"I have this button in my head. I push it and I become thirteen again, and I remember all the things I longed for." -- Gloria Stavers, the 30-something editor of 16 Magazine, explaining her editorial methods in a 1967 Look interview.
...in 1920, newspapers reported that James M. Cox, governor of Ohio, had accused editor George Horace Lorimer and his Saturday Evening Post of unfair partisanship. "The insidious purpose of the Saturday Evening Post, cloaked under non-partisan methods for the past decade and more, has finally been brought to light," he said. Cox was the Democratic candidate for president that year, with Franklin Roosevelt as his running mate. He lost that contest to another Ohioan, the Republican Warren G. Harding.
...in 1920, Robert H. Davis, one of the best-known and most powerful magazine editors of his day, made national news by announcing his retirement, after 18 years, from the Frank A. Munsey Company. He would soon reinvent himself as a writer, using the simpler byline Bob Davis.
"Critics and readers confer immortality, and they are more interested in authors than in editors. Their preference puzzles editors, who know authors to be greedy, vainglorious, selfish, thankless, difficult creatures; but the fact remains that authors are remembered while the editors who helped to win them immortality are forgotten." -- Peter Lyon in "Success Story," his biography of S.S. McClure.
Claim to fame: Founder of St. Nicholas, probably the most influential and beloved children’s magazine ever. She also wrote the children's book “Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates.”
Quote: “The child’s magazine must not be a milk-and-water variety of the adult’s periodical.”
Observation: “[T]he more ‘new life’ there is in a magazine, the less there is left in its editor.”
Life in 400 words or less: Mary Elizabeth Mapes was born into the magazine business. Her father, James Jay Mapes, founded one called Working Farmer and later owned another called United States Journal. Married at 20 and widowed at 27, with two children, the now-Mrs. Dodge supported her family as a writer and editor until 1873 when Scribner’s hired her to start a new children’s magazine. She named it “St. Nicholas” and went on to edit it for the next 32 years.
“St. Nicholas” was a children’s magazine like nothing before it. Dodge saw it as a sanctuary for schoolchildren who were “strained and taxed with the day’s lessons.” In an essay, she wrote that, children “want to have their own way over their own magazine. They want to enter the one place where they may come and go as they please, where they are not obliged to mind, or say ‘yes, ma’m’ and ‘yes, sir,’--where, in short, they can live a brand-new, free life of their own for a little while…”
Dodge ran children’s letters, answered their questions in an advice column, and published their writing and artwork. Readers could join the St. Nicholas League, which sponsored contests and bestowed much-coveted gold and silver badges on the winners.
Among the writers who received some of their earliest encouragement from the League: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Rachel Carson, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Eudora Welty.
E.B.White, himself a member, wrote in a 1934 essay, “There is no doubt about it, the fierce desire to write and paint that burns in our land today, the incredible amount of writing and painting that still goes on in the face of heavy odds, are directly traceable to the St. Nicholas Magazine.” The magazine historian Theodore Peterson observed that, “St. Nicholas seems to have inspired a loyalty bordering on fanaticism in its young readers.”
After Dodge’s death in 1905, St. Nicholas continued under other editors and owners into the 1940s, by which time the magic was gone.
For more: A biography is “Mary Mapes Dodge,” by Susan R. Gannon and Ruth Anne Thompson (Twayne Publishers, 1992). Some early issues of St. Nicholas are online here. -- Greg Daugherty, 10/08
...in 1925, Albert B. Feldstein was born in Brooklyn. Feldstein became editor of Mad magazine in the mid 1950s and guided it for nearly three decades. Today, after what must be one the most remarkable career changes of any ex-editor, he is a painter of Western landscapes and wildlife.
"You have to have a mission when you're publishing, otherwise you have nothing." -- Time, Inc.'s Henry Luce to Clay Felker, editor of New York and other magazines, as quoted in "The Gang That Wouldn't Write Straight," by Marc Weingarten (Crown Publishers, 2006).
...in 1976, newspapers reported that Alabama Governor George C. Wallace had filed a $5 million defamation suit against Screw magazine and its editor Al Goldstein for portraying him as "infamous, immoral, and perverted." Wallace reportedly settled six months later for $12,500. The segregationist governor and sometime presidential candidate died in 1998; Goldstein lives on.
"[T]he most important part of an editor's job takes place before the writer has even begun to set words to paper. In commissioning an article an editor must make clear what he is looking for and not looking for without handcuffing the writer with crippling preconceptions. Otherwise, both writer and editor may find themselves in head-to-head combat when the manuscript comes in." -- Robert Manning, longtime editor-in-chief of The Atlantic Monthly, in his autobiography "The Swamp Root Chronicle: Adventures in the Word Trade" (W.W. Norton, 1992).