Cyrus Hermann Kotzschmar Curtis

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Cyrus Hermann Kotzschmar Curtis
Cyrus Curtis 001.jpg
C. H. K. Curtis circa 1913
Born (1850-06-18)June 18, 1850
Portland, Maine, U.S.
Died June 7, 1933(1933-06-07) (aged 82)
Wyncote, Pennsylvania
Occupation Publisher

1. Louisa Knapp

2. Kate Stanwood Cutter Pillsbury
Children Mary Louise Curtis Bok Zimbalist

Cyrus Hermann Kotzschmar Curtis (June 18, 1850 – June 7, 1933) was an American publisher of magazines and newspapers, including the Ladies' Home Journal and the Saturday Evening Post.[1]


Born in Portland, Maine, he was forced to leave high school after his first year when his family lost their home in the Great Fire of Portland in 1866. He held a variety of newspaper and advertising jobs in Portland and Boston before establishing his first publication, weekly titled People's Ledger in Boston in 1872. In 1876, he relocated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in pursuit of lower printing costs.[1][2]

His first wife was Louisa Knapp. In 1883 she contributed a one-page supplement to the Tribune and Farmer, a magazine that was published by Curtis. The supplement became an independent publication the following year, with Louisa as the editor of this new magazine. Its original name was The Ladies Home Journal and Practical Housekeeper, but she dropped the last three words in 1886,[3] and it became the Ladies Home Journal. It rapidly became the leading magazine of its type, reaching a circulation of more than one million copies within ten years. Louisa Knapp remained as its editor until she was succeeded by Edward William Bok in 1889. Bok became the son-in-law of Louisa and Cyrus Curtis several years later when he married their daughter, Mary Louise, in 1896. Bok retired from the magazine in 1919, but he made important changes to the magazine that made it even more popular.

Curtis founded the Curtis Publishing Company in 1891; it published the Ladies' Home Journal and the Saturday Evening Post, as well as several other magazines. A separate company founded by Curtis, Curtis-Martin Newspapers, Inc., controlled several newspapers, including for a time the major newspapers the Public Ledger, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the New York Evening Post. Problems with managers at the newspapers led to poor financial returns from the publications, and eventually, the newspapers were sold.

During his lifetime, Curtis' businesses were extremely successful. The Ladies Home Journal was for decades the most widely circulating women's magazine in the US and the Post had biggest circulation of any weekly magazine in the world. In 1929, the Post and the Journal together carried 40 percent of all US magazine advertising.[1] One source lists Curtis as the 51st richest person ever, with a fortune of $43.2 billion (adjusted for inflation to 2008 dollars), which according to this source made him richer than either Paul Allen or J. P. Morgan.[4]

Curtis built Lyndon, a Renaissance revival style estate in Wyncote, Pennsylvania, with landscaping designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. His last two large yachts, built 1907 and 1920, were named Lyndonia.[5]

Second Lyndonia photographed 27 March 1925.

He was more than a yachtsman, noting in a 1922 interview with New York Times reporter Rose C. Feld "Yachting is not a hobby with me. It is a necessity. I spend half my time on this ship." and further noting that most of his meetings with his staff or directors were held in the second Lyndonia's dining room.[6] Curtis had three large yachts built at Charles L. Seabury Co., later Consolidated Shipbuilding of Morris Heights, New York: the one-hundred fifteen foot Machigonne in 1904,[Note 1] the one-hundred sixty three foot Lyndonia in 1907 and the two-hundred twenty-eight foot Lyndonia in 1920.[Note 2][5] He was a founder of the Camden Yacht Club in Camden, Maine and its Commodore from 1909 to 1933, later donating the club's facilities to the town, and prominent member of other yacht clubs.[7]

In the summer of 1932, Curtis suffered a heart attack while aboard his yacht, the second Lyndonia. While he was recuperating at Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia, his second wife, Kate Stanwood Cutter Pillsbury, died suddenly. He remained in frail health until he died on June 7, 1933, less than two weeks before his eighty-third birthday, and he was interred in West Laurel Hill Cemetery at Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania.[8]

Soon after his death, most of the buildings on Curtis' estate were demolished and his daughter founded the Curtis Hall Arboretum on the site. In the former headquarters of the Curtis Publishing Company, she founded a commercial center, the Curtis Center, which now houses a conference center, offices, a health club, shops, and restaurants.

Cyrus Curtis was among the initial ten inductees in the American Advertising Federation's Advertising Hall of Fame (1999).[9]


Cyrus Curtis is number 20 on a list of the richest Americans.[10] He was known for his philanthropy to hospitals, museums, universities, and schools. He donated $2 million to the Franklin Institute, $1.25 million to the Drexel Institute of Technology for the construction of Curtis Hall, and $1 million to the University of Pennsylvania.[1] He obtained a pipe organ manufactured by the Austin Organ Company, which had been displayed at the Philadelphia Sesquicentennial Exposition of 1926 and donated it to the University of Pennsylvania. It was built into Irvine Auditorium when the building was constructed, and is known to this day as the Curtis Organ. It is one of the largest pipe organs in the world.[11] Curtis donated pipe organs to many institutions in Philadelphia and the biography retained in the library of his burial location notes that on the day of his funeral, all of those organs were played to honor him.

In memory of his boyhood music teacher, Curtis donated the Kotzschmar Memorial Organ to Portland City Hall Auditorium in 1912.[12] In Thomaston, Maine, he funded the 1927-29 recreation of Montpelier, the demolished 1795 mansion of Revolutionary War general, Henry Knox.

Curtis was a major organizer for and backer of the Philadelphia Orchestra. He anonymously made up its deficits in its early years. Mary Louise Curtis Bok founded Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music, and dedicated it to her father in 1924.


External links[edit]


  1. ^ Not to be confused with the Machigonne built by the same builder in 1909 for William L. Douglas and later USS Machigonne (SP 507).
  2. ^ Both yachts named Lyndonia had later service. Lyndonia of 1907 as the World War I Vega (SP 734) and Lyndonia of 1920 as Pan American Airway's Southern Seas until war in the Pacific resulted in the Army's and later Navy's use of that vessel under the same name.


  1. ^ a b c d Ingham, John N. Biographical Dictionary of American Business Leaders: A-G. Greenwood Publishing Group, 1983, pp. 230-234.
  2. ^ Hatch, Louis Clinton. Maine: A History, volume 4. Published by The American historical society, 1919.
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ Gladwell, Malcolm. Outliers. Little, Brown, New York, 2008.
  5. ^ a b T. Colton (February 18, 2013). "Consolidated Shipbuilding, Morris Heights NY". Shipbuilding History. Retrieved 7 April 2013. 
  6. ^ Feld, Rose C. (1922). "Cyrus H. K. Curtis, The Man: Musician, Editor, Publisher and Capitalist". The New York Times (22 October 1922). Retrieved 7 April 2013. 
  7. ^ Staff of VillageSoup and Knox County Times and Jim Bowditch. "Camden Yacht Club: History". Camden Yacht Club. Camden Yacht Club. Retrieved 7 April 2013. 
  8. ^ Cyrus Herman Kotzschmer Curtis, Find A Grave. Accessed August 29, 2007.
  9. ^ Anonymous. "Ad Hall of Fame Opens with 10 Industry Giants" Advertising Age; 06/14/99, Vol. 70 Issue 25, p77.
  10. ^ The Wealthy 100
  11. ^ List of World's Largest Pipe Organs
  12. ^ Kotzschmar Organ
  13. ^ Anonymous. After Curtis Time magazine, Monday, Jul. 17, 1933