Curtis Publishing Company

The Curtis Publishing Company, founded in 1891 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, became one of the largest and most influential publishers in the United States during the early 20th century. The company's publications included the Ladies' Home Journal and The Saturday Evening Post, The American Home, Holiday, Jack & Jill, and Country Gentleman. In the 1940s, Curtis also had a comic book imprint, Novelty Press.

Curtis Publishing Company
FounderCyrus H. K. Curtis


Curtis Publishing Company Building
The Curtis Center, located at the Northwest corner of 6th and Walnut Streets in Philadelphia, was built in 1910 and designed by Edgar Seeler in the Beaux Arts style

The Curtis Publishing Company was founded in 1891 by publisher Cyrus H. K. Curtis, who published the People's Ledger, a news magazine he had begun in Boston in 1872 and moved to Philadelphia in 1876. The city was already a major publishing center. Curtis also established the Tribune and Farmer in 1879. From a brief women's supplement, his wife Louisa Knapp Curtis developed a women's section and the Ladies' Home Journal, which she edited from 1883 to 1889.

Saturday Evening Post 1916-05-20
Saturday Evening Post 1916-05-20

Curtis made these publications part of his new company. Curtis bought the Saturday Evening Post for $1000 in 1897 and developed it as one of the nation's most popular periodicals.[1] The magazine had its roots in Ben Franklin's Pennsylvania Gazette and went as far back as 1728.[1] When Curtis took over the Post it had a subscription base of 2,000. The base was over 1 million by 1906 and by 1960 was over six million.[1] Editor George Lorimer brought in top writers and illustrators and helped usher in "American's Golden Age of Illustration." Artists such as Norman Rockwell were featured as well as J. C. Leyendecker, John Clymer, Stevan Dohanos, Sarah Stilwell-Weber, and John La Gatta. [1]

Curtis Publishing created a market research division in 1911 under Charles Coolidge Parlin.[2] The goal of the division was to understand their customers and was one of the first market research firms.[3]

Ladies Home Journal 1900
Ladies Home Journal 1900

Curtis reported record earnings of $21 million on $84 million in revenue in 1929.[4]

Curtis spun off their market research division, National Analysts, as an independent organization to provide market research services to business and government.[5]

Saturday Evening Post 1918-06-01
Saturday Evening Post 1918-06-01

In 1946, Curtis Publishing bought and launched Holiday magazine, focusing on travel and photo essays.[6]

1960s and decline of Curtis Publishing

The advent of television in the late 1940s and early 1950s competed for people's attention and eroded the popularity of general-interest periodicals such as the Post and the Journal.[4] The New York Times reported that both the finance markets and Madision Avenue were watching Curtis Publishing's efforts to save itself after a financial decline.[4] The reason the New York Times gave for the attention, "the status of the venerable Curtis empire, the colorful cast of characters directing the comeback attempt, the vast sums of money at stake. In addition, Curtis's troubles seemed to reflect the difficulties encountered by the mass magazines industry as a whole in adjusting to an era dominated by the spiraling growth of television."[4] It wasn't until 1961 and 1962 that the issues became visible in lost revenue.[4] In 1961 Curtis Publishing's president Robert A. MacNeal announced that the company had lost money for the first time in the more than seven decades since its incorporation.[7] The company's revenues showed a loss of $4,194,000 on $178.4 million in revenue that year.[4] The next year in 1962,[4] company had total revenues of $149 million and a loss of $18.9 million.[4] Curtis management went to Serge Semenenko who had helped the Hearst Corporation to reorganize and Semenenko arranged for a six-bank syndicate to loan $10.5 million to Curtis.[4]

