Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Cosmopolitan and William Randolph Hearst

An early edition of Cosmopolitan

Cosmopolitan was first published in 1886 by Schlicht & Field, a publishing firm based in Rochester New York. As co-leader of the firm, Paul Schlicht directed the magazine toward ‘first class family’, promising readers departments for men, women and children. The women’s department featured articles on fashion, home d├ęcor, cooking and child rearing. The magazine circulated 25,000 copies that year, but then, Schlicht and Field went out of business in 1888. John Brisbin Walker acquired ownership of the magazine in 1889, and E.D. Walker of Harper’s Monthly came on board as editor. Together, Walker and Walker changed the structure of Cosmopolitan, with E.D. adding color illustrations and stories. Edith Wharton, Jack Lundon and H.G. Wells were some of the authors whose works were published in Cosmopolitan, and by 1892, the magazine’s circulation escalated to 75,000.             

William Randolph Hearst bought Cosmopolitan in 1905, adding to his ownership of other magazines and newspapers such as Good Housekeeping and the Los Angeles Examiner. But with the stock market collapse, Hearst’s corporation crumbled, though he did retain ownership of Cosmopolitan. Before then, he hired top-of-the-line journalists for Cosmopolitan and launched the New York based film company, Cosmopolitan Productions, eventually taking the production company to Hollywood and featuring his mistress in lead roles.       

Hearst's International Combined with Cosmopolitan
During his ownership of Cosmopolitan, Hearst bought World-to-Day magazine in 1911 and changed the name several times, ending with Hearst’s International, which Hearst merged with Cosmo in 1925 to become Hearst’s International Combined with Cosmopolitan, with Cosmopolitan having the larger, bolder typeface. After Hearst’s death in 1951, Hearst’s International was removed from the cover. Cosmopolitan had a circulation of 1,700,000 in the 1930’s under Hearst’s ownership, with an emphasis on fiction to include one novelette and two serials in one section and two novels in the other three sections.        

The 1950’s saw a dramatic decline for fiction in magazines. Circulation for Cosmopolitan dropped to just over one million due to the rise in popularity of television and mass market paperbacks. Helen Gurley Brown was brought in as editor-in-chief and took the magazine in the direction many readers enjoy today. In his personal and professional life, Hearst was admired by some and greatly disliked by others. Today, his popularity is gone, and his family retains ownership of Cosmopolitan magazine.
William Randolph Hearst

**Note—Originally, I thought to do a piece on magazines in the 1800’s. I was surprised to learn Cosmopolitan was founded in 1886 and thought it interesting the original magazine was nothing like it is today. With the changes in ownership and the direction shifting from short stories to articles and advertisements solely for women, Cosmopolitan itself is a successful American dream. In case you’re wondering, I’m not a subscriber or reader of the magazine, but I do like a happy ending.


Caroline Clemmons said...

Julie, very interesting post. I had no idea COSMOPOLITAN had been around that long. I always associate it with Helen Gurley Brown. I suppose I hadn't thought of it being around before she came on board.

Julie Lence said...

I didn't realize the magazine was that old, either. I always associated Cosmo with modern day magazines, from the 60's thru now. I did like Cosmo beginning as a family magazine and then branching into publishing short stories. As for today, I don't read it. If I happen up it at the beauty parlor, I may flip thru it, but it's mostly advertisement.

Kristy McCaffrey said...

Very interesting, Julie. It's funny when research items date back to the old west. I'm always surprised how much scientific research occurred then. Good to know, though, that I could possibly have a heroine reading Cosmo back then. :-)

Julie Lence said...

Hi Kristy: When I researched Boston medical colleges in 1870's, I came upon all types of medical discoveries. I'm not one for that field, but it was fascinating. Some ended up in the book. I'll have to set a story further into the 1800's and insert Cosmo, lol.