896,215 mail; 85, 747 counter sales, etc.; 3,507 complimentary copies, etc.
Graham R. Walden
Putnam's Monthly provided its own apologia in an Introductory at the beginning of the first number:
A man buys a Magazine to be amused--to be instructed, if you please, but the lesson must be made amusing. . . . It is because we are confident that neither Greece nor Guinea can offer the American reader a richer variety of instruction and amusement in every kind, than the country whose pulses throb with his, and whose every interest is his own, that this magazine presents itself today. The genius of the old world is affluent; we owe much to it, and we hope to owe more. But we have no less faith in the opulence of our own resources. January 1853, p. 1.
As a monthly, striving for distinction between the daily papers and the quarterly reviews, Putnam's placed itself in competition with Harper's,* which was no torious for reprinting English serials without permission. Although Putnam's never emerged as the victor in this competition and, after each of its three appearances, was forced to merge with another monthly, the distinction--even brilliance--of the new magazine was widely appreciated. William Makepeace Thackerary called the first series of Putnam's the "best magazine in the world and better than Blackwood's,"1 and the New American Cyclopaedia later characterized the first series as the highest-quality American magazine of its time. 2
Between its appearance in January 1853 and merger with Emerson's United States Magazine in 1857, the first series of Putnam's enjoyed both success and notoriety. Its first number sold 20,000 copies and subsequent numbers reached as many as 19,000 copies--the magazine claimed a profit of $14,000 from 1855 to 1857. 3 A steady decline in circulation (to 14,000 in 1857) combined with George Palmer Putnam's discovery in 1855 that a partner had lost company funds on wildcat speculation 4 led to the sale of Putnam's to Dix, Edwards, and Company, a publishing firm that failed a year later, and to the eventual merger with Emerson's. Revived in 1868 after the pattern of the first series, the second series of Putnam's never gained a circulation higher than 15,000, and since this was too few readers to avoid financial loss, George Haven Putnam sold the monthly to Scribner's. 5 In 1899, Putnam took over the Critic, which had been established eighteen years before by Jeanette and Joseph Gilder, and Putnam's Monthly and the Critic appeared. Again, by 1910, Putnam couldn't afford to sustain the monthly's financial losses, and it merged with the Atlantic Monthly.* Neither the second nor third series of Putnam's attained the sparkle of the first series, which combined the social commentary of George William Curtis, the