The grand legacy of The Saturday Evening Post has endured for nearly 300 years in part due to the creativity and innovation of its founders, publishers, editors and cover artists. The rich history of the Post has been thoughtfully reaching its readers since a time before America yet existed.
The story of The Saturday Evening Post begins with Benjamin Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette, first published in 1728, and became known as The Saturday Evening Post in 1821. Initially it was four-page newspaper with no illustrations that daringly tackled political controversy. In 1839, editor George Rex Graham dedicated the publication to morality and various commercial interests. By 1855 the Saturday Evening Post had an impressive circulation of 90,000 copies per year.
The modern era of The Saturday Evening Post began in 1897 when famed magazine publisher, Cyrus H. K. Curtis, purchased the magazine for one thousand dollars. Curtis, who also founded The Ladies Home Journal, was well aware of the distinguished legacy of the publication. The legendary George Horace Lorimer, who served as editor from 1899-1936, grew The Saturday Evening Post from 2,000 copies sold per year to over three million by the end of his tenure. Under his leadership, The Saturday Evening Post became the first magazine ever to reach 1,000,000 copies sold. It was Lorimer who conceived of changing the cover from appearing as page one of the magazine to a distinct cover featuring artwork or illustrations. His innovation fueled the popularity of magazine advertising as well as the success of The Saturday Evening Post.
Furthering the advent of the magazine cover, The Saturday Evening Post continued to distinguish itself through its cover artwork. These covers, the most famous of which were painted by Norman Rockwell, connected readers intimately with the magazine as a whole. Americans everywhere recognized the art of the Post and eagerly awaited the next issue because of it. On the editorial side, The Saturday Evening Post featured short stories and commentary by such famous authors as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis, Ring Lardner, and many others. Other notable cover illustrators include J.C. Leyendecker, N.C. Wyeth, Charles Livingston Bull, and John E. Sheridan.
In the 1950’s, television’s popularity posed a major challenge to the magazine, and by 1969 The Saturday Evening Post briefly ceased circulation. In 1971, however, it found a new owner and was re-introduced with a focus on health and medical breakthroughs by the Benjamin Franklin Literary & Medical Society.
Having been at the side of Americans in various forms since 1728, through the events and cultural shifts that have shaped the country’s character, The Saturday Evening Post remains America’s Magazine.