Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Reconstructing and Gendering the Distribution Networks of Godey's Lady's Book in the Nineteenth Century

On July 10, 1843, lawyer John A. Rockwell visited Morgan Safford's store-front on Main Street in Norwich, Connecticut. Safford had become a fixture in the community, having sold newspapers and magazines in eastern Connecticut for more than a decade. Rockwell called on Safford to make a payment on his subscription to Godey's Lady's Book, which his wife, Mary, might have read when she had a spare moment from her duties as a wife and mother of three young boys. Safford fetched a paper slip to record the transaction. He served so many subscribers to women's magazines—in addition to the Lady's Book, there was the Lady's Companion, Ladies' Garland, and Lady's Pearl—that he had pre-printed receipts where he simply filled in the appropriate noun (Figure 1). Rockwell paid $1.50 for six months' worth of issues that he had already received, leaving a balance of $1.50 to be paid at another time. Safford signed the receipt and gave it to his customer. Perhaps Rockwell paid for other periodical subscriptions that day or borrowed a volume from the large circulating library that Safford's office also housed.1

Rockwell's receipt from Safford's news office offers a glimpse at how Americans purchased and received magazines during the 1830s and 1840s. Between the time that the magazine was produced and a reader enjoyed its contents, a corps of middlemen advertised the idea of it, collected orders, and transported the copies. Rockwell sought out a local establishment to connect him to the Philadelphia magazine. He saw Safford's advertisements for his periodical agency in the local newspaper. Safford, not publisher Louis Godey nor his Philadelphia or New York competitors, wrote copy and advertised the availability of magazines for local readers. Safford collected and forwarded payments, as well as received and distributed the Lady's Book to his customers. In short, the work of Morgan Safford and scores of men like him directly contributed to the success of Godey, editor Sarah Josepha Hale, and their magazine. [End Page 161]

Figure 1. Morgan Safford pre-printed receipts for magazine and newspaper purchases from his Norwich, CT, office. He evidently created a set of receipts specifically for the burgeoning field of "Lady's" magazines in the early 1840s. Courtesy, American Antiquarian Society.
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Figure 1.

Morgan Safford pre-printed receipts for magazine and newspaper purchases from his Norwich, CT, office. He evidently created a set of receipts specifically for the burgeoning field of "Lady's" magazines in the early 1840s. Courtesy, American Antiquarian Society.

And they were successful. Godey's Lady's Book was one of the most popular magazines of the nineteenth century. Louis Godey founded the magazine in Philadelphia in 1830, and he served as its first editor. It promised to provide its intended audience of white, middle-class readers with new fiction and poetry every month, along with descriptions of the fashions, a piece of sheet music, and an engraving. Godey purchased the Boston-based American Ladies' Magazine in 1836 and added its well-known editor Hale, to his staff in 1837. Together, Godey and Hale produced the magazine until Godey sold it in 1877.

The Lady's Book's large circulation was as important as its longevity. Godey's business records are not extant, so researchers are dependent on circulation numbers that he reported in editorials and advertisements. He may well have inflated these numbers to impress potential subscribers and to intimidate his competition. However, the relatively gradual increases, and occasional periods reflecting little to no increase in the circulation, suggest that Godey's reported numbers were not completely untethered from reality (see Table 1). Regardless of his accuracy, his editorial commentary on the circulation encouraged Americans to envision the "imagined community" of readers and subscribers increasingly scattered across the republic.2 Godey claimed that circulation climbed from a few thousand in the 1830s to crest at 150,000 monthly subscribers on the eve of the Civil War. Only a dozen periodicals—primarily weekly newspapers, not monthly magazines—topped 100,000 subscribers at mid-century.3

Godey and other antebellum periodical publishers relied on a diverse network of intermediaries like Safford who provided critical labor to entice [End Page 162]

Table 1. Gazohori timeline
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Table 1.

Gazohori timeline

subscribers, collect payments, and increase a magazine's circulation. Periodicals moved through distribution networks that sometimes paralleled, and at other times overlapped with, those for books.5 Customers accessed the Lady's Book through booksellers and postmasters who doubled as subscription agents. Godey and his Philadelphia colleagues took cues from the book trade and dispatched traveling agents to canvass rural areas as well. The same agents who represented the Lady's Book also hawked the increasing number of literary and women's magazines coming out of the publishing centers of Philadelphia and New York.6

This article reconstructs the decentralized network used to disseminate periodicals in the antebellum period, which can be pieced together using evidence from newspapers, manuscripts, and the Lady's Book's wrappers and literary content.7 Subscribers received their issues in wrappers, or ephemeral paper covers, which contained advertisements as well as notices from the publisher. Godey used the wrappers to broadcast information about his authorized traveling agents and changes in the postal rates. Many subscribers had their issues bound at the end of the year, and bookbinders stripped away the wrappers. Collectors and archivists primarily preserved bound volumes; however, individual issues and their wrappers can still be found. Recovering distribution information from the wrappers and combining it with advertisements in newspapers has been central to recreating the ways in which antebellum subscribers accessed the Lady's Book, and to some extent, its competitors.

