John M. Pratt
John Morgan Pratt was a tax resistance
Tax resistance
Tax resistance is the refusal to pay tax because of opposition to the government that is imposing the tax or to government policy.Tax resistance is a form of civil disobedience and direct action...

 leader, activist in the Old Right
Old Right (United States)
The Old Right was a conservative faction in the United States that opposed both New Deal domestic programs and U.S. entry into World War II. Many members of this faction were associated with the Republicans of the interwar years led by Robert Taft, but some were Democrats...

, publicist
A publicist is a person whose job is to generate and manage publicity for a public figure, especially a celebrity, a business, or for a work such as a book, film or album...

 and newspaper man. Along with James E. Bistor
James E. Bistor
James Eugene Bistor was a tax resistance leader, and real estate operator and broker. Along with John M...

, he led the probably the largest tax strike since the Era of the American Revolution.

Pratt was born into a background of wealth. His father owned a tomato cannery and extensive farmland in the Sharpsville area. He attended Marion College
Indiana Wesleyan University
Indiana Wesleyan University is a private, evangelical Christian, liberal arts university located in Marion, Indiana that is affiliated with the Wesleyan Church denomination...

, where he studied to be a teacher. In this period, the family lost most of its money because the cannery business failed. As a result, he permanently shelved a teaching career and moved to homestead farmland in northern Saskatchewan
Saskatchewan is a prairie province in Canada, which has an area of . Saskatchewan is bordered on the west by Alberta, on the north by the Northwest Territories, on the east by Manitoba, and on the south by the U.S. states of Montana and North Dakota....

. Eventually, it became one of the largest farms in the immediate area. In 1913, Pratt began a long political career when the counselors of Lost River, a rural municipality, elected him as their secretary treasurer. One of his duties was tax collection. The irony was not lost on Pratt who often joked about it during his stint as a tax rebel in Chicago.

The life of a tax collector did not suit Pratt who moved to Winnipeg
Winnipeg is the capital and largest city of Manitoba, Canada, and is the primary municipality of the Winnipeg Capital Region, with more than half of Manitoba's population. It is located near the longitudinal centre of North America, at the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers .The name...

 in 1917 to accept a position as municipal editor of The Grain Growers Guide, which spoke for the nascent cooperative movement in Canada. Pratt's views on taxation as reflected in his columns reflected an affinity for theories of Henry George
Henry George
Henry George was an American writer, politician and political economist, who was the most influential proponent of the land value tax, also known as the "single tax" on land...

. Like George, he supported the replacement of the predominant local tax on acreage with a "system of taxing the unimproved values of land."

In 1921, Pratt moved permanently to Chicago where he took a job with the Universal Feature and Specialty Company, a national newspaper syndicate. From there, he went on to become advertising manager of the Chicago Herald and Examiner, one of the two newspapers of William Randolph Hearst
William Randolph Hearst
William Randolph Hearst was an American business magnate and leading newspaper publisher. Hearst entered the publishing business in 1887, after taking control of The San Francisco Examiner from his father...

 in the city. In addition to his other duties, he organized public relations for the Hearst-sponsored tour of Queen Marie of Romania
Marie of Romania
Marie of Romania was Queen consort of Romania from 1914 to 1927, as the wife of Ferdinand I of Romania.-Early life:...


In 1930, Pratt quit his newspaper job to take the helm as executive director of the Association of Real Estate Taxpayers
Association of Real Estate Taxpayers
The Association of Real Estate Taxpayers was an organization of real-estate taxpayers in Chicago and Cook County, Illinois. Between 1931 and 1933, it organized one of the largest tax strikes in American history...

 (ARET), an organization of real-estate taxpayers in Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

 and Cook County
Cook County, Illinois
Cook County is a county in the U.S. state of Illinois, with its county seat in Chicago. It is the second most populous county in the United States after Los Angeles County. The county has 5,194,675 residents, which is 40.5 percent of all Illinois residents. Cook County's population is larger than...

. Between 1931 and 1933, it organized one of the largest tax strikes in American history. The chief demand of ARET was that local and state governments obey a long-ignored provision of the Illinois Constitution of 1870 requiring uniform taxation for all forms of property, Pratt charged that the failure to assess such personal property as furniture, cars, and stocks and bonds was not only illegal but left owners of real estate with excessive burdens. ARET's program also included support for sweeping rate reductions in the general property tax and retrenchment in local governmental spending.

ARET functioned primarily as a cooperative legal service. Each member paid annual dues of $15 to fund lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of real-estate assessments. The radical side of the movement became apparent by early 1931 when ARET called for taxpayers to withhold real-estate taxes (or "strike") pending a final ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court, and later the U.S. Supreme Court. Mayor Anton Cermak
Anton Cermak
Anton Joseph Cermak was the mayor of Chicago, Illinois, from 1931 until his assassination by Giuseppe Zangara in 1933.-Early life and career:...

 and other politicians desperately tried to break the strike by threatening criminal prosecution of Pratt and other ARET leaders and revocation of city services. ARET's influence peaked in late 1932, with a membership approaching 30,000 (largely skilled workers and small-business owners). By this time, it had a budget of over $600,000 and a radio show in Chicago. But it suffered a demoralizing blow in October 1932 when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a case it had brought. Buffeted by political coercion and legal defeats, and torn by internal factionalism, the strike collapsed in early 1933.

In the two decades after the collapse of ARET, Pratt continued to be active in various organizations on the Old Right. To Pratt, participation in these organizations bespoke a deep suspicion of government paternalism. In 1940, for example, Pratt organized the National Physicians Committee for the Extension of Medical Service. The Committee received funding from publisher, Frank Gannett
Frank Gannett
Frank Ernest Gannett is the founder of Gannett media corporation.-Biography:Gannett was born in South Bristol, New York, United States, graduated from Bolivar High School , Bolivar, NY in 1893, and graduated from Cornell University. At the age of 30, he purchased his first newspaper, the Elmira...

. It played a major role in defeating President Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman was the 33rd President of the United States . As President Franklin D. Roosevelt's third vice president and the 34th Vice President of the United States , he succeeded to the presidency on April 12, 1945, when President Roosevelt died less than three months after beginning his...

's plan for governmentally subsidized insurance. He also organization a group called the Heritage Foundation (different from the current group of the same name) which published and distributed the books of Clarence Manion, a key figure in the Old Right, and Paul Harvey
Paul Harvey
Paul Harvey Aurandt , better known as Paul Harvey, was an American radio broadcaster for the ABC Radio Networks. He broadcast News and Comment on weekday mornings and mid-days, and at noon on Saturdays, as well as his famous The Rest of the Story segments. His listening audience was estimated, at...

, then a young radio commentator. Pratt was the father of set designer, John T. Pratt, the husband of dancer Katherine Dunham
Katherine Dunham
Katherine Mary Dunham was an American dancer, choreographer, songwriter, author, educator, and activist...

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