Many experts noted that there were a number of issues tied to the decline of Curtis. Many of their competitors such as Time, Inc. and McCall Corporation had diversified while Curtis remained focused on their two key periodicals--Saturday Evening Post and Ladies' Home Journal. Their other magazines -- Holiday, Jack & Jill, and American -- simply could not make up the lost revenue of the main periodicals. The Saturday Evening Post was no longer the top mass market periodical, having been surpassed by Life magazine in 1942 and then spiraling into a ten-year decline in advertising revenue after World War II. The Ladies' Home Journal lost their position to McCall's in 1960. Other experts cited that the two flagship magazines "simply grew old."[4] They "fell into a formula that tended to attract older readers rather than the young married couples that advertisers wanted to reach."[4] They also stayed away from some of the more aggressive circulation promotion techniques used by their competitors.[4] Matthew J. Culligan, President of Curtis, cited another downfall in the use of its own presses and its own paper. Culligan said, "This sort of self-sufficiency is fine in good times but it imposes an intolerable burden when business goes bad."[4] They had also failed to follow the model of some of their competitors by diversifying into television, news magazines or book publishing after World War II.[4]

The Ladies' home journal (1948) (14763441331)
The Ladies' Home Journal (1948) (14763441331)

Meanwhile the company made a number of editorial and executive changes at their magazine properties. Ben Hibbs, the editor of the Saturday Evening Post since 1942, retired, as did Bruce and Beatrice Gould of the Ladies' Home Journal (editors since 1935).[4] The Post attempted to reinvent itself with more controversial articles and flashy graphics. Two editors--Robert Fouss (Saturday Evening Post) and Curtiss Anderson (Ladies' Home Journal) quickly came and went.[4] Ted Patrick, editor of Holiday magazine, said that Darwinian cost-cutting would be the kiss of death to Holiday.[8]

Curtis received another loan of $5.5 million in 1964 to be used to make investments in new editorial properties.[9]

Perfect Film loaned the company $5 million in 1968 at the request of Curtis's primary loan holder, First National Bank of Boston, to extend its loans. Curtis sold its Philadelphia headquarters to real estate developer John W. Merriam for $7.3 million to pay off most of the First National loan; it leased half of the building back for its operations.[10] In 1968, Curtis Publishing sold the Ladies' Home Journal and The American Home to Downe Communications for $5.4 million in stock;[11][12] it sold the stock for operating revenue. The list of six million Post subscribers were sold to Life for cash, a $2.5 million loan, and a contract with Curtis' circulation and printing services subsidiaries. Despite these attempts to revive the Saturday Evening Post, failing to find a purchaser for the magazine, Curtis Publishing shut down the magazine in 1969.[13] In March 1969, the Federal Trade Commission directed Curtis to offer cash refunds for unfulfilled portions of Post subscriptions.[14]

Perfect Film purchased Curtis Circulation Company that same year.[13] In 1976, The Saturday Evening Post Society was spun off from Curtis to publish its flagship magazine. U.S. Kids was formed, which publishes their portfolio of children's magazines.[15]

21st century

Curtis Publishing still exists in the 21st century as a licensing firm that licenses their magazine covers and artwork including 4,000 images from over 500 artists. As Curtis Licensing, they license advertisement images as well as to companies creating and selling memorabilia. The Norman Rockwell and other images have been used on products such as fine art and prints, greeting cards, figurines, and other collectibles.[16]

Curtis Publishing Company
Curtis Dream Garden
Dream Garden glass-mosaic mural by Maxfield Parrish and made by Louis Comfort Tiffany
LocationImmediately SW of Independence Hall
Coordinates39°56′54″N 75°09′06″W / 39.9482°N 75.1518°W
DesignatedNovember 30, 1998

Properties and subsidiaries

Curtis Center and Dream Garden

Curtis Hall Philadelphia
Front facade of The Curtis Building on S. 6th St.

In 1910 the company built its headquarters building at the intersection of South Sixth and Walnut streets, about 200 feet (61 m) southwest of Independence Hall. The building was designed by Edgar Viguers Seeler (1867-1929) in the Beaux Arts style. The square-block building stretches from South Sixth to South Seventh Street east to west, and from Sansom Street to Walnut Street north to south. The building was renovated in 1990 by Oldham and Seltz and John Milner Associates.[17][18]

