Creating a Magazine for Men: Curtis Gets the Post and
the Post Gets Lorimer, 1897-1900
By 1897 the Ladies' Home Journal had come far since its inauguration in 1883 as "sort of a ladies' journal." The magazine that Curtis, Knapp, and Bok had shaped and nurtured was a resounding success, with a well-established, large audience and a clear formula. The Journal and its producers had, in addition, played a key role in creating a sophisticated milieu of mass-circulation magazine publishing and in the joining of gender and commerce in the mass-circulation magazine forum.
Cyrus Curtis was not content to rest with this achievement, however, and he began to consider publishing "sort of a men's journal." Curtis's "pet idea to create a paper for men," as Bok put it, grew out of his conviction that the chief interest in a man's life was the fight for a living, and in Curtis's view that fight centered in the arena of business. Increasingly, earning a living for middle-class American men did touch on some phase of business; 50 percent of the total male labor force in 1910 described themselves as "businessmen." 1 Curtis accordingly planned loosely to aim his publication at the American man of business, targeting in particular the sons and husbands of Journal readers.
The years 1897 to 1900 saw Cyrus Curtis and the staff he would hire struggling to establish this new magazine for men, changing and fine-tuning its formula, and trying to distinguish it from other magazines of the day, particularly the Ladies' Home Journal. The creation of the Journal, as we have seen, represented the intersection of an early and relatively primitive mass culture and certain well-defined female gender norms. The creation of the Saturday Evening Post stood, in contrast, at the intersection of a more developed and more crowded mass market, and less explicit and more diffuse male gender norms. As a result, the identity of the Post proved to be comparatively difficult to establish and even harder to make commercially viable.
We see directly for the first time, then, major and negative ramifications of the gendered mass media milieu that Cyrus Curtis had a large part in shaping. Ironically, the creation and elaboration of the female-targeted Journal stood in the way of the success of the second major Curtis magazine. Both Cyrus Curtis and George Horace Lorimer, the editor he would hire, would grapple with the magazine's formula in this already-gendered commercial milieu. Above all, the magazines' producers would have to demonstrate how commercialism, already linked so closely and strongly to femininity, might also be linked to masculinity.