The Popular Magazine

The Popular hit the stands in November of 1903 as one of the forerunners of the general adventure pulps that would reach their height of popularity in the 1920s and 30s. The magazine ran a total of 612 standard pulp format issues before merging with Complete Stories in October 1931. Published by Street and Smith, the magazine was edited by Henry Harrison Lewis for less than a year, then by Irish-born novelist Charles Agnew Maclean until his death on June 17, 1928. Maclean was also managing editor of Smith's and Ainslee's, and is credited with 'discovering' authors Zane Grey, Louis Joseph Vance, and Charles E. Van Loan.

Initially titled The Popular Magazine for Boys and 'Old Boys' and marketed as a boy's fiction publication, the magazine changed formats just three months later to a middlebrow-oriented family magazine. Renamed The Popular, 'a magazine for men, and women who like to read about them,' the magazine published a mix of genres, though it was generally dominated by men’s adventure stories. The Popular ran a mix of short fiction, serialized works, and short novels, most notably H. Rider Haggard’s Ayesha in 1905. Other notable authors include C.J. Cutcliffe Hyne, Morgan Robertson, H.G. Wells, Rafael Sabatini, Zane Grey, and John Buchan. The magazine also published 'Craig Kennedy' stories by Arthur B. Reeve.

The Popular changed its format from a monthly to a bi-monthly in December 1909, and reached its peak circulation as a weekly from September 1927 to July 1928 before returning to a monthly publishing schedule in the last years of its run. It ran typically between 96 and 224 pages. Prices ranged from 10 cents through 1906, to 15 cents through 1916, to 20 cents thereafter. Undergoing several name changes, The Popular was intermittently re-titled The Popular Magazine (Dec. 1903-Sept. 1927; Oct. 1928-Oct. 1931) and Popular Stories (Sept. 1927-Dec. 1927).

Upon the magazine's merger with Street and Smith's Complete Stories (renamed The Popular-Complete) in 1931, Time Magazine  remarked that The Popular's demise signaled the "death knell of another pretentious sheet which could not compete with the innumerable, sporadic, cheap magazines which frankly pander yarns about gunmen, speak easies, and dope" (Time Magazine, Monday, August 31, 1931).

Georgia Clarkson Smith, The University of West Florida


Works Cited or Consulted

Hulse, Ed. "The Popular Magazine: Appreciating the 'Slickest' Pulp." Parts I and II. Blood 'N' Thunder. No. 24 (Summer 2009)/No. 25 (Winter 2010): pp. 76-100/pp. 78-99.

'The Press: Popular No More,' Time Magazine, 18: 9 (31 August, 1931): http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,929780,00.html

April 1905

15 December 1912

March 1931

Complete checklist of scanned cover images is available @ Galactic Central.