The Progressive Era and Two World Wars: 1893-1950s
As the Industrial Revolution expanded, more and more Americans were enjoying an improved standard of living. Some of the most significant and unusual magazines of the era featured investigative journalism, social reform, the rise of publishing empires and photography as an art form.
Gleanings in Bee Culture.
Volume 33, number 1, January 1, 1905. Medina, Ohio: The A. I. Root Co.
The first eyewitness report of the Wright Brothers’ famous first heavier-than-air flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on September 20, 1904, appeared in a most unlikely place. Amos Ives Root, publisher and editor of Gleanings in Bee Culture, was invited by the Wrights to make detailed notes of the flight and was authorized to publish an article about it in his magazine, which appeared in the issues of January 1 and January 15, 1905.
The Little Review: Literature, Drama, Music, Art.
Volume 1, number 1, March 1914. Chicago: Margaret C. Anderson.
Margaret Anderson started Little Review in March 1914 to provide “the best conversation the world has to offer” for art criticism. After a few months she lost most of her financial backing because of her association with anarchist Emma Goldman but still managed to stay afloat. Anderson later turned to the community of literary and artistic exiles in Paris for content, including Ernest Hemingway for the Spring 1923 “Exiles” issue.
The Little Review: A Magazine of the Arts.
Volume 5 , number 11, March 1918. Chicago: Margaret C. Anderson.
In 1918, Ezra Pound forwarded James Joyce’s Ulysses to Margaret Anderson. Fourteen of the anticipated eighteen parts were published until the issue of July/August 1920, when the Post Office refused to distribute copies on the grounds of obscenity at the instigation of the New York Society for the Suppression of vice. The trial that ensued resulted in a nominal fine but effectively banned the publication of Ulysses in America.
Volume 1, number 1, December 17, 1892. New York: The Fashion Company.
Vogue began in 1892 as a modest illustrated weekly of New York society to “celebrate the ceremonial side of life.” It was purchased by Condé Montrose Nast in 1905, who leveraged its privileged clientele to turn it into a profitable and elegant fashion magazine. Vogue pioneered the art of fashion photography with the work of, among others, Baron de Mayer, Edward Steichen, and Cecil Beaton. Since 1988 it has been ably guided by Anna Wintour.
Volume 1, number 1, July 1897. New York: The Camera Club, N.Y.
In May 1896, pioneering American photographer Alfred Stieglitz amalgamated two competing organizations into the Camera Club of New York and turned its newsletter into a magazine, Camera Notes. It was soon considered the finest photographic magazine in the world. Stieglitz included articles about art and aesthetics next to images created by some of the leading American and European photographers. Through this and his highly sought Camera Work, Stieglitz transformed photography into a major art form.
Volume 20, number 1, November 1902. New York: S. S. McClure Co.
McClure’s Magazine was founded in 1893 by S. S. McClure to be a ten-cent monthly with varied and valuable content. It opened a new chapter in American investigative journalism, eventually known as muckraking, when in 1902 it began publication of Ida Tarbell’s explosive series of articles exposing the ruthless business practices of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company. McClure’s other talented staff writers also included Willa Cather, Lincoln Steffens, and Ray Stannard Baker.
Poetry: A Magazine of Verse.
Volume 1, number 1, October 1912. Chicago: [publisher not identified].
Soon after Harriet Monroe established her ground-breaking Poetry in 1912, she invited Ezra Pound, then an obscure American poet living in London, to become a regular contributor. In addition to submitting his own work, he “discovered” James Joyce, Robert Frost, D. H. Lawrence, William Carlos Williams, and T. S. Eliot. Poetry has withstood the test of time and remains the most prestigious magazine of its genre.
Volume 22, number 2, February 1916. Oak Park, Ill.: Publishing Board of the Oak Park and River Forest Township High School.
Virtually all of Ernest Hemingway’s earliest literary works first appeared in magazines. The very first was a short story entitled “The Judgment of Manitou” in this February 1916 issue of The Tabula, his Oak Park, Illinois, high school literary magazine.
Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly Newspaper.
Volume 124, issue 3,206, February 15, 1917. New York: Leslie-Judge Company.
Adapted from a British image of Lord Kitchener, James Montgomery Flagg’s iconic Uncle Sam was reprinted over the caption “I Want You.” It became the most recognizable magazine image of World War I, the U.S. Army’s official recruiting poster and the most recognizable and reproduced patriotic image in American history.
Volume 9, number 10, issue 74, August 1917. New York: The Masses Publishing Company.
A highly important socialist monthly published between 1911 and 1917 that featured the writing, poetry, and art of prominent radicals including Max Eastman, John Sloan, Art Young, George Bellows and John Reed. It reported labor conflicts and advocated for suffrage and birth control, but came to an end after being banned from the mails (including this issue) by the United States Post Office.
The Reader’s Digest.
Pre-publication issue, January 1920. St. Paul, Minn.: The Reader’s Digest Association.
