Newsstand: 1925: Love Story Magazine

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a virtual newsstand from the summer of 1925

Overview

           Love Story Magazine, the first romantic fiction pulp, began in May 1921 and soon became the best selling pulp magazine for Street & Smith publishers. It also became one of the top selling pulp magazines, with ninety-seven percent of the circulation coming from the newsstand in its early years.[1] Being the first and most successful of its kind, Love Story Magazine set the trend for other romance genre periodicals. Despite its long years of success, Love Story Magazine eventually stopped publication in 1947.

 

The Birth of a New Genre

 

           Street & Smith, the foremost publisher of dime novels, first targeted the female audience with Women’s Stories in 1913 with very little success. After the magazine folded in 1914 and changed to Live Stories, Ormond Smith decided to try another magazine that targeted women (Reynolds 195). This eventually became Love Story Magazine. Unlike the favored and popular slick magazines for women, Smith wanted a magazine that would focus on the “mass-circulation mind” (ibid). First published in May 1921, the magazine had few advertisements because of a general hesitation to endorse such a different genre. Only three advertisements were published in the magazine: Wurlitzer Company for instruments, International Correspondence Schools, and an advertisement titled “New Secrets in Jujitsu Makes You Master of Men” (Reynolds 196). Despite worries from advertisers, the audience quickly grew to love this new magazine, thus gaining regular advertisements by 1926. The circulation of the magazine grew to 100,000 by 1922, only a year after its initial publication.

The usual features of Love Story Magazine included a novelette, one to two serials, short stories, poetry, and departments. Departments, according to Quentin Reynolds, were among the favorite features of the magazine. In the first issues, there was a department dedicated to giving love advice called “Heart Talks with the Troubled.” Compared to other women’s magazines, such as True Story, Love Story Magazine did not address any non-fiction subjects, such as children, medicine, duties at home, politics, or luxury spending. Instead, the magazine focused on one thing: romance. In the first issues, a statement declaring the magazines purpose declared that “Love Story is clean at heart, and its stories are written around the love of the one man for the one woman” and that it is irreplaceable because “Love Story has an irresistibly human appeal” (Reynolds 197). In other words, Love Story Magazine provided enjoyment for women without the burden of those sex-problem magazines, like True Story. Love Story Magazine even claimed those types of magazines to “have done incalculable harm” (ibid).

           According to Ellen Zuckerman, the other top magazines of the romance genre included Love Fiction Monthly, Love Book, and All [Love] Story. In fact, Love Story Magazine was so highly imitated in 1938 that 3,000,000 copies of eighteen imitator periodicals were being sold monthly.[2]

 

Price

 

           Love Story Magazine maintained a steady price of fifteen cents per magazine from 1921 to 1936.[3] In 1937, the price reduced to ten cents because of the continuing depression, but Love Story remained a top seller. In the early 1940s, directly preceding Love Story’s demise, the price fluctuated from ten cents to twenty five cents (Payne-Stephenson). The waning popularity was most likely a result of the increased popularity of the cinema and, eventually, television. Within a decade, the infamous pulp magazines would disappear altogether.

The Editors

 

           Love Story Magazine had three editors: Amita Fairgrieve, Ruth Agnes Abeling, and Daisy Bacon. Not much is known about Fairgrieve and Abeling; however, Daisy Bacon is well documented due to her successful editorship of Love Story Magazine from 1928 on, as well as her work on other magazines. In 1954, she wrote a book on writing romance fiction called Love Story Writer. Love Story Writer and her successful career as an editor encompass Bacon’s fame.

           Amita Fairgrieve was the first editor for Love Story Magazine. She was assigned to take responsibility for the construction of the magazine and reportedly “holed up in an office during the winter of 1920-21” where she looked over a stack of old dime novels (Peterson 307).

           Daisy Bacon, a writer who took a shot at editing, arguably became Street & Smith’s most valuable editor after her success editing Love Story Magazine. With a knack for picking the best stories to be published, Bacon strengthened the success of the magazine. Along with her editing of Love Story Magazine, she also went to edit Real Love, True Love Stories, Pocket Love, Ainsliee’s, later turned into Smart Love Stories, Detective Story, and Romantic Range. Not including Detective Story, all of these magazines branched from Love Story Magazine, but their success was either short lived or shadowed by its originator.

           Since Bacon became such an accomplished editor, she was eventually called the “Queen of Woodpulps.”[4] Wood-pulp was a reference to the cheap paper that pulp magazines were printed on. Before becoming well known for her years at the infamous Fiction Factory, as Street & Smith was known, Bacon published a few works and sold them to The Saturday Evening Post (Locke 17). With Bacon as the new editor, she was buying five hundred stories a year. With so many stories being published, Love Story Magazine was sixteen pages thicker than all of the other Street & Smith pulp magazines.. Early in Love Story Writer, Bacon makes the simple observation that “the love story appears to be the easiest” story to write.[5] Indeed, as an authoritative editor of love stories, Bacon was constantly sought after for what was the appropriate formula to make a great love story (Bacon 2). Love Story Writer is the long awaited answer on how to write appealing love stories. With practical advice about reading from competing magazines to comparing stories, Bacon dishes out what it takes to write well.

The End of Love Story

 

           Maintaining a middle-class female audience, Love Story Magazine was able to survive the Great Depression and competition from other pulps, but technology proved to be a final deterrent for Love Story Magazine, as well as the other Street & Smith pulps. In the words of Quentin Reynolds, “they could not compete with the entertainment offered by radio, movies, and something new called television” (Reynolds 232). Thus these advances brought an end to one of the longest running and successful pulps in America for a mass female audience.

—Contextualization by Amanda Breaux

 

 

Notes

 

[1] Reynolds, Quentin. The Fiction Factory or From Pulp Row to Quality Street. New York: Random House, 1955: 197. Print.

[2] Peterson, Theodore. Magazines in the Twentieth Century. Urbana: UP of Illinois, 1956. pg. 307. Print.

[3] Payne-Stephensen, Phil. “Magazine Issues.” Galactic Central. Galactic Central Publications, 10 Oct. 2010. Web. 7 Nov. 2010.

[4] John Locke, ed. “Editors You Want to Know: Daisy Bacon” by Joa Humphrey. Pulpwood Days: Editors You Want to Know. . Off-Trail, 2007. 77. Print.

[5] Bacon, Daisy. Love Story Writer. New York: Hermitage House, 1954: 1. Print.

 

Works Cited

 

Bacon, Daisy. Love Story Writer. New York: Hermitage House, 1954. Print.

Locke, John ed. “Editors You Want to Know: Daisy Bacon” by Joa Locke. Pulpwood Days: Editors You Want to Know. Off-Trail, 2007. 77. Print.

Payne-Stephensen, Phil. “Magazine Issues.” Galactic Central. Galactic Central Publications, 10 Oct. 2010. Web. 7 Nov. 2010.

Peterson, Theodore. Magazines in the Twentieth Century. Urbana: UP of Illinois, 1956. . Print.

Reynolds, Quentin. The Fiction Factory or From Pulp Row to Quality Street. New York:    Random House, 1955. Print

 

click cover for magazine

June 6,1925

Genre

Pulp, Romance

Publisher:

Street and Smith

Place of Publication:

New York, NY

Years of Run:

May 1921 — February 1947

Frequency of Publication:

Quarterly first two issues; semi- monthly from Aug. of 1921; Weekly from 1922 on

Circulation in 1925:

100,000 by 1922; 600,000 by 1932