Today is the birthday of Willie Morris, who would grow up to be the youngest-ever editor of the U.S.'s oldest magazine (Harper's), born November 29, 1934. The author of "My Dog Skip" and other books, Morris was born in Jackson, Mississippi.
"Magazines must deal with the tough and controversial issues of our time. The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in time of moral crisis, maintain their neutrality." — Dan Mich, onetime editor of Look and McCall's, quoted by Look founder Gardner "Mike" Cowles in his 1985 memoir "Mike Looks Back."
On this day (November 25) in 1913, Herman D. Umbstaetter, founder and editor of The Black Cat, a popular fiction magazine in its time, died in Maine of a self-inflicted but apparently accidental gunshot wound. According to a newspaper account, "as he was climbing a wall his rifle was discharged and the bullet penetrated his body just below the heart." Umbstaetter's magazine gave many well-known writers their start, most notably Jack London, who paid tribute to the editor, and his prompt payments, in an introduction to "The Red-Hot Dollar and Other Stories from The Black Cat" (1911).
Two editors who probably didn't have a whole lot in common besides a shared birthday made their earthly debuts on this day, November 24. In 1916 it was Forrest J. Ackerman, founding editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine; in 1925, William F. Buckley, founding editor of National Review. Buckley died in February 2008 at age 82, Ackerman in December 2008 at 92.
Thanksgiving might not be a national holiday but for the efforts of Sarah Josepha Hale (1788 to 1879), longtime editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, who persuaded Abraham Lincoln to back it. The old New England tradition became an official, coast-to-coast overeating orgy in 1863. When she was not editing magazines or lobbying Presidents, Hale was also a poet, novelist, and author of the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”
On this day (November 23) in 1936 Life magazine made its debut as a picture weekly (November 23 was the cover date). In her 1977 book "That Was the Life," Dora Jane Hamblin writes that, "It is difficult to explain, to those too young to remember the first issue, the stunning impact of its size alone. Opened out flat, the magazine measured 13-1/2 by 21 inches, a display space larger than many of today's television screens and in pre-television 1936 a revelation." The online Life photo archive is said to contain millions of the magazine's photographs.
"It rarely ever happens that the person who knows the most about a thing is able to write. Engineers, explorers and heroes are often at a loss when they try to tell intelligibly about what they've discovered or done." — S.S. McClure, editor of McClure's magazine, quoted in the book "Essentials in Journalism," 1912.
"A magazine editor once asked me to write an article about the phonograph. It was the worst job I ever undertook. I wrote three articles, the first bad, the second worse, and the third—terrible! I tore them all up, and from that day to this I have never tried to write anything except letters." — Thomas Edison, quoted in Munsey's magazine, 1910.