One-hit Wonders

The American Antiquarian Society has a large number of periodicals and newspapers of which only a single issue was printed before they folded.  There are a variety of reasons for why this might be.  Sometimes issue no. 1 is really a prospectus trying to generate interest and subscribers, but failing in this mission.  Often it is due to something I call “hope over business sense.”  Someone had a great idea for a magazine and put together enough to get the first number published, but he then had to face the daunting task of coming up with more material.  Others misjudged the demand for such a paper or were publishing it in the wrong region.  For most publications, we have no idea why a second issue did not come out.  They just disappeared like a popped bubble.

Here are three examples of publications that lasted just one issue:

1.) The Gambler’s Mirror (Boston, MA).  The only issue published came out in January 1845 and was edited by Jonathan H. Green.  On the title page Green is described as “the reformed gambler, author of ‘Green on gambling:’; designed to expose the wiles practiced by the gambling and sporting gentry, and intended to warn the community against the evil tendency of their despicable habits.; illustrated by appropriate engravings.”  The front wrapper has an illustration of two men playing cards.  Both are seated on oversized dice and a barrel of rum is next to them.  One gambler is winning all the money and is thumbing his nose at his despondent opponent.  The articles include literary stories involving gambling as well as non-fiction ones aimed at educating the reader on the evils of gambling and how they can be cheated.  The issue is 64 pages long and has woodcuts scattered throughout.  No other issue was published.  One reason might be the fact that Green did not have time to devote all his energies towards further issues as he was regularly travelling about lecturing on gambling.

2.) The White Man’s Newspaper (New York, NY).  Issue no. 1 is dated May 1851.  No other issue has been found of this anti-abolitionist newspaper.  In the first issue, it boasted as having $50,000 of capital backing the publication of this radical newspaper.  Apparently that was not enough as it disappeared as suddenly as it made its debut.  AAS and Harvard have the only recorded copies of the first issue.

3.) Smith & Barrow’s Monthly Magazine (Richmond, VA).   This is one of the latest acquisitions for the periodical collection, purchased at an auction in April.  It is a Confederate literary periodical published with the goal of developing a Confederate world of literature independent of what was produced by authors in the northern states.  Smith and Barrow were also trying to elevate the literary tastes of its readers by reprinting some of the best British literature being published (despite the blockade).  W.A.J. Smith and H.C. Barrow had been partners since the beginning of 1864 and published the family newspaper Magnolia Weekly.  The one issue of the Monthly Magazine was dated May 1864, about the time the partnership broke up over a dispute of ownership.  This periodical died without a second issue being published, though W.A.J. Smith kept the Magnolia Weekly going until the fall of Richmond in April 1865 by taking on a new partner.

Published by

Vincent Golden

Curator of Newspapers and Periodicals, American Antiquarian Society

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *