The Atlantic Monthly was founded in 1857. James Russell Lowell was its first editor (1857-61) and he had a policy of publishing articles on nature, travel and biography. At first, the magazine printed less stories than its competitors, Harper's Monthly and Scribner's Magazine.
In 1869 Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote an article about the personal life of Lord Byron. Her intention was to warn of the dangers of this kind of behaviour but the content caused considerable offence and over 15,000 people cancelled their subscriptions.
In 1871 Bret Harte was paid the record sum of $10,000 to produce twelve stories for the journal. In 1875 Atlantic Monthly commissioned Mark Twain to write an account of his steamboat experiences. This was later expanded into the book Life on the Mississippi (1883).
In the 1970s falling sales and a decline in advertising revenues nearly forced the magazine to close down. It was saved by Mortimer B. Zuckerman who purchased it in 1980.