Why The Chicagoan failed and The New Yorker did not.
In a perfect world, every town and city would have a high-class magazine to celebrate itself and the cultural life of its citizens. The pundits of Prince Rupert would publish their jeremiads in The Rupertite; Halifax would have The Haligonian (whose boilermaker-fuelled editorial meetings would probably be held at the Midtown Tavern & Grill). Beginning in June of 1926, citizens of Chicago had The Chicagoan, a magazine cast so obviously in the mould of The New Yorker as to tempt a lawsuit for copyright infringement. Initially a biweekly, The Chicagoan was eventually forced to cut back to a monthly schedule, and also tried reducing its subscription price as it struggled to stay afloat. The Chicagoan (University of Chicago Press) is a gorgeous coffee-table volume that looks back at this “Lost Magazine of the Jazz Age” with a rich selection of period cartoons and articles, a glossy insert that collects many of the magazine’s Deco-style covers, and one issue of The Chicagoan reproduced in its entirety. In his introduction, Neil Harris comments on the magazine’s evolution, noting that “while some of the sardonic humor and most of the witty art disappeared ...occasional bits of whimsy and doggerel survived.” The Chicagoan folded in 1935—which perhaps proves that the exact ratio of these four ingredients is critical. Leafing through this book made me even more appreciative of The New Yorker itself, which somehow—luck? alchemy? divine guidance?—seems to have stumbled on the perfect blend.