Between 1789 and 1873, over 370 periodicals for children were published in the United States. That we’re not knee-deep in them is due to the fact that many appeared for less than a year; several published only one or two issues. Some years were better than others: 14 periodicals began in 1841. Some were worse: of the 11 periodicals begun in 1857—the year of the Panic—seven ended in 1858.
These periodicals encapsulate early American culture: there are educational periodicals (Clark's School Visitor; The Schoolfellow), literary magazines (Riverside Magazine; Our Young Folks), and an abundance of religious periodicals—Protestant (The Well-spring; The Myrtle), Catholic (Expostulator; The Catholic Youth's Magazine), Jewish (Young Israel), and Mormon (The Juvenile Instructor). Hawaiian children could read two religious periodicals (Ke Alaula; Ke Kumu Kamalii) in their native language; German-speaking children could read over a dozen (Die Taube; Schul- und Jugend-Zeitung). Temperance periodicals included The Youth's Temperance Banner, Juvenile Temperance Watchman, Youth's Temperance Advocate, and Youth's Temperance Enterprise; the anti-slavery movement produced the Youth's Cabinet and the Slave's Friend. There are periodicals of great dullness (Youth's Medallion) and ones determined to be lively (The Little-Pig Monthly). While most seem intended for an audience between ages 10 and 18, publications like The Nursery could be enjoyed by toddlers.
While most periodicals during this time period were published in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia, quite a few were published outside those book centers. Publishers could be found in Maine (Young People's Helper; What Not; Our Young Folks' Illustrated Paper) and Ohio (Youth's Magazine; The Young Folks Gem), Georgia (The Schoolfellow), and Michigan (The Little Wolverine). During the Civil War, Confederate children lost their access to Northern periodicals, but had periodicals of their own (The Child's Index; The Deaf Mute Casket; Children's Guide). Youth's Banner was published in Arkansas; Little Chief was one of a handful of Indiana periodicals; and Californians could enjoy the California Youths' Companion.
The periodicals also preserve the vagaries of publishing. There’s a lot of ambition here. “Arrangements have been made to continue [Every Youth's Gazette] for a year at least,” one editor boasted, “and such has been the encouragement, with which it has already been received, that our friends need not fear that it will be always published.” (The Gazette lasted 49 weeks.) “We prepare the book for children of whatever growth,” announced the editor of The Little-Pig Monthly, “and hope that all ages will find somewhat of mirth and profit in its pages.” (It lasted two issues.)
Success could hinge on puffing your periodical. “The wonderful growth of this young Napoleon of the juveniles has been as surprising as it is interesting,” a suggested notice for The Little Corporal pronounces unblushingly. It also could depend on connecting the periodical with the right “brand name.” The Little Corporal's School Festival hoped to share the success of The Little Corporal. E. C. Allen may have tried to make a mental connection between his Our Young Folks' Illustrated Paper and the more literary Our Young Folks. “Robert Merry” may have been as much a brand name as “he” was the putative editor of Robert Merry's Museum. Parley's Magazine was intended to profit from and was itself reprinted as Youth's Galaxy and as Parley's Magazine. The editor of Every Youth's Gazette had planned to associate his work with the Parley name, but had to settle for using a Parleyesque figure in the masthead.
Still, it wasn’t the easiest way to earn a living. Finances (and, thus, publication) could be erratic: two issues of The Juvenile Magazine appeared in 1811, then two more appeared in 1813; when Nathaniel Southard left the Youth's Cabinet in the hands of another editor, publication was suspended until Southard resumed editorship seven months later. Editing a periodical could provide a harsh lesson in human frailty. “Faithful, alas, to the precedents of Catholic literature in this country,” lamented the editor of Spare Hours, “five millions of Catholics have proved themselves unwilling to support a magazine filled with wholesome reading …. Perhaps our fault has been that our issues have not been crowded with ‘blood and thunder’ ….”
And, it just wasn’t all that profitable. “Juvenile magazines do not pay,” the editor of Demorest's Young America groused as that magazine merged with one for adults. Benson Lossing, editor of The Young People's Mirror, agreed: “Profit was not expected, and the publisher would cheerfully give his time, if his money outlay could be reimbursed. But he does not feel warranted in working for nothing and paying the expense.”
