The Saturday Evening Post

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The Saturday Evening Post
Saturday evening post 1903 11 28 a.jpg
1903 cover of The Saturday Evening Post: Otto von Bismarck illustrated by George Gibbs
PublisherSaturday Evening Post Society
Curtis Publishing Co. (1897–1969), Triangle Communications (1969-1988)
Total circulation
(December 2018)
237,907 [1]
First issueAugust 4, 1821 (1821-08-04) [2]
CompanySaturday Evening Post Society
CountryUnited States
Based in Indianapolis
ISSN 0048-9239

The Saturday Evening Post is an American magazine, currently published six times a year. It was published 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 for the American middle class, with fiction, non-fiction, cartoons and features that reached millions of 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.

A magazine is a publication, usually a periodical publication, which is printed or electronically published. Magazines are generally published on a regular schedule and contain a variety of content. They are generally financed by advertising, by a purchase price, by prepaid subscriptions, or a combination of the three.


The magazine was redesigned in 2013.


The Saturday Evening Post was first published in 1821 [2] in the same printing shop at 53 Market Street in Philadelphia where the Pennsylvania Gazette had been published in the 18th century. [3] It 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). [4]

<i>Pennsylvania Gazette</i> newspaper printed from 1728 until 1800 in the United States

The Pennsylvania Gazette was one of the United States' most prominent newspapers from 1728, before the time period of the American Revolution, until 1800.

George Horace Lorimer American journalist and writer

George Horace Lorimer was an American journalist, author and publisher. He is best known as the editor of The Saturday Evening Post, which he led from 1899 to 1936. During his editorial reign, the Post rose from a circulation of several thousand to more than one million. He is also credited with promoting or discovering a large number of American writers, such as Jack London, whose stories were published in the Post. In addition, Lorimer served as vice president, president, and chairman of the Curtis Publishing Company, which published several magazines and numerous books.

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 became popular and continue to be reproduced as posters or prints, especially those by Norman Rockwell.

Cartoon Form of two-dimensional illustrated visual art

A cartoon is a type of illustration, possibly animated, typically in a non-realistic or semi-realistic style. The specific meaning has evolved over time, but the modern usage usually refers to either: an image or series of images intended for satire, caricature, or humor; or a motion picture that relies on a sequence of illustrations for its animation. Someone who creates cartoons in the first sense is called a cartoonist, and in the second sense they are usually called an animator.

<i>Hazel</i> (comics) US comic

Hazel was a single-panel cartoon series by Ted Key about a live-in maid who works for a middle-class family. Launched in 1943, Hazel ended September 29, 2018.

Ted Key American cartoonist

Ted Key, was an American cartoonist and writer. He is best known as the creator of the cartoon panel Hazel, which was later the basis for a television series of the same name, and also the creator of Peabody's Improbable History.

Curtis Publishing Co. stopped publishing the Post in 1969 after the company lost a landmark defamation suit and was ordered to pay over $3 million in damages. The Post was revived in 1971 as a limited circulation quarterly publication. 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.

Curtis Publishing Co. v. Butts, 388 U.S. 130 (1967), was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States established the standard of First Amendment protection against defamation claims brought by private individuals.

At common law, damages are a remedy in the form of a monetary award to be paid to a claimant as compensation for loss or injury. To warrant the award, the claimant must show that a breach of duty has caused foreseeable loss. To be recognised at law, the loss must involve damage to property, or mental or physical injury; pure economic loss is rarely recognised for the award of damages.


A Norman Rockwell Post cover illustration from January 1922 Rockwellboywithstereoscope.png
A Norman Rockwell Post cover illustration from January 1922

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.

Norman Rockwell American painter

Norman Percevel Rockwell was an American author, painter and illustrator. His works have a broad popular appeal in the United States for their reflection of American culture. Rockwell is most famous for the cover illustrations of everyday life he created for The Saturday Evening Post magazine over nearly five decades. Among the best-known of Rockwell's works are the Willie Gillis series, Rosie the Riveter, The Problem We All Live With, Saying Grace, and the Four Freedoms series. He is also noted for his 64-year relationship with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), during which he produced covers for their publication Boys' Life, calendars, and other illustrations. These works include popular images that reflect the Scout Oath and Scout Law such as The Scoutmaster, A Scout is Reverent and A Guiding Hand, among many others.

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 the artists George Hughes, Constantin Alajalov, [5] John Clymer, W. H. D. Koerner, J. C. Leyendecker, Mead Schaeffer, Charles Archibald MacLellan, John E. Sheridan, Douglass Crockwell, Amos Sewell, [6] and N. C. Wyeth.

John Philip Falter American artist

John Philip Falter, more commonly known as John Falter, was an American artist best known for his many cover paintings for The Saturday Evening Post.

Charles R. Chickering American artist

Charles Ransom Chickering was best known as the freelance artist who designed some 77 postage stamps for the U.S. Post Office while working at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington, DC. His career as a professional artist began while working as an illustrator for the U.S. Army recording and drawing medical illustrations of the wounded and dead during the First World War. He continued the practice in civilian life and became a noted artist-illustrator who worked for a number of prominent magazines, including The Saturday Evening Post, which were very popular during the pre-television era of the 1920s to 1940s. After the Second World War Chickering began working for the U.S. Post office designing U.S. Postage stamps, some of which became famous. Later in life he became a designer and illustrator for first day cover cachets that were also popular among stamp and postal history collectors.

