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Photo-History's demise


Tim Satterthwaite
Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 54
Topic starter  

Maggie: thank you for this wonderful presentation. Just a simple question: do you know why Photo-History was so short-lived? It looks so promising: beautifully designed, well received by the critics, promoted by labour unions - and it launched at the most auspicious moment for pictorial magazines (unless it was just too late off the blocks?). It should have had everything going for it...?

Margaret Innes
Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 8

Another great question. I've pieced together a vague explanation, but it still has some holes. Childs' correspondence suggests that a fifth issue, on the subject of birth control, was in its early planning stages in the first months of 1938, but the magazine folded that November. Financial issues could have been a factor here, although there's no smoking gun. The magazine's publisher, Modern Age Books (also headed by Childs), dissolved its assets in 1942 when Childs and other key staff enlisted in the armed forces, but I think it's conceivable that they ran into some financial trouble in 1938 and had to cut the magazine. 

On this note, Modern Age was an early contender in the field of paperback publishing (very slow to catch on in the US for a number of reasons including an inadequate national distribution system), and while Childs was trying to transform existing models of magazine and book distribution, and Photo-History was certainly part of this project, I wonder if the magazine was ever able to attract a real audience beyond New America's circuit, the left-wing press, and the cultural elite (it comes up in the writing of Beaumont Newhall and Meyer Schapiro, for instance).