Harper's Magazine

Harper's Magazine (also called Harper's) is a monthly magazine of literature, politics, culture, finance, and the arts. Launched in June 1850, it is the second-oldest continuously published monthly magazine in the U.S. (Scientific American is the oldest, but did not become monthly until 1921). Harper's Magazine has won twenty-two National Magazine Awards.[1]

November 2004 Cover of Harper's Magazine
November 2004 issue
PresidentJohn R. MacArthur
CategoriesArt, culture, literature
Total circulation
(December 2018)
First issueJune 1850 (as Harper's New Monthly Magazine)
CompanyHarper's Magazine Foundation
CountryUnited States
Based in666 Broadway
New York City, New York, U.S.


Fletcher, James, John, and Joseph Harper (ca. 1860)
Harper & Brothers founders Fletcher, James, John and Joseph Wesley Harper (1860)
Harpers Magazine 1905
An issue of Harper's from 1905

Harper's Magazine began as Harper's New Monthly Magazine in June 1850, by the New York City publisher Harper & Brothers. The company also founded the magazines Harper's Weekly and Harper's Bazaar, and grew to become HarperCollins Publishing. The first press run of Harper's Magazine—7,500 copies—sold out almost immediately. Circulation was some 50,000 issues six months later.[2]

The early issues reprinted material pirated from English authors such as Charles Dickens, William Makepeace Thackeray, and the Brontë sisters.[3] The magazine soon was publishing the work of American artists and writers, and in time commentary by the likes of Winston Churchill and Woodrow Wilson. Portions of Herman Melville's novel Moby Dick were first published in the October 1851 issue of Harper's under the title, "The Town-Ho's Story" (titled after Chapter 54 of Moby Dick).[4]

In 1962, Harper & Brothers merged with Row, Peterson & Company, becoming Harper & Row (now HarperCollins). In 1965, the magazine was separately incorporated, and became a division of the Minneapolis Star and Tribune Company, owned by the Cowles Media Company.

In the 1970s, Harper's Magazine published Seymour Hersh's reporting of the My Lai Massacre by United States forces in Vietnam. In 1971 editor Willie Morris resigned under pressure from owner John Cowles, Jr., prompting resignations from many of the magazine's star contributors and staffers, including Norman Mailer, David Halberstam, Robert Kotlowitz, Marshall Frady and Larry L. King:

Morris's departure jolted the literary world. Mailer, William Styron, Gay Talese, Bill Moyers, and Tom Wicker declared that they would boycott Harper's as long as the Cowles family owned it, and the four staff writers hired by Morris—Frady among them—resigned in solidarity with him.

Robert Shnayerson, a senior editor at Time magazine, was hired to replace Morris as Harper's ninth editor, serving in that position from 1971 until 1976.[6][7]

Lewis H. Lapham served as managing editor from 1976 until 1981; he returned to the position again from 1983 until 2006. On June 17, 1980, the Star Tribune announced it would cease publishing Harper's Magazine after the August 1980 issue. But, on July 9, 1980, John R. MacArthur (who goes by the name Rick) and his father, Roderick, obtained pledges from the directorial boards of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Atlantic Richfield Company, and CEO Robert Orville Anderson to amass the $1.5 million needed to establish the Harper's Magazine Foundation. It now publishes the magazine.[8][9][10]

In 1984, Lapham and MacArthur—now publisher and president of the foundation—along with new executive editor Michael Pollan, redesigned Harper's and introduced the "Harper's Index" (statistics arranged for thoughtful effect), "Readings", and the "Annotation" departments to complement its fiction, essays, reportage, and reviews. As of the March 2011 issue, contributing editor Zadie Smith, a noted British author, writes the print edition's New Books column.

Under the Lapham-MacArthur leadership, Harper's Magazine continued publishing literary fiction by John Updike, George Saunders, and others. Politically, Harper's was an especially vocal critic of U.S. domestic and foreign policies. Editor Lapham's monthly "Notebook" columns have lambasted the Clinton and the George W. Bush administrations. Since 2003, the magazine has concentrated on reportage about U.S. war in Iraq, with long articles about the battle for Fallujah, and the cronyism of the American reconstruction of Iraq. Other reporting has covered abortion issues, cloning, and global warming.[11]

In 2007, Harper's added the No Comment blog, by attorney Scott Horton, about legal controversies, Central Asian politics, and German studies. In April 2006, Harper's began publishing the Washington Babylon blog on its website,[12] written by Washington Editor Ken Silverstein about American politics; and in 2008, Harper's added the "Sentences" blog, by contributing editor Wyatt Mason, about literature and belles lettres. Since that time these two blogs have ceased publication. Another website feature, composed by a rotating set of authors, is the Weekly Review, single-sentence summaries of political, scientific, and bizarre news; like the Harper's Index and "Findings" in the print edition of the magazine, the Weekly Review items are arranged for ironic contrast.