Constantin Alajálov was an Armenian-American painter and illustrator. He was born in Rostov-on-Don, Russia and immigrated to New York City in 1923, becoming a US citizen in 1928. Many of his illustrations were covers for such magazines as The New Yorker, The Saturday Evening Post, and Fortune. He also illustrated many books, including the first edition of George Gershwin's Song Book. His works are in New York's Museum of Modern Art and the Brooklyn Museum. He died in Amenia, New York.

The magazine's line-up of cartoonists included Bob Barnes, Irwin Caplan, Tom Henderson, Al Johns, Clyde Lamb, Jerry Marcus, Frank O'Neal, 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 and Rex Stout and Rob Wagner. It also published poetry by such noted poets as Carl Sandburg, Ogden Nash, Dorothy Parker and Hannah Kahn.

Jack London's best-known novel The Call of the Wild was first published, in serialized form, in the Saturday Evening Post in 1903. [7]

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.

For many years William Hazlett Upson contributed a very popular series of short stories about the escapades of Earthworm Tractors salesman Alexander Botts. 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 . [8]

After the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Post columnist Garet Garrett became a vocal critic of the New Deal. Garrett accused the Roosevelt Administration of initiating socialist strategies. After 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. Garrett's positions aroused controversy and may have cost the Post readers and advertisers.[ citation needed ]

Decline and demise

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.

The magazine's publisher, Curtis Publishing Company, lost a landmark defamation suit, Curtis Publishing Co. v. Butts 388 U.S. 130 (1967), [9] 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.)

William Emerson was promoted to editor-in-chief in 1965 and remained in the position until the magazine's demise in 1969. [10]

In 1968, Martin Ackerman, a specialist in troubled firms, became president of Curtis after lending it $5 million. Although at first he said there were no plans to shut down the magazine, soon he halved its circulation, purportedly in an attempt to increase the quality of the audience, and then subsequently did shut it down. [11] In announcing that the February 8, 1969, issue would be the magazine's last, Curtis executive Martin Ackerman stated that the magazine had lost $5 million in 1968 and would lose a projected $3 million in 1969. [12] 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". [13]

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". [14] 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.

Reemergence and current ownership

In 1970, control of the debilitated Curtis Publishing Company was acquired from the estate of Cyrus Curtis by Indianapolis industrialist Beurt SerVaas. [15] SerVaas relaunched the Post the following year on a quarterly basis as a kind of nostalgia magazine. [15]

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, Dr. Corena "Cory" SerVaas [16] (wife of Beurt SerVaas). [17] 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." [18] Ownership of the magazine was later transferred to the Saturday Evening Post Society; Dr. 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. [19] 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. [20] The magazine's new logo is an update of a logo it had used beginning in 1942. [21]


(from the purchase by Curtis, 1898) [22]

See also

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  1. "eCirc for Consumer Magazines". Alliance for Audited Media. December 31, 2018. Retrieved July 12, 2019.
  2. 1 2 The Saturday Evening Post Society. "On Our Birthday, a Look at Our Earliest Issues".
  3. "History of The Saturday Evening Post". The Saturday Evening Post.Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  4. Tebbel, John. George Horace Lorimer and the Saturday Evening Post. Doubleday & Co., 1948.
  5. Denny, Diana (December 30, 2011). "Classic Covers: Constantin Alajalov". The Saturday Evening Post. Retrieved May 23, 2013.
  6. Post Editors (December 3, 2014). "Amos Sewell". The Saturday Evening Post. Retrieved May 4, 2018.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  7. "Jack London: First edition of The Call of the Wild in the Saturday Evening Post". The Manhattan Rare Book Company. Retrieved February 9, 2010.
  8. "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.
  9. 388 U.S. 130 (1967)
  10. 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.
  11. Lambert B. Martin Ackerman, 61, publisher; closed The Saturday Evening Post.New York Times.August 4, 1993.
  12. Bedingfield, Robert E. "February 8 Issue of Saturday Evening Post to Be Last", The New York Times , January 11, 1969. Accessed August 29, 2009.
  13. 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.
  14. Dougherty, Philip H. "Postmortem on Saturday Evening Post", The New York Times , March 30, 1969. Accessed August 29, 2009.
  15. 1 2 "Return of the Post". Time . June 14, 1971. Retrieved April 12, 2008.
  16. "Around the Nation: Saturday Evening Post Sold to Franklin Society". The New York Times . January 10, 1982. Retrieved September 28, 2010.
  17. Melissa Mace (Fall 2005). "Beyond the Original Mission". Iowa Journalist. Retrieved September 28, 2010.
  18. " publishes a classic American bi-monthly magazine" . Retrieved September 28, 2010.
  19. "Company News: Briefs". The New York Times . June 26, 1991. Retrieved September 28, 2010.
  20. Bloomgarden-Smoke, Kara (January 15, 2013). "Magazine Success Story: The Saturday Evening Post Keeps on Going". New York Observer. Retrieved April 3, 2014.
  21. The Saturday Evening Post Society. "Rockwell—1940s – The Saturday Evening Post".
  22. Otto Friedrich, Decline and Fall (Harper & Row, 1970), flyleaf, chapter 2, and passim, provides info for 1898–1969
  23. "Letters: From the Editor". The Saturday Evening Post. Retrieved July 7, 2009.
  24. 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.
  25. Slon's resume at shows editorial direction since October 2010 [when Stephen George left]

Further reading