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 in Jackson, Mississippi. The author of "My Dog Skip" and other books, Morris died in 1999.
"Until two years ago I had never beheld in the flesh an Editor. (I always spelled Editor with a capital "E.") In fact, I was about as ignorant of editors and their ways as it is possible for a fairly enlightened human being to be. My idea of them was of vague, mysterious beings shut up in inaccessible offices; beings who pronounced manuscripts unavailable and sent them back accompanied by printed slips to that effect." — Roselle Mercier, writing in The Bookman, 1902. Mercier may be the poet Roselle Mercier Montgomery (1874 to 1933).
"A modern editor is the head of a department in a huge manufacturing plant; he has to have so-and-so much copy at regular intervals, to fill up the spaces between advertisements of soaps and cigarettes and automobiles; so much bait to lure the public into his advertisement-trap." — the novelist and muckraker Upton Sinclair, writing in 1927.
"Is writing adequately paid for? Great writing never was and never will be. Even good writing never will be. But in this day and generation, poor writing is paid for twice and thrice." — Walter Hines Page, editor of The World's Work magazine and a former editor of The Atlantic Monthly, 1902.
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).
When Art Ginsburg, the TV chef better known as Mr. Food, died this past week at age 81, obituaries cited his 52 cookbooks and countless television segments. None that I've read so far has mentioned that he also had a magazine, Mr. Food's Easy Cooking, published by Hearst from 1997 to 2000 and as lively and colorful as its namesake.
Today, November 24, is the birthday of Forrest J Ackerman, founding editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, born in Los Angeles in 1925. Ackerman's magazine, a winning mix of old black-and-white movie stills and punning headlines, influenced a generation of movie and magazine makers. He died in 2008 at age 92.
It was on this day in 1936 that 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.
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.”
"If you want to see a good imitation of a recently moistened hen, talk back when an editor criticizes or, worse yet, criticize his own work." — Edward C. Crossman, writing in The Editor magazine, 1915. Crossman, assuming it's the same one, seems to have written primarily about hunting and firearms.