Editor Lewis H. Lapham was criticized for his reportage of the 2004 Republican National Convention, which had yet to occur, in his essay "Tentacles of Rage: The Republican Propaganda Mill, a Brief History," published in the September 2004 issue which implied that he had attended the convention. He apologized in a note.[13][14] Lapham left two years later, after 28 years as Harper's editor in chief, and launched Lapham's Quarterly.

The August 2004 issue contained a photo essay by noted photojournalist Peter Turnley, who had been hired to do a series of photo essays for the magazine. The eight-page spread in August 2004 showed images of death, grieving and funerals from both sides of the U.S. war in Afghanistan. On the U.S. side, Turnley visited the funeral of an Oklahoma National Guard member, Spc. Kyle Brinlee, 21, who was killed when his vehicle ran over an improvised explosive device (IED) in Afghanistan. During his funeral, Turnley shot the open casket as it lay in the back of the high school auditorium where the funeral was held to accommodate 1,200 mourners, and this photo was used in the photo essay. Subsequently, the family sued the magazine in federal court. The case ended in 2007 when the U.S. Supreme Court, although saying the unauthorized publication was in "poor taste," upheld the ruling of the Tenth Circuit that the magazine had not violated the privacy rights of the family, as the family had invited the press, and thus "opened up the funeral scene to the public eye."[15]

The March 2006 issue contained Celia Farber's article, "Out of Control: AIDS and the Corruption of Medical Science," presenting Peter Duesberg's theory that HIV does not cause AIDS.[16][17] It was strongly criticized by AIDS activists,[18] scientists and physicians,[19] the Columbia Journalism Review,[20] and others as inaccurate and promoting a scientifically discredited theory.[21] The Treatment Action Campaign, a South African organization working for greater popular access to HIV treatments, posted a response by eight researchers documenting more than fifty errors in the article.[22]

Lewis Lapham was succeeded as Harper's editor by Roger Hodge in 2006.[23] Since that time, the magazine has had a number of shorter-termed editors in chief, several of whom were fired amid various controversies.[23] On January 25, 2010, the abrupt firing of the magazine's well-liked editor, Roger Hodge, by publisher John R. MacArthur was met with widespread and well-publicized criticism among the magazine's subscribers and staff.[24][25][26] MacArthur initially claimed Hodge was stepping down for "personal reasons," but later disclosed that he fired Hodge.[27]

Ellen Rosenbush served from 2010 to 2015. She returned in January 2016, when MacArthur fired Christopher Cox, who had been named editor only three months prior in October 2015.[23][28] According to Gawker, Cox's termination was reportedly opposed by the magazine's entire staff, none of whom were consulted about MacArthur's decision.[29]

James Marcus assumed the post of editor in 2016.[23] In March 2018, an essay by Katie Roiphe on the #MeToo movement excited controversy both online and inside Harper's. Marcus had complained about the piece, suggesting the critique of #MeToo was inappropriate in light of Harper's "longtime reputation as a gentleman's smoking club"; he attributed this disagreement as a primary cause of his firing in 2018.[23] In April 2018, Ellen Rosenbush assumed the title of editorial director and remains the magazine's chief editor.

