Newsstand: 1925: Adventure Magazine

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a virtual newsstand from the summer of 1925

 

Overview

           Adventure Magazine was published for sixty years, beginning in November of 1910 and ending in April of 1971. During this time the magazine established a solid foundation of pulp adventure stories from an impressive array of writers. The magazine presented serials, stand alone stories, poetry, and full length novels on its rough pages. Adventure’s standards were high, and the competition was severe. Editorial requirements were strict in order to keep the magazine to its original intent, and to make it stand out as one of the most acclaimed pulp periodicals of all time.

 

The Halcyon Days of Hoffman and the History of Adventure

 

           Trumbull White was the editor of Adventure for its April 1910 debut. Arthur Sullivant Hoffman, who worked on the magazine’s fiction staff, gradually came to assist White in editorial duties. In 1911 White returned to Everybody’s Magazine, leaving the editorial duties to Hoffman alone.[1] Hoffman would prove to be the magazine’s most famous and successful editor. During his heyday, Hoffman increased sales and circulation, increasing the frequency of the magazine to three times per month.[2] Even with a reduced budget in its early years of publication, Hoffman managed to make the magazine a success. He slowly began the trend of moving away from the expensive well known writers of the day in favor of up-and-coming talented writers who would prove themselves worthy to grace the pulp pages of Adventure.

           Writers like the famous Talbot Mundy would publish their first works under the editorial hand of Hoffman in the April 1911 issue (Ellis 77). Other famous writers of the genre followed suit, including: L. Patrick Greenem, J. Allan Dunn, Harold Lamb, T.S. Stribling, Hugh Pendexter, Ralph Perry, Gordon Young, Arthur B. Reeve, WC Tuttle, H. Bedford-Jones, Walter Coburn, George Sudez, Arthur O. Friel, Raoul Whitfield, F.R. Buckley, Albert Wetjen, and many more excellent pulp writers (Sampson 29).

Hoffman’s assistant editors included noted novelist Sinclair Lewis, Elmer Davis, and two men who themselves later become editors of Adventure, William Corcoran and Anthony Rud (Ellis 80).

Hoffman as editor was strict, and utilized only the most talented of adventure fiction writers pitting them against each other for the privilege of being published in Adventure’s pages. The competition was fierce and seasoned writers, such as Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E Howard, were among the many now famous authors who were refused publication in Adventure.[3]

           Adventure under Hoffman, created a world of escape for its reader, but beyond just the literature’s entertainment, Hoffman hoped to truly connect with his audience; engaging his readers became the editor’s pet project. The reader of Adventure could join in on a sort of membership within the periodical through the columns Hoffman established. Hoffman sought to establish his magazine as a meeting place for like-minded individuals. In the June 1912 issue, Hoffman established a column called “The Camp-Fire” (Sampson 29). Dubbed “A Free-to-All Meeting Place for Readers, Writers, and Adventurers.” “The Camp-Fire” presented a unique blend of reader and writer comments, messages, and occasional editorial outbursts by Hoffman himself.[4] The editor held unflinchingly patriotic and conservative beliefs about law, manliness, politics, and fiction, and he was perfectly willing to join in on the discussion in defense of those beliefs (Ellis 75). In the July 20th issue of 1925, Hoffman sounds off by satirizing pro Second Amendment citizens as being persecuted by guillotine by those who wish to control firearms. “None of the beheaded, since they have brains, will object to being beheaded instead of being left to live in a country populated by anti-weaponers with legislative complexes” (Volume 53 Number 5 pg. 181).

