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The Expanded Market for Fiction in American Periodicals, 1865–1914locked

  • Charles A. JohanningsmeierCharles A. JohanningsmeierDepartment of English, University of Nebraska Omaha


During the years between 1865 and 1914, the United States became a nation of periodical readers as a greatly expanded number of newspapers and magazines—many of which contained fictional sketches, short stories, and novels—became cheaper and much more easily accessible to readers almost everywhere in the country. Many factors contributed to this tremendous expansion. For one thing, various technological innovations, including those related to typesetting, printing, and even paper making, made it possible to greatly increase periodical production while simultaneously lowering production costs. In addition, the rapid and extensive growth of the nation’s railroads, public libraries, and postal service made it much easier for periodicals to reach readers in markets that before the Civil War had not been well served. The overall result was that after the Civil War, many periodicals began to address particular market niches, although there was also a good deal of overlap. Story papers, genteel monthly magazines, women’s magazines, children’s periodicals, regional magazines, religious publications, magazines focused on particular ethnic and racial groups, and a small number of avant-garde magazines had their own distinct viewpoints and published particular types of fiction. The periodicals that reached the greatest number of markets and covered them most thoroughly, however, were local newspapers. By the 1880s, in hopes of attracting women readers to their advertising, many individual papers had begun to regularly publish fiction among their news stories and other features. In mid-decade, S. S. McClure and Irving Bacheller founded their respective newspaper syndicates and began selling fiction to multiple newspapers, in widely scattered markets, for simultaneous publication, thereby exposing a highly heterogeneous national audience of readers to high-quality fiction by prominent authors. Building on this model, a number of low-cost, mass-market monthly magazines, all of which prominently featured fiction by well-known writers, were founded in the 1890s to address this same national readership.

The significantly expanded production and distribution of periodicals featuring fiction during the late 19th and early 20th centuries benefited many people but possibly none more so than fiction authors and readers. There were undoubtedly drawbacks for some authors and readers in the development of this new periodical industry and its extensive market reach, but in general the new system aided members of both groups. The higher number of periodicals being produced required a substantial increase in the supply of fiction, which allowed many more people to make their living writing such material. In addition, more readers than ever before could now afford (and have easy access to) a wider selection of the types of fiction they desired.

During the half century between the end of the Civil War and the beginning of World War I, the number and variety of American periodicals containing fiction expanded exponentially, and they became omnipresent in the lives of almost every person in the country. Technological advances that lowered periodical production costs, as well as the establishment of more extensive and reliable distribution networks for newspapers and magazines, turned periodical publishing into a major industry that employed many thousands of authors, editors, typesetters, printers, agents, distributors, and vendors. While the production, sales, and circulation of novels and short story collections in book form also greatly increased, most Americans now interacted with fiction—whether sketches, short stories, or serialized novels—in magazines and newspapers. These periodicals, moreover, were distributed throughout the country, not only to those living in large cities and towns but also to those in small villages and rural areas.

The ramifications of this dramatic increase in the production, distribution, and readership of fiction-bearing periodicals were substantial. Most important for literary historians was this: because the industry required a steady and vastly greater supply of fiction, a rapidly growing number of aspiring authors were inspired to take up their pencils, pens (and later, typewriters) to create fiction of all types in hopes of earning money. A great many of them succeeded; by the end of this period, the occupation of “fiction author” was no longer regarded as something open only to members of the elite who could afford to write as a pastime but also to thousands of less-formally educated people of limited economic means. Readers, too, benefited immensely, since the periodical industry was now able to provide most Americans—regardless of income or place of residence—with access to a generally higher quality of fiction than had previously existed. Not all agree that these developments were wholly positive. Indeed, the specific effects of the periodical publishing industry’s transformation during this period remain the subject of much scholarly debate, with many print and literary historians contending that the new conditions greatly constrained or harmed authors and readers in various ways. As with all debates, of course, there are good arguments to be made for both viewpoints. Careful assessment of the evidence presented thus far, though, leads to the conclusion that compared to the conditions existing in 1865, most fiction authors and readers found their situations much improved by 1914.

Periodical Production and Markets in the Antebellum Era

During the antebellum years there was a sizable number of newspapers and magazines published in the United States. However, due to limitations of printing technologies, the reliance on cotton-based paper, inchoate distribution networks, and a relatively undeveloped transportation system, most had limited production, were relatively expensive, and circulated only locally or, at best, regionally. The advent of steam-powered printing in the 1830s enabled some newspapers in large cities such as New York to have much larger press runs and sell for only one cent each (hence the term “Penny Press”); Benjamin Day’s New York Sun, James Gordon Bennett’s New York Herald, and Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune, for instance, dominated their local and regional markets. Most American newspapers, however, continued to be produced using older printing technologies and were limited to small press runs and purely local distribution. It is significant to point out, too, that with only a few exceptions (such as southern newspapers publishing works by writers now generally known as “Southwestern humorists”), few newspapers of the antebellum era featured fiction; most, financially backed by political parties, focused on providing information rather than entertainment. Newspapers thus played almost no role in meeting the market demand for fiction during this period.

Somewhat more important as sources of fiction for American readers before the Civil War were periodicals that resembled newspapers physically but had quite different contents. Some were founded by various religious organizations, sporting associations, labor groups, and so forth. Probably the most powerful testament to the influence of this type of periodical was the immense success of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which was serialized in forty-one installments in the National Era, a Washington, DC, antislavery paper, between June 5, 1851, and April 1, 1852. According to one source, at least fifty thousand people read Stowe’s novel in this format, which “means that Stowe’s story would have been one of the most widely read 19th century American novels even if it had never been published in book form.”1

Printing even more fiction (and with a wider circulation) were the “literary weeklies,” more commonly known as “story papers,” which were also physically akin to newspapers. These began appearing in the 1830s and proved enormously popular. In their early days, story papers generally sold for three cents, were only four pages long, and were printed in a large format (deemed “blanket sheets”). Pioneers in the field were the Philadelphia Saturday Courier (begun in 1831), Brother Jonathan (1839), New World (1839), and the Saturday Evening Post, which began its life as a story paper in 1821. These papers all included some “news” items and features, but they consisted chiefly of fiction copied from other periodicals or British books; absent an international copyright agreement, the latter practice was completely legal for American publishers—and quite profitable as well. By their heyday in the 1850s and 1860s, story papers usually sold for five or six cents and contained more original material, including “anywhere from five to eight serialized stories, as well as correspondence, brief sermons, humor, fashion advice, and bits of arcane knowledge.”2

Joining the early pioneers in this field was a new generation of story papers that achieved even greater success. These included Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper (founded in 1855), Street and Smith’s New York Weekly Dispatch (established earlier but revitalized in 1855), and Robert Bonner’s New York Ledger (begun in 1856). These story papers, like their predecessors, aimed to present highly entertaining, morally upright fiction that would offend no one in the family; plot-driven romances, adventures, and luck-and-pluck stories predominated. Sold nationwide at newsstands and by subscription through the mail, these publications reached very large, socioeconomically diverse national audiences.3 For example, the New York Weekly claimed that its circulation climbed from 80,000 per week in 1859 to 150,000 in 1863, and 300,000 in 1870, while the New York Ledger reported a circulation of 400,000 per week in 1860.4

There were also a small number of magazines that aimed to provide a higher grade of literary material during the antebellum years; however, because of their generally high price and literacy demands, they had a limited readership. One of the first of these was the Southern Literary Messenger, founded in 1834 and discontinued in 1864; others followed, but not all survived the war years. These included Godey’s Lady’s Book (1840–1898), Peterson’s (1840–1858), Harper’s New Monthly Magazine (1850–present), and the Atlantic Monthly (1857–present). None of these had circulations above thirty thousand per issue or reached readers beyond major metropolitan areas.

Technological, Institutional, and Organizational Innovations in Periodical Publishing After the Civil War

During the Civil War and subsequent half century, this relatively small-scale American periodical publishing world was completely transformed into a large-scale, highly capitalized industry that reached a wide variety of markets across the country. This could never have happened without a number of related technological and organizational advances. For instance, the soda-alkali process of creating paper from cheap wood pulp instead of from expensive cotton was introduced in the 1860s, followed by the sulfite process in the 1880s. In the 1880s, too, the use of Ottmar Mergenthaler’s linotype machines became more widespread, making it easier and cheaper to typeset greater quantities of print matter than ever. Possibly the most important technological development during this period, though, was the introduction by many American periodical publishers of more rotary and web perfecting presses and continuous-roll paper dryers to their plants. These presses turned out not only substantially more copies of each publication with less labor and in a shorter time, but they also could print exciting illustrations. During the 1860s and early 1870s, the infrequent illustrations in periodicals had been woodcuts, which were beautiful yet expensive to produce. Innovations in illustration reproduction beginning in the 1870s—first zincographs (line cuts etched by acid on zinc plates), then photo engravings in the 1880s, and finally halftone photographic reproductions in the 1890s—made periodicals much more attractive to readers, especially those with lower levels of literacy. By 1914, most modern American newspapers and magazines were filled with illustrations, many of which accompanied the fiction serialized in their pages.

The last major factor contributing to this period’s accelerated mass production of newspapers and magazines was the substantial growth in advertising. Before the Civil War, most newspapers relied on funding from political parties for start-up capital and operating expenses, and the majority of magazines subsisted on revenues from subscriptions. By the 1880s, however, advertising revenues had become the key component of almost all periodical publishers’ profits. Numerous department stores were established in major cities across the country during this period, and various manufacturers were actively trying to supplant locally known and/or generic products with nationally known, name-brand products; to achieve their aims, these businesses needed to advertise heavily in specific metropolitan areas and also to geographically widespread audiences. As is still the case, during this era it was advertising that provided the funds necessary to establish and operate a periodical.

