St. Nicholas Magazine (US, 1873-1939)

Figure 1.--

St Nicholas Illustrators

St. Nicholas was noted for the quality of its literature. Authors included articles submitted by many of the greatest writers of the era. St. Nicholas also caried illustrations by many of the illustrous illustrators of the era. In our jaded age of television and video games, it is hard to understand how exciting it was for children to recievevthe their monthly installment of the magazine. The wonderful illustrations undoutedly drew many children into reading the exciting articles. Children had far fewer diversions than modern boys and girls. Mass media was just beining to develop in the late 19th century But as Clifton Fadiman has noted, such "magazines were not 'media.' They were friends." Most important American illustrators had their work published in St. Nichiolas Magazine, including Maxfield Parrish, Arthur Rackham, Howard Pyle, Frederic Remington, Reginald Birch, and Oliver Herford--to name just a few.

The Magazine

St. Nicolas Magazine was published from 1873 to 1939. During that long run, the magazine exerted an influence on young Americans rivaled only by that of The Youth's Companion. Editorial guidance was provided by Mary Mapes Dodge, who had earlier written the classic Hans Brinker: or, "The Silver Skates" in 1865). It was in St. Nichiolas that Frances Hogdsen Burnett's "Little Lord Fauntleroy" was published in 1885. St. Nicholas attracted some of the best known writers in America and England, including Mark Twain, Louisa May Alcott, Robert Louis Stevenson, Bret Harte, Rudyard Kipling, and the writer featured in this issue, L. Frank Baum, who had already achieved fame with his "modernized fairy tale", The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 1900. Most important American illustrators had their work published in St. Nichiolas Magazine, including Maxfield Parrish and ???.

Clothing and Fashion

One collector of St. Nicholas magazines reports that you can get a great feel for the change in clothing of both boys and girls in its pages. A HBC reader reports that St. Nicholas ran from November 1873 to February 1940. So of course it ran the gamut. There were rich boys and girls in expensive velvet frocks and knee pants. Of course the "Little Lord Fauntleroy" story was first published in the magazine during 1995. There were also poor children depicted in rags. During the 1920s boys were shown wearing plus fours and knickers and caps and the girls in those straight dresses with bobbed hair. The last issues of the magazine in the late 1930s and 40s show children looking like the Dick and Jane illustrations in early readers. Almost all the stories were illustrated. The children were from all walks of life, but mostly middle to upper class.

Reader Comment

A reader writes, "At times I've perused bound volumes of the Saint Nicholas Magazine, particularly for the 1880s and 1890s, an era that I've found to be particularly fascinating. The magazine was published for children from the late 1870s until the 1930s, and provides a treasure trove of visual material, including drawings and engravings in earlier issues, and photographs in later ones. Also, of course, it provides a wealth of stories and articles for children (although some seem to have been written for their mothers). Among other stories, it included the original publication of "Little Lord Fauntleroy" in a series of installments in 1886. The Saint Nicholas Magazine undoubtedly had strong influence on children's fashions. It might be interesting for HBC to feature a series on images from St. Nicholas, as well as comments on some of the stories and articles. " [HBC note: Indeed this is a project that we would like to persue.]

Christopher Wagner

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Created: May 29, 2001
Last updated: November 8, 2002