Creating America

Creating America: George Horace Lorimer and The Saturday Evening Post

Copyright Date: 1989
Pages: 368
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  • Book Info
    Creating America
    Book Description:

    Before movies, radio, and television challenged the hegemony of the printed word, theSaturday Evening Postwas the preeminent vehicle of mass culture in the United States. And to the extent that a mass medium can be the expression of a single individual, this magazine, with a peak circulation of almost three million copies a week, was the expression of its editor, George Horace Lorimer. Cohn shows how Lorimer made thePostinto a uniquely powerful magazine that both celebrated and helped form the values of the time.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7145-0
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-20)

    This book is a study of one of America’s great mass magazines, perhaps its greatest. My subject is theSaturday Evening Post, acquired by Cyrus H. Curtis in 1897 and, by 1899, placed under the editorship of George Horace Lorimer. Under Lorimer’s direction the Post grew and prospered, through the years of Progressivism and war and economic boom; it survived the Great Depression as well, though Lorimer did not, resigning at the end of 1936 and dying less than a year later. It is Lorimer’sPostthis book investigates, the thirty-eight years of his editorship.

    It is useful to make...

  5. 1 1897–1907 “The Greatest Weekly Magazine in the World”
    (pp. 21-59)

    The story of the early years of the modernSaturday Evening Posthas become a legend of American journalism and the hero of the legend is Cyrus H. K. Curtis.¹ In August 1897, when Cyrus Curtis bought theSaturday Evening Postfor $1,000, the failing periodical had neither circulation, advertising, nor major writers to recommend it. A cut-and-paste job of sentimental fiction and worse poetry, with about 2,000 subscribers, thePostwas scarcely a promising acquisition for the Curtis Company, not even at $1,000.

    Accepted wisdom in the magazine business asserted that weeklies had seen their day, but Curtis, who...

  6. 2 1908–1913 “More Than a Million a Week”
    (pp. 60-99)

    The December 12, 1908, cover of theSaturday Evening Postfeatured one of Harrison Fisher’s beautiful drawings of elegant women, in this instance hanging mistletoe to strike a seasonal note. Above the picture a bold headline announced that thePosthad attained “MORE THAN A MILLION A WEEK CIRCULATION.”

    Weekly circulation of a million copies was more than a quantitative achievement for Curtis and Lorimer. There was magic in the number, the magnitude of such a readership somehow demonstrating thePost’s authority to speak to and for America. From the time when thePoststopped operating in the red, the...

  7. 3 1914–1918 “A Great Social Influence”
    (pp. 100-134)

    World War I was the great watershed for Lorimer’sSaturday Evening Post. A buoyant and optimistic magazine in 1914, by 1918 thePosthad grown suspicious and defensive, expounding a shrill and virulent nativism. The change was permanent, and though in good times Lorimer might modulate his intensity, this new attitude and tone characterized thePostfor the remaining years of his editorship. The dramatic shift in thePostcan be traced through Lorimer’s responses to the war, through his own move from neutrality to belligerence.

    Lorimer’s stand on neutrality was an expression of his vigorous patriotism. The America he...

  8. 4 1919–1922 “The Foolish Ideas We Have Imported”
    (pp. 135-164)

    Lorimer brought thePostout of the war with patriotism unfurled and nativism unleashed. Facing the dislocations of postwar America—unemployed veterans, labor unrest, business recession—he brought old values into play, urging hard work, common sense, and a belief in American progress through business. But old values were no longer adequate in themselves; it was necessary as well to discover and attack the sources of disruptive change. At the root of what Lorimer saw as the dangers to the United States lay radical ideas imported from abroad. The work ethic was undermined by Bolshevik propaganda. Labor was corrupted by...

  9. 5 1923–1929 “This Niagara of Print”
    (pp. 165-217)

    “Who reads ThePost?” asked Leon Whipple in a 1928 article inSurveymagazine. And he answered: “Everybody.”¹ It might well have appeared so.Postcirculation had reached two million early in 1919 and through the 1920s it increased annually, rising to a weekly average of 2,865,996 in 1929. In the 1920s, the millions who subscribed to theSaturday Evening Postor who bought it for a nickel at the newsstand got their money’s worth. In 1922, for example, thePostoffered its public 20 serialized novels, 7 two-part novelettes, 272 short stories, and 269 articles.² On the average, each...

  10. 6 1930–1936 “There Is Nothing the Matter with America Except Damfoolishness.”
    (pp. 218-267)

    The Great Depression found theSaturday Evening Postin fighting trim. Under economic exigency, the bloated book of the twenties was considerably slimmed down and, like a reconditioned fighter, gained new vitality. That energy was harnessed to meet the most powerful challenge Lorimer had yet faced: America, the America he believed he had created in the pages of thePost, was threatened at its foundations by Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal. The times were dangerous, the economic picture dispiriting, the political outlook desperate; nevertheless, thePostglowed with an exhilaration lost since the days of the war. Lorimer once...

  11. EPILOGUE: George Horace Lorimer, the Boss
    (pp. 268-284)

    For the most part, this book has looked at the public Lorimer, at the expression of his public views through the medium of theSaturday Evening Post. But even in his role asPosteditor, Lorimer had his private side as well, a personality expressed in his dealings with contributors and colleagues. This more private Lorimer is recalled in the memoirs and autobiographies ofPostwriters and, especially, in the correspondence that survives between those writers and Lorimer. Even the salutations in the correspondence help us to read relationships, for letters to Lorimer opened in a variety of ways, each...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 287-312)
  13. Index
    (pp. 313-326)