All of the technological developments that made mass-produced print products possible and cheaper to create would have been useless if there had not been more readers/consumers literate enough to read them. Fortunately for the periodical industry, during the final decades of the 19th century a remarkable number of people were able to achieve at least minimal literacy, thanks in large part to many more Americans having access to one of the nation’s most important institutions: the public school. In 1870 there were 6,871,522 public school students, representing approximately 17 percent of the total population, and by 1900 this number had grown to 15,503,110, or 20 percent of the total population; even as the number of immigrants swelled after 1900, the percentage of students relative to the overall population remained at about 20 percent.5 It should be remembered, too, that millions more children and adults were learning to read in religious schools, night schools, and other institutions. The one area of the country remaining particularly underserved by public education was the South. Nationally, though, as a result of all these educational opportunities, illiteracy declined in the United States from 20 percent of those over ten years old in 1870 to 10.7 percent in 1900 and 7.7 percent in 1910.6 Although the literacy rate of most Americans was still probably rather low, it nonetheless would have sufficiently enabled the vast majority to comprehend the contents of almost all newspapers and magazines. Richard Altick underscores this point when he writes that the minimal literacy skills of Americans in 1900, especially among recent immigrants, “did not encourage the average working-class reader to aspire beyond the magazines and newspapers that were carefully designed for his limited comprehension.”7

Also contributing to the increased number, production, and circulation of periodicals were new institutions and organizations that made distribution to more markets and readers possible; without these, there would have been no point in producing more periodicals. In 1869, the transcontinental railroad was completed, and in the following decades, the total number of railroad miles greatly expanded. Once again, however, the South lagged behind. Elsewhere in the country, though, the enlarged railroad network allowed centralized periodical production facilities—chiefly concentrated in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia—to send their products quickly and reliably to markets far from the urban northeast. Aiding in the streamlined distribution of periodicals, too, were a number of wholesale periodical distributors, the most important of which was the American News Company, founded in 1864 and still in operation in 1914.

The growing public library system also made a greater number of periodicals available to a wider range of readers nationwide. Libraries of all kinds—public, mercantile, college, state, circulating, and subscription—became ubiquitous in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and they all subscribed to a great many newspapers and magazines, most all of which contained works of fiction. A perusal of the Finding List for Books in the Portland [Maine] Institute and Public Library, April 1, 1869, for instance, indicates that this library carried at least twenty-four different periodicals, ranging from the local newspaper, the Portland Transcript, to the Atlantic Monthly from Boston, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine from New York, and Blackwoods from England.8 Because public libraries charged low membership fees (typically about one dollar a year) and had few policies that might exclude potential patrons, they served an especially heterogeneous group of readers.9 At the time of the nation’s Centennial celebration in 1876 there were still only approximately 187 public libraries, 127 of them in Massachusetts.10 But during the next few decades, the number of public libraries and their geographic reach grew rapidly, due mainly to the philanthropic efforts of Andrew Carnegie. The only region in which there continued to be few public libraries during this period was the South, due to low literacy levels among its population, lack of taxpayer support, and resistance to the idea of publicly financing facilities that might be expected to be non-segregated. Obtaining precise statistics charting this expansion of the nation’s library system is not easy due to variations in the data collected; however, to provide a rough benchmark, in 1900 there were 5,383 public, society, and school libraries with more than a thousand volumes in their collections, containing a total of 44.5 million volumes. By 1913 the number of such libraries had slightly declined, but their collections had ballooned to a total of 80.6 million volumes.11

An impressive number of periodicals, many of which published fiction, were made available to American readers through public libraries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The lists of newspapers and magazines taken during this era by some urban public libraries such as those in New York, Providence, Hartford, Boston, Detroit, Chicago, and Pittsburgh, were incredibly extensive. In 1884 the Boston Public Library and its branch locations made available to its readers 798 different periodicals. In 1897, the Buffalo Public Library subscribed to 56 weekly periodicals, 151 monthly magazines, and 36 quarterlies, and the Periodicals and Other Serials finding list for the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh ran to twenty-eight pages of small print in 1908.12 Even mid-size city libraries carried a large number of newspapers and magazines; the growth of the periodical holdings at the Omaha, Nebraska, public library was representative. In 1878 (just one year after the library’s founding), the library’s catalog listed no periodicals at all. By 1880, it included ten periodicals; in 1882 there were fifteen periodicals, and by 1885, there were twenty-seven bound periodical titles listed, with many more available in the reading room. In 1888, fifty bound periodical titles are named in the library’s Finding List, with more in the reading room. And by 1898, the library subscribed to 15 newspapers and 105 magazines. Finally, in 1914 the library carried 249 magazines and 51 newspapers.13 In small town and village libraries serving less populous areas, too, patrons normally could choose from at least a dozen periodicals, including such favorites as Harper’s Monthly, Atlantic Monthly, Ladies’ Home Journal, and St. Nicholas—all of which regularly published fiction in their pages. A typical example was Illinois’s Belleville Public Library. In 1900 it not only provided patrons with copies of the leading periodicals in its reading room but also had complete or nearly complete runs of back issues of Atlantic Monthly, Blackwood’s Edinburgh Review, Century, Forum, Harper’s Monthly, Nation, North American Review, Scribner’s Magazine, and St. Nicholas.14

Probably the most important periodical distributor of all, however, was the US Post Office. In 1863, City Free Delivery was established in every city with a population of over fifty thousand, and in 1873 this service was extended to every city with a population over thirty thousand; by 1890, nineteen million of the nation’s seventy-six million people had mail delivered free to their door, mainly in urban areas.15 Service to rural areas also improved somewhat during this period, but truly equal access to story papers, magazines, and newspapers through the mail for rural residents came only after the turn of the century, with the extension of the Rural Free Delivery (RFD) system, first introduced in 1896. By 1915, Rural Free Delivery routes alone measured 1,067,074 miles.16 Further assisting the circulation of periodicals through the mail were increasingly favorable postal rates, such as those guaranteed under the 1879 Postal Act: First-class postage cost three cents per half ounce or fraction thereof, while second-class matter, including all periodicals, could be mailed for only two cents per pound.17

The result was a simply staggering volume of periodicals circulated through the mail. In 1868, the US Postal Service delivered 16,910,715 newspapers, and in 1871, it delivered 32,610,353. By 1880, there were 812,032,000 newspapers passing through the mail, along with 40,148,792 magazines and other periodicals.18 By 1911, over one billion newspapers and magazines were already being delivered along Rural Free Delivery routes alone.19 Virtually all potential markets within the United States were thus covered by the postal delivery network by the beginning of World War I.

The Proliferation of Periodicals Publishing Fiction After the Civil War

All these technological, institutional, and organizational developments created conditions that encouraged many people to try their hand at periodical publishing. Some simply wished to make a living from this work, while others hoped to reap huge profits or achieve cultural influence. The result was an incredible increase in the number and variety of periodicals founded during the period 1865 to 1914, a great many of which featured fiction. Continuing the trend begun before the war, story papers dominated as purveyors of fiction during the 1860s and 1870s. Among such publications were a number of New York City–based titles: James Elverson’s Saturday Night, established in 1865, Frank Leslie’s Frank Leslie’s Chimney Corner (1865), Beadle & Adams’s Saturday Journal (1870), Norman Munro’s Family Story Paper (1873), and Beadle & Adams’s Beadle’s Weekly (1882). Joining this group, though, were a trio of immensely popular story papers published out of the unlikely location of Augusta, Maine. There, E. C. Allen started the People’s Literary Companion in 1869, chiefly to promote his own brand of washing powder; containing light fiction, too, this paper’s circulation had already reached half a million by 1870.20 Other Augusta-based story papers that “lived by the advertising of companies that sold their products by direct mail” were Vickery’s Fireside Visitor (1874) and Our Fireside Journal (1875).21 Appealing chiefly to less literate, working-class readers, all of these publications were distributed throughout the country, chiefly through the mail, and most of them enjoyed circulations in the hundreds of thousands per issue until the late 1870s; after that, other inexpensive forms of periodicals carrying fiction threatened their sales and influence.

Genteel Monthly Magazines

A large number of monthly and weekly magazines regularly publishing fiction were also founded during this period. While there had been only 700 American magazines of all kinds published in 1865, there were 1,200 in 1870; 3,300 in 1885; 4,400 in 1890; and 5,500 in 1900.22 Thus, while the population of the United States had only increased 113 percent from 1865 to 1900, the number of magazines published from 1865 to 1900 increased 686 percent.23 In addition, the overall circulation and readership of magazines skyrocketed. For a variety of reasons, completely reliable circulation figures for periodicals during this period are almost impossible to obtain. Yet even taken in round terms, Richard Altick’s statement about the circulation increases of late 19th- and early 20th-century magazines is striking:

In 1885 the only four magazines with circulations of over 100,000 had sold an aggregate of 600,000 a month; by 1905 there were five times as many [selling over 100,000 per month], and their total sale was more than 5,500,000 copies.24

Regularly publishing what was regarded as “quality” fiction during this era were monthly general-interest magazines, women’s magazines, children’s magazines, regionally produced magazines, self-consciously “artistic” magazines, and those intended to represent various ethnic and racial groups. All represented particular market segments, but they also often overlapped; a single middle-class home, for instance, might subscribe to three or even four of these in addition to one or two daily newspapers.

