THE MAGAZINE IN AMERICA, 1740-1990 by John Tebbel


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 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.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-19-505127-0
Page count: 512pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1991


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