The interior of the building features a terraced waterfall and fountain, an atrium with faux-Egyptian palm trees, and the 15-by-49-foot (4.6 m × 14.9 m) glass-mosaic Dream Garden (1916) designed by Maxfield Parrish and made by Louis Tiffany and Tiffany Studios.[18] The glass-mosaic work was commissioned by Edward Bok, who was the Senior Editor of the company at the time. It was exhibited at Tiffany Studios in New York City for a month before being installed in the building's lobby, which took six months. The mosaic is made of 100,000 pieces of hand-fixed Favrile glass in 260 different colors.[19]

In 1998, the mosaic was sold to casino owner Steve Wynn, who intended to move it to one of his casinos in Las Vegas. This was blocked by local historians and art lovers, who raised $3.5 million to purchase the work and prevent its being moved from the city.[20] The money was provided by the Pew Charitable Trusts to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, which now owns the work.[19]

See also



  1. ^ a b c d "Curtis Publishing - The Art of Licensing". Retrieved 2018-06-14.
  2. ^ "Our History | NAXION | Research > Consulting". Retrieved 2018-06-21.
  3. ^ "Our History | NAXION | Research > Consulting". Retrieved 2018-06-21.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "Decline of Key Magazines Rocked Curtis Empire; Publisher, Reset by Financial and Management Woes, Still Fighting Losses". The New York Times. 1964-10-09. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-06-11.
  5. ^ "Our History | NAXION | Research > Consulting". Retrieved 2018-06-21.
  6. ^ Callahan, Michael (May 2013). "The Visual and Writerly Genius of Holiday Magazine". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 2018-05-30.
  7. ^ Friedrich, Otto. Decline and Fall. Harper and Row, 1970, p. 10
  8. ^ Callahan, Michael. "The Visual and Writerly Genius of Holiday Magazine". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 2018-06-12.
  9. ^ Bedingfield, Robert E. (December 21, 1964). "Curtis Assured of Bank Credits". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-06-12.
  10. ^ "Magazines: New Man for Curtis". Time. May 3, 1968. Retrieved 6 August 2011.
  11. ^ Bedingfield, R. E. "Curtis Publishing Sells 2 Magazines; Downe Paying $5.4-Million in Stock", The New York Times, August 15, 1968, Business and Finance section, p. 54.
  12. ^ "Too Few Believers." Time. Friday, Aug. 23, 1968.
  13. ^ a b Welles, Chris (Feb 10, 1969). "Post-Mortem". New York Magazine. pp. 32–36. Retrieved 5 August 2011.
  14. ^ "FTC Orders Refunds By Curtis". Tri City Herald. March 20, 1969. p. 21. Retrieved 23 September 2011.
  15. ^ [1]
  16. ^ "Curtis Licensing - The Art of Licensing". Retrieved 2018-06-17.
  17. ^ Gallery, John Andrew, ed. (2004), Philadelphia Architecture: A Guide to the City (2nd ed.), Philadelphia: Foundation for Architecture, ISBN 0962290815, p.161
  18. ^ a b "The Curtis Center" and on
  19. ^ a b "Dream Garden" on
  20. ^ Walters, Patrick (December 21, 2006). "Eakins painting to stay in Philadelphia". The Star. Toronto. Retrieved April 30, 2010.

External links

Bantam Books

Bantam Books is an American publishing house owned entirely by parent company Random House, a subsidiary of Penguin Random House; it is an imprint of the Random House Publishing Group. It was formed in 1945 by Walter B. Pitkin, Jr., Sidney B. Kramer, and Ian and Betty Ballantine, with funding from Grosset & Dunlap and Curtis Publishing Company. It has since been purchased several times by companies including National General, Carl Lindner's American Financial and, most recently, Bertelsmann; it became part of Random House in 1998, when Bertelsmann purchased it to form Bantam Doubleday Dell. It began as a mass market publisher, mostly of reprints of hardcover books, with some original paperbacks as well. It expanded into both trade paperback and hardcover books, including original works, often reprinted in house as mass-market editions.

Charles Coolidge Parlin

Charles Coolidge Parlin (1872 – October 15, 1942) was the American "manager of the division of commercial research of the Curtis Publishing Company" in charge of selling advertising spots in the Saturday Evening Post. He is credited as being the founder and a "pioneer" in the area of market research.

