As the first American periodical for children, the Children’s Magazine established traditions carried out by later periodicals—some of which are described in its Preface. The Children’s Magazine was open about its focus on education, which would be followed by a number of later periodicals. And the publishers—Hudson & Goodwin—just happened to publish a number of educational books from which they could draw for the text of their “novel” undertaking and which they could mention in the magazine.

The first paragraph puts this new publication alongside James Burgh’s Art of Speaking, which Hudson & Goodwin probably published; and William Scott’s Lessons in Elocution and Noah Webster’s An American Selection of Lessons in Reading and Speaking, both of which Hudson & Goodwin certainly published. (Copies of both books are in the collection of the American Antiquarian Society. Webster’s book was part three of his “Grammatical Institute of the English Language”; part one was his more famous The American Spelling Book.)

“[T]he Editors are already furnished with a variety of materials for this work,” the editor points out; and, yes, they were. About a third of the text Children’s Magazine comes from The Juvenile Magazine, published in London, England, in 1788 by John Marshall. The rest of the text appeared in The Family Magazine; or, A Repository of Religious Instruction, and Rational Amusement, edited by Sarah Trimmer and also published in 1788 by John Marshall. In fact, the only piece printed in The Children’s Magazine that was original to it is the preface.

Unfortunately, the public wasn’t as “indulgent” as the publishers hoped: despite a plethora of material, the Children’s Magazine lasted only four months. And, yes, that, too, was a tradition followed by a dismaying number of later periodicals for children.
“Preface” (from Children’s Magazine, January 1789; pp. iii-iv)

It is a general complaint among the teachers of schools, that children want some lessons, written in a familiar style and on entertaining subjects, to conduct them in their progress from a Spelling-Book to such reading as is found in the American Selection, Scotts Lessons and the Art of Speaking. It is also a complaint that children are obliged to read too long in the same book; by which means the subjects become familiar and cease to command the attention. To remove these complaints, is the design of this publication.

The subjects are such as children can mostly comprehend; a circumstance that will please them, and of course fix their attention. The language and manner of writing are reduced to their capacities—the variety of subjects will at the same time, gratify and keep alive the passion of curiosity, which prompts the young mind to exertions; while the desire of novelty will be, in some measure, satisifed by the reading of a new book every month. Such a work is certainly wanted, both in families and schools; and as the subjects, style and manner of this Magazine are expressly

p. iv

calculated for children, the publishers flatter themselves the execution of the work, as well as its cheapness, will recommend it to universal approbation. An abridgement of Geography will appear in the beginning of each number—and the remainder will contain instructive essays on morality, religion, manners, &c—familiar letters, dialogues, and select pieces of poetry.

Notwithstanding the Editors are already furnished with a variety of materials for this work, yet they request their friends to assist them with communications, adapted to the general design. All favours of this kind addressed to the Editors of the Children’s Magazine, and conveyed, free of expence, will be thankfully received and duly attended to.

The undertaking is novel, and the Editors could not but feel some doubt of its success; yet when they considered the great advantage to youth that must result from a faithful execution of the plan, they determined to hazard something in an attempt to serve the interest of education, and now commit the success to an indulgent public.

Copyright 1999-2024, Pat Pflieger
To “Nineteenth-Century American Children & What They Read
Some of the children | Some of their books | Some of their magazines
To “Voices from 19th-Century America
Some works for adults, 1800-1872
To Titles at this site | Authors at this site | Subjects at this site | Works by date | Map of the site

Talk to me.