Munsey's Magazine

Among pulp followers, The Argosy is the title most associated with Frank Andrew Munsey and his literary empire; however, it was the eponymous Munsey’s Magazine which was responsible for his success and the creation of his fortune, years before he introduced the first pulp magazine.

Almost seven years after the debut of The Golden Argosy, Frank Munsey was still not the media magnate he would become. In February of 1889, he launched a fourth title, following The Argosy, and the short-lived Munsey's Illustrated Weekly and Daily Continent; a new Munsey's Weekly, a 25¢ magazine aimed at the "upper-crust" of society. The title did not catch on, for a reason Munsey soon realized; it did not appeal to the average readers, the majority of whom had at least a high-school education, but did not want to spend 25¢, or more, on a periodical. Noting this, Munsey retooled the failing weekly into a monthly title that would appeal to a broader base, featuring articles of current events, society happenings, and fiction. He also decided to lower the price from 25 to 10¢, a move that the American News Company, the leading distributor of periodicals and newspapers in America at the time, did not approve of, citing the likelihood of low profits from such a reduced price. Munsey refused to negotiate, and set upon the then-unthinkable task of self-distribution, bypassing the ANC completely – a bold move which met with great success. The first issue of the new, lower-priced Munsey, dated Oct., 1891, was an instant success. The first issue sold out its initial 20,000 copies; required an additional run of 20,000 more; and by Munsey's own admission, this effectively made him a millionaire overnight.

The 10¢ Munsey featured an eclectic mix of reading materials, and included editorials, biographies, current events, and fiction. After its conversion to a monthly, one genre it featured was speculative fiction, a precursor to science fiction, examples of which include the "The Alien Thread" (Dec., 1892, later re-titled "Citizen 504") by Charles H. Palmer, and E. J. Rath's "A Flight to Freedom" (May, 1912). The first editor of the magazine was John Kendrick Bangs, an author and editor best known for his work at Life Magazine and several series of Harper's periodicals; in the summer of 1889, Richard H. Titherton, a school teacher who lived in the same boarding house as Munsey and had volunteered in various positions in Munsey's office since 1884, was made editor. Titherton oversaw the title's successful conversion from weekly to monthly publication.

During the 1912 Presidential Election, Munsey became a mouthpiece for the fledgling Progressive Party and its "Bull-Moose" candidate, former President Theodore Roosevelt. He was an ardent supporter of "The Colonel," and a co-founder of the party; he even wrote a series of articles that included "The New Progressive Party – What it is, and Why it is" (Aug., 1912), and "The Progressive Party's Place in Our National Life" (Sept., 1912).

In the early 1920s, Munsey changed format to a pulpwood-paper magazine. Fiction began to claim a greater percentage of its pages, although special interest pieces still appeared regularly. In fall 1929, the last issue bearing the title Munsey was published. The magazine, re-titled All Story Love, became a romance pulp, the first issue of which was dated Oct. 5, 1929. All Story Love continued publication throughout the rest of the company's existence. It was later published under the auspices of Popular Publications, which had bought the Munsey stable of titles in the early 1940s; Popular continued All Story Love into the 50s, with the final issue appearing in May 1955.

Nathan Vernon Madison, Virginia Commonwealth University

Works Consulted

Everett F. Bleiler and Richard J. Bleiler. Science-Fiction: The Early Years. Kent: The Kent State University Press, 1990.

Nathan Vernon Madison. "The Life and Works of Frank Andrew Munsey– The Man Who Made The Argosy." Blood 'n' Thunder No. 30 (Summer 2011): 62-86.

Sam Moskowitz, ed. Under the Moons of Mars: A History and Anth-ology of "The Scientific Romance" in the Munsey Magazines, 1912-1920. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970.

January 1894

June 1906

February 1927

A checklist of scanned cover images is available @ Galactic Central.