Up until approximately 1885, the periodicals that dominated the higher end of the American literary marketplace were a select group of monthly general-interest magazines, all published in major cities of the Northeast and, at thirty-five cents per issue or $4.00 per year, priced for a genteel audience. Two of these, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine and the Atlantic Monthly, had been founded before the Civil War; these were joined after the war by Lippincott’s (1868–1915), Scribner’s Monthly (founded in 1870, it was sold to the Century Company in 1881 and returned from 1887 to 1939 as Scribner’s Magazine), and Century (1881–1929). Each issue of these magazines typically included, in addition to news features, biographical sketches, travel accounts, and so forth, one or two short stories and one installment of a serialized novel. Any author with pretensions to artistic and critical renown regarded publication in one of these magazines as a great achievement, and because of these magazines’ high-culture affiliations, it is no surprise that almost every author whose work still appears in an American or British literary anthology had at least one short story or novel published in these venues. As Richard Brodhead has accurately concluded, “Virtually all of the major authors of the post-Civil War generation supported themselves financially by publishing in the new journals of this [genteel] literary establishment, and supported themselves artistically by appealing to its system of cultural values.”25 Among the critically respected authors of the day who regularly published their work in these magazines were Henry James, Robert Louis Stevenson, William Dean Howells, Rebecca Harding Davis, Rudyard Kipling, Sarah Orne Jewett, Joseph Conrad, Stephen Crane, Thomas Hardy, George Washington Cable, Mark Twain, Hamlin Garland, and Mary Wilkins Freeman.

Occupying the high ground of critical esteem and publishing only “artistic” (chiefly “realistic”) fiction that demanded high levels of literacy, however, had its drawbacks. One was relatively low sales and thus only minimal advertising revenues. Henry Mills Alden, long-term editor of Harper’s Monthly magazine, stated in 1908 that “the magazines whose constituency is limited to a cultivated audience . . . cannot meet the demands of that audience by the adoption of any standard lower than the best. It cannot seek writers whose sole aim is popularity or those who have achieved only that.”26 The circulations of these magazines hence paled in comparison to those of story papers. In 1860, the average individual circulation of all monthly magazines stood at a mere twelve thousand.27 And most of these periodicals continued to have relatively low circulations during the next half century. For example, the Atlantic Monthly, considered by many as the most prestigious venue for quality fiction, had only 12,000 subscribers in 1881; 14,000 in 1898; and 28,000 in 1914.28 More successful at reaching larger audiences later in the century were Harper’s Monthly, Century, and Scribner’s Magazine. Harper’s Monthly circulated two hundred thousand copies per issue in 1885, while Century averaged approximately two hundred thousand copies per issue through the 1880s.29 Yet, by 1900 the circulation of both had declined to about 150,000 each, and Scribner’s sold only 165,000 copies per issue.30 By 1914, Harper’s Monthly was selling only 100,000 copies per month, Century 70,000, and Scribner’s 150,000.31 Although these magazines were commonly available in public libraries across the country, and could be mailed to subscribers anywhere, the bulk of their readership continued to be among those living in the Northeast or, if elsewhere in the country, in larger cities and towns along rail lines.

There were multiple reasons for the declining market share of these periodicals, including their rather staid fiction selections and their late start embracing illustrations and advertising. The most significant cause of their reduced readership and importance, however, was simply that beginning in the 1880s, more and more periodicals were founded that competed with them for the best fiction being produced and were able to steal some of these monthlies’ readers, all the while reaching new demographic groups and markets.

Women’s Magazines

One of the first categories of magazine to encroach on the dominance of the more conservative general interest monthlies were those directed primarily at women. Besides running advice columns, articles, and other materials of interest to women, all of these magazines published a good deal of fiction, some of it by the same authors appearing in the genteel monthlies. Godey’s Lady’s Book, founded in 1837 and edited from then until 1877 by Sara Josepha Hale, proved quite popular before and during the war, achieving a peak circulation of approximately 150,000 in the 1860s.32 In 1878, however, publisher Louis Godey died and so did the magazine. The chief representatives of a new generation of women’s magazines that followed in the footsteps of Godey’s were a group Mary Ellen Zuckerman terms “The Big Six”: Delineator (1873–1937), McCall’s (1897–present), Ladies’ Home Journal (1883–present), Ladies’ [later Woman’s] Home Companion (1886–1937), Good Housekeeping (1885–present), and Pictorial Review (1899–1939). All “targeted the same group of educated, middle-class white women . . . [and] developed editorial content, price, and distribution channels with these customers in mind.”33 Filled with many pages of national advertising appealing to middle-class homemakers, these magazines could afford to offer extremely low subscription and newsstand prices, making them attractive and accessible to a great number of people. Nonetheless, their circulation did remain somewhat restricted. The case of the Ladies’ Home Journal was probably quite typical. Salme Harju Steinberg notes that its publisher, Cyrus Curtis, once “estimated that by 1891, 75 percent of Journal circulation was in towns over 10,000 in population,” and that in 1893 Curtis “stated more precisely that the majority of Journal readers lived in the suburbs of large cities and were the respectable, church-attending people; also, he was convinced that his small-town readers belonged to the professional ranks in their communities.”34

Other women’s magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar (1867–present) and Vogue (1892–present), both directed toward upper-class women, also often published important works of fiction; the latter, for instance, carried nineteen stories by Kate Chopin, including some of her most famous ones: “The Dream of an Hour,” “The Father of Desirée’s Baby,” and “A Pair of Silk Stockings.” All told, women’s magazines published a great many works of fiction in their pages and circulated them to an ever-increasing number of readers. By 1891, the Ladies’ Home Journal had a circulation of 600,000, Delineator one of 393,000, and Woman’s Home Companion one of 125,000.35 In February 1903, the Ladies’ Home Journal became the first American periodical to achieve a circulation of one million, and by 1912 its average circulation per issue was 1,538,360; it was followed by McCall’s at 1,084,902; Delineator at 930,600; Woman’s Home Companion at 758,155; Pictorial Review at 616,156; and Good Housekeeping at 300,000.36

Children’s Periodicals

Also extremely popular among a particular segment of the audience were children’s magazines and newspapers. The two that dominated this market during the late 19th and early 20th centuries were the magazine St. Nicholas (1873–1943) and the newspaper-format Youth’s Companion (1827–1929), but other children’s magazines, such as Wide Awake (1875–1893) and Harper’s Young People (1879–1895) also had substantial audiences. Quite understandably, these periodicals’ fiction offerings all avoided harsh realistic or naturalistic subjects or treatments and usually contained some moral message; nonetheless, their quality was generally quite high. At a time when many authors, even those seeking critical acclaim for their work, wished to also engage younger readers, these magazines were able to attract contributions from a great many well-respected and popular writers. Just a few of those whose works St. Nicholas published were Rebecca Harding Davis, Celia Thaxter, Frank Stockton, Louisa May Alcott, Frances Hodgson Burnett (whose serialized novel, Little Lord Fauntleroy, was a huge success), Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Sarah Orne Jewett. Youth’s Companion boasted an even more impressive lineup; during these decades it published fiction by Mark Twain, Charles Egbert Craddock (Mary Noailles Murfree), Jack London, Charles Chesnutt, Kate Chopin, Sui Sin Far (Edith Eaton), Sarah Orne Jewett, Mary Wilkins Freeman, and Hamlin Garland.

Children—and the adults who wished to inculcate certain middle-class values in the new generations of Americans—welcomed these magazines. Recognizing its prime audience, the Youth’s Companion noted in one advertisement in 1900, “The Companion aims to be an important factor in home life and family training—to influence its readers rightly by developing and satisfying a taste for pure literature.”37 As author Elia Peattie told the Authors’ Congress of the Chicago’s World Columbian Exposition in 1893, because of these new magazines “the child knew presently what it was to see childhood pictured, by artists and by writers. It saw that its joys, its tears, its temptations had at last come to be appreciated.”38 Of the two, St. Nicholas had the lower circulation; according to Frank Luther Mott, “It seems to have gained a satisfactory circulation at once [after its founding in 1873] and to have kept in the neighborhood of 70,000 for many years,” with a certified circulation in 1914 of sixty thousand.39 In comparison, Youth’s Companion in the late 1890s had a readership of approximately 500,000, and even in 1914 still sold 450,000 copies per week.40

The readerships of these magazines were limited chiefly to middle-class white children and their families, but it should be acknowledged that these readers also were widely dispersed geographically across the United States and even abroad. A sampling of readers’ printed correspondence with these magazines—whether responses to prize contests or inquiries to the editor—indicate that they were read not only in incredibly isolated locales within the United States but also in foreign countries. For instance, in just one issue of St. Nicholas’s regular section entitled “The Letter Box” in 1889, letters came from Whittier, California; Honolulu, Hawaiian Islands; Manitowoc, Wisconsin; Melbourne, Australia; Boulder Valley, Montana Territory; Pottsville, Pennsylvania; Washington, DC; Caldwell, New Jersey; St. Albans, Vermont; and Lake Roland, Maryland.41 The Youth’s Companion even went so far as to regularly advertise for subscriptions using maps of the United States that showed the number of subscribers in each state, including some of the most sparsely populated ones; as early as 1888, for instance, in an advertisement headlined, “Two Millions of Readers Weekly,” it reported that in Nevada it had 437 subscribers; Utah Territory, 407; Idaho Territory, 454; Arizona Territory, 214; and New Mexico 321.42 These magazines were also quite popular among young library patrons across the country. Print historian Christine Pawley cites an 1895 article in the Mitchell County [Iowa] Press that offered this observation about the public library in Osage, Iowa: “A visitor to the library at almost any hour during the week will usually find a number of people occupying the reading room. The young people go there to read the young people’s magazines and newspapers.”43

Miscellaneous Magazines

Also emerging as significant purveyors of fiction during this period were magazines produced outside of the urban Northeast. Most of their readers came from within their regions of origin, but because a major goal of most of these magazines was to represent their locales positively in order to attract investment and new inhabitants, they were also circulated well beyond these regions. Few such magazines could be found in the South, where general literacy was limited, but many magazines were established during these years in the Midwest and the West. In the Midwest, for example, one could find Reedy’s Mirror of St. Louis and the Midland Monthly of Des Moines; in the Pacific Northwest, The Westerner of Seattle published many excellent works by the noted Chinese American author Sui Sin Far. The state of California spawned an especially high number of magazines carrying high-quality fiction. The Overland Monthly, founded in San Francisco in 1868, published works by Bret Harte, Jack London, Mark Twain, Willa Cather, Charles Chesnutt, and Sui Sin Far. Other notable San Francisco magazines were the Argonaut (1877–1956), the Wasp (1876–1941) and The Wave (1887–1901); Ambrose Bierce regularly contributed to the Argonaut and Wasp, and Frank Norris to The Wave. In Los Angeles, Land of Sunshine: An Illustrated Monthly of Southern California, under the direction of editor and publisher Charles F. Lummis, was founded in 1894; until its name change to Out West in 1902, this publication made available to its readers not only fiction by Sui Sin Far, Joaquin Miller, and Grace Ellery Channing but also some by Charlotte Perkins Stetson (Gilman).

