The origins of the twentieth-century magazine lie in the extensive
economic and social changes of the latter portion of the preceding
century. The result was the emergence of the newly commercialized form
of national periodical which, for the ensuing fifty years, served as the
dominant medium of popular culture. And while the centrality of
magazines as shapers and reflectors of the nations popular discourse
began to diminish at mid-century, the form itself continued to prosper
as new, more specialized types of magazines arose to serve the specific
informational needs of more narrowly defined audiences. This progress of
the American magazine through the twentieth century might, for the
purposes of historical analysis, be divided into four major eras: The
Magazines Triumph as a Commercial Enterprise (1900–1920), The Golden
Age of Mass Magazines (1920–1960), The Rise of the Specialized Magazine
(1960–1990), Magazines as New Media (1990–present). This essay will
attempt to chart the changing character of magazines in America during
the twentieth century, as well as the forces, individual and
institutional, which shaped them.

The first twenty years of the twentieth century saw the emergence
of modern magazine publishing. Inherent in this triumph of the magazine
as a large-scale commercial enterprise was the

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