Dewitt Wallace had an idea to create a magazine for readers who had neither the time nor money to scout out material of “lasting interest.” He collected thirty articles from magazines in his local library, edited them for brevity, and amalgamated them into this prototype called Reader’s Digest. The idea took two years to come to fruition, but it went on to become one of the most lucrative publishing ventures in American history.
Volume 1, number 1, March 3, 1923. New York: Time Inc.
Yale alums Henry Luce and Briton Hadden were working together at Frank Munsey’s Baltimore News in 1922 when they began developing the idea of a new type of news weekly. The prospectus stated, “Time will be interested—not in how much it includes between its covers—but how much it gets off its pages into the minds of readers.” Its immense success began an important chapter in the history of American journalism.
The New Yorker.
Volume 1, number 1, February 21, 1925. New York: The New Yorker Magazine.
Harold Ross founded The New Yorker to fulfill his dream of a new American humor magazine, full of cartoons, satirical essays, and witty society observations. He recruited fellow Algonquin Roundtable members and set about creating a “reflection in word and picture of metropolitan life . . . with gaiety, wit, and satire.” By virtue of its outstanding cultural impact, the irrepressible New Yorker has become one of the most influential magazines in American publishing history.
The New Yorker.
Parody issue, November 6, 1926. New York: The New Yorker Magazine.
This is the scarcest, slimmest New Yorker “issue” ever printed, featuring a cover profile of chain-smoking Harold Ross as Eustace Tilley peering at a “butterfly” (fellow Algonquin Roundtable member Alexander Woolcott) by “Penaninsky” (Rea Irvin). It was created for Ross’ amusement with contributions by his staff and friends.
Volume 1, number 0, September 1929. New York: The Time-Fortune Corp.
This is the pre-publication dummy issue. In the midst of a national economic catastrophe, Time Inc. launched Fortune in February 1930, to “interpret and record the Industrial Civilization.” Despite the staggering issue price of a dollar (equivalent to fifteen 2020 dollars), it survived thanks to a combination of exceptional writing, and high-quality printing and illustration. Its initial circulation of thirty thousand increased to nearly half a million by the late 1930s.
Volume 1, number 1, February 17, 1933. New York: Thomas J.C. Martyn.
News-Week launched with backing from a group of financiers as a more sober and substantial alternative to Time, but struggled financially. It was rescued by Vincent Astor in 1937 and, under the editorship of Malcolm Muir, founder of the successful Business Week, simplified the name to Newsweek, and took on new writing talent, including George Jean Nathan and Sinclair Lewis. It was acquired by the Washington Post Company in 1961, who ran it until 2010.
Esquire: The Quarterly Magazine for Men.
Volume 1, number 1, October 15, 1933. New York: Esquire Publishing Company.
Esquire was founded by Arnold Gingrich “to become the common denominator of masculine interests.” Its first issue included stories by Ernest Hemingway, Dashiell Hammett, John Dos Passos, and two world sports champions, Bobby Jones on golf and Gene Tunney on boxing. It included fashion advice for men accustomed to excellence, and those who wanted to become so. In 1935, it added provocative drawings of scantily clad women, first by George Petty and, later, Alberto Vargas.
Volume 1, number 1, November 23, 1936. Chicago: Time, Inc.
Life’s first issue of 360,000 copies featured Margaret Bourke-White’s majestic cover image of the Public Works Administration’s Fort Peck Dam sold out immediately. After four months the magazine reached a circulation of one million. Its novel format was an instant success, a perfect combination of text condensed into captions for fifty pages of top-quality photographs. During its thirty-six-year run, Life was surely America’s most famous magazine.
The Hobo News.
No date [ca. June 1942]. New York: Patrick Mulkern.
Yes, there really was a magazine for hobos! This patriotic issue encouraged readers to “Buy Bonds to Buy Bombs to Bomb the Axis Bums.” It was published by Ben “Coast Kid” (Hobo) Benson under the direction of Pat “The Roaming Dreamer” Mulkern and lasted until 1948, succeeded by Bowery News. The satirical cartoons were surprisingly well produced.
Town & Country.
Volume 97, number 4,238, July 1942. New York: Hearst Magazines, Inc.
In 1942, the National Magazine Publishers Association, in conjunction with the U.S. Treasury, announced a “United We Stand” war bond campaign, encouraging magazines to portray the American flag on their July issue covers, leading to rows of flag-influenced designs on newsstands. Well over 500 magazines participated, and William Randolph Hearst’s Town and Country, an upscale monthly published since 1845, is a wonderfully graphic example. The campaign resulted in millions of dollars of war bond sales.
The Saturday Evening Post.
Volume 215, number 48, May 29, 1943. Philadelphia: Curtis Publishing Company.
This issue features a cover illustration of one of the most iconic magazine images published during World War II, Norman Rockwell’s “Rosie the Riveter.” With a circulation of over three million, Curtis Publishing flagship, The Saturday Evening Post had immense influence and made the title character from John Jacob Loeb and Redd Evans’ popular 1942 song into an iconic national symbol of industry and patriotism.