Significantly, too, numerous periodicals specifically addressing readers from various ethnic and racial backgrounds were founded during this era, including those foreign-language ones aimed at members of certain immigrant groups. The most important such periodicals, at least so far as we know now, were those produced by and for African American audiences. Colored American Magazine (1900–1909) is most notable for having serialized a number of novels by its editor, the African American author Pauline Hopkins. Another significant publication was the Southern Workman (1881–1929), published at the Hampton Agricultural and Technical Institute in Virginia, which served both African American and Native American students. Targeting members of these two groups as well as white allies, this magazine included fiction not only by the African American author Charles Chesnutt but also by Native American author John Oskison.

With the increasing digitization of periodicals from this era, including lesser-known ones originally published by and for representatives of various ethnic and racial groups, it is almost certain that even more fiction by now-unknown writers, many themselves from these groups, will be discovered. Such recovery work is at the center, in fact, of Eric Gardner’s Unexpected Places: Relocating Nineteenth-Century African American Literature and Transnationalism and American Serial Fiction, edited by Patricia Okker. Gardner, wishing to expand the boundaries of what is considered “literary,” searched in all kinds of unexpected places for African American writing, including the weekly San Francisco literary magazine Elevator in the 1860s and 1870s and the Philadelphia-based Christian Recorder paper, affiliated with the AME Church. Gardner calls the latter “a truly national paper” that was “the most important black periodical in the nation” in the 1870s. He makes this claim based not only on the fact that this is where Frances Ellen Watkins Harper published novels such as Minnie’s Sacrifice (1869) and Sowing and Reaping (1876–1877) but also that in 1878 it printed an accomplished serialized novel entitled John Blye, written by an African American author named William Steward. In Okker’s edited collection, essays by Peter Connolly-Smith, Ulf Jonas Bjork, and Bénédicte Deschamps examine fiction that appeared in German-, Swedish-, and Italian-language periodicals published in the United States.44

As Eric Lupfer correctly notes, already by the 1870s, “Nearly every occupation, pastime, and special interest had its own set of related periodicals”; this trend continued unabated throughout the following decades, and most of those periodicals contained at least some fiction. There were, for instance, a growing number of humor magazines, such as the immensely popular Puck (1877–1918) and Judge (1881–1947).45 Periodicals with religious affiliations also proliferated. Sarah Orne Jewett published seven stories in The Congregationalist (1849–present), a great many prominent authors published in the Congregational Church–affiliated The Independent (1848–1928), and Kate Chopin published stories not only in the Catholic Home Journal but also in American Jewess. To a struggling writer, any paying periodical would do; undoubtedly this is what accounts for the appearance of one Chopin story in the Philadelphia Musical Journal in 1889 and a story by Hamlin Garland in the Northwestern Miller of Minneapolis in 1893.

Numerous avant-garde magazines, usually having limited readership, also came and went with surprising rapidity; many, though, published works by authors who would later be recognized as some of the period’s best. During their brief periods of existence, for instance, Black Cat (1895–1920), Fly Leaf (1895–1896), Two Tales (1892–1893), and Lotus (1895–1897) magazines brought to readers’ attention the work of young writers such as Jack London, Kate Chopin, and Sui Sin Far. Often, publication in one of these smaller periodicals at a key moment in an author’s career could mean the difference between their continuing to pursue a literary career or giving up. As Jack London wrote in 1911, at a point when he had been receiving nothing but rejections from editors and “was at the end of my tether, beaten out, starved, ready to go back to coal-shoveling or ahead to suicide,” he received a letter from H. D. Umbstaetter, the editor of Black Cat, accepting one of his stories and offering generous payment. “To many a writer with a national reputation,” London recalled, “the ‘Black Cat’ has been the stepping stone”; for himself, he stated, “I know he [Umbstaetter] made me possible. He saved my literary life, if not my literal life.”46

Newspapers as Fiction Publishers

Although the majority of periodical studies involving literary works in the late 19th and early 20th centuries have focused on magazines, the print medium that made the most fiction available to American readers on a regular basis was, somewhat surprisingly, the daily and weekly newspaper. Newspapers had long been regarded as purveyors chiefly of news and editorial opinion and thus of interest almost exclusively to those studying journalism and history. However, scholars have become increasingly aware of how newspapers, beginning in the early 1880s, increasingly used various entertainment offerings, including fiction, to attract new readers and expand their market shares. In doing so, they were, whether consciously or not, emulating Harper’s Weekly, a popular newspaper-format publication founded in 1857 that continued in operation until 1916. During its early years, it not only included important news stories that were less time sensitive than those in daily papers but also many serial novels by well-known British authors. By the 1890s, this twenty-page general-interest paper, selling for ten cents a copy, was publishing an eclectic mix of excellent fiction, such as stories by Hamlin Garland, Rudyard Kipling, Richard Harding Davis, and Owen Wister, as well as serial novels by Henry B. Fuller, Mary E. Wilkins (Freeman), Henry James, and William Dean Howells.47 Such works reached a great many readers, as a writer for the Louisville Courier-Journal attested in 1897: “With a circulation of 150,000, the Weekly is read by at least half a million persons, and its influence as an organ of opinion is simply tremendous.”48

It was during the Civil War that American readers truly became addicted to newspaper reading: They deemed it vital to know as soon as possible about events happening far away from them and especially those affecting the fate of their loved ones. After the fighting had stopped, this addiction continued, and thousands more newspapers were established across the westward-expanding country. In 1860, there were 387 daily newspapers in the United States and 3,173 weekly papers; and in 1870 there were 574 dailies and 4,295 weeklies. By 1880, however, there were 971 daily newspapers and 8,633 weeklies.49 Because newspaper reading involved contact with the hurly-burly world of public affairs, at the time was commonly regarded as a male-coded activity. However, beginning in the early 1880s, newspaper publishers began a major campaign to reach more women readers because they, as the controllers of household spending in most American families, were highly valued by advertisers. Newspaper publishers and editors consequently cast about for material that would make the newspaper acceptable reading for women and their families. These men became convinced that short stories and serialized novels would prove especially attractive, and thus works of fiction began being regularly included not only in the columns of many Saturday and Sunday editions but also in weekday ones.

Whether large numbers of women actually became avid readers of newspapers during this period is still uncertain, but newspapers containing fiction proved extremely popular among people from all socioeconomic levels. Expanded weekend editions of newspapers cost only five cents for their usual sixteen to forty-eight pages or so of highly readable material, and daily papers typically sold for only two cents. Cheap, easily available, containing information valuable to all classes and groups, and requiring only basic literacy and a minimum of spare time, the metropolitan daily newspaper was read by people from all walks of life. One typical example was the Chicago Daily News, which one knowledgeable writer noted in 1893,

goes everywhere in Chicago. It is read by rich and poor alike, for the carrier service reaches every street and every square in the city. It is a matter of record that as many copies are sold per 1,000 people in the silk stocking wards as in the district where the workingmen live.50

Given their low price, it is not surprising that many newspapers’ circulation figures, especially those of papers published in large metropolitan areas, put to shame most of the large national magazines described previously. For instance, the largest New York City newspapers, Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World and William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal, claimed to circulate 600,000 and 430,000 copies respectively in 1896.51 While these of course represented the apex of American newspaper circulation, other major city newspapers also enjoyed considerable sales. For example, in October 1899 the Boston Globe circulated an average of 190,743 copies each day Monday through Saturday, but the Boston Sunday Globe had a circulation of 253,182.52 It is commonly estimated that an average of four people read each newspaper, so this means that roughly 780,000 people were probably reading the Globe each day, and one million people were reading the Sunday edition. This pattern was repeated in many other places across the country: by the turn of the century and in the following decade, most major metropolitan dailies regularly measured their circulations in the hundreds of thousands. Significantly, too, most large cities at this time had at least three to four papers enjoying similar sales.

The implications of these circulation figures for fiction distribution and reading are enormous because almost all newspapers from the mid-1880s onward contained sketches, short stories, and/or serial novels, either in their weekday or weekend editions. In many cases, individual newspapers simply published contributions of fiction written by local authors; innumerable writers whose names have long been consigned to the dust heap of history had their work published in local papers. Authors whose names are more recognizable today, though, also often reached audiences first through local newspapers. As early as 1862, Mark Twain, for instance, had begun contributing various pieces to the Virginia City, Nevada, Territorial Enterprise. In the late 1870s Joel Chandler Harris, an editor at the Atlanta Constitution, started publishing his popular Uncle Remus stories in that paper. Kate Chopin published some of her first works of fiction in her local St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 1889, and after her move to Louisiana, she also had a number of her stories appear in the Shreveport Times and New Orleans Times-Democrat. At the end of the century, in 1898, the then-unknown Frank Norris published his novel Moran of the “Lady Letty” first in The Wave magazine of San Francisco but also in the New York Sun, and in the fall of 1899, he published his novel A Man’s Woman almost simultaneously in the San Francisco Chronicle and New York Evening Sun.53

