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Serial and Government Publications Division




Using the Periodical Collection
Periodical Directories and Union Lists
arrow graphicHistories of periodicals
Statistics: Market Research of Periodicals





Histories of periodicals
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Street car question again. 1868. Prints & Photographs Division. LC-USZ62-108301 (b&w film copy neg.)
bibliographic record

Histories of periodicals provide valuable clues about the reading habits of women, the place of women's magazines in the history of American media, and the involvement of women in the magazine industry.

Frank Mott holds the same position of authority for periodicals that he does for newspapers. His five-volume History of American Magazines (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1968; PN4877.M63 1938 N&CPR) is a history of the American magazine press in general, from 1741 to 1930, and a collection of in-depth, lengthy descriptions of specific magazines, arranged chronologically. This work is particularly useful for researching women's publications and women's issues. Each volume has whole chapters and sections on women in magazines:

Volume 1, 1741-1851, has sections on “The Place of Woman,” “Women and Periodicals,” “Women's Magazines,” and “The Woman Question.”

Volume 2, 1850-65, includes sections on “Magazines and the 'Woman Question'” and “Magazines for Women and the Home,” as well as overviews of magazines such as Ladies' Repository and Frank Leslie's Magazine for Women.

Volume 3, 1865-85, has an entire chapter devoted to “Women and Their Magazines” as well as profiles of Harper's Bazaar and the Delineator.

Volume 4, 1885-1905, has a chapter entitled “Women's Activities” discussing fashion, the right to work, education, and women's clubs, and descriptions of Ladies' Home Journal, Cosmopolitan, and Woman's Home Companion.

Volume 5, 1905-30, includes an extensive index to the set, with two pages devoted to variations of the term “Woman” and descriptions of Better Homes and Gardens, Good Housekeeping, and House Beautiful.

Other useful histories, which describe women in periodicals, include the following:

  • Richardson, Lyon N. History of Early American Magazines, 1741-1789. New York: Thomas Nelson, 1931. PN4877.R5 1931 N&CPR.
    This one-volume history focuses on the development of the magazine press in colonial America. It is representative of the kind of survey that typically refers to articles of interest to women readers of the time or highlights published stories written by women.
  • Tebbel, John, and Mary Ellen Zuckerman. The Magazine in America, 1741-1990. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991. PN4832.T43 1991 N&CPR.
    Organized chronologically, this is a one-volume treatment of magazine history.
Another type of periodical history is one that considers specific subject areas and individual periodicals. Several popular, long-lived women's magazines contain histories that describe the development of women's presence in the mainstream press as well as the history of a periodical.

Examples of compiled magazine histories include the following:

  • American Mass-Market Magazines. Edited by Alan Nourie and Barbara Nourie. New York: Greenwood Press, 1990. PN4877.A48 1990 N&CPR Nourie and Nourie include historical articles about magazines as diverse as the Columbian Lady's and Gentleman's Magazine, Playgirl, Vanity Fair, and Mother Jones.
  • Damon-Moore, Helen. Magazines for the Millions: Gender and Commerce in the Ladies' Home Journal and the Saturday Evening Post, 1880-1910. Albany: State University of New York, 1994. PN4879.D36 1994 N&CPR
    A critical analysis of the development of the two magazines.
  • Women's Periodicals in the United States: Consumer Magazines. Edited by Kathleen L. Endres and Therese L. Lueck. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1995. PN4879.W6 1995 N&CPR
    This compilation profiles some of the most profitable and influential women's magazines.

SEARCH TIPS: Subject headings for general histories of periodicals are very general, lumped under the term “American periodicals—History.” Subject headings for women's magazines, gender studies, and individual periodical titles are much more specific.

Women's periodicals, American—History
Women's periodicals, American—History—
[time period]
Name of periodical searched as a subject [e.g., Ladies' Home Journal]
Sex role in mass media

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