Sunset as the Magazine of Western Living and the Pacific Monthly

Sunset, February 1990 | Go to article overview

Sunset as the Magazine of Western Living and the Pacific Monthly


Sunset as The Magazine of Western Living and The Pacific Monthly As we look ahead to an era of even greater importance for the region in and around the Pacific Ocean, I'd like to share some of Sunset's long and illustrious Pacific history with you.

If you look on page 3, you'll see that one of Sunset's subtitles is "The Pacific Monthly." That goes back to 1912, predating our better-known designation, "The Magazine of Western Living," by many years. These interlinked subtitles tell a story of two very similar pioneering magazines.

In 1898, the Southern Pacific Company founded Sunset Magazine, taking its title from the railroad's luxury train, the Sunset Limited. A few months later in that same year, another magazine similar in format and purpose was started in Portland. It was titled The Pacific Monthly.

Early Sunset editor Charles K. Field and Pacific Monthly manager William Bittle Wells (along with their classmate and friend, Herbert Hoover) were products of the first graduating class of the brand-new Stanford University. Their Western education and orientation had a definite influence in shaping their publications.

Both new magazines set out to serve readers living in Western America--as well as to attract settlers and tourists from the East--by reporting on commercial and agricultural opportunities on the Pacific side of the Rockies. Both also published fiction and gave special attention to international trade, political issues, and culture from the vast Pacific Ocean area. Regular features drew the world's attention to the West's natural beauty, fine hotels, and other attractions--and, of course, extolled the speed and convenience of traveling by train.

It was an exciting time in the Pacific. The Philippines and Hawaii became U.S. territories. The Klondike gold rush was on. Japan was emerging as a powerful economic and military force only a few decades after U.S. Navy Commodore Matthew Perry had opened its doors to the world.

As time went on, Sunset concentrated more on California and the Southwest, with frequent references to neighboring Mexico. The Pacific Monthly focused more on the Pacific Northwest, Western Canada, and Alaska, meanwhile gaining the support of the Harriman railroad interests.

Together, these magazines played an important role in helping newly established Western states define a regional identity by reporting on expanded transportation, communication, and water-development projects. …

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