The business organizations most responsible for the exponential expansion of fiction reading in newspapers, however, were newspaper syndicates. In the mid-1880s, a number of entrepreneurs came up with the idea of having authors publish their fictions not just one time in one paper but instead having them publish the same work multiple times in large groups of newspapers, thus combining numerous localized markets that had previously been separate. The most prominent American fiction syndicates were the American Press Association, established in 1882, and two founded in 1884: one was called the Associated Literary Press, run by S. S. McClure (later a famous magazine editor), and the other went by the name Bacheller & Co., named for its founder Irving Bacheller (who at the turn of the century would become a best-selling novelist himself). All of these syndicates arranged to purchase from authors what were known as “first serial rights” to their original fiction. The syndicate would then distribute these works—either, in the case of the American Press Association, in stereotype plate form, or, in the cases of McClure and Bacheller, as printed galley proof sheets—to between twenty and forty newspapers across the country who had previously agreed to purchase the story or novel. These works of fiction were then published simultaneously on the same day (or sometimes one or two days before or after the assigned date); most were published in the Saturday or Sunday editions, for these carried the most advertising.54

One of the most innovative aspects of these newspaper syndicates’ operations was that their wares were distributed to multiple local newspapers, each of which was responsible for printing its own paper and distributing it. Almost every one of these subscribing metropolitan newspapers strove to become a regional paper with an ever-widening territory, since this type of market coverage was what the newspaper could sell to potential advertisers and thereby increase profits. In general, newspapers were much more successful than magazines at the time in penetrating local and regional markets; each newspaper a syndicate sold its wares to was typically distributed not only within its originating city but also often throughout its region, which sometimes had a radius of over two hundred miles. New York City papers were especially well known for their efficient distribution system that utilized “special trains” engaged solely for carrying newspapers. One observer noted in 1900 that nine special trains out of New York were engaged to distribute the Sunday editions of daily papers, “and in addition there are wagon services from diverging [rail] points, so that the country within a radius taking in Boston, Washington, Pittsburg, and Buffalo is gridironed, and the papers are delivered by noon.”55 One report in 1890 noted that “the quiet streets of Washington [D.C.] ring with the cries of negro newsboys, who arrive with the New York [Sunday] papers in time to intercept people just as they are returning from morning service at church.”56

But the New York papers were not at all exceptional in this regard. For instance, as early as 1884, an editorial in the Atlanta Constitution could boast: “Early and swift trains now carry the Daily Constitution out on every road that reaches out from Atlanta. It reaches almost every point in Georgia, and penetrates into every adjoining state on the day of publication.”57 The Boston Globe, too, was read by many outside its metropolitan area; an 1891 contest to guess the murderer in a mystery serial drew responses from rural areas of Massachusetts as well as from small towns in every New England state.58 In addition, Edgar Watson Howe observed in 1891 that “Even in the west the big St. Louis dailies are delivered three hundred miles away by ten o’clock on the morning of publication,” and the “Chicago dailies are delivered on the Mississippi River by breakfast time.”59 What all this meant was (especially in the case of Bacheller and McClure) that any fiction they syndicated reached a heretofore unimaginably large and diverse audience. If one story were sold to thirty metropolitan newspapers located across the country, and ten of these had circulations of a hundred thousand while the others had sales of forty thousand each, that fiction reached, at a minimum, a diverse group of 1.8 million readers.

By joining together multiple local and regional markets, these syndicators not only reached a vast number of readers with their fiction but also greatly increased the amount they could pay authors for them. If each newspaper paid the syndicate even a relatively modest sum—say $30 for a short story or $200 for a serial novel—and the syndicate had thirty subscribers for that fiction, this meant that the syndicate would collect $900 for that single story or $6,000 for the novel. Given such potential revenues, syndicators could thus often pay much more to authors than could the editors of even the most prominent individual newspapers and magazines of the 1880s and early 1890s. Little wonder, then, that just about every major author of the period sold at least one story or novel to the syndicates. This list includes such luminaries as Stephen Crane, Henry James, F. Marion Crawford, Rudyard Kipling, Bret Harte, Thomas Hardy, Robert Louis Stevenson, Mark Twain, Charles Chesnutt, Mary Wilkins Freeman, and Frank Norris; a complete list would fill up many pages.

Because of the syndicates, readers of all classes and locales, scattered throughout the country, now had the opportunity to read a greater variety of fiction, and of a generally higher quality, than had previously been available to them. Just a few of the notable works syndicated by McClure and Bacheller were regional sketches by Charles Chesnutt, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s first Sherlock Holmes stories (1891), Henry James’s “The Real Thing” (1892), Mark Twain’s The American Claimant (1892), and Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage (1894). The broader range of materials offered by the syndicates, especially the greater number of works by American authors, clearly satisfied a previously unmet demand among American readers. As newspaper industry insider George Britt later recalled, at this time

the country’s non-magazine-buying millions were ripe for anyone who could interest them in reading. As yet there was no popular literature for them, no middle ground of periodicals between the Augusta dreadfuls [story papers] and the ponderous reviews [monthly general interest magazines] dealing in subject matter the average man cared nothing about at a price he couldn’t afford to pay.60

The Magazine Revolution of the 1890s

Newspaper syndicates, and the Sunday editions they helped popularize, amply demonstrated to potential magazine publishers that there existed a vast and relatively untapped national audience of readers who wished to read appealing fiction, both popular and literary. To meet this apparent demand, a new crop of entrepreneurs in the early 1890s—including S. S. McClure himself—founded a group of general-interest magazines unlike any previously available to American readers. Compared to their relatively staid predecessors, these magazines contained more fiction, illustrations, advertising, and news features dealing with contemporary issues. Some had their roots in the 1880s, including the Ladies’ Home Journal and Cosmopolitan. But it was the founding of McClure’s in June 1893, at the low price of fifteen cents per copy, or $1.50 per year, that ushered in a whole new era. The race was now on to boost circulation—and thus advertising revenues—by lowering the sale price of one’s magazine. The month after McClure’s first appeared, Cosmopolitan lowered its price to twelve and a half cents per copy, and a few months later Munsey’s Magazine went even further by reducing its price to ten cents per copy; in July 1895 both McClure’s and Cosmopolitan followed suit. Another earth-shaking event took place in 1897, when the reinvented weekly Saturday Evening Post was first offered for only a nickel per copy.

Combined with the much more advanced production and distribution capabilities of the 1890s, these magazines’ low prices and their appeal to what print historian James L. West III describes as “a vast middle-to-lowbrow American readership that hitherto had not been addressed successfully allowed them reach an immense heterogeneous national audience.61 In February 1903, the Ladies’ Home Journal became the first magazine to circulate more than one million copies an issue, but it was not alone for long: joining this “million-mark” club in late 1908 was the Saturday Evening Post. By 1913, four other monthly magazines also had circulations of over a half million.”62 Because of all these magazines’ large audiences, their advertising revenues soared; one quarter to one half of each issue often was taken up by paid advertising. In turn, this meant they could offer extremely large sums of money to both British and American fiction authors for their work, equivalent to and sometimes exceeding what the syndicates were paying. As the magazines and syndicates competed for authors’ productions, what became apparent was that while the syndicates might continue to succeed in purchasing fiction from most all the same authors the mass-market magazines did, the latter, possessing a bit higher cultural cachet than did the syndicates, tended to win the serial rights to these same authors’ better works. These mass-market magazines thus began to eclipse the syndicates in importance in the literary marketplace, and they dominated the field through the first decades of the 20th century.

The Benefits of Expanded Periodical Markets for Fiction Authors

For many years, scholars debated the effects of the expanded periodical marketplace on the period’s fiction authors, who supplied it with one of its most important products. Most have focused on what they contend was the overly steep price these authors paid for their expanded opportunities. Such criticism was actually first expressed by a small number of critics in the late 19th century. Edward W. Bok, editor of the Ladies’ Home Journal, in an 1895 essay entitled “The Modern Literary King,” bemoaned the way the new marketplace, with its infusion of great amounts of money, had compelled authors to sell their artistic souls and become essentially hired hands “under the thraldom of the modern literary king—the almighty dollar.” The particular target of Bok’s ire was the newspaper syndicate, which he called “the sewer of the author.”63 Such charges, however, were not unbiased; Bok was, like many other magazine editors, angry because the syndicates paid authors higher prices for their short stories and novels than most magazines had been paying; thus, the latter had been forced to increase their spending if they wished to continue obtaining quality material.

Editors, though, were not alone in complaining about the new conditions for authors in the periodical publishing world; some writers, among them Jack London, H. H. Boyesen, and Upton Sinclair, echoed Bok’s complaint, asserting that periodical editors had turned fiction authors into factory workers forced to produce mere entertainment and exclude the harsher realities of modern life from their work. Less prominent authors, too, pointed out that the reality of trying to make a living from one’s writing was far different from the way such a career path was often painted. Signing as “One of the Brotherhood,” one stated in The Writer magazine in 1900 that “theoretically, it seems so easy by means of pencil and paper, available to any one, to write undying words, and to tell stories that shall move the world, by means of which the name of the writer shall go thundering down the ages and be numbered among the immortal band,” but also warned, “many literary aspirants have entered New York . . . with manuscripts carefully written on one side of the paper . . . presently to find, only too quickly, that the most cherished illusions will fade, and that the world is, after all, very cold and unfeeling.”64

Such complaints about the modern author’s plight, however, deserve to be taken with a grain of salt. Certainly, not all aspiring fiction authors met with success by having their works accepted for publication and being paid well for it; the supply of fiction manuscripts still far exceeded the demand for them. Overall, however, it can be concluded that the impressive expansion of periodical markets between 1865 and 1914, especially because of the way it heightened competition for authors’ wares, led to more people than ever before being able to make their living by writing short stories and novels. American authors in particular had greater opportunities, for after the passage of the Chace Act of 1891, which required American publications to pay for copyrighted fiction by British authors, American periodical editors were much more willing to purchase works by their fellow Americans. The market for short stories was especially robust, and producing stories proved very lucrative for many authors. As the experienced writer James L. Ford put it in his 1904 account, The Literary Shop and Other Tales, “To the present literary era we are indebted . . . for the higher development of that peculiar form of fiction called the short story, the popularity of which has at least served to give employment to a large number of worthy people who would otherwise have been compelled to eke out an existence by humbler and more exhausting forms of labor.” He added, “No sooner had the short-story fever taken possession of the magazine offices [in the 1880s] than there appeared from various corners of the earth men, women, and children . . . bearing in their inky hands manuscript which in many instances they were fortunate enough to dispose of.”65