Curtis Circulation

Curtis Circulation Company, LLC (abbreviated as CC) is a magazine distribution company.

Curtis Park station

Curtis Park station is a station along the SEPTA Wilmington/Newark Line and Amtrak's Northeast Corridor. Amtrak does not stop here; the station is only served by SEPTA. The station is officially located at Elmwood Avenue near Calcon Hook Road in Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania. In reality it is located at the dead ends of Oak Avenue, one block east of Calcon Hook Road, and is accessible from Calcon Hook Road from Woodlawn Terrace on the north side of the tracks and Elmwood Avenue from the south side.

According to the Pennsylvania Railroad Stations Past & Present website, Curtis Park was originally known as "Academy Station" prior to 1948. It was believed to have been named from a local branch of the Holy Child Academy which was once located nearby. The station has been closed and boarded up but still stands as a pair of platformed shelters, dividing Oak Avenue into two halves on either side of the railroad lines while Calcon Hook Road crosses over the lines. The station building was built by or for the Pennsylvania Railroad when the name was changed as the Curtis Publishing Company moved to town.

Curtis Publishing Co. v. Butts

Curtis Publishing Co. v. Butts, 388 U.S. 130 (1967), was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States established the standard of First Amendment protection against defamation claims brought by private individuals.

Favrile glass

Favrile glass is a type of iridescent art glass developed by Louis Comfort Tiffany. He patented this process in 1894 and first produced the glass for manufacture in 1896 in Queens, New York. It differs from most iridescent glasses because the color is ingrained in the glass itself, as well as having distinctive coloring. Tiffany won the grand prize at the 1900 Paris Exposition for his Favrile glass.

Tiffany used this glass in the stained-glass windows designed and made by his studio. His largest and most significant work using Favrile glass is Dream Garden (1916), commissioned by the Curtis Publishing Company for their headquarters in Philadelphia and designed by Maxfield Parrish. It is now owned by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

George Horace Lorimer

George Horace Lorimer (October 6, 1867 – October 22, 1937) was an American journalist, author and publisher. He is best known as the editor of The Saturday Evening Post, which he led from 1899 to 1936. During his editorial reign, the Post rose from a circulation of several thousand to more than one million. He is also credited with promoting or discovering a large number of American writers, such as Jack London, whose stories were published in the Post. In addition, Lorimer served as vice president, president, and chairman of the Curtis Publishing Company, which published several magazines and numerous books.

Holiday (magazine)

Holiday was an American travel magazine published from 1946 to 1977.

Originally published by the Curtis Publishing Company, Holiday's circulation grew to more than one million subscribers at its height. The magazine employed writers such as Truman Capote, Joan Didion, Lawrence Durell, James Michener and E. B. White. The magazine was relaunched as a bi-annual magazine in 2014, located in Paris, but written in English.

Kotzschmar Memorial Organ

The Kotzschmar Memorial Organ, usually referred to as the Kotzschmar Organ, is a pipe organ located at Merrill Auditorium in the City Hall of Portland, Maine, United States. Built in 1911 by the Austin Organ Co. as Opus 323, it was the second-largest organ in the world at the time, and it remains the largest organ in Maine today.The organ was donated to the city by Portland native Cyrus Hermann Kotzschmar Curtis (founder of the Curtis Publishing Company of Philadelphia) as a memorial to Hermann Kotzschmar, a close family friend for whom he had been named. Kotzschmar was

a German-born musician who came to Portland in 1849, acquired the reputation as the city's most prominent musician, and lived there until his death in 1908. The Kotzschmar Organ is a prime example of the U.S. style of municipal (city-owned) organs which were once a prevalent part of American culture throughout the first half of the 20th century. It was the first municipal organ built in the U.S., and is one of only two U.S. municipal organs still owned by a municipality — the other being the Spreckels Organ in San Diego, California. . PortTIX is the official box office for Kotzschmar organ performances at Merrill Auditorium.

