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 ???.
St. Nicolas Magazine was published from 1873 to 1939.
Roswell Smith conceived of the idea for St. Nicholas in 1870 when he consulted the famous children's author Mary Mapes Dodge on her ideas about what a magazine for children should be. That same year Smith had co-founded Scribner's with Charles Scribner and Dr. Josiah Gilbert Holland as a rival publication to the popular adult periodicals Harper's Monthly and Atlantic Monthly and was already considering the publication of a magazine for younger readers. The success of Scribner's made it possible for Smith to offer the editorship of this new magazine to Dodge 3 years later, and the first issue of St. Nicholas appeared in November of 1873. Aiding Mrs. Dodge was Frank R. Stockton, an established Scribner's writer, as associate editor. In 1874 William Fayal Clarke joined the staff as assistant editor. Success followed rapidly in the early years of the magazine, enabling Roswell Smith to buy out four competitor publications in the first 2 years of St. Nicholas' existence. The magazine doubled in size from forty-eight to ninety-six pages per
issue, and circulation rose quickly and stabilized at about 70.000.
During that long run, the magazine exerted an influence on young
Americans rivaled only by that of The Youth's Companion.
St. Nicholas became one the most successful magazines for children during the second half of the 19th century. Circulation increased to almost 70,000 children all over the U.S.
In 1881 Scribner withdrew its share of ownership and the Century Company, with Roswell Smith as
president, took over the publication of St. Nicholas and Scribner's Monthly (renamed The
Century ). St. Nicholas was published by the Century Company of New York, renowned for its Century Magazine, which had an influence at the turn of the last century comparable to that of the New Yorker or The Atlantic in recent years, as well as for the magnificent Century Dictionary, which in its day approached the Oxford English Dictionary in terms of comprehensiveness and scholarship.
Editorial guidance was provided by Mary Mapes Dodge, who had
earlier written the classic Hans Brinker or, "The Silver Skates" in 1865). Mary Mapes Dodge is the often referred to as the "leader in juvenile literature" (Clarke, 1059), for she
helped create and perpetuate the most widely circulated and read children's magazine during a time when
American printing technology greatly improved and enabled the mass production of magazines and books. Dodge continued as editor until her death in 1905, when she was succeeded by Clarke.
Clarke maintained the high quality of St. Nicholas throughout his editorship, making few changes
except those necessary to keep the magazine modern in focus and appearance. Nevertheless, in the 20th
century a slow but steady decline in circu- lation began. Clarke retired in 1928, and two
years later the Century Company went out of business. The Century was suspended and St.
Nicholas was sold to the American Education Press, which then transferred it to the Educational
Publishing Corporation in 1935. A succession of editors, all of brief tenure, followed Clarke, but
none could seem to pump life into the dying magazine.
The focus of St Nicholas Magazine was always the young reader. The biline was "AN ILLUSTRATED MAGAZINE FOR YOUNG FOLKS".
Dodge's goal for her children's magazine was to create literature that inspired and interested children. In
1873 she anonymously wrote for Scribner's Monthly,"a successful children's magazine "must not be a
milk-and-water variety of the periodical for adults. In fact, it needs to be stronger, truer, bolder, more
uncompromising than the other; its cheer must be the cheer of the bird-song; it must mean freshness and
heartiness, life and joy" (Clarke, 1063). Mary clearly illustrates here her intention for the path St.
Nicholas. Mary hoped to portray the traditional values of society, to educate children, to provide
enjoyable entertainment, and to prepare them for "life as it is" (Kelly 380). The magazine was in the 19th century rich with marvelous illustrations. After the turn of the century, photographs were added.
The early popularity of St. Nicholas seems to be the result of two major advantages it had over its
rivals. First and foremost, the expert hand of Mary Mapes Dodge controlled every facet of the
magazine's production, and her literary reputation and wide social acquaintance attracted many of
the top writers and illustrators of her day to the St. Nicholas fold. Secondly, the magazine was
fortunate to have a prosperous parent company such as the house of Scribner. The superior printing
and art reproduction facilities of the DeVinne Press, printers for Scribner's Monthly, were available
to it, as well as the financial backing which enabled Dodge to pay her contributors what their talent
was worth. She could also draw upon the stable of regular Scribner's authors and illustrators to
provide material for her magazine.
In addition to providing three generations of children with reading delight, St. Nicholas offered those
same children an outlet for their creativity through the St. Nicholas League. Formed in 1899 by
Mary Mapes Dodge and Albert Bigelow Paine, the League was a sort of club which invited readers
to send in their own stories, poems, essays, photographs, pictures and puzzles for judging. The best
contributors were awarded badges or cash prizes in addition to having their own winning
contributions printed in the magazine. A number of children whose names would later be famous had
their first publi-cations in the St. Nicholas League: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edna St. Vincent Millay,
William Faulkner, Ring Lardner, and Eudora Welty, to name but a few.
It was in St. Nichiolas that Frances Hogdsen Burnett's Little Lord Fauntleroy was published in installment format during 1885. The serialized story and the subsequent book were a huge success, eventually being translated into twelve languages and selling
over a million copies in English alone. By 1893, Little Lord Fauntleroy could be found on the shelves of 72 percent of America's
public libraries, second only to the Roman pot boiler Ben Hur. [Ann Thwaite, Waiting for the Party (New York: Charles Scribner's
Sons, 1974), pp. 94-95.] Contrary to its current reputatiion, Little Lord Fauntleroy was read and aclaimed by adults, including an
American president and British prime minister.
St. Nicholas has an enduring reputation as the best children's magazine ever produced. Burnett's Little Lord Fauntleroy and Twain's Tom Sawyer Abroad first appeared as serials in the magazine, and many of Kipling's Jungle Book tales and Just So Stories were originally written for St. Nicholas.
St. Nicholas attracted some of the best known writers in America and England. A list of authors they published provides an incredible compendium of the leading authors of the era. Authors included Mark Twain, Louisa May Alcott, Robert Louis Stevenson, Kate Douglas Wiggin, John Greenleaf Whittier, Jack London,
Joel Chandler Harris,Bret Harte, Rudyard Kipling, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and L. Frank Baum, who had already achieved fame with his "modernized fairy tale", The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 1900. Even President Theodore Roosevelt submitted an article.
St. Nicholas was noted, not only for the quality of its literature, but its lush illustrations, which show to very good effect in DjVu format. In the age of cable TV and Nintendo, it may take a little effort on our part to imagine the excitement the arrival of each
installment brought to the children of the time. 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, Maxfield
Parrish, Frederic Remington, Reginald Birch, and Oliver Herford. a
There were advertisements in St Nicholas including advertisements fotr children's clothing. A example is Holeproof Hosiery in a 1921 issue of the magazine.
Despite changes in format and a switch to
cheaper production materials, publication ceased in 1940. The proliferation of less expensive
competitor magazines, as well as the replacement of reading as a favorite pastime by movies and
radio, had spelled its end. St. Nicholas was briefly revived by Juliet Lit Sterne in 1943, but failed
again within months.
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