The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine

The Century Company

General Description

Date: 1881-1930


◦ Chielens, Edward, ed. “Scribner's Monthly”. American Literary Magazines: The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. New York: Greenwoood Press, 1986. pp. 364-369.

◦ Mott, Frank Luther. , A History of American Magazines. Cambridge, MA: Belknap of Harvard U.P., 1966-1970. pp. 457-480.

◦ Smith, Herbert F. Richard Watson Gilder. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1970. pp.19-30.

Scholarly Commentary


The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine. New York: The Century Company, 1881-1930.

The Century continued Scribner's Monthly, after the magazine broke with Charles Scribner's publishing house in 1881. Under the editorship of Josiah Gilbert Holland, Scribner's Monthly had established itself as one of America's premier illustrated magazines, reaching a circulation of well over 100,000 and publishing important fiction, essays, and poetry. As Scribner's and The Century, the magazine prided itself on its non-regional, broadly American outlook, on the quality of its artwork and typography, and on its ability to attract the best-known authors of the day. Richard Watson Gilder led The Century through its period of greatest success, from 1881 until Gilder's death in 1909. The magazine eventually folded in 1930 after more than a decade of steady decline.

Gilder had worked on Scribner's from its beginnings in 1870, and had assumed editorial duties even before he became editor-in-chief of the new Century in 1881. The Century published some of the best work of the Gilded Age, including fiction by Howells, Twain, James, Jack London, Stephen Crane, Bret Harte, Kate Chopin, and Joel Chandler Harris, and poetry by Walt Whitman, Longfellow, Lowell, and others. Always its illustrations were of the highest quality as well, surpassing even Harper's and The Atlantic Monthly. Lavishly illustrated serial essays such as Edward King's The Great South and the collection of reminiscences by Civil War generals such as Grant, McClellan, Hill, and Longstreet, entitled Battles and Leaders of the Civil Warcontributed much to the development of national understanding and reconcilliation.

By 1890, the magazine's circulation had passed the 200,000 mark, although its decline began soon thereafter. Improved printing technologies allowed cheaper magazines to fulfill the public's desire for illustrations, and Gilder responded by placing greater emphasis on nonfiction in The Century. This trend continued after Gilder's death in 1909, and by the end of the Great War the magazine had become primarily a news journal. It merged with the Forum in 1930, drawing to a close its influential history.

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