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This month the editor salutes 'America's Most Historic Magazine' -- it has just turned two hundred years old

This is the cover of the September-October 2021 issue of the Saturday Evening Post. Although much of the editorial content is new, and pertinent to today, the magazine regularly mines its history with reprints - such as this World War II Norman Rockwell cover. There are probably some publications in the United States that trace their origins back more than 200 years – a couple of competing Farmers Almanacs come to mind – but none was more entwined with our country and what it became through the years than the Saturday Evening Post.

Some of us who have been around a while grew up with it when it reached its peak popularity around 1960 – attaining a weekly subscription circulation of nearly seven million. It debuted as a newspaper on August 4, 1821 – published on Benjamin Franklin's printing press, a bit after his death, and inspired by his "Pennsylvania Gazette". With a very brief hiatus starting in 1969, it has been published continuously for 200 years.

Some who are reading this will be surprised to learn it is still being published! Yes, it is, now by a nonprofit organization called the "Benjamin Franklin Literary Society", and instead of being a weekly magazine, it now is bimonthly, and comes out six times a year. But anyone familiar with the magazine in its heyday will recognize (and enjoy) it today.

If you are interested in reading a brief history of the publication, you will find it here: www.saturdayeveningpost.com/history-saturday-evening-post

Those who grew up with the magazine will remember fondly its illustrated covers, still collectible today, led by the work of Norman Rockwell. Both Stephen Spielberg and George Lucas count themselves among those who collect those covers today. And they may remember the fiction – because all the top writers of the last two centuries wrote for the Saturday Evening Post. Your editor remembers his parents getting him interested in reading at an early age by reading to him the regular comic stories from the Post involving Tugboat Annie, who ran a tugboat out of the Northwest port of "Secoma", and Alexander Botts, the Earthworm Tractor salesman, whose stories overcoming various problems in selling Earthworm Tractors were always written as a series of letters to the home office.

The single-panel cartoons were always sought-after by those receiving the magazine in the second mail delivery on Saturdays (yes, until the middle of the Twentieth Century, there were two mail deliveries per day, Monday through Saturday). One such cartoon was developed as a successful TV situation comedy – cartoonist Ted Key's "Hazel". But many do not remember that "The Post" also did an exceptional job covering major stories, and even did some important investigative journalism. Case in point: The very first major widespread report warning of the consequences of climate change brought about by human activities was in the Saturday Evening Post! The article was called "Is the World Getting Warmer?" and it appeared in the issue of July 1st – 1950!

The Post did an exposé of L. Ron Hubbard's new "religion", Scientology, in the March 21, 1964 issue. This sort of journalism was not unusual in the magazine, and in general anticipated issues long before they were recognized elsewhere in the popular press. So a happy 200th birthday to the Saturday Evening Post! Meantime, we conclude this year marking an important anniversary for this modest newspaper for Southeast Portland. We celebrated our 117th birthday in September. THE BEE exists because of a successful but somewhat radical concept developed by the Saturday Evening Post around the turn of the Twentieth Century: The new ideas for the Post at that time – including color covers, lots of photos, and many pages per issue – all cost more than the magazine could charge per copy. Up till then, most publications were financed almost entirely by subscriptions and per-copy sales, so costs had to be kept low, and the page count was kept as low as possible, which meant few illustrations, and no photos, among other things. Just a page full of small type! To create the magazine its publisher wanted as the calendar turned to the 1900s, its legendary editor of the time – George Lorimer – believed that the extra costs would have to be paid by the advertising, and spending that money improving the magazine would pay off in attracting more readers and more subscribers. Turned out, he was right, and American publishing was completely changed by that concept. That is how you are able to read a newspaper like THE BEE today: The cost of creating it and bringing it to you is almost entirely paid by advertising revenues. Our advertisers hope for your business, and we hope you will thank them for their appearance in and support of THE BEE.

And the result is a newspaper that is able to report in depth on what goes on in Inner Southeast Portland every month – the news, good and bad. If you want to know what goes on around here, this is really the only place you are going to find all of it. It's a pleasure to do it for you, Happy Holidays, and thank you for "Reading The Bee"!


You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.

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