Origins of Godey’s Lady’s Magazine

The origins of something are the backbone to truly interpreting any art form, event or physical object. The origin of something is not always a concrete answer. Nuanced stories about an origin can be discover through curious exploration. My curiousness about my Pet Book, Godey’s Lady’s Book, and Ladies’ American Magazine is connected to the origins of its distribution. I specifically researched the publisher and editor of the magazine. During this process I utilized Robert Darton’s philosophy of the communication circuit. The publishing aspect of the communication circuit is of particular interest to me because of my interest in marketing. The publisher makes decisions on the process of how the public can receive the work which is vital to the “success” of the book

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The publisher of Godey’s Lady’s is Louis Antoin Godey. He is a New York native, whose parents immigrated from France. Growing up in a poor family he never completed a formal education and completely self educated. In his teens he worked as a newspaper boy which may have been the catalyst to his passion for journalism. He later moved to Philadelphia to work as the editor for the Daily Chronicle. In 1830, he published the Lady’s Book which incorporated a lot of inspiration from France. It is important to think about how even the origins of Godey are incorporated into this book. The origins of anything can encompass so many hidden stories waiting to be uncovered and connected.

Another story within the origins of this book lies in further research of its editor, Sarah Josepha Hale. Hale edited Godey’s Lady’s Magazine for four decades. He work as editor went beyond popularizing the magazine. She influence Godey into creating a platform for women’s interests and fostered traditions with a lasting impact on American culture. Hale was born in New Hampshire and has success publishing books in her early career in Boston. In Boston, she wrote Northwood: A Tale of New England as well as published works of poetry. One work of poetry we all may know is “Mary Had a Little Lamb”. Hale also had an invested interest in remembrance of our nations’ history. She worked on the erection of the Bunker Hill Monument. Being a single mother of five she always focused on the empowerment of women. She loved publishing works by women in Godey’s. In 1837 Hale merged her magazine with Godey’s and became editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book. To add to the interesting background of Mrs. Hale, she published many articles surrounding the commercialization of the Thanksgiving. Hale wrote letters to five different presidents asking them to make Thanksgiving a national holiday.

Hale established a philosophy of “Woman’s Influence” that argued for women assuming moral authority over husband and children by practicing domesticity and piety at home. Similarly to Godey himself, Hale’s origins influenced what she brought in practices and beliefs to Godey’s. Her time as editor progressed the museum immensely and it saw tremendous expansion. Hale began at Godey’s when the magazine had 10,000 subscribers. After roughly a decade of her editorship, the magazine had 150,000 subscribers. This created a large platform for Hale to influence many women on many different issues. Hale incorporated a section into the magazine that highlighted women in the workforce. This section had articles about further education for women as well as some all women’s work sections. In addition, Hale was a strong proponent of hiring female contributors to the magazine. Hale said,

“While the ocean of political life is heaving and raging with the storm of partisan passions among the men of America… [women as] the true conservators of peace and good-will, should be careful to cultivate every gentle feeling”.

Godey’s Magazine was a place for women to learn and also enjoy. The content was not only informative but creative, hilarious and sometimes melancholy. The contributors to Godey’s magazine varied every month. However, some poets and creatives frequently contributed for months in a row. For example, famous poet Edgar Allen Poe wrote for years in the magazine.

As touched on in the introduction, the prelims of the book hold a lot of interesting information. There is quarter inch stamp located on the upper-left inside of the books cover. This details the binder and book seller, A. Hutchinson of Worcester, Mass. My research led me to the discovery that A. Hutchinson operated his binding and bookselling shop on Main Street in Worcester, MA. The Magazine’s publishing was in Philadelphia but the periodical comprising six issues of the magazine was bound and sold in Massachusetts. The imprints on the title page show the regular contributors to the magazine as well as the editors. Following the title page there is a table of contents organized alphabetically detailing each article and story in the book labeled with a page number.

One mystery that I have bene researching since the original blog post is the mysterious decorative page on the very last page of this book. It is a royal blue rectangle nearly taking up the net page. There is a large chase in white ink whose four corners have highly decorative artwork. Within the chase there stamps depicting different motifs. For example one stamp reads “To your happiness” with a wine glass in the circular stamp. Although I am not certain, this looks to be a specimen sheet the stationary company Gaskill & Copper used. A specimen was used by printers in order to display their work and allow people of the time to choose a style they wanted. This specimen sheet in particular was most likely used for custom stationary or embossment on books.

This is an example of another printers specimen. It displays different fonts for customers to choose from.

The intellectual context of this magazine is the magazine provided a platform for women’s interests and fostered traditions. The relative price of a magazine in todays dollars is quite expensive, at eighty dollars per year. This magazine played a influential role in the society of the time. Evidence points to the magazine inaugurating such traditions as white wedding dresses and decorated evergreen trees at Christmas.

 

Works Cited:

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Godeys-Ladys-Book

Darnton, Robert. “What Is the History of Books?” Daedalus, vol. 111, no. 3, 1982, pp. 65–83. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/20024803.

https://www.measuringworth.com/uscompare/

Colby College Special Collections