Financial failures and faithless readers aside, somehow adults from Maine to California managed the fiscal, physical, and mental wherewithal to found at least 370 newspapers and magazines for children before 1873. (It’s tempting here to quote the youthful editor of Youth's Cabinet: “Mankind are frail; and, prompted by self interest, can be persuaded to almost any thing”—including boundless optimism about a magazine’s chances.) If many periodicals didn’t outlast their first twelve issues, still, they offered young readers the opportunity to enjoy the works of some of the premiere writers (Samuel Goodrich; Sarah Josepha Hale; Jacob Abbott; John Townsend Trowbridge; Louisa May Alcott) and illustrators (Winslow Homer; Thomas Nast; F. O. Darley; Mary Ann Hallock) of the period. And more than one editor may have understood the intangible benefits that Horace Scudder described after four years of editing the Riverside Magazine for Young People: “ … I have had four or five years of pleasure, editing this Magazine. Nobody can take those away from me. I have made friends by it that I hope never to lose.”
Every editor, though, must have sympathized to some extent with the astonishingly chipper farewell in Youth's Literary Messenger, in which an imaginary critic of the Messenger describes “a sort of anomaly in literature … too far advanced for childhood, too childish for maturer years; too grave for the gay, too light for the serious; too rational for the romantic, too religious for the worldling, too worldly for the pious; too orthodox for the sectarian; too liberal for the orthodox. In the endeavour to avoid exciting the passions it failed to awaken interest; and in steering a middle course, which enabled it to shun the rocks above water, it often went aground on the shoals. But though it was not good enough for commendation, it scarcely deserved censure; and judicious counsel might have done much to amend it, had its career been prolonged.”
This bibliography attempts to list every American periodical for children begun before 1873. While that period saw the publication of any number of amateur periodicals, most of those were available only to the publishers’ family and friends. Here I’ve included those which were made available to a wider audience—such as the Juvenile Port-folio and Oliver Kendall’s Juvenile Gazette. Other amateur periodicals have slipped in if they’re now widely available: the four issues of the 1815 Youth's Cabinet are included here because they’ve been microfilmed.
While audience is always problematic in works for children, and it can be difficult to judge intended readership from catalog descriptions, I’ve tried to focus only on works for readers up to age 17 or 18. I’ve also defined “periodical” to exclude dime novels, which are described in several reference works.
In putting together this bibliography, I’ve looked at books, articles, and dissertations on the subject, and at examples of the periodicals themselves. I also used various online library catalogs, especially the catalog for the American Antiquarian Society and WorldCat; the National Union Catalog and the first edition of the Union List of Serials also provided several titles. And a handful of titles are described only in advertisements or in notices printed in other periodicals.
Descriptions come from copies I own or from issues in microform; when I haven’t found a copy in any format, I’ve combed secondary sources and online library catalogs for information. Where possible, I’ve linked to images of the covers or mastheads for the periodical. When the image was taken from microfilm, I’ve indicated the source on the image. (All the images from copies in my collection appear on a separate page.) In the bibliographic entries, I’ve tried to be as informative as possible, including interesting or revealing quotes from the periodical. The dividers and underlines come from the cover of the first issue of The Guardian.
The bibliography is organized chronologically; due to the amount of information here, the chronology is broken into four pages. Separate pages list alphabetically the titles, the editors, the publishers, and the places of publication. Periodicals primarily on several special subjects are highlighted separately. A separate page lists titles not in this bibliography which have appeared in other works on early American periodicals for children.
No project proceeds far without the help of others. I’d especially like to acknowledge the help of Dr. Deidre Johnson, who loaned reference works. The librarians at the Chester County Historical Society, West Chester, Pennsylvania; and at the Winterthur Library, Wilmington, Delaware, were also helpful. Carol Feurtado, of the Dexter Historical Society, Dexter, Maine, identified “Ezekiel Loveyouth” and provided information pertinent to Youth's Cabinet and Little Joker.
This bibliography is very much a work in progress; I tend to update without keeping a list of changes.