Magazines of the 19th Century

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The 19th century saw the rise of the magazine as a popular form of journalism. Beginning as literary journals, magazines published work by such authors as Washington Irving and Charles Dickens.

By the middle of the century, the rise of news magazines such as Harper's Weekly and the London Illustrated News covered news events with considerable depth and added a new feature: illustrations. By the late 1800s, a thriving magazine industry encompassed everything from serious publications to pulps which published adventure tales.

Following are some of the most influential magazines of the 19th century.

Harper's Weekly

Launched in 1857, Harper's Weekly became popular during the Civil War and continued to remain influential for the remainder of the 19th century. During the Civil War, in an era before photographs could be printed in magazines and newspapers, the illustrations in Harper's Weekly were the way many Americans witnessed the Civil War.

In the decades following the war, the magazine became the home of the noted cartoonist Thomas Nast, whose biting political satires helped bring down the corrupt political machine headed by Boss Tweed.

Frank Leslie's Ilustrated Newspaper

Despite the title, Frank Leslie's publication was a magazine which began publishing in 1852. Its trademark was its woodcut illustrations. Though not as well remembered as its direct competitor, Harper's Weekly, the magazine was influential in its day and kept publishing until 1922.

The Illustrated London News

The Illustrated London News was the world's first magazine to feature numerous illustrations. It began publishing in 1842 and, amazingly, published on a weekly schedule until the early 1970s.

The publication was aggressive in covering the news, and its journalistic zeal, and the quality of its illustrations, made it very popular with the public. Copies of the magazine would be shipped to America, where it was also popular. It was an obvious inspiration to American journalists.

Godey's Lady's Book

A magazine targeted at a female audience, Godey's Lady's Book began publishing in 1830. It was reputedly the most popular American magazine in the decades before the Civil War.

During the Civil War, the magazine scored a coup when its editor, Sarah J. Hale, convinced President Abraham Lincoln to proclaim Thanksgiving an official national holiday.

The National Police Gazette

Beginning in 1845, the National Police Gazette, along with newspapers of the penny press, focused on sensationalized crime stories.

In the late 1870s, the publication came under the control of Richard K. Fox, an Irish immigrant who changed the focus of the magazine to sports coverage. By promoting athletic events, Fox made the Police Gazette extremely popular, though a common joke was that it was only read in barber shops.

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Your Citation
McNamara, Robert. "Magazines of the 19th Century." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, McNamara, Robert. (2021, February 16). Magazines of the 19th Century. Retrieved from McNamara, Robert. "Magazines of the 19th Century." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 28, 2023).