Ladies' Home Journal

Ladies' Home Journal is an American magazine published by the Meredith Corporation. It was first published on February 16, 1883, and eventually became one of the leading women's magazines of the 20th century in the United States. From 1891 it was published in Philadelphia by the Curtis Publishing Company. In 1903, it was the first American magazine to reach one million subscribers.In the late 20th century, changing tastes and competition from television caused it to lose circulation. Sales of the magazine ensued as the publishing company struggled. On April 24, 2014, Meredith announced it would stop publishing the magazine as a monthly with the July issue, stating it was "transitioning Ladies' Home Journal to a special interest publication". It is now available quarterly on newsstands only, though its website remains in operation.Ladies' Home Journal was one of the Seven Sisters, as a group of women's service magazines were known. The name referred to seven prestigious women's colleges in the Northeast.

Lawrence G. Williams

Lawrence Gordon Williams (September 15, 1913 – July 13, 1975) was a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing the 7th district of Pennsylvania.

Williams was born in Pittsburgh, PA. He moved to Philadelphia in June 1922. He attended Drexel Institute of Technology. He was a commissioner (1952–1966) and president of the board (1960–1966) of the township of Springfield, PA. He was employed by the Curtis Publishing Company from 1936 to 1966, and retired as assistant to the senior vice president in charge of manufacturing.

He served in the Army Air Corps during the Second World War. He was Delaware County’s representative on the policy committee on the Penn-Jersey Transportation Study, 1959–1966, Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority. He was the past president of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Commissioners.

He was elected in 1966 as a Republican to the 90th and to the three succeeding Congresses. He was an unsuccessful candidate for renomination in 1974. He was appointed by President Gerald Ford as special assistant to the Cochairman of the Ozarks Regional Commission and served in that capacity from January 20, 1975, until his death.

He is buried at Edgewood Memorial Park in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania.

Novelty Press

Novelty Press (a.k.a. Premium Service Co., Inc.; a.k.a. Novelty Publications; a.k.a. Premier Group) was an American Golden Age comic-book publisher that operated from 1940–1949. It was the comic book imprint of Curtis Publishing Company, publisher of The Saturday Evening Post. Among Novelty's best-known and longest-running titles were Blue Bolt and Target Comics.

During its nine-year run, Novelty had a roster of creators that included Al Avison, Dan Barry, Carl Burgos, L.B. Cole, Bill Everett, Al Gabriele, Joe Gill, Tom Gill, Jack Kirby, Tarpé Mills, Al Plastino, Don Rico, Joe Simon, Mickey Spillane, and Basil Wolverton.Although published in Philadelphia, Novelty Press's editorial offices were in New York City.

Robert Sherrod

Robert Lee Sherrod (February 8, 1909 – February 13, 1994) was an American journalist, editor and author. He was a war correspondent for Time and Life magazines, covering combat from World War II to the Vietnam War. During World War II, embedded with the United States Marine Corps, he covered the battles at Attu (with the U.S. Army), Tarawa, Saipan, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. He also authored five books on World War II, including Tarawa: The Story of a Battle (1944) and the definitive History of Marine Corps Aviation in World War II (1952). He was an editor of Time during World War II and later editor of The Saturday Evening Post, then vice-president of Curtis Publishing Company.

Settlement Music School

Settlement Music School is a community music school with branches in and around Philadelphia. Founded in 1908 by two young women, Jeannette Selig Frank and Blanche Wolf Kohn, it is the largest community school of the arts in the United States offering 10,000 weekly services at six branches in Pennsylvania and New Jersey to thousands of people of all abilities, ages, races and financial means. Its six branches are in South, West and Northeast Philadelphia, Germantown, Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, and Camden, New Jersey.

Settlement Music School offers programs in music and dance. Settlement awards nearly $2 million a year in financial aid. It is the largest employer of musicians in the region, with over 200 faculty members; since its founding, its faculty has included current and former members of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Among its alumni are Albert Einstein, Michael and Kevin Bacon, Stanley Clarke, Chubby Checker, Wallace Roney, Joey DeFrancesco, Christian McBride, former Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo and Kevin Eubanks, as well as members of many symphony orchestras across the United States and around the world.

