Costmopolian Magazine

The Cosmopolitan Magazine was founded by Schlicht & Field in 1886. In the first edition Paul Schlicht told his readers that the intention was to produce a "first-class family magazine". He added: "There will be a department devoted exclusively to the interests of women, with articles on fashions, on household decoration, on cooking, and the care and management of children, etc., also a department for the younger members of the family".

Within a year Cosmopolitan had a circulation of 25,000. However, Schlicht & Field went out of business in March 1888. A new editor, E. D. Walker, who had previously worked for Harper's Monthly, became the new editor. He introduced serial fiction, book reviews and colour illustrations. In four years Walker tripled circulation and Cosmopolitan became of of America's leading magazines.

In 1889 John Brisben Walker purchased Cosmopolitan. He employed top writers including Theodore Dreiser, Rudyard Kipling, Annie Besant, Ambrose Bierce, Jack London and Edith Wharton. Walker also commissioned Olive Schreiner to write a long article on the Boer War and H. G. Wells had two of his books, The War of the Worlds (1897) and First Man in the Moon (1900), serialized in the magazine.

In 1897 Walker announced that Cosmopolitan would sponsor a free correspondence school. He proudly announced: "No charge of any kind will be made to the student. All expenses for the present will be borne by the Cosmopolitan. No conditions, except a pledge of a given number of hours of study." Within a few weeks, twenty thousand students had enrolled. Surprised by the response, Walker was unable to finance the venture and had to ask students to contribute 20 dollars a year for their education.

William Randolph Hearst purchased Cosmopolitan for $400,000 in 1905. Hearst recruited the well-known investigative journalist, Charles Edward Russell, to work for the magazine. Articles written by Russell included two collections of articles: At the Throat of the Republic (December, 1907 - March, 1908) and What Are You Going to Do About It? (July, 1910 - January, 1911). Other articles written by Russell included The Growth of Caste in America (March, 1907) and Colorado - New Tricks in an Old Game (December, 1910).

Cover by Harrison Fisher
Cover by Harrison Fisher

Alfred Henry Lewis was also employed by Cosmopolitan. This included the series Owners of America (1908 - 1909). Other articles by Lewis published in the magazine were A Trust in Agricultural Implements, April, 1905; The Trail of the Viper, April, 1911 and The Viper's Trail of Gold, May, 1911.

Another outstanding journalist employed by Hearst was David Graham Phillips. This included the series, The Treason of the Senate, in 1906. This was considered to be one of the most important investigations of the muckraking period of journalism. Other radicals who contributed to Cosmopolitan during this period included Ida Tarbell, Upton Sinclair, Sinclair Lewis and George Bernard Shaw.

The Cosmopolitan also began employing top illustrators including James M. Flagg, Francis Attwood, Dean Cornwall and Harrison Fisher.

In the 1930s Cosmopolitan offered three serials and ten short stories. Many of America's novelists By the 1930s the magazine had a circulation of 1,700,000 and an advertising income of $5,000,000.

In the early 1940s Cosmopolitan began to call itself "The Four-Book Magazine". The first section contained one novelette, six or eight short stories, two serials, six to eight articles, and eight or nine special features. The other three sections contained a complete short novel, a normal length novel and a digest of current non-fiction books. Sales of Cosmopolitan during the Second World War reached over 2,000,000 copies.

In the 1950s there was a decrease in the demand for fiction. Sales of the magazine dropped dramatically. The size of the Cosmopolitan was reduced and although circulation was only just over a million in 1955, the magazine was still a profitable concern.

Primary Sources

(1) David Graham Phillips, Cosmopolitan (March, 1906)

Treason is a strong word, but not too strong, rather too weak, to characterize the situation which the Senate is the eager, resourceful, indefatigable agent of interests as hostile to the American people as any invading army could be, and vastly more dangerous: interests that manipulate the prosperity produced by all, so that it heaps up riches for the few; interests whose growth and power can only mean the degradation of the people, of the educated into sycophants, of the masses toward serfdom.

The Senators are not elected by the people; they are elected by the "interests". A servant obeys him who can punish and dismiss. Except in extreme and rare and negligible instances can the people either elect or dismiss a senator? The senator, in the dilemma which the careless ignorance of the people thrusts upon him, chooses to be comfortable, placed and honoured, and a traitor to oath and people rather than to be true to his oath and poor and ejected into private life.

(2) David Graham Phillips, Cosmopolitan (March, 1906)

He was born in 1841, is only sixty-four years old, good for another fifteen years, at least, in his present rugged health, before "the interests" will have to select another for his sate seat and treacherous task. He began as a grocery boy, got the beginning of one kind of education in the public schools and in an academy at East Greenwich, Rhode Island. He became clerk in a fish store in Providence, then clerk in a grocery, then bookkeeper, partner, and is still a wholesale grocer. He was elected to the legislature, applied himself so diligently to the work of getting his real education that he soon won the confidence of the boss, then Senator Anthony, and was sent to Congress, where he was Anthony's successor as boss and chief agent of the Rhode Island interests. He entered the United States Senate in 1881.

In 1901 his daughter married the only son and destined successor of John D. Rockefeller. Thus, the chief exploiter of the American people is closely allied by marriage with the chief schemer in the service of their exploiters. This fact no American should ever lose sight of. It is a political fact; it is an economic fact. It places the final and strongest seal upon the bonds uniting Aldrich and "the interests".

Has Aldrich intellect? Perhaps. But he does not show it. He has never in his twenty-five years of service in the Senate introduced or advocated a measure that shows any conception of life above what might be expected in a Hungry Joe. No, intellect is not the characteristic of Aldrich - or of any of these traitors, or of the men they serve. A scurvy lot they are, are they not, with their smirking and cringing and voluble palaver about God and patriotism and their eager offerings of endowments for hospitals and colleges whenever the American people so much as looks hard in their direction!

Aldrich is rich and powerful. Treachery has brought him wealth and rank, if not honor, of a certain sort. He must laugh at us, grown-up fools, permitting a handful to bind the might of our eighty millions and to set us all to work for them.

(3) Alfred Henry Lewis wrote about Thomas F. Ryan in Cosmopolitan (April, 1906)

Mayors are his office-boys, governors come and go at his call. He possesses himself a party and selects a candidate for the presidency. Tammany Hall is a dog for his hunting, and he breaks city council to his money-will as folk break horses to harness

(4) David Graham Phillips, Cosmopolitan (May, 1906)

Such is the stealthy and treacherous Senate as at present constituted. And such it will continue to be until the people think, instead of shout, about politics; until they judge public men by what they do and are, not by what they say and pretend. However, the fact that the people are themselves responsible for their own betrayal does not mitigate contempt for their hypocritical and cowardly betrayers. A corrupt system explains a corrupt man; it does not excuse him. The stupidity or negligence of the householder in leaving the door unlocked does not lessen the crime of the thief.

(5) In his book, The Era of the Muckrakers, C. C. Regier wrote about Phillips's articles that appeared in Cosmopolitan (1932)

Senator Nelson W. Aldrich of Rhode Island, who was singled out for special attack because of his connection with the Rockefellers and because of his tariff legislation, which, it was charged, favoured the oil and tobacco trusts. Aldrich, a Republican, was called the right arm of the interests, and Senator A. P. Gorman of Maryland, a Democrat, was called the left arm. Phillips, referring to this interest in business affairs which Democrats and Republicans alike displayed, spoke of the Senate "merger".