Adding his voice to those who approved of the new periodical marketplace was one of the most respected and knowledgeable voices of the period, the venerable William Dean Howells, who had extensive experience as both a fiction author and editor. He offered his candid assessment of the modern author’s situation in his 1893 essay, “The Man of Letters as a Man of Business.” He opined that while only a very few authors at that time were able to support themselves on their book royalties, “many authors live now, and live prettily enough, by the sale of the serial publication of their writings to the magazines,” as well as to the literary newspaper syndicates, which he says have “no doubt advanced the prosperity of the short story by increasing the demand for it.” He further offered his judgment that overall, those who write for magazines

do very fairly well, as things go; and several have incomes that would seem riches to the great mass of worthy Americans who work with their hands for a living—when they can get the work. Their incomes are mainly from serial publication in the different magazines; and the prosperity of the magazines has given a whole class existence which, as a class, was wholly unknown among us before the war.66

Literary historian Daniel H. Borus has echoed Howells and persuasively deconstructed the analogy of writer to factory worker, concluding that

unlike the emerging industrial proletariat, writers did not suffer erosion of work skills, sell their labor, punch a time clock, or toil under direct supervision. For all the editorial intervention of the Gilded Age, they kept control of their work process and retained the ability to initiate production.67

In general, the vast majority of fiction writers likely welcomed the new marketplace conditions dominated by periodicals, for above all else they desired the greater remuneration and financial security made possible by them. These authors understood and accepted, in ways that modern scholars generally have not, that the higher wages paid by syndicates and magazines were not possible unless authors occasionally gave up some artistic control over their work, including over subject matter, treatment, and length.

The Greatest Beneficiaries: Readers

The question of whether the impact of the great expansion of periodical production and circulation during the period 1865 to 1914 was more positive or negative for readers, and what effects all this fiction reading might have had on them, were hotly debated at the time and are still a matter of much scholarly discussion. Some during this era felt that the average reader simply could not reasonably read and properly digest all that had become available to them. As one writer described the average reader’s situation in 1893:

Such an amount of reading is offered him now for two cents that he feels that he cannot afford to take in less than two or three newspapers, and the magazines are so cheap and so admirable that he must read one or two of them every month.

The result, this commentator concluded, was that “the contemporary reader is thought to be in pretty deep waters, and doubts are now and then expressed as to his ability to keep his head above them.”68 According to critics, the situation for readers just kept getting worse as the century drew to a close, as more and more fiction—especially that contained in periodicals—was published. In 1902, Francis Whiting Halsey decried “Our Literary Deluge” and contended that “it is a universal and much-expressed regret that the literary output has of late years become almost a flood . . . Men and women are perplexed to know where they shall begin their reading and where end it.”69 The end result, many detractors argued, was that periodicals had turned readers into mere skimmers of fiction, with no appreciation for the subtleties of literary art. Other observers, however, welcomed the much greater availability of all kinds of fiction that periodicals made possible. Frank Norris, for one, writing in 1902, countered the naysayers with this statement: “Is it not better to welcome and rejoice over this recent ‘literary deluge’ than to decry it?”70

Since the 1990s, scholars have offered their own contributions to this debate, with most contending that especially in the 1890s and afterward, periodicals, including the fiction that appeared in their pages, confirmed and solidified among their readers traditional gender roles, various racial prejudices, regional chauvinism, and acquisitive consumer behavior. Christopher Wilson is not alone in his argument that the low-priced mass magazines of this era represented “a world of illusory power and participation that masked delimited options and prefabricated responses” from readers.71 In this view, readers did not benefit from the wider choice of periodicals and works of fiction. Instead, libraries, schools, bookstores, and newsstands represented sites that provided periodicals whose hegemonic intentions had nefarious impacts on readers. A number of other scholars, though, especially those studying women’s regionalist fiction, have countered that much of the fiction appearing in the pages of these periodicals had the potential to offer narratives that contested such traditional, hegemonic ideologies, including making readers more empathetic toward those different from them.72

In all likelihood, the debate over the effects of all this increased fiction reading will never be definitively resolved, primarily because of the paucity of available evidence detailing readers’ responses. One thing, however, is certain: The effects of reading fiction in periodicals cannot be determined simply by documenting the intentions of those authors, publishers, or editors who produced them. Periodical readers themselves were not the passive vessels of these parties’ intentions that many scholars have implied they were; instead, they played an active role in creating their own meanings from these works of fiction. Furthermore, a wide variety of contextual factors—including readers’ expectations of a periodical; their race, class, gender, and regional affiliations; their training as readers; and even the other printed materials in the periodical—all affected how an individual reader responded to a particular work of fiction. In other words, readers’ responses were highly individualized and idiosyncratic.73 Nonetheless, the evidence of reader response patterns thus far indicates that while some contemporary readers may have been negatively affected both by the deluge of fiction available to them and the periodical contexts in which they encountered it, most readers benefited from these new conditions. Possibly the most important project for scholars in the coming decades, in fact, will be to further investigate how a wider sampling of periodical readers actually interacted with the broad range of fictions published in the period’s different periodicals, not only those by well-known authors but also by those lesser-known or even now-forgotten ones. Only when such information is available can one possibly see patterns in readers’ interactions with periodical fiction and create believable hypotheses about its effects.

The American periodical marketplace of 1914 would have been almost completely unrecognizable to someone who had known it in 1865. Compared to the number of periodicals publishing fiction at the end of the Civil War, there were by 1914 thousands of newspapers and magazines that did so. These periodicals, catering to almost every market segment imaginable, could now be printed in sufficient numbers to satisfy the tastes of millions of readers, and in most cases could also be made available to them relatively easily. More people than ever before thus had the opportunity to read all types of fiction, and thousands of authors could make a living by writing such fiction. In short, periodicals were largely responsible for American print culture shifting its focus during this period away from meeting the needs of a few socioeconomically and geographically select groups of readers and toward satisfying the desires of large, heterogeneous national audiences, as well as those in smaller niche markets.

Discussion of the Literature

The foundation upon which all modern scholarship in American periodicals rests is Frank Luther Mott’s magnum opus, A History of American Magazines, published between 1938 and 1968, as well as his American Journalism, first published in 1941 and subsequently appearing in revised editions. Each volume of A History of American Magazines both documented the development of the periodical publishing industry in a particular period (1741–1850, 1850–1865, 1865–1885, 1885–1905, and 1905–1930, respectively) and provided brief histories of important magazines founded during that era. While previous historians of periodicals had focused chiefly on individual publications and their editors (most based in New York City), Mott broadened the scope of inquiry to also include a great number of lesser-known New York periodicals as well as a wide variety of periodicals published in the rest of the country. In doing so, Mott demonstrated how periodicals had reached a multiplicity of audiences in many different markets. Significantly, he was also the first scholar to note the great variety of fiction that various periodicals had published.

Between Mott’s work and the 1980s, few scholars recognized the important contributions that periodical fiction had made to American literary culture before and after the turn of the 20th century. Although a handful of excellent works such as Mary Noel’s Villains Galore: The Heyday of the Popular Story Weekly and Quentin Reynolds’s The Fiction Factory or, From Pulp Row to Quality Street detailed the histories of various highly popular story papers that contained fiction during the middle decades of the century, for the most part literary scholars were not particularly interested in those works of fiction published in periodicals, regarding them either as works of inferior quality or as texts “corrupted” by editors to meet the demands of the commercial marketplace. Scholars consequently measured the markets for fiction reading chiefly with book production, distribution, and sales figures. With the advent of new historicist and reader reception theory among literary scholars in the 1980s, however, more attention was devoted to studying the effects fiction had on their readers, what Jane Tompkins in her groundbreaking work Sensational Designs: The Cultural Work of American Fiction, 17901860 termed their “cultural work.” Those works of fiction that had reached the widest readership in the past were now deemed very significant, since it was assumed they would have likely influenced many people. And since fiction published in periodicals had reached many more readers during the late 19th and early 20th centuries than had those appearing in book form, they became the object of much more scholarly inquiry.

During the subsequent decades a substantial number of studies were published that attempted to assess the cultural work performed by individual periodicals, groups of periodicals, and the fiction published therein. These focused not only on the more generally known periodicals such as Harper’s Monthly, Atlantic Monthly, Century, Scribner’s Monthly (and Scribner’s Magazine), McClure’s, Ladies’ Home Journal, Cosmopolitan, and the Saturday Evening Post but also on lesser-known ones such as the New York Ledger, Youth’s Companion, Vogue, Frank Munsey’s Illustrated Magazine, The Colored American Magazine, and The American Indian Magazine. Even newspapers began to be recognized as having played a key role in distributing fiction, as documented in Charles A. Johanningsmeier’s Fiction and the American Literary Marketplace: The Role of Newspaper Syndicates in America, 18601900. Those periodicals attracting the greatest amount of attention for many years were the mass-market magazines founded in the 1890s, as these were deemed to have represented an entirely new mode of directed fiction production and consumption.

One focal point of scholarly research has been determining the effects of the new periodical-centered literary marketplace on fiction authors’ evolving roles. Some of the most prominent works examining this issue are Nelson Lichtenstein’s “Authorial Professionalism and the Literary Marketplace, 1885–1900,” Christopher Wilson’s The Labor of Words: Literary Professionalism in the Progressive Era, Daniel J. Borus’s Writing Realism: Howells, James, and Norris in the Mass Market, Johanningsmeier’s Fiction and the American Literary Marketplace, and Ellery Sedgwick’s “Magazines and the Profession of Authorship in the United States, 1840–1900.”

