From an inauspicious start as a magazine intended to serve a limited clientele, Early American Life has gone on to prove its mass audience appeal and durability. Beginning with a first issue printing estimate of a mere 5,000 copies, 1 the magazine's circulation has exceeded 300,000 since its tenth year. During the nearly two decades since its creation in 1970, it has changed addresses more frequently than publishers or editors; and that, seldom. Three editors and three publishers have shaped its pages. Four addresses in three states have been home to the publication, two of its three moves occurring during the first couple of years.
Founding editor James E. Betts initially planned only to determine and meet the interests and needs of the select membership of the newly formed Early American Society, and to promote attendance at museums and historic sites. In keeping with the publication's emphasis on decorating, Betts chose the serial's title as indicative of "furnishing that is traditional, comfortable, warm and secure." 2 He set out to span several centuries of early American arts and crafts "from hand-carved wooden spoons to canning--log huts to plastic replicas." 3 The magazine's current range of years is from approximately 1600 to 1900.
The Early American Society was to be a small organization catering to an elite group of early American buffs. 4 Membership in the organization was to include a subscription to Early American Life. However, it became apparent early on that demand was heavier than anticipated. The initial print run was upped to 8,000 copies, and was still insufficient. In one year's time, the Early American Society claimed a membership (and Early American Life, a readership) of 30,000. At first, Betts intended to expand the bimonthly magazine to a monthly one by the third issue. That plan, although revived in late 1972, was never