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The Magazine Century

American Magazines Since 1900

by David E. Sumner (Author)
©2022 Textbook VIII, 242 Pages
Series: Mediating American History, Volume 9

Summary

The second edition of The Magazine Century: American Magazines Since 1900 offers the freshest and most up-to-date history of American magazines through 2020. It includes chapters telling the stories of new magazine launches in each decade since 1900. These chapters offer a behind-the-scenes look at America’s best-known magazines and publishers and how they got started. It also includes this key information not included in the first edition:
• Updated circulation data for major magazines
• Major magazine closings and new launches
• Ownership changes at major publishing companies
• Histories of several magazines not in the 1st edition
• The internet’s effect on magazine publishing
• Biographies of colorful and controversial editors
• New details about the history of Black-owned magazines
• The pandemic’s effect on magazine publishing
• Recent interviews with magazine editors and publishers
• The surprising rebound of print magazines

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the authors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Tables
  • Foreword
  • Chapter 1: The Magazine Century
  • Chapter 2: The Emergence of Modern Magazines: The 1890s
  • Chapter 3: Publishing Pioneers Create a Prosperous Century: 1900–1920
  • Chapter 4: Good Times, Great Magazines: The 1920s
  • Chapter 5: More Readers, Fewer Advertisers: The 1930s
  • Chapter 6: War, Censorship, and More Magazines: The 1940s
  • Chapter 7: Magazines versus Television: The 1950s
  • Chapter 8: Social Change for Magazines and America: The 1960s
  • Chapter 9: Americans Pursue Leisure Interests: The 1970s
  • Chapter 10: Computers and Celebrity Editors Dominate the Decade: The 1980s
  • Chapter 11: New Media, Magazines, and Controversies: The 1990s
  • Chapter 12: From Bust to Boom and Bust Again: 2000–2010
  • Chapter 13: From Magazines to Magazine Media: 2010–2020
  • Chapter 14: Publishing During an Uncertain Future: Beyond 2020
  • For Further Reading
  • Index
  • Series Index

←viii | ix→

Foreword

The goal of the second edition of The Magazine Century: American Magazines Since 1900 is to offer readers the freshest and most up-to-date information about American magazines from 1900 through 2020. The first edition of The Magazine Century: American Magazines Since 1900 was published in 2010 and offered a history of the industry and most popular magazines of the 20th century. The book has been successful and carried by libraries in more than 15 countries and cited in 151 books, journal articles, or dissertations according to Google Scholar. But so much about magazine publishing has changed since 2000. In fact, almost everything.

At the time of this writing, American magazines are 280 years old. Andrew Bradford’s The American Magazine or a Monthly View of the Political State of the British Colonies was first published in Philadelphia on February 13, 1741. Four days later, Benjamin Franklin published The General Magazine and Historical Chronicle. Subsequently, the number of American magazines steadily increased for the next 160 years but really began to mushroom at the beginning of the 20th century. From 5,500 magazines at the beginning of the century, the number reached more than 18,000 by the end. It was, indeed, a magazine century.

Until the late 1800s, magazines were expensive and published mostly in large eastern cities for local readers. After the first transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869, magazines began to emerge as the first mass medium capable of reaching a nationwide audience. Magazines held this American distinction until ←ix | x→commercial radio broadcasts began in the 1920s, sound movies in the 1930s, network television in the 1950s, and the internet in the 1990s.

No current books about American magazine history cover the entire 20th century or 21st century. We acknowledge our debt to Frank Luther Mott of the University of Missouri, who wrote the five-volume series, A History of American Magazines, which covered magazine history until the 1930s. Mott’s Pulitzer-Prize winning series remains the “gold standard” for research on American magazines. Theodore Peterson’s Magazines in the Twentieth Century covered through the early 1960s and has also been useful in our research. William H. Taft of the University of Missouri published American Magazines for the 1980s in 1982. Tebbel and Zuckerman’s work, The Magazine in America 1741 to 1990 was an overview of 250 years of magazine history but limited in detail.

The editors at Peter Lang Publishing in New York invited me to write a second edition of The Magazine Century, and I invited Professor Samir Husni at the Magazine Media Center to be a co-author. For 44 years, he has tracked and published annual books about new magazine launches. He is the best-known magazine expert in America in the industry. Besides new information he has written about the years 2000 to 2020, the book contains a considerable amount of fresh material about earlier magazines not included in the first edition.

Between 2000 and 2020, ownership changes, launches, and closings of magazines occurred frequently. We have tried to provide the most up-to-date information, but some information may become outdated by the time the book is published. Please send corrections to Sumner@bsu.edu, and we will update this book in future printings.

