Abstract: This paper investigates boundaries between professional from the amateur by investigating amateur journalism of the late 19th-Century United States. Amateur journalists wrote, typeset and printed journals of essays, commentary, word puzzles and stories, which were circulated primarily among themselves in subcultural networks of reciprocity. A broad cultural analysis characterizes how debates about social changes due to industrialization shaped definitions and valuations of amateurism and professionalism. A critical political-economic analysis examines how these changes and debates as refracted and reproduced through the commercialization of literary industries and printing technologies spawned amateur journalism. A critical textual analysis of surviving autobiographical works by amateur journalists of the day explores the on-the-ground cultural production of amateurism and professionalism through amateur journalism’s ascendance, peak and decline. The paper concludes by reflecting on the theoretical and substantive issues raised by the production of boundaries separating and constituting amateur and professional both then and today.