Tuesday, June 12, 2007

American Heritage is History

at least on paper

Somehow I missed this notice when it came out in May. I grew up in one of those households that had stacks of hardcover issues of American Heritage all over the place, on bookshelves here and there, in the basement, the garage, on the top shelf of the hall closet. I don't remember how old I was before I took an interest in them, but eventually I began to flip through the issues at random. Later, on trips home from college, I flipped through them again, this time looking for articles of interest on certain subjects. At some point I purchased the big, hardcover index, but it was of little use in the chaotic shuffling of serial publications in a home overrun by reading material. But the randomness, of course, was part of the appeal -- just grab a couple issues on your way to the bed, and there was bound to be one article, one essay, one "brush with history" that would be worth staying up for.

I tried to salvage a lot of those old casebound volumes, but they were just so damn heavy, and not conducive to apartment living and multiple moves. Invariably, they would end up in some dank, moist place, and have to be tossed in the dumpster on the next move.

I subscribed, on and off, to the modern glossy magazine, but that tailed off. Sometimes, I picked it up off the newstand. Editorially, it had its ups and downs, but I don't mind saying it was always among my favorite magazines. As I typed this blog entry, it occurred to me why AH is suspending print publication. Even loyal readers who were weaned on it have stopped buying it. That's a little sad, but "so it goes," if I may quote
another American icon we lost this year.

AH, at least, will continue online with a top-flight website [image at top: cover, October 1959, vol. 10, no. 6].


American Heritage Suspends Print Edition
By Frederick E. Allen

American Heritage, the nation’s preeminent magazine of history . . . has stopped publication, at least temporarily, with the April/May 2007 issue, now on newsstands. The website will continue to publish.

American Heritage, a bimonthly, was founded in 1954. It was bought by Forbes Inc. in 1986 and has suffered financially in recent years amid hard times for magazines in general. Forbes put it up for sale earlier this year and has not yet found a buyer.

7 comments:

Drew W. said...

Can't say I've read AH much over the years, but it's physical demise makes one wonder where the economic realities of paper magazine publishing will take us over the next 10 years. It would be a great disappointment to me if the CW magazines were all relegated to an online presence.

dw said...

Drew,

It's hard to say. As more and more magazines offer their content online, it will become harder for others to compete with print versions (as is happening with newspapers). Since there are only a handful of CW mags, if they all remain stingy with online content they can probably keep their subscriptions and newstand sales going.

I think it's probably a hard business to sustain even under the best circumstances.

Drew W. said...

It is an interesting business. I wish I knew more about it. I've always admired Blue & Gray for starting a niche magazine, constantly improving the content and presentation, and yet keeping the same subscription price for a decade or more (it seems it was $19.95 for 15 years)..although I see they've had to bump it up twice in the past few years. Seems like a really well run organization that knows what it's about.

dw said...

Blue & Gray is great -- they were the perfect alternative to the more commercial glossies, and the "General's Tour" was a stroke of genius as a regular feature.

I think Dave Roth must have garnered a very loyal following, and that has probably carried the magazine through some lean times.

dw

Remo said...

This was a great post! I rmember reading so many of the old American Heritage case bound books on so many subjects. One of my favorites was on Gettysburg. I also had one on the naval battles of the Civil War. These books encouraged my interest in not only the Civil War, but in military history in general. To this day I'm addicted to history and, if you want, you can see from my blog at navalwarfare.blogspot.com that this hobby of mine is as strong as ever. In fact, just last week I did a story on the US Revenue Cutter Harriet Lane and its contribution to the Civil War. Many kids were brought up on American Heritage books and its a shame they're not out there anymore. Your post brought back a lot of memories. Thanks.

dw said...

Remo,

Thanks for the note. I will have a look at your blog -- sounds interesting.

David

Anonymous said...

Didn't anyone notice that American Heritage is still very much alive?

It was bought by a new investor group in 2007. The new editor, Edwin Grosvenor, is re-emphasizing history rather than "popular culture."

Since then they have published a great article on the discovery of Robert E. Lee's lost letters, and essays on Lincoln and the Civil War by James McPherson, Harold Holzer, Craig Symonds, Eric Foner, etc.

You can find it in bookstores or subscribe at:
www.americanheritage.com


See NY Times:
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E03EFDD1430F937A15753C1A9619C8B63

New York Post:
http://www.nypost.com/seven/10232007/business/american_heritage_revived.htm