Attracting the most attention from scholars, however, have been the supposed effects of this new marketplace, and the fiction that periodicals published, on readers themselves. Most of this scholarship has thus far exhibited to dealt with a top-down, hegemonic approach positing how those who produced fiction—including authors, editors, and publishers—largely controlled readers’ responses. The first important work in this field was Christopher Wilson’s essay, “The Rhetoric of Consumption: Mass-Market Magazines and the Demise of the Gentle Reader, 1880–1920.” In the 1990s, as more scholars became interested in the cultural work of fiction, a veritable deluge of studies began to appear that often sought to prove how large-circulation periodicals of this period—in particular their works of fiction and advertisements—created passive readers who gradually assimilated the conventional, conservative ideas about gender, race, class, and region that these publications supposedly propagated. A great many monographs focused on the messages about gender roles that these magazines allegedly conveyed to their readers. Some of the most important of these were Helen Damon-Moore’s Magazines for the Millions: Gender and Commerce in the Ladies’ Home Journal and the Saturday Evening Post, 18801910; Jennifer Scanlon’s Inarticulate Longings. The Ladies’ Home Journal, Gender, and the Promises of Consumer Culture, and Ellen Gruber Garvey’s Adman in the Parlor: Magazines and the Gendering of Consumer Culture, 1880s to 1910s. In Serialized Citizenships: Periodicals, Books, and American Boys, 18401911, Lorinda B. Cohoon has examined how various types of periodical fiction shaped American boys’ sense of their gendered selves. Substantial analyses of the messages about race, socioeconomic class, and regional cultures that various periodicals transmitted have also been produced; among these are: Richard H. Brodhead’s Cultures of Letters. Scenes of Reading and Writing in Nineteenth-Century America; Richard Ohmann’s Selling Culture. Magazines, Markets, and Class at the Turn of the Century; Nancy Glazener’s Reading for Realism: The History of a U.S. Literary Institution, 1850–1910; and Bonnie Shaker’s Coloring Locals: Racial Formation in Kate Chopin’s Youth’s Companion Stories. Fiction published in American periodicals thus in just a relatively short time went from being dismissed as unimportant and not worthy of close investigation to being considered central to the creation of the nation’s evolving capitalist, gender, racial, and regional biases.

During the past few decades, a more Gramscian understanding of how cultural meanings are “negotiated” by producers and consumers, rather than being dictated by the former to the latter, has become more prevalent. An increasing number of recent scholars, for instance, have considered how the ideological and print contexts in which readers of the late 19th and 20th centuries interacted with periodical fiction likely would have affected the cultural work they performed. A good overview of this type of contextualized reading approach can be found in Charles A. Johanningsmeier, “Understanding Readers of Fiction in American Periodicals, 1880–1914,” and one can see the application of this method in his “How American Readers Originally Experienced James’s ‘The Real Thing.’” Since 2010, too, a handful of scholarly works have been published that take issue with previous postulations of periodical fiction’s cultural work. In Upon Provincialism: Southern Literature and National Periodical Culture, 1870–1900, for example, Bill Hardwig has offered a major revision of the prevailing view that southern readers were “made provincial” by national magazines. Emily Satterwhite in Dear Appalachia: Readers, Identity, and Popular Fiction Since 1878 has analyzed the extant fan letters received by southern regionalist Mary Noaille Murfree during this time to provide interesting new insights into the impact of periodical fiction reading, and Travis M. Foster’s “How to Read: Regionalism and the Ladies’ Home Journal” introduces the possibility that not all readers of this supposedly patriarchal magazine were influenced by its contents in the ways other scholars of women’s magazines have previously postulated.

Central to all of this new scholarship is a more complete understanding of how different periodicals reached their target markets. It was long assumed that even after the Civil War, major magazines published in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia—and the fiction they included—reached only readers in the urban Northeast and in major urban centers elsewhere in the country. Recent research, however, has revealed that this was not true; these periodicals were in fact made widely available via the postal system, periodical distributors, and even public libraries. Furthermore, scholars have now begun acknowledging the important ways in which periodicals produced outside the urban Northeast published a great deal of fiction, some of it quite significant. Julie Meloni’s “Fiction Worth More than a ‘Summary Statement’: Three Women Authors of the Early Overland Monthly” and Tara Penry’s “The Literate West of Nineteenth-Century Periodicals” are just two examples of this kind of work.

Research into the extent of American periodical markets during the period 1865 to 1914 has been immeasurably aided by the digitization of thousands of well-known and not-so-well-known newspapers and magazines. What in the past might have taken weeks of painstaking scrolling through microfilm or turning pages of dusty volumes in libraries and archives now can be accomplished with a simple search command using databases such as Making of America, Chronicling America, or Newspaper Archive, as well as the subscribers-only ProQuest Historical Newspapers and American Periodicals series. Such relatively easy access will undoubtedly foster much more in-depth research into how periodicals and fiction functioned together during a pivotal period of American history, as well as help answer the question that will likely pervade much of the research in the coming decade: what effects, if any, did these periodical works of fiction actually have on their readers?

Further Reading

  • Brodhead, Richard H. Cultures of Letters: Scenes of Reading and Writing in Nineteenth-Century America. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1993.
  • Bullock, Penelope. The Afro-American Periodical Press, 1838–1909. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1981.
  • Damon-Moore, Helen. Magazines for the Millions: Gender and Commerce in the Ladies’ Home Journal and the Saturday Evening Post, 1880–1910. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994.
  • Gardner, Eric. Unexpected Places: Relocating Nineteenth-Century African American Literature. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2009.
  • Garvey, Ellen Gruber. Adman in the Parlor: Magazines and the Gendering of Consumer Culture, 1880s to 1910s. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1996.
  • Johanningsmeier, Charles A. Fiction and the American Literary Marketplace: The Role of Newspaper Syndicates in America, 1860–1900. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1997.
  • Johanningsmeier, Charles A. “Understanding Readers of Fiction in American Periodicals, 1880–1914.” In U.S. Popular Print Culture 1860–1920. Edited by Christine Bold, 591–609. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2011.
  • Johanningsmeier, Charles A. “Welcome Guests or Representatives of the ‘Mal-Odorous Class’? Periodicals and Their Readers in American Public Libraries, 1876–1914.” Libraries and Culture 39 (2004): 260–292.
  • Kelly, R. Gordon, ed. Children’s Periodicals of the United States. Westport, CT, and London, U.K.: Greenwood Press, 1984.
  • Mott, Frank Luther. A History of American Magazines, 1865–1885. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1938.
  • Mott, Frank Luther. A History of American Magazines, 1885–1905. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1957.
  • Noel, Mary. Villains Galore: The Heyday of the Popular Story Weekly. New York, NY: Macmillan, 1954.
  • Nourie, Alan, and Barbara Nourie, ed. American Mass-Market Magazines. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1990.
  • Ohmann, Richard. Selling Culture. Magazines, Markets, and Class at the Turn of the Century. London, UK. and New York, NY: Verso, 1996.
  • Okker, Patricia, ed. Transnationalism and American Serial Fiction. New York, NY, and London, U.K.: Routledge, 2012.
  • Reynolds, Quentin. The Fiction Factory or, From Pulp Row to Quality Street. New York, NY: Random House, 1955.
  • Scanlon, Jennifer. Inarticulate Longings. The Ladies’ Home Journal, Gender, and the Promises of Consumer Culture. New York, NY, and London, U.K.: Routledge, 1995.
  • Shaker, Bonnie. Coloring Locals: Racial Formation in Kate Chopin’s Youth’s Companion Stories. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2003.
  • Wilson, Christopher. The Labor of Words: Literary Professionalism in the Progressive Era. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1985.
  • Wilson, Christopher. “The Rhetoric of Consumption: Mass-Market Magazines and the Demise of the Gentle Reader, 1880–1920.” In The Culture of Consumption: Critical Essays in American History, 1880–1980. Edited by Richard Wightman Fox and T. J. Jackson Lears, 39–64. New York, NY: Pantheon, 1983.


  • 1. Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, University of Virginia, “Uncle Tom’s Serialization: The National Era Text.”

  • 2. Michael Denning, Mechanic Accents: Dime Novels and Working Class Culture (New York, NY: Verso Books, 1987), 10.

  • 3. For this description of story papers, see Mary Noel, Villains Galore: The Heyday of the Popular Story Weekly (New York, NY: Macmillan, 1954), 289–299.

  • 4. New York Weekly figures from Quentin Reynolds, The Fiction Factory or, From Pulp Row to Quality Street (New York, NY: Random House, 1955), 26 and 32, plus Noel, Villains Galore, 114; Ledger figure from Frank Luther Mott, A History of American Magazines, 1850–1865 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1938), 359.

  • 5. For public school pupils enrolled, see Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1916 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1917), 728; population figures from Historical Statistics of the United States, Colonial Times to 1970 (Washington, DC: US Department of Commerce, 1975), A 6–8.

  • 6. Illiteracy figures from Historical Statistics of the United States, Colonial Times to 1970, 664–668.

  • 7. Richard Altick, Writers, Readers, and Occasions: Selected Essays on Victorian Literature and Life (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1989), 213.

  • 8. Entries for these periodicals are scattered throughout Finding List for Books in the Portland Institute and Public Library, April 1, 1869 (Portland, ME: B. Thurston and Co., 1869).

  • 9. For a comprehensive overview of the types of readers who sought out periodicals in public libraries of the period, as well as their behavioral patterns, see Charles A. Johanningsmeier, “Welcome Guests or Representatives of the ‘Mal-Odorous Class’? Periodicals and Their Readers in American Public Libraries, 1876–1914,” Libraries and Culture 39 (2004): 260–292.

  • 10. Dee Garrison, Apostles of Culture: The Public Librarian and American Society, 1876–1920 (New York, NY: Free Press, 1979), 4.

  • 11. Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1916 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1917), 728.

