The "Sunday Magazine" by Norm Platnick
Note: this article is updated from the original version, which appeared in issue #101 of The
Illustrator Collector's News, May/June 1999.
America's "Golden Age of Illustration" was fueled in large part by a demand from
publishers for colorful and striking images that would help draw the buyer's attention to a particular magazine or paper on the newsstands. Beginning around 1905, one of the most insatiable demands came from newspaper publishers in larger cities, most of which relied on the illustrated covers of their magazine supplements to help sell the larger and more expensive Sunday editions of their papers.
Collectors of illustrators who were active from 1905-1920 soon find that these "Sunday
Magazines" can be quite confusing. The same image can be found on newspapers with different dates, and papers with the same date can have different images. The primary reason for the confusion seems to be that during this period, there were at least four different national syndicates of newspapers that produced Sunday magazine sections with covers by famous illustrators. These different magazines are frequently confused with each other, often making it extremely difficult to identify images and match them with titles and dates.
The different syndicates probably arose as a simple matter of economics. In large
cities with more than one major newspaper, each paper had to have its own Sunday supplement, different from those distributed by its competitors. Single newspapers couldn't afford to commission nationally known artists to paint covers just for them, and the syndicates enabled groups of papers in different cities to spread those high costs across several enterprises.
As a result, the magazine-sized "Sunday magazines" of this era actually represent at
least four different periodicals most easily referred to as:
1) the American Sunday Monthly Magazine,
2) the Associated Sunday Magazine,
3) the Illustrated Sunday Magazine, and
4) the National Sunday Magazine.
Their exact titles varied a bit over time and space, but almost every individual newspaper's
illustrated magazine-size supplement of this era represents one of these four syndicated periodicals. In Beantown, for example, the Boston American ran the American Sunday Monthly Magazine, the Boston Post used the Associated Sunday Magazine, the Boston Herald published the Illustrated Sunday Magazine, and the Boston Globe featured the National Sunday Magazine.
Distinguishing these four different periodicals requires a little attention to detail,
but can usually be done fairly quickly. The largest and most successful of the syndicates was the Associated Sunday Magazine, and its covers are therefore the ones that are most commonly encountered today. They are also the easiest to recognize, as there is always a line of tiny gray print, usually situated near the masthead, reading "Copyright, 19xx, by Associated Sunday Magazines, Incorporated."
This magazine appeared in many different newspapers across the country. Among them
were the Boston Sunday Post, Buffalo Courier, Chicago Sunday Record-Herald, [Denver] Rocky Mountain News (and, apparently later, Denver Times), Detroit News Tribune, Minneapolis Journal, New York Sunday World (and, apparently later, New York Tribune), Philadelphia Press, Pittsburgh Sunday Post, St. Louis Republic, and Washington Sunday Star. During the heyday of the syndicate, from 1905-1916, the magazine featured covers by many of the nation's most talented illustrators: Rolf Armstrong, Philip Boileau, Earl Christy, J. Knowles Hare, Neysa McMein, Coles Phillips, and Penrhyn Stanlaws.
So far as known, this syndicate shows no variation in issue dates; a given image
appeared on the same date in all the syndicate's papers. However, some of the newspapers did use the images in other forms. For example, Boileau's "School Girl" image was used on the cover of the Associated Sunday Magazine for Feb. 18, 1906, but it was also released in at least one city as a print, with a longer and lighter background, titled "Boileau Girl Art Supplement, New York Sunday World" and bearing the usual Associated copyright notice!
There is an additional interesting wrinkle to the later Associated Sunday Magazine
covers, however. Beginning on May 3, 1915, the magazine was also released as a stand-alone periodical called Every Week, which appeared on newsstands on Monday and sold for three cents, rather than as part of a newspaper. In most (but not all) cases, whatever image was used on the Sunday supplements also appeared on the cover of Every Week for the following day.