Notable contributors


Posters by Edward Penfield

Harper's January

January 1894

Brooklyn Museum - Harper's Poster - January 1895 - Edward Penfield

January 1895

Edward Penfield, Harper's June, 1896

June 1896

Brooklyn Museum - Harper's Poster - Christmas December 1896 - Edward Penfield

December 1896

Edward Penfield- Harper's Magazine May 1897

May 1897


  1. ^ "Awards and Honors" (PDF). Harpers.org. Retrieved 29 December 2014.
  2. ^ "History of Harper's" (PDF). Harpers.org. Retrieved 29 December 2014.
  3. ^ "Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. History: Publishing Industry". answers.com. Retrieved 2013-02-13.
  4. ^ "JiffyNotes: Moby Dick: Summary: Chapters 51 - 55". Jiffynotes.com. Retrieved 29 December 2014.
  5. ^ Scott, Sherman (Nov–Dec 2007). "The Unvanquished". Cjr.org. Retrieved 2012-05-16.
  6. ^ ""The Press: New Head at Harper's," TIME magazine, June 28, 1971". Time.com. Retrieved 2012-05-16.
  7. ^ "Harper's Magazine, "About This Issue," September 1971". Harpers.org. Retrieved 2012-05-16.
  8. ^ Facts on File 1980 Yearbook, pp.501, 582
  9. ^ Woo, Elaine (2007-12-05). "Arco founder led firm into major civic philanthropy". Los Angeles Times. p. B6.
  10. ^ "NY Times Makes Harper's Publisher Look Ineffective". Mediaite.com. 1 February 2010. Retrieved 29 December 2014.
  11. ^ An American Album: One Hundred and Fifty Years of Harper's Magazine, a 712-page illustrated anthology, with an introduction by Lewis H. Lapham and a foreword by Arthur Schlesinger Jr.
  12. ^ Harpers.org Archived April 24, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Shafer, Jack. "Lewis Lapham Phones It In: Figuring out what's wrong with Harper's magazine." Slate 15 September 2004.
  14. ^ Lapham, Lewis H. "Tentacles of rage: The Republican propaganda mill, a brief history." Harper's September 2004. pp. 43–53.
  15. ^ Reporter's Committee for Freedom of the Press, Dismissal upheld in magazine's open-casket photo case, March 28, 2007.
  16. ^ Farber, Celia (2006-03-01). Out Of Control, AIDS and the corruption of medical science. Harper's Magazine. Retrieved 2006-03-13.
  17. ^ Miller, Lia (2006-03-13). An Article in Harper's Ignites a Controversy Over H.I.V. The New York Times. Retrieved 2006-03-13.
  18. ^ Farber Feedback. POZ Magazine. Retrieved 2006-03-13.
  19. ^ Letters from scientists and physicians criticizing Harper's for poor fact-checking of Celia Farber's article on AIDS. Accessed 21 Oct 2006. Archived August 12, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ Harper's Races Right over the Edge of a Cliff, by Gal Beckerman. Published in the Columbia Journalism Review on March 8, 2006. Accessed June 14, 2007.
  21. ^ Kim, Richard (2006-03-02). Harper's Publishes AIDS Denialist. Retrieved 2006-03-13.
  22. ^ Gallo, Robert; Nathan Geffen; Gregg Gonsalves; Richard Jeffreys; Daniel R. Kuritzkes; Bruce Mirken; John P. Moore; Jeffrey T. Safrit (2006-03-04). Errors in Celia Farber's March 2006 article in Harper's Magazine (PDF). Treatment Action Campaign. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-06-16. Retrieved 2006-03-13.
  23. ^ a b c d e Jaclyn Peiser, "Harper's Editor Insists He Was Fired Over Katie Roiphe Essay", New York Times, April 18, 2018.
  24. ^ Clifford, Stephanie (2010-01-31). "Editorial Shake-Up as Harper's Tries to Stabilize in a Downturn". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 December 2014.
  25. ^ "Harper's Publisher Backlash Grows After Firing Beloved Editor". Mediaite.com. 3 February 2010. Retrieved 29 December 2014.
  26. ^ John Koblin. "Listening in on the Harper's Meltdown". New York Observer. Retrieved 29 December 2014.
  27. ^ Clifford, Stephanie (2010-01-26). "Update: Harper's Magazine Editor Hodge Fired; Didn't Quit". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 December 2014.
  28. ^ Alexandra Alter. "Harper's Magazine Publisher Fires Christopher Cox as Editor". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
  29. ^ "Harper's Editor-in-Chief Christopher Cox Suddenly Fired After Editing Only Three Issues". Gawker. 2 February 2016. Archived from the original on 20 May 2016. Retrieved 18 May 2016.

