"The editor makes or breaks a magazine—and he is pretty sure to break it unless he is let alone to run it his own way—to impress his personality upon it and make it his. Editing a magazine is not only one man's job, but it is a job that no one can really give him very much help in." — Cyrus H. K. Curtis, the obviously enlightened publisher of The Ladies' Home Journal, Saturday Evening Post, and other magazines, quoted in The Editor magazine, 1915. A biography of Curtis is "A Man from Maine," by his son-in-law and employee, Edward W. Bok, the famous-in-his-day editor of The Ladies' Home Journal.
It was on this day (January 29) in 1956 that H. L. Mencken, co-editor with George Jean Nathan of The Smart Set, and editor of The American Mercury, died in Baltimore. The hugely influential author, critic, newspaperman, and Sage of Baltimore was 75.
"An editor, if he is fitted for the position, soon acquires a keen perception and ready judgment, that sees and determines at a glance the value or adaptation of a literary article, by the same process that a jeweler learns to distinguish instantly between the real and the worthless diamond..." — Beecher's Magazine, edited by J. A. Beecher, 1870.
"In no sense except by ourselves declaring it to be so is editing a profession. It is a trade, or craft, we learn it by working at it, as a farmer learns about farming in the field." — Herbert R. Mayes, editor of McCall's, among other major and minor magazines, in his 1980 memoir, "The Magazine Maze."
Edward Bok, famous in his day as the editor of The Ladies' Home Journal and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his 1920 autobiography, gave his Marion, Pennsylvania, estate an unfortunate name, if there ever was one: Swastika. In his autobiography, Bok says the name was suggested to him by the author Rudyard Kipling. The ever-helpful Kipling also furnished Bok with a Swastika doorknocker, custom made by his village blacksmith. In defense of both Bok and Kipling, the Swastika was an ancient symbol and not yet associated with Nazism.
"The magazines—Heaven knows they are bad! I should be the last man on earth to defend even the best of them. I have had my hand in making—I should not undertake to say how many; but I have never made one and I have never seen one made that was more than a respectable pile of debris beside the plan that it was first constructed by." — Walter Hines Page, editor of The Atlantic Monthly and World's Work, among other magazines, in a 1901 speech to librarians.
Today (January 22) is the birthday of Fulton Oursler, editor of Liberty, among other magazines; author of "The Greatest Story Ever Told;" and amateur ventriloquist, born in 1893 in Baltimore. His posthumously published autobiography is "Behold This Dreamer!" (Little, Brown, 1964).
It was on this day (January 21) in 1922 that John Kendrick Bangs, onetime editor of Harper's Weekly and literary editor of the old Life magazine, humorist, unsuccessful Congressional candidate, and pioneering fantasy writer, died at age 59 following intestinal surgery. A biography is "John Kendrick Bangs: Humorist of the Nineties," by his son, Francis Hyde Bangs, (Knopf, 1941).
Today (January 20) is the birthday of Abraham Grace Merritt, born in New Jersey in 1884. Merritt, who pared his byline down to A. Merritt, edited Hearst's American Weekly Sunday magazine from 1937 until his death in 1944, but is better known today as the author of fantasy and science fiction novels with titles like "Burn, Witch, Burn!" and "Creep, Shadow, Creep!"
In very unrelated news, today is also the anniversary of Sports Illustrated's first swimsuit issue, published in 1964. The magazine's editors were partly motivated (or so they insisted) by the lack of cover-worthy sports news that time of year.