St. Nicholas Magazine for Young Folks Audience Blog

The intended audience of St. Nicholas An Illustrated Magazine for Young Folks was not all that hard to uncover as it is stated in the title but their are many other indications within the book that reaffirm the fact that everything that makes up this magazine was intentionally done to attract a young reader. It is written that the intended audience of St. Nicholas Magazine was children aged five to eighteen but the editor Mary Mapes Dodge set the editors policy a little more broadly as,

    • “To give clean, genuine fun to children of all ages. To give them examples of the finest types of boyhood and girlhood. To inspire them with an appreciation of fine pictorial art. To cultivate the imagination in profitable directions. To foster a love of country, home, nature, truth, beauty, and sincerity. To prepare boys and girls for life as it is. To stimulate their ambitions–but along normally progressive lines. To keep pace with a fast-moving world in all its activities. To give reading matter which every parent may pass to his children unhesitatingly.”

which never changed during the magazine’s 70 year life span. Dodge also chose to name the magazine after the children’s saint known for who was the “epitome of loving and giving”. The two editions I am working with were released early on in the magazines existence therefore the way the book was made was restricted to the book making technologies of the time. As a result the magazine itself looks nothing like the children’s magazines we see today instead it looks just like an old book. This does not mean it was made to attract the eyes of the children of that time. It is bound with red board covers with gold and black trim so it would pop off the book shelf. The inside of the cover is decorated various illustrations depicting children of all ages. As color printing and other book making technologies progressed the covers and illustrations became more and more elaborate so that the later editions began to look more like the cover to a Disney VHS tape.

Like this one from 1921. The way the text and images are set up on the page is meant to appeal to a younger crowd. The text wraps around the illustrations and there is often decoration used that does not reveal anything more about the story being told but instead aim to make the textual material look easy on the eye.

There is an interesting section in the Table of Contents labeled “Departments” which is included in almost every edition of the magazine. This lists the sections of the magazine that appear in every edition like “Jack-in-the-Pulpit, For Very Little Folk, Music Page, Young Contributor’s Department, The Letter Box, and The Riddle Box” These departments were put in place by the editor Mary Mapes Dodge, who wanted them to serve as the magazines way of teaching non-overtly. Jack was a kid who the children reading the magazine would find easy to identify with and look up to. The Riddle Box and the Letter Box were both sections that included puzzles and mini games of varying difficulty for children’s enjoyment and one of the older departments was the Young Contributor’s one in which Dodge encouraged here readers to write letters and stories for the magazine to publish as well. Because of the wide range of material provided in the magazines it became a common gift from parents to their children from toddlers to teenagers. The magazine offers short simple stories and illustrations for younger kids while also providing stories of adventure and growing up for the children reading who feel as if they are coming into adulthood. The magazine itself cost 35 cents per issue which was expensive for the time but makes sense because St. Nicholas Magazine was the widely renowned as the best children’s magazine of its time. But if children could not afford it they were still widely available at libraries and through subscriptions which was the most common way parents would gift the magazine to their children. The only marking in the book that indicates an owner are the initials “A.A” found on the first blank page of the magazine. I was not able to find any more information yet but we can assume the owner put their initials in it because many of these magazines may have been circulating among his or her friends.