Further reading

  • Thomas Lilly, "The National Archive: Harper's New Monthly Magazine and the Civic Responsibilities of a Commercial Literary Periodical, 1850—1853," American Periodicals, vol. 15, no. 2 (2005), pp. 142–162. In JSTOR

External links

A Dog's Tale

"A Dog's Tale" is a short story written by Mark Twain. It first appeared in the December 1903 issue of Harper's Magazine. In January of the following year it was extracted into a stand-alone pamphlet published for the National Anti-Vivisection Society. Still later in 1904 it was expanded into a book published by Harper & Brothers.

A Gold Slipper

"A Gold Slipper" is a short story by Willa Cather. It was first published in Harper's in January 1917.

Barn Burning

"Barn Burning" is a short story by the American author William Faulkner which first appeared in Harper's in June 1939 (pp. 86-96) and has since been widely anthologized. The story deals with class conflicts, the influence of fathers, and vengeance as viewed through the third-person perspective of a young, impressionable child. It is a prequel to The Hamlet, The Town, and The Mansion, the three novels that make up the Snopes trilogy.

Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven

"Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven" is a short story written by American writer Mark Twain. It first appeared in print in Harper's Magazine in December 1907 and January 1908, and was published in book form with some revisions in 1909. This was the last story published by Twain during his life.

Concerning the Jews

"Concerning the Jews" is a short essay by Mark Twain. Twain had lived in Austria during 1896, and opined that the Habsburg empire used scapegoats to maintain unity in their immensely diverse empire, namely Jews.

In 1898 he published the article "Stirring times in Austria". Twain’s account generated several letters, and one poignant response in particular from an American Jewish lawyer who asked Twain: "Tell me, therefore, from your vantage-point of cold view, what in your mind is the cause. Can American Jews do anything to correct it either in America or abroad? Will it ever come to an end? Will a Jew be permitted to live honestly, decently, and peaceably like the rest of mankind? What has become of the golden rule?" In response, Twain penned "Concerning the Jews," which Harper’s also published in 1899.

The essay included the statement that Jews did not do their part in terms of fighting in America's armed forces: "He is a frequent and faithful and capable officer in the civil service, but he is charged with an unpatriotic disinclination to stand by the flag as a soldier - like the Christian Quaker." However, when War Department figures revealed that Jewish Americans were actually represented in the nation's military in a larger percentage than their share of the population, Twain issued a retraction and an apology, entitled Postscript - The Jew as Soldier.The essay also included a somewhat positive account of the Jewish people, with regard to their survival:

"The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed, and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other peoples have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?"

Down at the Dinghy

"Down at the Dinghy" is a short story by J. D. Salinger, originally published in Harper's in April 1949, and included in the compilation, Nine Stories.Written in the summer of 1948 at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, the story marks a shift away from Salinger’s literary misanthropy, which had largely been informed by his horrific combat experiences in Europe during World War II, and toward a “reaffirmation” of human interdependence and spiritual reawakening.The piece includes “Boo Boo” Glass Tannenbaum, one of the key members of Salinger’s fictional Glass family, and makes reference to two of her brothers, Seymour Glass (deceased) and Webb “Buddy” Glass.

Ken Silverstein

Ken Silverstein is an American journalist who, in September 2010, left his position as Washington editor and blogger at Harper's Magazine, but remained a contributing editor. He resides in Washington, D.C.

Lamb to the Slaughter

"Lamb to the Slaughter" (1953) is a short story by Roald Dahl. It was initially rejected, along with four other stories, by The New Yorker, but was ultimately published in Harper's Magazine in September 1953. It was adapted for an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents that starred Barbara Bel Geddes and Harold J. Stone. Originally broadcast on April 13, 1958, this was one of only 17 AHP episodes directed by Hitchcock himself. The episode was ranked #59 of the Top 100 Episodes by TV Guide in 2009. The story was subsequently adapted for Dahl's British TV series Tales of the Unexpected. Dahl included it in his short story compilation Someone like You. The narrative element of the housewife killing her husband and letting the policemen partake in eating the evidence was also used by Pedro Almodóvar in his 1984 movie What Have I Done to Deserve This?, with a leg of mutton.

"Lamb to the Slaughter" demonstrates Dahl's fascination with horror (with elements of black comedy), which is seen in both his adult fiction and his stories for children. The story was supposedly suggested to Dahl by his friend Ian Fleming: "Why don't you have someone murder their husband with a frozen leg of mutton which she then serves to the detectives who come to investigate the murder?".

