|Publisher||Saturday Evening Post Society|
Curtis Publishing Co. (1897–1969)
|Total circulation||237907 (December 2018)|
|First issue||August 4, 1821|
|Company||Saturday Evening Post Society|
The Saturday Evening Post is an American magazine, currently published six times a year. It was issued weekly under this title from 1897 until 1963, then every two weeks until 1969. From the 1920s to the 1960s, it was one of the most widely circulated and influential magazines within the American middle class, with fiction, non-fiction, cartoons and features that reached two million homes every week. The magazine declined in readership through the 1960s, and in 1969 The Saturday Evening Post folded for two years before being revived as a quarterly publication with an emphasis on medical articles in 1971. As of the late 2000s, The Saturday Evening Post is published six times a year by the Saturday Evening Post Society, which purchased the magazine in 1982. The magazine was redesigned in 2013.
The Saturday Evening Post was first published in 1821 in the same printing shop at 53 Market Street in Philadelphia where the Benjamin Franklin-founded Pennsylvania Gazette had been published in the 18th century. While the Gazette ceased publication in 1800, ten years after Franklin's death, the Post links its history to the original magazine.
Cyrus H. K. Curtis, publisher of the Ladies' Home Journal, bought the Post for $1,000 in 1897. Under the ownership of the Curtis Publishing Company, the Post grew to become the most widely circulated weekly magazine in America. The magazine gained prominent status under the leadership of its longtime editor George Horace Lorimer (1899–1937).
The Saturday Evening Post published current event articles, editorials, human interest pieces, humor, illustrations, a letter column, poetry (with contributions submitted by readers), single-panel gag cartoons (including Hazel by Ted Key) and stories by the leading writers of the time. It was known for commissioning lavish illustrations and original works of fiction. Illustrations were featured on the cover and embedded in stories and advertising. Some Post illustrations continue to be reproduced as posters or prints, especially those by Norman Rockwell. In 1954 it published its first articles on the role of the US in deposing Mohammad Mosaddegh, Prime Minister of Iran, in 1953. The article was based on materials leaked by CIA director Allen Dulles.
The Post readership began to decline in the late 1950s and 1960s. In general, the decline of general interest magazines was blamed on television, which competed for advertisers and readers' attention. The Post had problems retaining readers: the public's taste in fiction was changing, and the Post's conservative politics and values appealed to a declining number of people. Content by popular writers became harder to obtain. Prominent authors drifted away to newer magazines offering more money and status. As a result, the Post published more articles on current events and cut costs by replacing illustrations with photographs for covers and advertisements.
Curtis Publishing Co. v. Butts
The magazine's publisher, Curtis Publishing Company, lost a landmark defamation suit, Curtis Publishing Co. v. Butts 388 U.S. 130 (1967), resulting from an article, and was ordered to pay $3,060,000 in damages to the plaintiff. The Post article implied that football coaches Paul "Bear" Bryant and Wally Butts conspired to fix a game between the University of Alabama and the University of Georgia. Both coaches sued Curtis Publishing Co. for defamation, each initially asking for $10 million. Bryant eventually settled for $300,000 while Butts' case went to the Supreme Court, which held that libel damages may be recoverable (in this instance against a news organization) when the injured party is a non-public official, if the plaintiff can prove that the defendant was guilty of a reckless lack of professional standards when examining allegations for reasonable credibility. (Butts was eventually awarded $460,000.)
In 1968, Martin Ackerman, a specialist in troubled firms, became president of Curtis after lending it $5M. With the magazine still in dire financial straits, Ackerman announced that Curtis would reduce printing costs by cancelling the subscriptions of roughly half of its readers. Those who lost their subscriptions were offered a free transfer to a subscription to Life magazine; Life publisher Time, Inc. paid Curtis $5M for the exchange, easing the company's mounting debts. The move was also widely seen as an opportunity for Curtis to abandon older and more rural readers, who were less valuable to the Post's advertisers. Columnist Art Buchwald lampooned the decision, suggesting that "if the Saturday Evening Post considered you a deadbeat, you didn't have much choice but to either pretend you were still getting the magazine and live a lie, or move out of the neighborhood before anyone found out."
