal Ownership of Gas Works in the United States  (abstract & discussion)", 1891, Pub AEA (Jan-Mar) p.138 [js]
  • "Municipal Ownership of Gas in the United States", 1891, Pub AEA (Jul-Sep), p.289  [js]  [offpr]
  • "Review of Willoughby & Graffenried's Child Labor", 1891, PSQ (Mar), p.188 [js]
  • "Relation of Trades-Unions to Apprentices", 1891, J of Social Science (Oct), p.108
  • "The Discontent of the Farmers (abstract & discussion)", 1893, Pub AEA (Jan), p.74 [js]
  • "The Discontent of the Farmer", 1893, JPE (Mar),  p.193 [js]
  • "H.M. Thompson's Theory of Wages", 1893, JPE (Mar), p.297 [js]
  • "24th Annual Cooperative Congress of Great Britain", 1893, JPE (Mar), p.307 [js]
  • "25th Annual Trades Union Congress of Great Britain", 1893, JPE (Mar), p.311 [js]
  • "Review of Gilman's Socialism", 1893, JPE (Jun),  p.480
  • "Discussion of Taussig's Wages Fund Doctrine", 1894, Pub AEA (Jan)  p.70  [js]
  • " The Convention of the American Federation of Labor", 1894, JPE (Mar), p.298 [js]
  • "The Homestead Strike", 1894, JPE (Jun)
  • "Relation of Labor Organizations to the American Boy and Trade Instruction",1894, AAPSS, (Sep), p.209
  • "La greve de Chicago de 1894", 1895, Revue d'economie politique (Jul), p.641
  • "Some Municipal Problems", 1896, The Forum, p.53
  • "A Point of View", 1896, Bibliotheca Sacra (Jan), p.145
  • "Sociological Notes", 1896, Bibliotheca Sacra (Jan), p.168
  • "The Demand for More Money", 1896, Bibliotheca Sacra (Apr), p.306
  • "The Restriction of Immigration", 1896, Bibliotheca Sacra (Jul), p.560
  • "The Question of Free Coinage of Silver", 1896, Bibliotheca Sacra (Jul), p.728
  • "The Taxation Problem in Chicago", 1897, Bibliotheca Sacra (Oct), p.746
  • "Die amerikanische Arbeitsstatistik", 1898, AfSGS, p.371.
  • Municipal Monopolies, 1899  [bk]
  • "Trades Unions (United States)", 1899, in R.H. Inglis Palgrave, editor, 1894-1901 Dictionary of Political Economy [1901 ed., p.565]
  • : "Review of Ely's Monopolies and Trusts", 1900, AAPSS (Jul), p.129 [js]




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Resources on Edward W. Bemis

  • Notice of Bemis at Chicago in AAPSS: (Jul, 1892, p.90)
  • "The Chicago Strike of 1894" (review on Bemis), 1895, Review of Reviews, p.466
  • "Review of Bemis, et al, Municipal Monopolies", by Leo S. Rowe, 1899, AAPSS (Sep), p.82 [js]
  • "Bemis, E.W." in 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
  • Bemis entry in Encycl of Cleveland
  • Wikipedia


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