Frank Luther Mott

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Frank Luther Mott (April 4, 1886 – October 23, 1964) was an American historian and journalist, who won the 1939 Pulitzer Prize for History for Volumes II and III of his series, A History of American Magazines.

Early years[edit]

Mott was born in Rose Hill, Iowa. His parents were Mary E. (Tipton) and David Charles Mott, publishers of the weekly What Cheer, Iowa Patriot.[1] The Mott family owned a print shop in Keokuk County. He was a practicing Quaker.

When he was 10 his father began publishing the Audubon, Iowa Republican and he assisted in the typesetting.


He did the first three years of his college education at Simpson College and then completed his bachelor's degree at the University of Chicago.

Mott earned his PhD at Columbia University.

Academic career[edit]

Mott taught English at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa and was the head of the Journalism Department at the University of Iowa (UI) for 20 years until his appointment as dean of the University of Missouri (MU)'s School of Journalism in 1942.

Mott may have coined the term photojournalism in 1924.[2] He was influential in the development of photojournalism education: the first photojournalism class was taught at UI during his tenure, and the first photojournalism program, directed by Clifton C. Edom, started at MU in 1943 upon his request.

His textbook on American Journalism: A History of Newspapers in the United States through 250 years 1690 to 1940[3] (1941 and later revised editions covering through 1960) was the standard resource in courses on the history of journalism.

Mott was a lifelong lover of magazines, his father having hoarded them in the house.[4] His monumental series, A History of American Magazines, started as PhD work at Columbia in the late 1920s. It was projected as six volumes. However, other projects, such as American Journalism, derailed his progress. Four volumes of American Magazines carried the history up to 1905. Mott died after starting work on Volume V: 1905-1930. Volume V does not extend the history past 1905; it includes 21 of a projected 36 sketches of individual magazines, intended as the supplementary material to the 1905-1930 history. It also includes an index for all five volumes. Presumably, Volume VI would have covered the history from 1931 to Mott's present-day, plus additional supplementary materials.

Volumes II and III of A History of American Magazines (1938) won the 1939 Pulitzer Prize for History, and Volume 4 won the Bancroft Prize in 1958.

Mott served as president of Kappa Tau Alpha in 1937–1939. He died in Columbia, Missouri.

Select bibliography[edit]

  • Editor, Interpretations of Journalism: A Book of Readings with Ralph D. Casey, 1937.
  • 1938: A History of American Magazines, 1741-1850; A History of American Magazines, 1850-1865 (1938): 1865-1885., link from American Council of Learned Societies Humanities E-book.
  • "Trends in newspaper content." The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (1942): 60-65. in JSTOR
  • "Facetious News Writing, 1833-1883." Mississippi Valley Historical Review (1942): 35-54. in JSTOR
  • Jefferson and the Press (Louisiana State University Press, 1943)
  • "The Newspaper Coverage of Lexington and Concord." New England Quarterly (1944): 489-505. in JSTOR
  • "Newspapers in presidential campaigns." Public Opinion Quarterly 8.3 (1944): 348-367. Online
  • Golden Multitudes: the Story of Best Sellers in the United States, 1947.
  • The news in America Harvard Univ Press, 1952.
  • A History of American Magazines: 1885-1905 Vol. 4. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1957.
  • The Old Printing Office with John DePol, 1962.
  • American Journalism, a History, 1690-1960, 1962.



  1. ^ "Papers of Frank Luther Mott". University of Iowa Libraries Manuscript Register. University of Iowa Libraries. Retrieved 6 March 2013.
  2. ^ Stroebel, Leslie D. and Richard D. Zakia. The Focal Encyclopedia of Photography. Boston: Focal Press, 1993. - This is greatly contested; others claim it was Clifton C. Edom, Henry Luce, or various other photojournalists.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Frank Luther Mott, "Unfinished Story; or, The Man in the Carrel" in A History of American Magazines: Volume V: Sketches of 21 Magazines 1905-1930 (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1968), 331. This brief autobiographical sketch describes Mott's interest in magazines and the course of the series. Additional background information is contained in the introductions by Howard Mumford Jones and Mott's daughter, Mildred Mott Wedel.

External links[edit]