05 August 2005

Inception of The Saturday Evening Post

(This was to have gone up yesterday.)

Today in Literature discusses the background of the famous periodical (and my former employer):
On this day in 1821, the first issue of The Saturday Evening Post appeared. This was the first use of the new name, coined by new owners, but the weekly was begun in 1729, by twenty-two-year-old Benjamin Franklin. His Pennsylvania Gazette was one of five regular publications in the colonies, and itself a purchase from a previous publisher who had struggled on for ten months under the title, The Universal Instructor in All Arts and Sciences and Pennsylvania Gazette. The Post inherited Franklin's type, and was first published in the same print shop Franklin used, where a jingle written by Franklin still hung over the door: "All ye who come this curious art to see, / To handle anything must cautious be....
Heh. He wasn't kidding. Although the piece mentions some of the illustrious contributors of the past, it says nothing about its current incarnation or editorial statement. The magazine that once published William Faulkner, J.D. Salinger, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and even early Peanuts has headed in an entirely different direction.

Then again, there are many similarities between the aims of the early Post and what it's up to today. As TiL relates,
[T]he literary mandate did not always or easily square with the magazine's other mandate, that of being the voice and guardian of Middle America. In one issue near the end of 1899, new editor George Lorimer announced that the newly expanded Post would continue "to present the best and worthiest of contemporaneous literature," and then went on in the next sentence to give his own caution:

"There is nothing worthy or permanent in life that is not clean, and in its plans and purposes the new Saturday Evening Post preaches and practices the gospel of cleanliness. It appeals to the great mass of intelligent people who make homes and love them, who choose good lives and live them, who seek friends and cherish them, who select the best recreations and enjoy them."
Fondest thoughts and wishes to the intelligent, long-suffering individuals who continue to keep the dear old place afloat. Everything worth reading within these pages is entirely to your credit.

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