Among the other three syndicates, the American Sunday Monthly Magazine is the easiest
to recognize, because its title is in the mastmasthead. This syndicate ran illustrated covers from at least late 1911 through 1916. For at least a short period, between Nov. 1912 and Jan. 1913, it was produced twice, rather than just once, a month, and was then called the American Sunday Twice A Month Magazine (or Magazine Section). Over its life span, images by Armstrong, Boileau, Harrison Fisher, and Stanlaws were featured on its covers. The magazine appeared in at least five newspapers: the Boston American, the Chicago Examiner, the Los Angeles Examiner, the New York American, and the San Francisco Examiner. Early issues show no publisher on the cover, but from at least Feb. 4, 1912 through Sept. 8, 1912 the publisher was the American-Journal-Examiner Co.; later issues were published by the Star Co. instead. The first publisher name suggests that the magazine appeared in at least one more newspaper with "Journal" in its title.
The American Sunday Monthly differed from its competitors in not appearing weekly, and
(perhaps as a result of that more relaxed schedule), it presents a complication: the same image can be found on magazines with different dates! So far as I've been able to determine, the differences simply reflect geography. A given image would appear on the same date in Boston, New York, and Chicago. However, the two California newspapers would run that same image a week later, perhaps allowing more time for the transport of printing plates or finished magazines across the continent.
The remaining two periodicals, the Illustrated Sunday Magazine and the National Sunday
Magazine, can sometimes be difficult to distinguish. The Illustrated Sunday Magazine appeared in the Boston Sunday Herald, Buffalo Sunday Times, Cleveland Leader, Detroit Free Press, Louisville Courier-Journal, Milwaukee Sunday Sentinel, Minneapolis Tribune, New Orleans Daily Picayune (and later, Times Democrat), Philadelphia Record, Pittsburgh Gazette Times, Providence Sunday Tribune, Rochester Democrat, and Worcester Sunday Telegram. In many of these papers, the masthead does carry a small box including the word "Illustrated" but in others, the magazine must be recognized instead by the distinctive typography of the masthead, in which (for example) the middle stroke of the S in Sunday is composed of two shaded bars interrupted by white space.
Especially during its early years, Earl Christy was a favored artist of this
syndicate; he did over 75 different covers for the Illustrated Sunday Magazine! Other artists who worked for this syndicate include Armstrong, Haskell Coffin, Frederick Duncan, Hamilton King, McMein, Phillips, Gene Pressler, and Valentine Sandberg.
The fourth syndicate produced covers that, at least from 1914-1916, were titled the
National Sunday Magazine. In 1911 and 1912, however, the magazine had a variety of names, such as the Family Magazine Section, the Monthly Magazine Section, and even the Semi-Monthly Magazine Section. All of these bear a copyright notice from the Abbott & Briggs Co., and the National Sunday Magazine appeared in at least the Boston Sunday Globe, Chicago Sunday Tribune, Cincinnati Enquirer, Pittsburgh Dispatch, and San Francisco Call. Among their artists were Hare, Phillips, Pressler, and Stanlaws.
By the 1920's, these four syndicates seem to have faded from the scene, although
newspapers such as the Los Angeles Examiner and San Francisco Call produced magazine supplements whose covers were of full (rather than half) newspaper-page size. Coffin, Christy, and especially Stanlaws produced these large pieces, which are now quite difficult to find. But the tradition actually continued on, often with tabloid-size covers, in periodicals such as the American Weekly and This Week, well into the early 1950's, featuring illustrators such as Henry Clive, J. C. Leyendecker, Zoe Mozert, and Willy Pogany. Based on copyright holders, it seems likely that the American Weekly was either the successor to the American Sunday Monthly (perhaps just renamed when it became a weekly) or the result of a merger between the American Sunday Monthly and the full-page "American Magazine Section" featured in someut there seems to have been some overlap! According to Naomi Welch's splendid book, "The Complete Works of Harrison Fisher," on Sept. 10, 1916, the San Francisco Examiner ran a full-page American Magazine Section by Harrison Fisher, but the Los Angeles Examiner ran a tabloid-sized American Sunday Monthly featuring a different Harrison Fisher image!
Finally, just to make things even more fun, there is at least one example of a Sunday
magazine that seemingly did not belong to any of these syndicates: the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Sunday Magazine, at least c. 1917!