Lewis H. Lapham

Lewis Henry Lapham (; born January 8, 1935) is an American writer. He was the editor of the American monthly Harper's Magazine from 1976 until 1981, and from 1983 until 2006. He is the founder of Lapham's Quarterly, a quarterly publication about history and literature, and has written numerous books on politics and current affairs.

Luck (short story)

"Luck" is an 1886 short story by Mark Twain which was first published in 1891 in Harper's Magazine. It was subsequently reprinted in 1892 in the anthology Merry Tales; the first British publication was in 1900, in the collection The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg. It is one of Twain's more neglected stories, and received little critical attention upon its publication.

O. Henry Award

The O. Henry Award is an annual American award given to short stories of exceptional merit. The award is named after the American short-story writer O. Henry.

The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories is an annual collection of the year's twenty best stories published in U.S. and Canadian magazines, written in English.

The award itself is called The O. Henry Award, not the O. Henry Prize, though until recently there were first, second and third prize winners; the collection is called The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories, and the original collection was called Prize Stories 1919: The O. Henry Memorial Awards

Pafko at the Wall

"Pafko at the Wall", subtitled "The Shot Heard Round the World", was originally published as a folio in the October 1992 issue of Harper's Magazine. It was later (1997) incorporated as the prologue in Don DeLillo's magnum opus novel, Underworld, with minor changes from the original version, such as a new opening line. In 2001, "Pafko" was re-released as a novella, by Scribner. This is the same version as printed in Underworld, where the section is titled "The Triumph of Death", in reference to the painting by Pieter Brueghel the Elder.

The title character is Andy Pafko, who, as the Dodgers' left fielder, saw Bobby Thomson's famous shot go over his head.

Proof Positive (Greene story)

"Proof Positive" is a short story by Graham Greene written in 1930 and first published in 1931 as the winner of the first prize (10 Guineas) in a newspaper ghost story competition. .

Scott Horton (attorney)

Scott Horton is an American attorney known for his work in human rights law and the law of armed conflict, as well as emerging markets and international law. He graduated Texas Law School in Austin with a JD and was a partner in a large New York law firm, Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler. He "has advised sovereigns on the pursuit of kleptocratic predecessors." In April 2007, he joined Harper's Magazine as a legal affairs and national security contributor, and he currently authors the No Comment blog at Harper's Online.

Horton has also written for American Lawyer,

"the Web's leading legal news and information network" and The Daily Beast and has been interviewed on Antiwar Radio. and the John Batchelor Show.

Horton is a lecturer at Columbia Law School, as well as a co-founder of the American University in Central Asia and of Sanghata Global. Horton is a former president of the International League for Human Rights, and he recently contributed to a report which claimed that human rights standards apply to detainees captured by the U.S. in the War on Terrorism. He "served as counsel to Andrei Sakharov and Elena Bonner, among other activists in the former Soviet Union."

Stalking the Billion-Footed Beast

"Stalking the Billion-Footed Beast" is an essay by Tom Wolfe that appeared in the November 1989 issue of Harper's Magazine criticizing the American literary establishment for retreating from realism.

The Enchanted Bluff

The Enchanted Bluff is a short story by Willa Cather. It was first published in Harper's in April 1909.

The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids

"The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids" is a short story written by American writer Herman Melville. It first appeared in the April 1855 edition of Harper's Magazine. A combination of two sketches, one set in the center of London's legal industry and the other in a New England paper factory, this story can be read as an early comment on globalization.

The Paranoid Style in American Politics

"The Paranoid Style in American Politics" is an essay by American historian Richard J. Hofstadter, first published in Harper's Magazine in November 1964; it served as the title essay of a book by the author in the same year.

Published soon after Senator Barry Goldwater had won the Republican presidential nomination over the more moderate Nelson A. Rockefeller, Hofstadter's article explores the influence of conspiracy theory and "movements of suspicious discontent" throughout American history.

The Secret Sharer

"The Secret Sharer" is a short story by Polish-British author Joseph Conrad, originally written in 1909 and first published in two parts in Harper's Magazine in 1910. It was later included in the short story collection Twixt Land and Sea (1912). The story was adapted for a segment of the 1952 film Face to Face, and also for a one-act play in 1969 by C. R. (Chuck) Wobbe. The play was published in 1969 by the Dramatic Publishing Company. A new film, Secret Sharer, inspired by the story and directed by Peter Fudakowski, was released in the United Kingdom in June 2014.

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