           “Lost Trails” first appeared in 1913 as an offshoot of “The Camp-Fire” (Sampson 76). “Lost Trails” would remain a regular feature for contacting lost friends and casual acquaintances, often used by military personnel to find friends with whom they had served. “The Trail Ahead” was added May 1914. It was usually a single or half page column announcing the upcoming issue’s fiction and authors. Regular features began as a means of connecting the readers of the magazine, and establishing a rapport between staff, writers, experts, and armchair adventurers. “Ask Adventure” began in 1917 as a network of 98 experts on any given subject who would answer a myriad of questions for readers on subjects of “outdoor life and activities everywhere.”[5] Experts would be contacted directly by the reader, and the reply would be posted in the magazine’s column. These Gurus of Adventure would answer questions based on geographical specialty or technical skills and knowledge needed by the would-be adventurer. Questions ranged from hunting in Alaska to recommendations on good books in which to learn prospecting and Judo. In the July 20, 1925 issue, expert Mr. Halton steers an ex-serviceman away from the “high paying” job he has heard about working as a guard on a leper island in Molokai Hawaii (Volume 53 Number 5 pg. 191). The features in Adventure created a framework of expectations that made the already excellent literature a mainstay on the newsstand, and created a club of its members. So as not to break the surface tension the readers were used to, the magazine carried a warning on the title page that states “Occasionally one of our stories will be called an “Off-the-Trail” story, a warning that it is in some way different from the usual magazine stories, perhaps a little different, perhaps a good deal. It may violate a canon of literature or a custom of magazines, or merely be different from the type usually found in this magazine. The difference may lie in unusual theme, material, ending, or manner of telling. No question of relative merit is involved” (Volume 53 Number 5 pg.3). The readership had expectations, and the editors responded by providing a warning in case a story passed through the strict sieve of editing that might go against the grain of what was expected.

           Hoffman worked hard at building his magazine into a success, and one element of this success was the consistent establishment of rapport with his readers. By 1915, World War I was in full swing. Editor Hoffman proposed the creation of a special American Legion. His plans included the creation of a club that would keep an accurate and available list of its members and their military and technical backgrounds and skills.[6] Hoffman proposed sending this list to the War Department in case war broke out. Although it is unclear whether or not the War Department saw this as an important matter, the idea had the support of several ex-presidents (Sampson 32). Some years later, the formation of the American Legion was formed from the contribution and ideas of the original club created by Hoffman (Server 53).

           Hoffman was a success, and the magazine reflected his achievements in the increased frequency of issues per month. Adventure in September 1917 became a twice-a-month publication. On October 21, 1921 it would be increased to three times a month. In 1926 the magazine stabilized into a twice a month publication again, and a year later Hoffman would leave the publication accepting an editorship at McClure’s Magazine (Sampson 30).

Adventure went through a series of editors, becoming a monthly magazine in June of 1933. The publication remained in its original pulp form and format until the March 1953 issue. The fifties brought the decline of pulps in favor of the more risqué men’s magazines. Adventure attempted to change along with the current trends, becoming a bimonthly magazine that would combine fiction with factual articles and photographs (Blieler). By the 1960s the magazine was publishing photos of nude women along with often reprinted literature (Sampson 30). The magazine ended in digest form containing 130 pages and with a cover price of fifty cents. Even at its end, Adventure ran competent fiction although often surrounded by lurid advertisements and pictures. The final issue was dated April 1971.

 

--Contextualization by Jon Cotton

 

Notes

[1] Ellis, Peter Berresford. The Last Adventurer: The Life of Talbot Mundy. West Kingston RI: Donald M Grant Publisher, 1984

[2] Sampson, Robert. Yesterday's Faces Volume V: Dangerous Horizons. Bowling Green: Bowling Green State University, 1991

[3] Robinson, Frank M. & Lawrence Davidson. Pulp Culture: The Art of Fiction Magazine. Portland Oregon: Collector's Press, 1998

[4] Adventure Magazine. Arthur Sullivant Hoffman Editor, July 20th 1925:Print.

[5] Server, Lee. Danger is my Business. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1993.

[6] Blieler, Richard. The Index to Adventure Magazine. Oakland Ca: Locus Press, 2009.

 

Work Cited

 

Blieler, Richard. The Index to Adventure Magazine. Oakland Ca: Locus Press, 2009.

Ellis, Peter Berresford. The Last Adventurer: The Life of Talbot Mundy. West Kingston RI: Donald M Grant Publisher, 1984

Robinson, Frank M. & Lawrence Davidson. Pulp Culture: The Art of Fiction Magazine. Portland Oregon: Collector's Press, 1998

Sampson, Robert. Yesterday's Faces Volume V: Dangerous Horizons. Bowling Green: Bowling Green State University, 1991

Server, Lee. Danger is my Business. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1993.

click cover for magazine

July 20, 1925

Genre

Pulp, Adventure

Publisher:

1912-1928: New Fiction Publishing

Place of Publication:

New York

Years of Run:

1910 -1971

Frequency of Publication:

 

Three times per month

Circulation in 1925:

1924 total distribution 154,532

Circulation 460,000