This network created challenges for Godey and for potential subscribers, and exploring his solutions unearths how he sought to transform the "imagined community" of readers into a community of paying subscribers. The [End Page 163] quality and tone of the literary and visual content as well as Sarah Josepha Hale's skillful editing of the magazine undeniably contributed to the Lady's Book's popularity.8 While subscription agents and postmasters facilitated subscribers' relationship to the magazine, swindlers took advantage of consumers by promising them subscriptions and pocketing their payments.

When postal rates changed in 1852, Godey turned his attention from the challenges posed by con men to those hundreds or thousands of women who would not subscribe but who eagerly borrowed a neighbor's copy of the magazine. Godey's implementation of two marketing strategies to turn borrowers into subscribers sought to shape ideas about women's market transactions. A lady did not merely read the Lady's Book; she purchased her own copy. At the same time, Godey encouraged women to create subscription "clubs," groups of readers who subscribed together and received a bulk discount. The magazine's content and advertising encouraged women to join with their female neighbors to enjoy discounted subscriptions, turning some Lady's Book subscribers into saleswomen. Godey's conception of subscribers positively framed white, middle-class women's roles as consumers and as agents. It shifted the labor of selling from male intermediaries to the female readers themselves and from public commercial spaces into homes. At the height of its popularity, the magazine long remembered for emphasizing middle-class women's domesticity strategically interwove the domestic and the commercial to attempt to convince readers and borrowers to become subscribers.9

Agents, Postmasters, and Swindlers

Two aspects of periodical publishing and distribution in the Early Republic created challenges for Godey and other publishers. First, their businesses depended on the revenue from subscription fees. Subscribers were not required, or even expected, to pay for their subscriptions prior to receiving issues. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, pragmatic reasons might have contributed to both printers' and subscribers' expectations and practices. Historian of American magazines Frank Luther Mott estimates that the average lifespan of many periodicals in the Early Republic was only two years. Thus subscribers might have been reluctant to pay before seeing an actual product. Americans, particularly in rural areas, sought few things that absolutely needed to be paid for in cash. Many expected to be able to procure goods on credit, in exchange for other goods or labor, and [End Page 164] without a specific timeline for remittance. The frequency of dunning (appealing to subscribers to pay arrears) in newspapers and magazines reflected how expectations of a flexible timeline for payment clashed with the desires of printers. Advertisements, another source of revenue for the printer, appeared on the wrappers of magazines, but space was limited. Advertising did not become the foundation of publishers' revenue until the late nineteenth century.10

High postal rates posed a second challenge to periodical publishers, because they cut into publishers' profits and were costly for subscribers. At its founding, the United States Postal Service primarily took responsibility for the circulation of newspapers in the new nation. The Post Office Act of 1792 established low postal rates for newspapers, allowing them to travel at only one cent or one-and-a-half cents per piece based on distance. These rates reflected the values of congressmen focused on the exchange of political information among the citizenry. Newspapers were intended to provide citizens with timely news of political parties and the government. To subsidize these low rates, the Post Office Act established much higher rates for personal correspondence, such as writing to a far-away publisher for a periodical subscription. These rates were based on two factors: the number of sheets being sent and the distance they would travel. Thus a single sheet cost six cents if it were to be delivered up to thirty miles away, but that same sheet cost twenty-five cents if the recipient was over 450 miles away. Neither the 1792 act, nor antebellum revisions of the postal rates, required pre-payment of postage.11

The 1792 act did not establish rates for magazines, pamphlets, or books, and later acts established higher rates than for newspapers. At the turn of the nineteenth century, logistics shaped policy. The postal service conveyed mail via stage coach, which did not always have the capacity to carry such goods. Postmasters were allowed to refuse to move these items, especially bulky books that could damage other mail. These worries became less pressing, however, as the nation's infrastructure improved. Magazine publishers did not customarily include postage within the subscription price, and the higher rates discouraged wider circulation. Throughout the antebellum period subscribers were on the hook for that postage, which they remitted to the local postmaster when they received their issues. A Lady's Book subscriber who received her issues in the mail in the 1830s paid between four-and-a-half and seven-and-a-half cents per issue in addition to the $3 subscription fee (see Table 2).12 [End Page 165]

Table 2. Postage rates for Godey's Lady's Book, 1830s-1850s *A short-lived 1851 postal law based rates on the periodical's weight and distance. Rates for the Lady's Book were 2 cents per issue for recipients under 500 miles away and 4 cents for those under 1500 miles away. An 1852 law eliminated the distinctions of distance.
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Table 2.

