The Magazine in America, 1741-1990

The Magazine in America, 1741-1990

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Already popular in England, the magazine did not appear in America until 1741, the last of the print media to be established in the New World. Pioneered by Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, and Noah Webster, these first periodicals were written for an elite, and often slavishly followed the patterns established by their British predecessors. Today, American magazine publishing is the most innovative in the world and, far from elitist, reaches a mass market of millions. In this new volume, John Tebbel and Mary Ellen Zuckerman do for magazines what Tebbel did for book publishing in Between Covers, providing the first comprehensive one-volume history of the medium. This carefully researched and sweeping work ranges from tales of the earliest magazines, The General Magazine of Benjamin Franklin and American Magazine by Andrew Bradford, to contemporary giants such as TV Guide and Sports Illustrated, and includes a history of the business press. There are sections devoted to women's magazines--surprisingly diverse and widespread, even in the 19th century--and to periodicals for black Americans--an area most often overlooked in media history. All of the big names of magazine publishing are here, too: Hearst, the Harper Brothers, and Henry Luce, whose Time revolutionized the way news was reported, and whose Life became known as "America's magazine." Tebbel and Zuckerman cover an impressive array of magazines, from the staid (like William F. Buckley's National Review) to the offbeat (like Semiotext, which is aimed at "unidentified flying leftists, neo-pagans...and poetic terrorists"); and from the million-selling (which Ladies' Home Journal was the first to become in 1903) to the marginal (like The Masses, whose publishers invited Socialist Max Eastman to be editor with the succinct invitation, "You are elected editor of The Masses. No pay."). Along the way we find dozens of surprising details, even about the most familiar magazines; how many readers know, for example, that in the early part of this century, the publishers of Cosmopolitan wanted to establish a "Cosmopolitan University," and that they also tried to purchase Cuban independence from the Spanish for $100 million? The Magazine in America is packed with odd facts, candid portraits, and other insights into the world of magazine publishing. From accounts of business deals to anecdotes of the people involved, there is something for everyone interested in the medium and its history.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 441 pages
  • 160.02 x 238.76 x 40.64mm | 884.5g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195051270
  • 9780195051278

Review Text

Scholarly survey of the magazine in America since pre-Ben Franklin days, a survey Tebbel did earlier for book publishing (Between Covers, 1986). This thick text is most likely to be read by use of its index or in selected chapters rather than straight through; its story is not all that gripping, although it covers magazines preoccupied with every little thing, from floor wax to "unidentified flying leftist objects." Tebbel and Zuckerman (Marketing/SUNY-Genesco) wisely concentrate on post-1918 magazines, lightly sketching in the earlier years with material drawn from Frank Luther Mott's Pulitzer Prize-winning, four-volume A History of Magazines in America (1938). Our first magazines slavishly imitated the gentlemanly British voice and publishing format, even through the Revolutionary War, but had a tough time keeping readers: Americans worked so hard they could spare leisure only for newspapers. Early magazines, however, knew their market in that ladies figured hugely as subject matter, with articles written by men idealizing or moralizing about women. Surprisingly, even before the Civil War there were ten magazines devoted to blacks. Although Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, Collier's, The Saturday Evening Post, Atlantic, Scribner's, and Harper's were already long established, modern magazine publishing and marketing methods date from the birth of the Luce empire's information press with Time in 1924, followed by Luce's business magazines, including Fortune, and, his foray into photojournalism, the revered Life in 1936. A feud between Time and The New Yorker climaxed with a wicked profile of Henry Luce by Wolcott Gibbs, which sums up Luce's works: "Where it all will end, knows God." Will today's mass markets break down and disappear into far more personalized, small-target magazines (already capable of light-and-sound effects at the touch of a finger), as the authors suggest in their comprehensive study? Knows God. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

About John Tebbel

About the Authors: John Tebbel is the leading historian of American publishing and author of such books as The Press and the Presidency and Between Covers. Mary Ellen Zuckerman is Professor of Marketing at SUNY Geneseo. She was recently a Gannett Fellow in Media Studies at Columbia University, and is presently at McGill University as a Visiting Professor.show more

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