The Saturday Evening Post is the quintessential American mass-market magazine. Its history dates from the early 1800s, earlier than most publications of any kind, and encompasses entire epochs of American history. It has risen and fallen in its appeal as a commercial publication, but it has managed to capture the feelings and aspirations of Americans more often than not.
Charles Alexander and Samuel C. Atkinson began publishing the Saturday Evening Post on 4 August 1821. It was begun as a weekly newspaper in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where it competed with weekly compilations designed for the "Sunday reader" in a time when newspapers did not publish on Sundays.
After a modest first decade, the Post realized some national success in the 1830s. It was sold and resold during this time until it came under the control of George Graham. He improved the appearance and the writing quality markedly during the 1840s. In 1846, Graham offered the editorship to Henry Peterson, who raised its stature during the 1850s so that its circulation approached 90,000 copies. 1
The Post carried an eclectic mixture of news, politics, fiction, and human interest stories. The heart of its success during this time was the long fiction serial, usually by one Mrs. E.D.E.N. Southworth, but including Charles Dickens with A Tale of Two Cities. For two dollars a year, the reader got a newspaper of four pages measuring two feet by three feet.
In 1855, the Post became an eight-page small folio that featured fiction almost exclusively. During and after the Civil War, the Post declined in both circulation and quality. It was acquired by Andrew E. Smythe at a sheriff's sale in 1877 and for the next twenty years was little more than a sinecure for its owner.
Cyrus H. K. Curtis bought the Saturday Evening Post from Andrew Smythe in 1897 for $1,000. Curtis already owned the most successful magazine in the United States, the Ladies' Home Journal, and he applied the same techniques