Although Benjamin Franklin conceived the idea for an American magazine, Andrew Bradford beat him to the press by three days when he published American Magazine in January 1741. However, Benjamin Franklin’s General Magazine soon joined the ranks of the first American magazines. Neither magazine lasted for long; The American Magazine and Historical Chronicle was the first to last that long when it was published between 1743 and 1746 in Boston.
Between many of these short-lived magazines in Boston, New York and Pennsylvania the first political cartoons, maps and illustrations. Though these magazines stood for independence and freedom of speech, magazines did not become a true medium for journalists until the 1900s when journalists entered the Muckraking Era.
The Muckraking Era showcased some of the most deeply investigative writers of all time, including Ray Stannard Baker, Nellie Bly, Ida Tarbell and Lincoln Steffens. With words of weight like theirs, they needed a new, more lengthy medium to truly expose the untold truths of their 20th century world. So, they turned to Magazines. Some of the most notable magazines for muckraking journalists were The American Magazine and McClure’s Magazine.
McClure’s Magazine began in 1893 and continued publishing until 1929. Founded by S. S. McClure, the magazine contained pieces on both literary and political news. Some of the most famous muckrakers like Tarbell, Steffens and Baker worked on the staff of McClure’s. Together, they created the foundation of how magazines could produce news.
That same group (Tarbell, Steffens and Baker) also joined together to create their own magazine called The American Magazine in 1906. This magazine was released monthly and allowed Americans to see how magazines could function outside of the muckraking world. Instead of hard-hitting investigative stories, American featured human interest stories, fiction and social issues of the day.
After breaking in the new medium with big-name magazines such as McClure’s and American, magazines then expanded and flourished. Stories that deserved more space were getting it, and this new leisure reading helped general interest and ladies magazines, like Vogue, became expected by readers. Soon, magazines were no longer under the shadow of newspapers, but created their own rules.