These last-ditch efforts failed to save the magazine, and Curtis announced in January 1969 that the February 8 issue would be the magazine's last. Ackerman stated that the magazine had lost $5M in 1968 and would lose a projected $3M in 1969. In a meeting with employees after the magazine's closure had been announced, Emerson thanked the staff for their professional work and promised "to stay here and see that everyone finds a job".
At a March 1969 post-mortem on the magazine's closing, Emerson stated that The Post "was a damn good vehicle for advertising" with competitive renewal rates and readership reports and expressed what The New York Times called "understandable bitterness" in wishing "that all the one-eyed critics will lose their other eye". Otto Friedrich, the magazine's last managing editor, blamed the death of The Post on Curtis. In his Decline and Fall (Harper & Row, 1970), an account of the magazine's final years (1962–69), he argued that corporate management was unimaginative and incompetent. Friedrich acknowledges that The Post faced challenges while the tastes of American readers changed over the course of the 1960s, but he insisted that the magazine maintained a standard of good quality and was appreciated by readers.
In 1970, control of the debilitated Curtis Publishing Company was acquired from the estate of Cyrus Curtis by Indianapolis industrialist Beurt SerVaas. SerVaas relaunched the Post the following year on a quarterly basis as a kind of nostalgia magazine.
In early 1982, ownership of the Post was transferred to the Benjamin Franklin Literary and Medical Society, founded in 1976 by the Post's then-editor, Corena "Cory" SerVaas (wife of Beurt SerVaas). The magazine's core focus was now health and medicine; indeed, the magazine's website originally noted that the "credibility of The Saturday Evening Post has made it a valuable asset for reaching medical consumers and for helping medical researchers obtain family histories. In the magazine, national health surveys are taken to further current research on topics such as cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, ulcerative colitis, spina bifida, and bipolar disorder." Ownership of the magazine was later transferred to the Saturday Evening Post Society; SerVaas headed both organizations. The range of topics covered in the magazine's articles is now wide, suitable for a general readership.
By 1991, Curtis Publishing Company had been renamed Curtis International, a subsidiary of SerVaas Inc., and had become an importer of audiovisual equipment. Today the Post is published six times a year by the Saturday Evening Post Society, which claims 501(c)(3) non-profit organization status.
With the January/February 2013 issue, the Post launched a major makeover of the publication, including a new cover design and efforts to increase the magazine's profile, in response to a general public misbelief that it was no longer in existence. The magazine's new logo is an update of a logo it had used beginning in 1942. As of October 2018, the complete archive of the magazine is available online.
The Post has made significant contributions to American and world culture.
In 1916, Saturday Evening Post editor George Horace Lorimer discovered Norman Rockwell, then an unknown 22-year-old New York artist. Lorimer promptly purchased two illustrations from Rockwell, using them as covers, and commissioned three more drawings. Rockwell's illustrations of the American family and rural life of a bygone era became icons. During his 50-year career with the Post, Rockwell painted more than 300 covers.
The Post also employed Nebraska artist John Philip Falter, who became known as "a painter of Americana with an accent of the Middle West," who "brought out some of the homeliness and humor of Middle Western town life and home life." He produced 120 covers for the Post between 1943 and 1968, ceasing only when the magazine began displaying photographs on its covers.
Another prominent artist was Charles R. Chickering, a freelance illustrator who went on to design numerous postage stamps for the U.S. Post Office. Other popular cover illustrators include artists George Hughes, Constantin Alajalov, John Clymer, Alonzo Kimball, W. H. D. Koerner, J. C. Leyendecker, Mead Schaeffer, Charles Archibald MacLellan, John E. Sheridan, Emmett Watson, Douglass Crockwell, Amos Sewell, James R. Bingham and N. C. Wyeth.
Cartoonists have included: Bob Barnes, Irwin Caplan, Tom Henderson, Al Johns, Clyde Lamb, Jerry Marcus, Frank O'Neal, Charles M. Schulz, B. Tobey, Pete Wyma and Bill Yates. The magazine ran Ted Key's cartoon panel series Hazel from 1943 to 1969.
Each issue featured several original short stories and often included an installment of a serial appearing in successive issues. Most of the fiction was written for mainstream tastes by popular writers, but some literary writers were featured. The opening pages of stories featured paintings by the leading magazine illustrators.
