Peter Fenelon Collier was born in Myshall, County Carlow, Ireland on 12th December 1849. He emigrated to Dayton, Ohio, when he was seventeen years old. After attending St. Mary's Seminary for four years he worked for Sadler and Company a publisher of schoolbooks. With $300 he saved as a salesman he formed his own company producing books for the Roman Catholic market.
Collier decided to move into the magazine market and in April 1888 he founded Collier's Once a Week. It was advertised as a magazine of "fiction, fact, sensation, wit, humour, news". By 1892 it had a circulation of over 250,000 and was one of largest selling magazines in the United States.
In 1895 its name was changed to Collier's Weekly: An Illustrated Journal. The magazine now concentrating on news and became a leading exponent of the half-tone news picture. To fully exploit this new technology, Collier recruited James H. Hare, one of the pioneers of photo-journalism.
Norman Hapgood became editor of Collier's Weekly in 1903. He developed a reputation of employing the country's leading writers. In May, 1906, he commissioned Jack London to report on the San Francisco earthquake. As well as London's account there were sixteen pages of pictures.
Under Hapgood's guidance, Collier's Weekly became involved in what became known as muckraking journalism. The most important of these writers who contributed to the journal during this period included Ida Tarbell, C. P. Connolly and Ray Stannard Baker. Campaigns instigated by Norman Hapgood involved the direct election of senators, reform of the child labour laws, slum clearance and votes for women. In April 1905, an article by Upton Sinclair, Is Chicago Meat Clean, helped to persuade the Senate to pass the Pure Food and Drugs Act (1906) and the Meat Inspection Act (1906).
Peter Collier died on 24th April, 1909 and his son, Robert Joseph Collier, took over Collier's Weekly. When Norman Hapgood left for Harper's Weekly in 1912. Robert became the new editor. Circulation continued to grow and by 1917 circulation had reached a million.
At the very outset Collier's adopted a liberal editorial policy, but it was not until 1905 that it began to publish muckraking articles. By 1909 it had a circulation of half a million copies a week, and by 1912 it passed the million mark. Although chiefly devoted to fiction, the magazine published fearless editorials, articles, and cartoons, and in the latter half of the muckraking decade it assumed the position of leadership which McClure's had held for the first four or five years.