Many dollar figures refer to magazine expenses and revenues beginning in the 1890s which mean little to today’s readers. Therefore, readers can use this inflation index to get a better idea of comparable dollar figures in today’s economy.1

1880s—dollar amount x 25

1890s—dollar amount x 28

1900s—dollar amount x 30

1910s—dollar amount x 27

1920s—dollar amount x 13

1930s—dollar amount x 16

1940s—dollar amount x 19

1950s—dollar amount x 10

1960s—dollar amount x 9

1970s—dollar amount x 7

1980s—dollar amount x 3

←x | xi→1990s—dollar amount x 2

2000s—dollar amount x 1.5

People are generally more interesting to read about than “things.” Therefore, we have tried to tell this story focusing on the stories of the writers, editors, and publishers of the best-known magazines and the circumstances behind their origins. These men and women were a colorful and controversial bunch. Some became millionaires while many went bankrupt. Some became celebrities, others were hated, and most were relatively obscure. They fought each other, sued each other, and occasionally married each other. We hope you enjoy reading their stories.

David E. Sumner, Ball State University
Samir A. Husni, Magazine Media Center

Note

←xii | 1→

Chapter 1

The Magazine Century

The cover photo of a power saw cutting through a piece of thick plywood was displayed on a recent issue of Wood magazine. The coverline “19 Best-Value Tools” included a power saw, orbit sander, bandsaw, bench vise, low-angle block plane, and 15 other tools. Wood illustrates a trend in American magazines that began in the early 20th century and continues into the 21st—a move away from general-interest content for a wide audience to specialized content for an audience with narrow and specific interests. The content of Wood is curated and written by experts for an audience of highly skilled woodworkers and hobbyists.

Growth and adaptability are the two words to best describe American magazine trends in the 20th century. The number of magazines grew faster than the population from about 5,500 in 1900 to more than 18,000 in 2000 (which included consumer, trade, association, and academic sectors). While the American population increased by 370 percent, the number of magazines increased by 600 percent. Magazines survived by adapting to media competition from radio, movies, television, the internet, and the economic challenges of two World Wars and the Great Depression.1

As the number of media sources for information grew, magazines adapted by gradually developing specialized content for clearly defined audiences. Magazines were expensive and read primarily by the affluent citizens of large eastern cities until the late nineteenth century.2 Total magazine circulation tripled in 15 years ←1 | 2→between 1890 and 1905 as several factors converged to mark the beginning of a prosperous century.3 A national railroad network enabled magazines to become the first mass medium, printing technology improved, and Congress stimulated magazine growth by offering low-cost postage and expanding postal delivery to rural areas.

In 2000, the United States published 9,478 consumer magazines—almost three times the number published in the United Kingdom, which ranked second with 3,174 consumer magazines. Japan, Poland, and France held the third, fourth, and fifth spots, respectively (see Table 1-1).4 Later figures are not available.

Table 1-1 Top 10 Publishers of Consumer Magazines, 2000

Rank

Country

Consumer Magazines

1

United States

9,478

2

United Kingdom

3,173

3

Japan

2,457

4

Poland

2,126

5

France

1,250

6

Argentina

930

7

Italy

863

8

Czech Republic

840

9

South Korea

756

10

Canada

715

Source: Federation of the International Periodical Press (www.fipp.com)

Not only did the number of magazines grow, but the amount of magazine reading by individuals more than tripled. The typical American read about half a magazine (.42) in 1920, but that number peaked in 1990 to one and a half (1.47) as displayed in Table 1-2. These figures include only the highest-circulation magazines that belong to the Alliance of Audited Media.

Table 1-2 Magazine Circulation and Readership per Person, 1920–2005

Year

Monthly

Circulation

U.S. Population

Readership per Person

1920

44,095,000

105,710,620

0.42

1925

54,176,000

115,832,000

0.47

1930

78,844,000

122,775,046

0.64

1935

75,974,000

127,250,000

0.60

1940

94,817,000

131,669,275

0.72

1945

121,240,000

132,137,000

0.92

1950

146,974,508

150,697,361

0.98

1955

Details

Pages
VIII, 242
Year
2022
ISBN (PDF)
9781433187681
ISBN (ePUB)
9781433187698
ISBN (MOBI)
9781433187704
ISBN (Softcover)
9781433187674
ISBN (Hardcover)
9781433104947
DOI
10.3726/b19909
Language
English
Publication date
2010 (June)
Keywords
American history David E. Sumner Samir A. Husni The Magazine Century American Magazines Since 1900 modern magazines media history publishing magazine history periodicals Magazines
Published
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2010. VIII, 242 pp.

Biographical notes

David E. Sumner (Author)

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