1910s: Print Culture
1910s: Print Culture
Although going to the movies became an increasingly popular way to spend leisure time in this decade, books and magazines were still the core entertainment of most Americans. In this decade, the gulf widened between American high literature (fine writing concerned with philosophic ideas) and American popular literature (writing designed to inform and entertain). Some of the finest literary artists of the century published important works in this decade, including novelists Willa Cather (1873–1947), Theodore Dreiser (1871–1945), and Sherwood Anderson (1876–1941); and poets Gertrude Stein (1874–1946), Vachel Lindsay (1879–1931), T. S. Eliot (1888–1965), William Carlos Williams (1883–1963), and Ezra Pound (1885–1972). These writers and many others were discussed in small-circulation "little magazines" that were dedicated to the arts. They were also talked about in more general magazines such as The Atlantic Monthly, The Smart Set, Vanity Fair, and The Seven Arts. These artists, however, had few readers compared with the great readership enjoyed by popular novelists and contributors to the popular magazines.
American magazines continued to prosper in this decade, thanks largely to the eagerness of advertisers to promote their products to the millions of Americans who read popular magazines. The most popular magazines, including the Saturday Evening Post, the American Magazine, Collier's, Ladies' Home Journal, and Good Housekeeping, often used half of their pages each issue for advertisements. The advertising industry grew dramatically to help encourage Americans to buy, buy, buy. Several new magazines attracted attention in his decade, including True Story, a racy confession magazine for working-class readers, and Vogue, one of the first magazines devoted to fashion.
Beginning in 1912, the magazine Publishers Weekly began to use the term "best-seller" to describe the most popular fiction and nonfiction in America. This magazine and several others tracked those books that sold best, and their publicity helped drive sales even higher. Gene Stratton Porter (1868–1924), Zane Grey (1875–1939), Harold Bell Wright (1872–1944), Mary Roberts Rinehart (1876–1958), and Winston Churchill (1874–1965) all had several titles on the best-seller list in the decade. During the World War I (1914–18) years, there was a separate list of best-sellers just about war. The Tom Swift series of adventure books for boys was one of the publishing sensations of the decade. The Tom Swift books set the stage for the Hardy Boys and the Nancy Drew series that would become so popular during the 1920s. Another surprise hit of the decade was the World Book Encyclopedia, whose goal was to provide the accumulated wisdom of the Western world in an easy-to-read format.