The Post published stories and essays by H. E. Bates, Ray Bradbury, Kay Boyle, Agatha Christie, Brian Cleeve, Eleanor Franklin Egan, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, C. S. Forester, Ernest Haycox, Robert A. Heinlein, Kurt Vonnegut, Paul Gallico, Normand Poirier, Hammond Innes, Louis L'Amour, Sinclair Lewis, Joseph C. Lincoln, John P. Marquand, Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Sax Rohmer, William Saroyan, John Steinbeck, Rex Stout, Rob Wagner, Edith Wharton, and P.G. Wodehouse.
Emblematic of the Post's fiction was author Clarence Budington Kelland, who first appeared in 1916–17 with stories of homespun heroes, "Efficiency Edgar" and "Scattergood Baines". Kelland was a steady presence from 1922 until 1961.
Publication in the Post launched careers and helped established artists and writers stay afloat. P. G. Wodehouse said "the wolf was always at the door" until the Post gave him his "first break" in 1915 by serializing Something New.
After the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Post columnist Garet Garrett became a vocal critic of the New Deal. Garrett accused the Roosevelt administration of initiating socialist strategies. After editor George Lorimer died, Garrett became editorial writer-in-chief and criticized the Roosevelt administration's support of the United Kingdom and efforts to prepare to enter what became the Second World War, and allegedly showed some support for Adolf Hitler in some of his editorials. Garrett's positions aroused controversy and may have cost the Post readers and advertisers in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor and the Holocaust.
(Listed from the purchase by Curtis, 1898)
- William George Jordan (1898–99)
- George Horace Lorimer (1899–1937)
- Wesley Winans Stout (1937–1942)
- Ben Hibbs (1942–1962)
- Robert Fuoss (1962)
- Robert Sherrod (1962)
- Clay Blair Jr. (1962–1964)
- William Emerson (1965–1969)
- Beurt SerVaas (1971–1975)
- Cory SerVaas, M.D. (1975–2008)
- Joan SerVaas (2008–2009)
- Patrick Perry (2009)
- Stephen C. George (2009–10)
- Steven Slon (2012–2022)
- Patrick Perry (2022–present)
Other notable staff
December 28, 1907. Cover by J. C. Leyendecker
April 16, 1910. Cover by Anton Otto Fischer
March 11, 1911. Cover by Alonzo Myron Kimball
December 4, 1920. Cover by Norman Rockwell
June 4, 1921. Cover by Norman Rockwell
- Constantin Alajalov
- Cyrus Curtis
- John Philip Falter
- Anton Otto Fischer
- Garet Garrett
- Ladies' Home Journal
- J. C. Leyendecker
- Norman Rockwell
- John E. Sheridan (illustrator)
- Harry Simmons
- Frank Glasgow Tinker
- Edmund Ward
- "eCirc for Consumer Magazines". Alliance for Audited Media. December 31, 2018. Retrieved July 12, 2019.
- The Saturday Evening Post Society (August 4, 2011). "On Our Birthday, a Look at Our Earliest Issues".
- Higgins, Will (January 2, 2013). "Saturday Evening Post looking for dramatic turnaround". USA Today. Retrieved September 4, 2020.
- "History of The Saturday Evening Post". The Saturday Evening Post. Retrieved June 20, 2022.
- "About the 'Saturday Evening Post'". The Saturday Evening Post. Archived from the original on February 22, 2009.
- "Curtis Publishing - The Art of Licensing". www.curtispublishing.com. Archived from the original on June 14, 2018. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
- Tebbel, John. George Horace Lorimer and the Saturday Evening Post. Doubleday & Co., 1948.
- Douglas Little (November 2004). "Mission Impossible: The CIA and the Cult of Covert Action in the Middle East". Diplomatic History. 28 (5): 667. doi:10.1111/j.1467-7709.2004.00446.x. JSTOR 24914820.
- 388 U.S. 130 (1967)
- Applebome, Peter. "William A. Emerson Jr., Editor in Chief of Saturday Evening Post, Dies at 86", The New York Times, August 26, 2009. Accessed August 30, 2009.
