Collier’s is an American magazine, founded in 1888 by Peter Fenelon Collier. It was initially launched as Collier’s Once a Week, then changed in 1895 to Collier’s Weekly: An Illustrated Journal, then shortened in 1942 to simply Collier’s. The magazine ceased publication with the January 4, 1957 issue but resumed in February 2012.
As a result of Peter Collier’s pioneering investigative journalism, Collier’s Weekly established a reputation as a proponent of social reform. When attempts by various companies to sue Collier ended in failure, other magazines became involved in what Theodore Roosevelt described as “muckraking journalism.” In 2010, the Collier’s trademark was purchased by JTE Multimedia, which announced plans to resurrect the brand and did so in 2012 with “The Special Relaunch Issue”.
Irish immigrant Peter F. Collier (1849–1909) left Ireland at age 17. Although he went to a seminary to become a priest, he instead started work as a salesman for P. J. Kenedy, publisher of books for the Roman Catholic market. When Collier wanted to boost sales by offering books on a subscription plan, it led to a disagreement with Kenedy, so Collier left to start his own subscription service. P.F. Collier & Son began in 1875, expanding into the largest subscription house in America with sales of 30 million books during the 1900-1910 decade.
In April 1888, Collier’s Once a Week was launched as a magazine of “fiction, fact, sensation, wit, humor, news”. By 1892, with a circulation climbing past the 250,000 mark, Collier’s Once a Week was one of the largest selling magazines in the United States. The name was changed to Collier’s Weekly: An Illustrated Journal in 1895. With an emphasis on news, the magazine became a leading exponent of the halftone news picture. To fully exploit the new technology, Peter Collier recruited James H. Hare, one of the pioneers of photojournalism.
Collier’s only son, Robert J. Collier became a full partner in 1898. By 1914, it was known as Collier’s: The National Weekly. Peter Collier died in 1909. When Robert Collier died in 1918, he left a will that turned the magazine over to three of his friends: Samuel Dunn, Harry Payne Whitney and Francis Patrick Garvan.
The magazine was sold in 1919 to the Crowell Publishing Company (which in 1939 was renamed as Crowell-Collier Publishing Company.)
When Norman Hapgood became editor of Collier’s Weekly in 1903, he attracted many leading writers. In May 1906, he commissioned Jack London to cover the San Francisco earthquake, a report accompanied by 16 pages of pictures. Under Hapgood’s guidance, Collier’s Weekly began publishing the work of investigative journalists such as Samuel Hopkins Adams, Ray Stannard Baker, C.P. Connolly and Ida Tarbell. Hapgood’s approach had great impact, resulting in such changes as the reform of the child labor laws, slum clearance and women’s suffrage. In April 1905, an article by Upton Sinclair, “Is Chicago Meat Clean?” persuaded the Senate to pass the 1906 Meat Inspection Act.
Starting October 7, 1905, Adams startled readers with “The Great American Fraud,” an 11-part Collier’s series. Analyzing the contents of popular patent medicines, Adams pointed out that the companies producing these medicines were making false claims about their products and some were health hazards. This had a powerful impact and led to the first Pure Food and Drug Act (1906). The entire series was reprinted by the American Medical Association in a book, The Great American Fraud, which sold 500,000 copies at 50 cents each.
Hapgood had a huge influence on public opinion, and between 1909 and 1912, he succeeded in doubling the circulation of Collier’s from a half million to a million. When he moved on to Harper’s Weekly in 1912, he was replaced as editor for the next couple years by Robert J. Collier, the son of the founder.
Writers such as Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway, who reported on the Spanish Civil War, helped boost the circulation. Winston Churchill, who wrote an account of the First World War, was a regular contributor during the 1930s, but his series of articles ended in 1938 when he became a minister in the British government.
Collier’s circulation battle with The Saturday Evening Post led to the creation of The Collier Hour “The Magazine of the Air,” broadcast on the NBC Blue Network from 1927 to 1932. It was radio’s first major dramatic anthology series, adapting stories and serials from Collier’s. In 1929, in addition to the dramatizations, it offered music, news, sports and comedy.
