Newsstand: 1925

For roughly a century, the magazine reigned supreme as the reading material of the general public. Until the mid-20th Century, magazines were the arbiters of American taste, social conscience, and, at times, national identity. Writers, publishers, and even editors reached the level of celebrity enjoyed by today’s movie and sports stars. The rising technology of industrialization – printing, transportation, mechanical reproduction – created the magazine. And it is also technology, initially television and now the internet, that is causing the slow death of the entire form until, like newspapers, magazines are in danger of disappearing.

           Even now, it may be unimaginable to conceive of how influential the periodical was to American culture, just as it is impossible to gauge how instrumental it was in constructing our literary history, for we have already lost ephemeral albeit integral aspects of 20th Century literary production. One of the most important and visual of these aspects was The Newsstand, the literary marketplace for the majority of Americans for generations. It was a vivid, colorful, and constant part of daily urban life.

           Yet there are scant records of this important institution in archives, especially in comparison to the relatively rarified – and exclusionary – history of the bookstore (for example, there are incredibly few photographs of newsstands, and even fewer in color), just as there is no cohesive sense of actual magazine production. The academic archive largely ignores the vast history of mass-market magazine production due to both its very ubiquity and its ephemeral nature. This website, in part, hopes to recover that history. 

a virtual newsstand from the summer of 1925