- "Publishers Agree In Financial Plan", The Kansas City Star, May 19, 1968, page 4A.
- Lambert B (August 4, 1993). "Martin Ackerman, 61, publisher; closed The Saturday Evening Post". The New York Times.
- Buchwald, Art. "Saturday Evening Post, How Could You?", via Newsday, May 21, 1968, page 28.
- Buchwald, Art. "The Saturday Evening Post Saga", via the Akron Beacon-Journal, January 19, 1969, page D 11.
- Bedingfield, Robert E. "February 8 Issue of Saturday Evening Post to Be Last", The New York Times, January 11, 1969. Accessed August 29, 2009.
- Carmody, Deirdre. "Magazine staff says sad good-by; Post Secretaries Find a Rose on Desk to Mark the Day", The New York Times, January 11, 1969. Accessed August 29, 2009.
- Dougherty, Philip H. "Postmortem on Saturday Evening Post", The New York Times, March 30, 1969. Accessed August 29, 2009.
- "Return of the Post". Time. June 14, 1971. Archived from the original on February 13, 2009. Retrieved April 12, 2008.
- "Around the Nation: Saturday Evening Post Sold to Franklin Society". The New York Times. January 10, 1982. Retrieved September 28, 2010.
- Melissa Mace (Fall 2005). "Beyond the Original Mission". Iowa Journalist. Archived from the original on August 3, 2010. Retrieved September 28, 2010.
- "Saturdayeveningpost.com publishes a classic American bi-monthly magazine". Retrieved September 28, 2010.
- "Company News: Briefs". The New York Times. June 26, 1991. Retrieved September 28, 2010.
- Bloomgarden-Smoke, Kara (January 15, 2013). "Magazine Success Story: The Saturday Evening Post Keeps on Going". New York Observer. Retrieved April 3, 2014.
- The Saturday Evening Post Society. "Rockwell—1940s – The Saturday Evening Post".
- Aridi, Sara (October 24, 2018). "Craving Some Americana? The Saturday Evening Post Archive Is Online". The New York Times. Retrieved February 5, 2020.
- Denny, Diana (December 30, 2011). "Classic Covers: Constantin Alajalov". The Saturday Evening Post. Retrieved May 23, 2013.
- "Amos Sewell". The Saturday Evening Post. December 3, 2014. Retrieved May 4, 2018.
- "Jack London: First edition of The Call of the Wild in the Saturday Evening Post". manhattanrarebooks-literature.com. The Manhattan Rare Book Company. Retrieved February 9, 2010.
- "Tractor Actor Wins Oscar". Caterpillar Inc. Archived from the original on August 1, 2018. Retrieved September 4, 2020.
Upson wrote more than 100 stories featuring his exploits with the Earthworm Tractor Company for the Saturday Evening Post from 1927-1974.
- "The Art of Fiction – P.G. Wodehouse" (PDF). The Paris Review (reprint ed.). 2005. p. 21. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 29, 2008. Retrieved June 9, 2008.
- Otto Friedrich, Decline and Fall (Harper & Row, 1970), flyleaf, chapter 2, and passim, provides info for 1898–1969
- "Letters: From the Editor". The Saturday Evening Post. Retrieved July 7, 2009.
- Smith, Steve (January 18, 2012). "Steve Slon to Lead The Saturday Evening Post". Archived from the original on January 25, 2012. Retrieved January 31, 2012.
- Slon's resume at stevenslon.com/sts_01CV.html shows editorial direction since October 2010 [when Stephen George left]
- Editorial realignment revealed in masthead of September/October 2022 issue.
- "Jane Nickerson Steinberg, 83, Food Editor". The New York Times. March 2, 2000. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 28, 2023.
- Cohn, Jan. Creating America: George Horace Lorimer and the Saturday Evening Post (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1990)
- Damon-Moore, Helen. Magazines for the millions: Gender and commerce in the Ladies' Home Journal and the Saturday Evening Post, 1880–1910 (SUNY Press, 1994)
- Hall, Roger I. "A system pathology of an organization: the rise and fall of the old Saturday Evening Post." Administrative science quarterly (1976): 185–211. in JSTOR
- Tebbel, John William. George Horace Lorimer and the Saturday Evening Post (1948)