Serializing novels during the late 1920s, Collier’s Weekly sometimes simultaneously ran two ten-part novels, and non-fiction was also serialized. The Mask of Fu Manchu, which was adapted into a 1932 film and a 1951 Wally Wood comic book, was first published as a 12-part Collier’s serial, running from May 7 to July 23, 1932.
Collier’s popularized the short-short story which was often planned to fit on a single page. The numerous authors who contributed fiction to Collier’s included Ray Bradbury, Eleanor Hoyt Brainerd, Willa Cather, Roald Dahl, Jack Finney, Erle Stanley Gardner, Zane Grey, Ring Lardner, Sinclair Lewis, E. Phillips Oppenheim, J.D. Salinger, Kurt Vonnegut, Albert Payson Terhune and Walter Tevis. Humor writers included Parke Cummings and H. Allen Smith.
Leading illustrators contributed to Collier’s, including Chesley Bonestell, and Charles R. Chickering who later became a chief designer of U.S. Postage stamps. Other accomplished artists included Harold Mathews Brett, Howard Chandler Christy, Richard V. Culter, Harrison Fisher, James Montgomery Flagg, Robert Fawcett, Alan Foster, Charles Dana Gibson, Denver Gillen, Percy Leason, J.C. Leyendecker, Paul Martin, John Alam Maxwell, John Cullen Murphy, Maxfield Parrish, and Anthony Saris.
The magazine’s roster of top cartoonists included Charles Addams, Carl Anderson, Stan and Jan Berenstain, Sam Berman, Sam Cobean, Jack Cole, A.B. Frost, Ralph Fuller, Dave Gerard, Vernon Grant, Jay Irving, Crockett Johnson, E.W. Kemble, Hank Ketcham, George Lichty, David Low, Bill Maulsin, Virgil Partch, Mischa Richter, William Steig, Charles Henry “Bill” Sykes, and Richard Taylor. Irving’s association with Collier’s began in 1932, and his “Collier’s Cops” became a mainstay of the magazine during his 13-year association with it.
Kate Osann’s Tizzy cartoons first appeared in Collier’s. The redheaded Tizzy was a teenage American girl who wore horn-rimmed glasses with triangular lenses. Tizzy was syndicated by NEA after Collier’s folded. The cartoons were in color in Collier’s but black-and-white in syndication and paperback reprints.
After WWII, Harry Devlin became the top editorial cartoonist at Collier’s, one of the few publications then displaying editorial cartoons in full color. During the 1940s, Gurney Williams was the cartoon editor for Collier’s, American Magazine and Woman’s Home Companion, paying $40 to $150 for each cartoon.
Joseph Barbera, before he found fame in animation, had several cartoons published in Collier’s in the late 1920s and early 1930s.
During World War II with William L. Chenery as editor (1941), Collier’s readership reached 2.5 million. In the October 14, 1944 issue, the magazine published one of the first articles about concentration camps. It was Jan Karski ‘s “Polish Death Camp,” a harrowing account of his visit to Belzec. Karski’s book Story of a Secret State (which contained the Collier’s excerpt), was published later that year by Houghton Mifflin. It became a Book of the Month selection, and bestseller with 400,000 copies sold in 1944-45. The Collier’s selection was reprinted in Robert H. Abzug’s America Views the Holocaust: 1933-1945 (Palgrave, 1999).
The magazine ceased publication with the issue dated January 4, 1957.
In December 2010, John Elduff, Managing Director of JTE Multimedia, purchased the rights to the Collier’s trademark and announced plans to resurrect the Collier’s brand with a combination of investigative and political reporting, coverage of the global economy and letters. Collier’s returned with “The Special Re-launch Issue” in February 2012.
The magazine is published bimonthly, and is available in hardcopy and digital.
As of April 2014, the re-launched Collier’s has not published any issue since October 2012.