THE SATURDAY EVENING POST
The Saturday Evening Post is a bimonthly American magazine. It was published weekly under this title from 1897 until 1963, thence biweekly until 1969, and quarterly and then bimonthly from 1971.
While the publication traces its historical roots to Benjamin Franklin, The Pennsylvania Gazette was first published in 1728 by Samuel Keimer. The following year, Franklin acquired the Gazette from Keimer for a small sum and turned it into the largest circulation newspaper in all the colonies. It continued publication until 1800. The Saturday Evening Post was founded in 1821 and grew to become the most widely circulated weekly magazine in America. The magazine gained prominent status under the leadership of its longtime editor George Horace Lorimer.
The Saturday Evening Post published current event articles, editorials, human interest pieces, humor, illustrations, a letter column, poetry (with contributions submitted by readers), single-panel gag cartoons and stories by the leading writers of the time. It was known for commissioning lavish illustrations and original works of fiction. Illustrations were featured on the cover and embedded in stories and advertising. Some Post illustrations became popular and continue to be reproduced as posters or prints, especially those by Norman Rockwell.
Curtis Publishing Co. stopped publishing the Post in 1969 after the company lost a landmark defamation suit and was ordered to pay over $3 million in damages. The Post was revived in 1971 as a quarterly publication. As of the late 2000s, The Saturday Evening Post was published six times a year by the Saturday Evening Post Society, which purchased the magazine in 1982.
In 1916, Saturday Evening Post editor George Horace Lorimer discovered Norman Rockwell, then an unknown 22-year-old New York artist. Lorimer promptly purchased two illustrations from Rockwell, using them as covers, and commissioned three more drawings. Rockwell’s illustrations of the American family and rural life of a bygone era became iconic. During his 50-year career with the Post, Rockwell painted more than 300 covers.
The Post also employed artist John Philip Falter, who became known “as a painter of Americana with an accent of the Middle West,” who “brought out some of the homeliness and humor of Middle Western town life and home life.” He produced 120 covers for the Post between 1943 and 1968, ceasing only when the magazine began displaying photographs on its covers. Another prominent artist was Charles R. Chickering, a freelance illustrator who went on to design numerous postage stamps for the U.S. Post Office. Other popular cover illustrators include the artists George Hughes, Constantin Alajalov, John Clymer, W.H.D. Koerner, J.C. Leyendecker, Charles Archibald MacLellan, John E. Sheridan, Douglass Crockwell, and N.C. Wyeth.
The magazine’s line-up of cartoonists included Bob Barnes, Irwin Caplan, Tom Henderson, Al Johns, Clyde Lamb, Jerry Marcus, Frank O’Neal, B. Tobey, Pete Wyma and Bill Yates. The magazine ran Ted Key’s cartoon panel series Hazel from 1943 to 1969.
Each issue featured several original short stories and often included an installment of a serial appearing in successive issues. Most of the fiction was written for mainstream tastes by popular writers, but some literary writers were featured. The opening pages of stories featured paintings by the leading magazine illustrators. The Post published stories and essays by H.E. Bates, Ray Bradbury, Kay Boyle, Agatha Christie, Brian Cleeve, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, C.S. Forester, Ernest Haycox, Robert A. Heinlein, Kurt Vonnegut, Paul Gallico, Normand Poirier, Hammond Innes, Louis L’Amour, Sinclair Lewis, Joseph C. Lincoln, John P. Marquand, Edgar Allen Poe, Sax Rohmer, William Saroyan, John Steinbeck, Rex Stout and Rob Wagner. It also published poetry by such noted poets as Carl Sandburg, Ogden Nash, Dorothy Parker, and Hannah Kahn.
The Post readership began to decline in the late 1950s and 1960s. In general, the decline of general interest magazines was blamed on television, which competed for advertisers and readers’ attention. The Post had problems retaining readers: the public’s taste in fiction was changing, and the Post ‘s conservative politics and values appealed to a declining number of people. Content by popular writers became harder to obtain. Prominent authors drifted away to newer magazines offering more money and status. As a result, the Post published more articles on current events and cut costs by replacing illustrations with photographs for covers and advertisements.
In 1968, Martin Ackerman, a specialist in troubled firms, became president of Curtis after lending it $5 million. Although at first he said there were no plans to shut down the magazine, he halved its circulation in an attempt to increase the quality of the audience, and then shut it down.
At a March 1969 postmortem on the magazine’s closing, Emerson stated that The Post “was a damn good vehicle for advertising” with competitive renewal rates and readership reports and expressed what The New York Times called “understandable bitterness” in wishing “that all the one-eyed critics will lose their other eye”.
In 1970, control of the debilitated Curtis Publishing Company was acquired from the estate of Cyrus Curtis by Indianapolis industrialist Beurt SerVaas. SerVaas relaunched the Post the following year on a quarterly basis as a kind of nostalgia magazine.
In early 1982, ownership of the Post was transferred to the Benjamin Franklin Literary and Medical Society, founded in 1976 by the Post’s then-editor, Dr. Corena SerVaas (wife of Beurt SerVaas). The magazine’s core focus was now health and medicine; indeed, the magazine’s website originally noted that the “credibility of The Saturday Evening Post has made it a valuable asset for reaching medical consumers and for helping medical researchers obtain family histories. In the magazine, national health surveys are taken to further current research on topics such as cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, ulcerative colitis, spina bifida, and bipolar disorder.” Ownership of the magazine was later transferred to the Saturday Evening Post Society; Dr. SerVaas headed both organizations. The range of topics covered in the magazine’s articles is now wide, suitable for a general readership.
By 1991, Curtis Publishing Company had been renamed Curtis International, a subsidiary of SerVaas Inc., and had become an importer of audiovisual equipment. Today the Post is published six times a year by the Saturday Evening Post Society.
With the January/February 2013 issue, the Post launched a major makeover of the publication including a new cover design and efforts to increase the magazine’s profile after several people thought it was no longer in existence. The magazine’s new logo is an update of a logo it had used beginning in 1942.