1903: Portraits Of Magazine Publishers

From a 1903 issue of Appleton’s Magazine:

The Men behind the Magazines

Personality counts in editing more than in any other branch of publishing, and more in these days than it used to in the old days when there was little or no competition in the magazine world. For years Harpers was our only illustrated magazine. As it had the field to itself it took things easily and waxed fat and prosperous. Then Scribners, now The Century, came along. Harpers stood in dumb amaze at its temerity and then it began to “hustle.” It was Scribners that first realized the value of general advertising. It was the late Roswell Smith, one of the founders and business manager of the original Scribners, who turned the tide of advertising toward the monthly magazines. Until that time Harpers had never allowed any advertisements except those of Messrs. Harper’s books to appear in its pages.

To-day the country is flooded with magazines, and there is a strong personality behind every one that prospers. Mr. Henry M. Alden has for many years been the editor of Harpers, but it is the aggressive personality of Mr. George Harvey that has changed the course of the Magazine and the Weekly. Mr. Harvey brings journalistic methods into the editorial policy of these two periodicals and into that of the North American Review, which is little less than a monthly newspaper with signed editorials written by the best known men whose pens money can buy.

The Century Magazine was first edited by the late Dr. J. G. Holland, whose name was one to conjure with. His assistant editor was Mr. Richard Watson Gilder, who succeeded to the editorship on the death of his chief. Mr. Gilder was a trained journalist, but his journalistic impulses have always been tempered by a great love and respect for literature and art. He was one of the first “hustlers” in magazine editorship. This because of his early training, also because of his temperament.

For Scribner’s Magazine as it is to-day Mr. E. L. Burlingame is responsible. He has been its editor from the start and there are those who go so far as to say that Mr. Scribner was particularly eager to publish a magazine because he had so capable an editor attached to his house. Mr. Burlingame, though a thorough-going cosmopolitan, is a Boston man, and was born under the shadow of the State House dome. The culture of the Hub is noticeable in his editorial policy. The magazine that bears his name is said to be Mr. Scribner’s pet child, and his influence is felt throughout its various departments.

When Dr. Albert Shaw took over the editing of an American Review of Reviews there were those who said he could not make a success of it, but they were those who did not know Dr. Shaw. His staying powers are only equalled by his zeal and capacity for seeing clearly and setting forth what he sees and feels in forcible and convincing English. Perhaps no other man could have made the venture a success.

Mr. Frank N. Doubleday has a personality that dominates. He never turns out of the road because there is an obstacle in the way. It is the obstacle that turns out when it sees him coming. Mr. Doubleday’s capacity for work and his capacity for enthusiasm make a strong partnership. He is an admirable example of the up-to-date American. His fellow-worker, Mr. Walter H. Page, is a man of ideas and has a personality that cannot hide its light under an unsigned editorial.

Mr. S. S. McClure brought into the magazine business enough nervous force, energy, and knowledge of what the public wants to have forced a dozen magazines into success. These qualities were his stock in trade. He had little else when McClure’s Magazine was started, but little else was necessary. It meant a terrible expenditure of nervous energy, but he has had his reward, fortunately not too late.

Mr. Munsey was the inventor of the ten-cent magazine, but unhappily for him his invention could not be patented. He is his own editor as well as publisher and he makes his personality permeate the pages of Munsey’s. Mr. Munsey’s infinite variety is not staled with time. He breaks out in new places every few weeks but he edits his magazine on the same lines now as the day it was born. “Quantity” is his watchword, and when he takes his dear half million subscribers into his confidence he tells them that he gives them more for their money than any other editor and they believe him. He has the art of carrying conviction to the minds of his readers, and it is a profitable art.

Mr. Edward Bok has the advantage of knowing his audience. When he gave the readers of the Ladies Home Journal “Heart to Heart Talks” and “Personal Sides” he knew what he was about. Mr. Bok’s dominating quality is perseverance. When he goes for anything he gets it. He set out to get a circulation for his magazine and he got it. He cut in where other editors hesitated to go and he has given hundreds of thousands of people a good magazine as well as a lot of good advice. The Ladies Home Journal has done missionary work, and Mr. Bok stands in the light of a missionary to his readers. They go to him as their guide, philosopher, and friend, and they never find him wanting.

Mr. John Brisben Walker is the Cosmopolitan. He may have editors and publishers, but he follows the details of every branch of his business/ His finger is in every pie. Sometimes the pie is hot and burns, but that does not disturb him. Nothing disturbs Mr. Walker. He is always calm and unruffled and conducts his business without excitement of any sort. He has hobbies and he rides them all, — sometimes they throw him, but he generally sticks on. He is not a West Pointer for nothing. A bucking hobby is a tonic to the editor of the Cosmopolitan.

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2 responses to “1903: Portraits Of Magazine Publishers

  1. It appears that the real problem magazine publishers and editors of today face is that they lack the mustaches of their forebears.

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