The Dream of a New Social Order: Popular Magazines in America

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This lively book explores how magazines became the first national mass medium in the United States and how they expressed a new American culture based on the dream of a better future. Matthew Schneirov argues that the birth of such popular magazines as Munsey's, McClure's, and Cosmopolitan helped to form the foundations of contemporary consumer culture. These magazines, which usurped genteel "family house magazines" such as Harper's Monthly and The Atlantic Monthly at the turn of the century, actively spread ideas of abundance, social control, and justice. Revolutionary concepts and products from the skyscraper to the camera, the automobile, and the new-fangled "flying machine" were extolled in their pages as icons of the technological promise that would transform modern living. By promoting consumer culture, these dynamic magazines galvanized the national mood. Headed by savvy, cosmopolitan editors who were equally committed to the cultural and intellectual education of their fellow Americans and the growth of mass print culture, these publications encouraged readers to expand their personal horizons to accommodate a spirit of progress. Articles on consumerism, therapeutic culture, and social welfare were juxtaposed with the exposes of the "muckrakers" - a new breed of journalists including Ida Tarbell, Lincoln Steffens, and William Allen White who investigated municipal and corporate corruption in the "Gilded Age" of Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Tammany Hall. This vision transformed the traditional and elitist view of culture as a repository of timeless and fixed virtues to a springboard of ideas and energies directed toward achieving a cohesive, cooperative society. Engaged in the "whirlpool of real life," the popular magazines pointed to the vitality of consumerism and the industrial cities as sure signs of progress. Informative and stylish, as well as expansive in its eclectic coverage of the popular magazine, Schneirov brilliantly shows how this phenomenon
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Schneirov sees Cosmopolitan (no relation to today's Cosmopolitan), Munsey's, and McClure's as three prominent magazines in the center of major shifts in American popular culture, attracting national audiences and appealing to Americans' dreams of technological progress and social utopias. The author (sociology, Duquesne Univ.) advances an interdisciplinary approach to culture as the dynamic interplay of economic, social, and ideological factors. He eschews explanations of class hegemony and economic or technological determinism for the emergence of popular (i.e., not highbrow) magazines and consumer mass culture. Though more discussion is needed of racial/ethnic minorities, the working classes, and regional (e.g., Southern) cultures, Schneirov richly describes the magazines' editors and articles on health and muckraking. Best for graduate collections in sociology, mass communications, U.S. history, and culture studies.-Charles L. Lumpkins, Bloomsburg Univ. Lib., Pa.
Schneirov (sociology, Duquesne U.) explores how magazines became the first national mass medium. He argues that popular magazines helped to form the foundations of contemporary consumer culture and created a new breed of journalists, the "muckrakers." Contains six appendices of tables showing circulation figures and topics of articles for several publications. Includes photographs from 19th- and 20th-century magazines. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231082907
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 10/20/1994
  • Pages: 357
  • Product dimensions: 6.31 (w) x 9.32 (h) x 1.11 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction: A Power and a Pleasure 1
Pt. 1 The Gospel of Culture and the Victorian Reader 25
Ch. 1 The Family House Magazines and the Gospel of Culture 27
Ch. 2 The Victorian Reader and the Political Economy of the Magazine 48
Pt. 2 The Magazine Revolution 73
Ch. 3 The Magazine Revolution of the 1890s 75
Ch. 4 "The Whirlpool of Real Life": The Popular Magazine Project 103
Pt. 3 Dreams of Abundance, Social Control, and Social Justice 125
Ch. 5 The New Secular Religion of Health 127
Ch. 6 "New Worlds to Conquer": The Dreams of Progress 161
Ch. 7 Muckraking, Realism, and the Dream of Social Justice 202
Ch. 8 Dreams of a New Social Order 245
Appendix 1: Circulation in Thousands of the Leading General Interest Magazines from 1900 to 1913 265
Appendix 2: Topics of Lead Cosmopolitan Articles, 1893-1901 266
Appendix 3: Topics of Lead Cosmopolitan Articles, 1905-1914 267
Appendix 4: Century Magazine Articles, 1893-1900 268
Appendix 5: Cosmopolitan Magazine Articles, 1893-1900 269
Appendix 6: Contributors to Walker's Cosmopolitan 270
Notes 273
Bibliography 333
Index 345
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