Saturday Evening Post
SATURDAY EVENING POST
SATURDAY EVENING POST. The modern Saturday Evening Post dates from 1897, when publisher Cyrus H. K. Curtis bought the failing periodical for $1,000. Curtis immediately cobbled together a suspect genealogy, alleging Ben Franklin as the Post's founder and pushing the masthead date back from 1821 to 1728. In 1898, Curtis appointed George Horace Lorimer as editor, a position he held through 1936. Under his leadership, the Post became America's most successful and most influential magazine, achieving a weekly circulation of 1,000,000 as early as 1908. In the 1920s, riding on a sea of advertising that exceeded $50 million annually, issues frequently offered over 200 pages carrying more than 20 stories, articles, and serial installments—all for a nickel.
The nickel was part of Curtis's plan: to finance a magazine through advertising rather than subscriptions. Lorimer's
own financial plan was equally novel; the Post responded to submissions within two weeks and paid on acceptance rather than publication. That policy, along with Lorimer's recruitment of writers, paid off in a roster of talent. Nonfiction writers, especially strong in politics and business, included Albert Beveridge, Sam Blythe, Irvin S. Cobb, Emerson Hough, Will Irwin, Isaac F. Marcosson, and Will Payne. Short stories and serialized fiction were supplied by some of the most popular writers of the time, among them Thomas Beer, Earl Derr Biggers, G. K. Chesterton, Agatha Christie, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Harold Frederic, Joseph Hergesheimer, Robert Herrick, Sinclair Lewis, J. P. Marquand, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Kenneth L. Roberts, and Arthur Train. Another attraction was the Post's cover, painted over the years by the country's most successful and popular illustrators, most notably J. C. Leyendecker and Norman Rockwell.
The Post's audience was broad, with the magazine reaching middle-class and middle-brow Americans from coast to coast. The magazine gave its audience entertainment and information, along with strong doses of politics. Up to World War I(1914–1918), those politics were essentially Progressive. After the war, the magazine turned sharply right, mixing a conservative social message with fiercely reactionary political views. The 1929 stock market crash and the Great Depression confirmed Lorimer's views of the nation's missteps, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt's election only blackened his outlook. By 1936 the Post virtually ran an opposition campaign to Roosevelt's reelection.
After Lorimer's retirement early in 1937 and under a series of editors, the Post gradually lost its dominant position among the media. Although fiction and illustration, especially cover art, remained attractive throughout the 1950s, by the 1960s the magazine found itself in deep financial trouble and, early in 1969, America's most popular weekly magazine ended publication.
Cohn, Jan. Creating America: George Horace Lorimer and "The Saturday Evening Post." Pittsburgh, Pa.: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1989.
———. Covers of "The Saturday Evening Post": Seventy Years of Outstanding Illustration from America's Favorite Magazine. New York: Viking, 1995.
Tebbel, John. George Horace Lorimer and "The Saturday Evening Post." Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1948.
See alsoMagazines .