Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tuesday's Forgotten Pulp: SMITH'S MAGAZINE

I'm sure some of you are going to object to my choice this week. But then a little controversy never hurt a blog. My choice this week, SMITH'S MAGAZINE, was a fiction magazine that started in 1905 and continued until February 1922, when it merged with LOVE STORY MAGAZINE. According to Galatic Central, SMITH'S MAGAZINE didn't officially become a pulp with the standard pulp paper forma until 1919. It also wasn't exactly a "small" pulp, because its circulation quickly grew to 200,000 and eventually grew to 300,000 per month.

But it seems to have that "forgotten" look to it. And because it ended up being the precuror to LOVE STORY, a magazine that I have a special interest in, it becomes my Forgotten Pulp of the Week.

SMITH'S was launched by Street & Smith as a magazine for the "John Smith's" of the country. The first issue had a statement that said "...SMITH'S MAGAZINE will not be a class magazine, nor will it build for itself a high pedestal of cleverness. It will be kept within the focus of the every-day reader who seeks entertainment."

Ironically, the most notable fact about SMITH'S that has passed down in history is not its covers nor the fiction that appeared in its pages, but its editor, Theodore Dreiser, author of AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY and SISTER CARRIE. In fact, THE FICTION FACTORY, the in-house history of publisher Street & Smith, devotes a great deal of page space to SMITH'S famous editor.

According to this book, Dreiser was having trouble finding a publisher for SISTER CARRIE, and was somewhat bitter about the rejection experience:

It was this bitter man, this powerfully molded man with piercing eyes, shaggy brows, and a mount that looked like a half-healed wound, who stalked heavily into the office assigned to the editor of SMITH'S MAGAZINE. He approached the task of editing the magazine on a stricly professional level and not as the tortured artist he was. He had a strong mother-fixation and a deep hatred for his father which manifested itself in an unquenchable rage against his father's religious faith. Yet not of this was ever evidenced in either the fiction or the articles he bough and editors for SMITH'S. With the exception of MacLean, Duffy and Ormond Smith, he had few friends in the firm.

Dreiser ended up leaving Street & Smith for Butterick Publications. Several years later, in 1928, Daisy Bacon took over the helm of LOVE STORY and inherited Dreiser's roll top desk as part of her new assignment, and the rest is history.

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Deka Black said...

Interesting story. And for the covers... the one with the woman playing the guitar is.. let's say this way: if she were real and a woman of this era, i would ask her on a date ;)

Barry Traylor said...

As my wife is a admirer of the work of Harrison Fisher these are the sort of pulp covers she likes. One almost looks like a fisher, but I do not think he did any covers for Smith's. I actually do enjoy the history of magazines like this as so many of the better known titles are discussed so much more. I kinda doubt I would care to read any of the stories though.

Walker Martin said...

Though SMITH'S MAGAZINE was a slick for most of its life, as Laurie points out, there is a pulp connection when it was a pulp for a couple years before being absorbed by LOVE STORY.

I see that all the writers listed on the covers are women which leads me to think the main audience was female. Women were the main supporters for most of the slick magazines.

Cap'n Bob said...

What's his mount? Not a horse, so what do they mean?

Laurie Powers said...

*mouth* thanks, Bob