Carey established in magazine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, using $400 that was given him by Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette. Carey published a total of 72 issues (twelve volumes) of the magazine—one each month from January 1787 to December 1792. The magazine reprinted significant historical documents of American history and also some original work.
The American Museum had approximately 1250 subscribers, including many of the notable men of the United States. (In the July 1787 edition, Carey included a list of subscribers, which included Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington.) However, many of the subscriptions were credit accounts and the magazine was not profitable. As a result, Carey was forced to stop publication at the end of 1792.