Mary Louise Curtis Bok Zimbalist, only child of Cyrus H. K. Curtis, a wealthy magazine publisher and founder of the Curtis Publishing Company, became involved with the Settlement School at the age of 48. At the time the school was focused on providing musical training to young immigrants. Mrs. Bok made a gift to the school of $150,000 for a Settlement Music House. The music house's goal was "Americanization among the foreign population of Philadelphia." A close friend of the Bok family, pianist Josef Hofmann, played a recital at the school's dedication. Today this facility on 416 Queen Street in Philadelphia is known as the Mary Louise Curtis Branch.

The Country Gentleman

The Country Gentleman (1831–1955) was an American agricultural magazine founded in 1831 in Rochester, NY by Luther Tucker. The magazine was purchased by Philadelphia-based Curtis Publishing Company in 1911. Curtis redirected the magazine to address the business side of farming, which was largely ignored by the agricultural magazines of the time. In 1955, The Country Gentleman was the second most popular agricultural magazine in the US, with a circulation of 2,870,380. That year it was purchased by, and merged into, Farm Journal, an agricultural magazine with a slightly larger circulation.

The Saturday Evening Post

The Saturday Evening Post is an American magazine, currently published six times a year. It was published weekly under this title from 1897 until 1963, then every two weeks until 1969. From the 1920s to the 1960s, it was one of the most widely circulated and influential magazines for the American middle class, with fiction, non-fiction, cartoons and features that reached millions of homes every week. The magazine declined in readership through the 1960s, and in 1969 The Saturday Evening Post folded for two years before being revived as a quarterly publication with an emphasis on medical articles in 1971.

The magazine was redesigned in 2013.

Tom Curtis (American football)

Thomas Newton Curtis (born November 1, 1947) is a former American football safety. He played college football for the University of Michigan from 1967 to 1969. He was selected as a consensus All-American in 1969. He also broke Michigan's records for interceptions in a game, season, and career—none of which have been broken. He also set the NCAA career record with 431 return yards off interceptions. Curtis also played two seasons for the Baltimore Colts (1970–1971) which included the Colts' Super Bowl V winning team. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2005.

USS Southern Seas (PY-32)

USS Southern Seas (PY-32) was a patrol yacht that was commissioned in the United States Navy on 22 December 1942 in Auckland, New Zealand. She was built for Cyrus Curtiss of the Curtis Publishing Company by Cramp Ship and Iron Works, Philadelphia, in 1920 at a cost of two million dollars. She was christened the Motor Yacht Lyndonia.

Washington Square West, Philadelphia

Washington Square West is a neighborhood in downtown, or Center City, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The neighborhood roughly corresponds to the area between 7th and Broad Streets and between Chestnut and South Streets, bordering on the Independence Mall tourist area directly northeast, Market East to the northwest, Old City and Society Hill to the East, Bella Vista directly south, Hawthorne to the southwest, and mid-town Philadelphia and Rittenhouse Square to the west. In addition to being a desirable residential community, it is considered a hip, trendy neighborhood that offers a diverse array of shops, restaurants, and coffee houses. Washington Square West contains many gay-friendly establishments and hosts annual events celebrating LGBT culture in Philadelphia including OutFest. The area takes its name from Washington Square, a historic urban park in the northeastern corner of the neighborhood.

Philadelphia's Antique Row lies in the area as does the nation's oldest hospital, Pennsylvania Hospital. Educational and medical facilities associated with Thomas Jefferson University, a leading regional medical university and health care center, are located within the neighborhood. The one-time headquarters of the former Curtis Publishing Company and the University of the Arts lie at the edges of the neighborhood.

Washington West's real estate is mixed commercial, residential and service industries, characterized by two, three, and four-story rowhouses interspersed with condominiums, mid-rise apartments, hospitals and offices with ground-floor retail. The neighborhood follows William Penn's original grid layout for the city, with many one-lane and pedestrian side streets added later as the population became more dense. In addition to the block sized Washington Square Park to the East, the neighborhood contains the smaller Kahn Park, named after the Philadelphia architect Louis Kahn who resided in the neighborhood.

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