The Veritable Peter Parley” is both protest and advertisement for Robert Merry’s Museum. The advertising comes first: not only is the Museum “unexceeded in interest and excellence, and … commands universal acceptance,” but it’s edited by “the veritable Peter Parley”—thus pointing up the effectiveness of name-brands. The protest is Samuel Griswold Goodrich’s, against the owners of Parley’s Magazine, who in the December 1841 issue of the magazine announced that “The publication of Parley’s Magazine was commenced by Lilly, Wait & Co. of Boston, in 1833. Mr. [Samuel] Colman, the active agent and proprietor of the work, obtained permission of “Peter Parley” … to use his title to this magazine, who was to be renumerated accordingly. The three or four first numbers, we believe, were supervised by this old gentleman, but it was in the charge of a sub-editor the remainder of the year.” (in Dorothy Dechert, “The Merry Family: A Study of Merry’s Museum, 1841-1872, and of the Various Periodicals that Merged with It.” MA thesis. Columbia University, 1942. p. 146)

Why did the publishers of Parley’s assert their right to the name in 1841, six years after they bought the magazine? Because the publishers of Every Youth’s Gazette had in 1841 advertised their new publication as Peter Parley’s Youth’s Gazette and insisted that they had legal rights to the name. (See notices and reviews of the Gazette.)

Protest was swift. An advertisement for Robert Merry’s Museum in December 1841 asks “Who is the Real Peter Parley?” and answers, “He is NOT the Editor nor Publisher of Peter Parley’s Youth’s Gazette, … the advertisement to the contrary notwithstanding.” [“Who is the Real Peter Parley?” Brooklyn Evening Star [Brooklyn, New York] 30 December 1841; p. 2.] The publishers of Parley’s Magazine had their say. And the publishers of the Gazette changed the name of their paper.

The Youth’s Gazette debacle may underlie Goodrich’s tart reply to the publishers of Parley’s Magazine, which appears here. He had “killed” Peter Parley in 1839 (see Peter Parley’s Farewell) and introduced Robert Merry to preside over the pieces in Robert Merry’s Miscellany and then to edit Robert Merry’s Museum. But Peter Parley was still being invoked by other publishers, and Goodrich may have decided to reclaim him once and for all. Parley did join the editorial staff of Robert Merry’s Museum in 1845, contributing to the magazine until the 1850s, when Goodrich relinquished his magazine to another publisher.

Goodrich’s rejoinder, which appears here, also was printed on the covers of the Museum, where it no doubt assured readers that they, at least, were getting the genuine item.

Brother Jonathan’s “advertising cover” reminds us that advertisements weren’t always integral to a periodical’s text: magazines for adults and for children usually grouped advertisements on pages at the front or back of the magazine, which could be discarded easily when the magazine was bound. (Not all advertising was handled this way: editors also slipped advertisements for everything from sheet music to steamship lines into their editorial pages. Disguising advertisements as legitimate text has a long history.)
“The Veritable Peter Parley” (from Brother Jonathan, February 12, 1842, advertising cover; p. xxviii)

Robert Merry’s Museum, published by Bradbury & Soden, at 127 Nassau street, is edited by S. G. Goodrich, the veritable Peter Parley. As a work for the younger members of families it is unexceeded in interest and excellence, and like the other Peter Parley issues, commands universal acceptance. The publication of Newspapers and Magazines, expressly for youth, has been followed in this country, for about twenty years. A copy of a number of Vol. XV. of Mr. Willis’s Youth’s Companion, lies this moment before us. Others have been published for nearly the same length of time, and no enterprise, well conducted, and honestly followed, has been found more successful than these.


Jamaica Plain, December 26, 1841.

Gent.—I have read the advertisement of C. S. Francis, of New York, the present publisher of a work, entitled “Peter Parley’s Magazine,” &c. The design of the author of that advertisement appears to be, to convey the impression, that “Peter Parley’s Magazine” was not originated by myself; that it was in fact the project of another person, and that I permitted the name of Peter Parley to be used, to give currency to a publication of which I was in no proper sense the author or editor. This is not true in any one particular. The aforesaid Magazine was wholly my own device; I planned it, commenced it, even before any publisher was obtained—and, for a time, had the responsible and authoritative charge of the editorial department. After a while, in consequence of my state of health requiring my residence in the country and a mitigation of my literary labors, I relinquished my interest in it, and the superintendence of it; but with an understanding and confident expectation that it would be conducted in a manner satisfactory to myself.

The Publishers being obliged to make an assignment of their effects, and therefore, of the Magazine in question and, being unwilling that it should pass into other hands, I sought to obtain control of it. In this I was foiled—and it has since been conducted, not only without my concurrence or approbation, but it has been to me, in many ways, a source of mortification and regret. Some time since, I requested Mr. D. Francis to state that I had no connection with the work, which request was ungraciously refused.

It is apparent that the Publishers would be doing only common justice, to drop the title of the work, and put that of its present Editor, if there be any such person, in its place. They would thus “define their position,” and the publication would stand upon its true merits, and not upon a name to which it has now no just title or pretension. I hope at all events, I shall no longer be held responsible for what appears in that Magazine.

I need but add, that I am concerned in no Periodical, save that of which you are the Publishers—Merry’s Museum; in that work, I propose to issue a series of original papers by the author of Peter Parley’s Tales, and in the character of Peter himself; hoping thus to revive the interest that has been felt in that old Story Teller. I am Yours, Respectfully,

S. G. GOODRICH, Author of Peter Parley’s Tales.

Messrs. Bradbury, Soden, & Co. Boston.

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