  • 12. Thirty-Third Annual Report of the Boston Public Library (n.p., 1885), 58 (the figure of 798 is obtained by subtracting the 81 duplicate copies from the 879 total); First Annual Report of the Buffalo Public Library (Buffalo, NY: Printed for the Library, 1898), 21; Periodicals and Other Serials Currently Received by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, 5th ed. (Pittsburgh, PA: Carnegie Library, 1908).

  • 13. Finding Lists of the Omaha Public Library (Omaha, NE: Omaha Book Co., 1878); Finding Lists of the Omaha Public Library, 2nd ed. (Omaha, NE: Herald Printing and Publishing, 1880), 40–44; Supplement No. 2 (1882) to Finding Lists of the Omaha Public Library (1880), 15; Finding List of the Omaha Public Library, 3rd ed. (Omaha, NE: Herald Printing and Publishing, 1885), 82–85; Finding Lists of the Omaha Public Library (Omaha, NE: Gibson, Miller, and Richardson, 1888), 234–235; “Newspapers and Magazines Received in the Reading Room,” Omaha Public Library Bulletin, March 1898, 1–2; “List of Current Periodicals for 1914,” Omaha Public Library Bulletin, Jan. –Feb. 1914, 38–40.

  • 14. Classified Catalogue of the Belleville Public Library (Belleville, IL: Post and Zeitung Publishing Co., 1900), 161–186.

  • 15. Wayne E. Fuller, RFD, The Changing Face of Rural America (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1964), 14.

  • 16. Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1916, 727.

  • 17. The Postal Laws and Regulations of the United States of America (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1884), 72, 74.

  • 18. For 1868 and 1871 figures see Frederic Hudson, Journalism in the United States from 1690 to 1872, 3 vols. (New York, NY: Harper and Brothers, 1873), 3: 775; 1880 figures are from S[imon] D[exter] North, History and Present Condition of the Newspaper and Periodical Press of the United States with a Catalogue of the Publications of the Census Year (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1884), 158.

  • 19. Fuller, RFD, 295.

  • 20. John Tebbel, The American Magazine: A Compact History (New York, NY: Hawthorn Books, 1969), 138–139.

  • 21. Tebbel, The American Magazine, 139.

  • 22. Mott, A History of American Magazines, 1885–1905, 11.

  • 23. Historical Statistics of the United States, Colonial Times to 1970, A 6–8.

  • 24. Altick, Writers, Readers, and Occasions, 227.

  • 25. Richard H. Brodhead, “Literature and Culture,” in Columbia Literary History of the United States, ed. Emory Elliott et al. (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1988), 473.

  • 26. Henry Mills Alden, Magazine Writing and the New Literature (New York, NY, and London, U.K.: Harper and Brothers, 1908), 73.

  • 27. Mott, History of American Magazines, 1850–1865, 10.

  • 28. 1881 and 1898 Atlantic figures from Tebbel, The American Magazine, 11, and Ellen Ballou, The Building of the House: Houghton-Mifflin’s Formative Years (Boston, MA: Houghton-Mifflin, 1970), 453; 1914 figures are from N. W. Ayer & Son’s American Newspaper Annual and Directory (Philadelphia, PA: N. W. Ayer and Son, 1914), 1174.

  • 29. For Harper’s Monthly figures see Eugene Exman, The House of Harper: One Hundred and Fifty Years of Publishing (New York, NY: Harper and Row, 1967), 79 and 122; for Century figures see Brodhead, “Literature and Culture,” 472.

  • 30. Frank Luther Mott, American Journalism: A History, 1690–1960, 3rd ed. (New York, NY: Macmillan, 1962), 590.

  • 31. N. W. Ayer and Son, American Newspaper Annual, 1174–1175.

  • 32. Mary Ellen Zuckerman, A History of Popular Women’s Magazines in the United States, 1792–1995 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998), 3.

  • 33. Zuckerman, A History of Popular Women’s Magazines, 4.

  • 34. Salme Harju Steinberg, Reformer in the Marketplace: Edward W. Bok and The Ladies’ Home Journal (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1979), 4.

  • 35. Zuckerman, Popular Women’s Magazines, 21.

  • 36. For surpassing one million in circulation see Steinberg, Reformer in the Marketplace, 12; for 1912 figures see Zuckerman, Popular Women’s Magazines, 29.

  • 37. Advertisement, Chicago Tribune, November 10, 1900, 10.

  • 38. “About Children’s Books,” Omaha World-Herald, July 16, 1893, 16.

  • 39. Frank Luther Mott, A History of American Magazines, 1865–1885 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1938), 501; figures for 1914 from N. W. Ayer and Son, American Newspaper Annual, 1175.

  • 40. David L. Greene, “The Youth’s Companion,” in Children’s Periodicals of the United States, ed. R. Gordon Kelly (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1984), 511; N. W. Ayer & Son, American Newspaper Annual, 393.

  • 41. “The Letter Box,” St. Nicholas 16 (1889): 77–78.

  • 42. Advertisement, Southwestern Christian Advocate, November 29, 1888, 5.

  • 43. Quoted in Christine Pawley, Reading on the Middle Border: The Culture of Print in Late-Nineteenth-Century Osage, Iowa (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2001), 69.

  • 44. Eric Gardner, Unexpected Places: Relocating Nineteenth-Century African American Literature (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2009), 136, 133, 165, and 161; Transnationalism and American Serial Fiction, ed. Patricia Okker (New York, NY, and London, U.K.: Routledge, 2012).

  • 45. Eric Lupfer, “The Business of American Magazines,” in A History of the Book in America. Volume 3: The Industrial Book, 1840–1880, ed. Scott E. Casper, Jeffrey D. Groves, Stephen W. Nissenbaum, and Michael Winship (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007), 249.

  • 46. Jack London, introduction to The Red-Hot Dollar and Other Stories from the Black Cat, ed. H. D. Umbstaetter (Boston, MA: L. C. Page and Co., 1911), vi, viii, and v.

  • 47. Mott, A History of American Magazines, 1850–1865, 482.

  • 48. Courier-Journal quotation in Advertisement, The Sommerville [Georgia] Gazette, May 3, 1897, 4.

  • 49. William A. Dill, Growth of Newspapers in the United States (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1928), 28.

  • 50. “Columbus,” “Chicago’s Daily Newspapers,” Printers’ Ink, August 16, 1893, 193.

  • 51. New York World and New York Journal figures in Meyer Berger, The Story of the New York Times, 1851–1951 (New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1951), 112 and 569.

  • 52. Advertisement, Boston Globe, November 1, 1889, 1.

  • 53. Joseph R. McElrath Jr., Frank Norris: A Descriptive Bibliography (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1992), 234–235 and 236–237.

  • 54. For the history of newspaper fiction syndicates in the United States, see Charles A. Johanningsmeier, Fiction and the American Literary Marketplace: The Role of Newspaper Syndicates in America, 1860–1900 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

  • 55. “Special Newspaper Trains,” Journalist, August 22, 1885: 4.

  • 56. Robert Donald, “Sunday Newspapers in the United States,” The Universal Review 8 (September–December 1890), 80–81.

  • 57. Atlanta Constitution, November 23, 1884, 6.

  • 58. Boston Globe, February 7, 1891, 5.

  • 59. Edgar Watson Howe, “Country Newspapers,” Century 42 (1891), 782.

  • 60. George Britt, Forty Years–Forty Millions: The Career of Frank Munsey (New York, NY: Farrar and Rinehart, 1935), 82.

  • 61. James L. W. West, III. American Authors and the Literary Marketplace Since 1900 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1988), 103.

  • 62. Matthew Schneirov, The Dream of a New Social Order: Popular Magazines in America, 1893–1914 (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1994), 264.

  • 63. Edward W. Bok, “Modern Literary King,” Forum 20 (1895), 335 and 340.

  • 64. “The Literary Aspirant,” Writer 13 (1900), 71 and 74; for a fuller account of authors’ complaints about the literary marketplace, see Charles A. Johanningsmeier, “Naturalist Authors and the American Literary Marketplace,” in Oxford Handbook of American Literary Naturalism, ed. Keith Newlin (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2011), 357–372.

  • 65. James L. Ford, The Literary Shop and Other Tales (New York: George H. Richmond & Co., 1894), 74 and 74–75.

  • 66. William Dean Howells, “The Man of Letters as a Man of Business,” Scribner’s Magazine 14 (1893), 431, 441, and 431–432.

  • 67. Daniel J. Borus, Writing Realism: Howells, James, and Norris in the Mass Market (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989), 66.

  • 68. “The Foreign Critic and the Fair,” Scribner’s Magazine 14 (1893), 659.

  • 69. Francis Halsey, Our Literary Deluge (New York: Doubleday, Page and Co., 1902), 3.

  • 70. Frank Norris, “Salt and Sincerity,” in The Responsibilities of the Novelist and Other Essays, 1903, The Complete Edition of Frank Norris, vol. 7 of 10, (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Doran & Co., 1928), 199.

  • 71. Christopher Wilson, “The Rhetoric of Consumption: Mass-Market Magazines and the Demise of the Gentle Reader, 1880–1920,” in The Culture of Consumption: Critical Essays in American History 1880–1980, ed. Richard Wightman Fox and T. J. Jackson Lears (New York, NY: Pantheon Books, 1983), 44.

  • 72. Two prominent examples of scholarship positing that regionalist fiction published in periodicals had positive effects on their readers are Judith Fetterley and Marjorie Pryse, Writing Out of Place: Regionalism, Women, and American Literary Culture (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2003), 17–18, 30, 107, and 123; and Stephanie Foote, “The Cultural Work of American Regionalism,” in A Companion to the Regional Literatures of America, ed. Charles L. Crow ( Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2003), 40.

  • 73. For more information about how periodical readers incorporated printed and non-printed contextual elements into their experiences with fiction, see Charles A. Johanningsmeier, “Understanding Readers of Fiction in American Periodicals, 1880–1914,” in U.S. Popular Print Culture 1860–1920, ed. Christine Bold (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2011), 591–609.