Postage rates for Godey's Lady's Book, 1830s-1850s13

*A short-lived 1851 postal law based rates on the periodical's weight and distance. Rates for the Lady's Book were 2 cents per issue for recipients under 500 miles away and 4 cents for those under 1500 miles away. An 1852 law eliminated the distinctions of distance.

Magazine subscribers in the Early Republic routinely sought the services of three kinds of intermediaries who facilitated their relationship with the periodical publisher. Morgan Safford exemplifies the first kind of intermediary, one who ran a "news office," or later a "periodical depot," where customers could subscribe, pay, and potentially pick up their monthly issues. He advertised in the local Norwich Courier that he received subscriptions for a number of Philadelphia, New York City, and Connecticut periodicals besides the Lady's Book.14 Agents often kept sample issues of magazines on hand for customers to peruse before they committed to purchasing a subscription.15

Periodical agents functioned as local salesmen and provided critical labor for Godey and other urban publishers. Godey needed agents like Safford to decide to sell the Lady's Book because these men actively worked to raise the profile of publications and to gather subscriptions in their communities. Safford invested in puff pieces in the Norwich Courier about magazines he sold, such as for Hunt's Merchant's Magazine and the Ladies' Companion.16 He heaped praise upon the December 1841 issue of the Lady's Book in the newspaper, mentioning the magazine's engravings, fashion plates, and high-quality articles. December was a key time to highlight its merits because Safford was gathering orders for the following year. He wrote, "we have been gratified to see it [the Lady's Book] gradually assuming a higher and more dignified vocation than that of ministering, however skillfully, to the mere entertainment of its thousands of fair readers. We are sure we do our countrywomen no more than justice, when we say they would rather be instructed than amused. Happily the two things are not inconsistent, as the Lady's Book is proving." This was Safford—not Godey nor Hale—arguing to his local consumer base that a Lady's Book reader saw amusement and instruction as worthwhile investments. Ultimately, his ability to cultivate interest [End Page 166] in and to sell the Lady's Book in southeastern Connecticut benefitted both his and Godey's bottom lines.17

Godey's promotion and periodical agents' marketing of the Lady's Book during the 1830s and 1840s primarily focused on annual subscriptions, but individual issues were not impossible to obtain. For example, records of the Pearson family indicate that they purchased their 1843 issues of the Lady's Book one by one. The keeper of the family's account book neatly recorded the twenty-five cent outlay for the Lady's Book among other household expenses like butter and cheese, earthenware, and candles. A York, Pennsylvania, watermark on the book's pages is the only clue to the geographic location of the Pearson family, who most likely lived in south-central Pennsylvania or perhaps northern Maryland. The family could afford the trappings of a middle-class life, such as the services of a seamstress and tailor, corset laces for at least one lady's attire, and two silk aprons for Ma.18

The consistent payment of twenty-five cents indicates that the Pearsons purchased each issue monthly from a periodical agent or bookseller who did not require subscriptions. The family likely tracked the Lady's Book's availability in their local paper. Philadelphia bookstore owners Thomson and Brown advertised the availability of individual issues of publications from the city, including literary magazines like Graham's and newspapers like the Saturday Courier and the North American. Even had the Pearsons moved beyond the city, in certain locations they could have continued their monthly purchases. Joseph A. Reed and Company, a periodical depot in western Pennsylvania, appealed to "lovers of Literature" to buy individual issues of periodicals like the Lady's Book, again for twenty-five cents apiece.19

The vast majority of agents running periodical depots were independent businessmen, but Godey also partnered with larger periodical agencies in Boston and New York to expand distribution of his magazine. He built his first collaborations around 1837, at the same time that Sarah Josepha Hale became editor. The publishing firm of Weeks, Jordan, and Company bolstered distribution of the Lady's Book from Boston. A newspaper advertisement described the company as "publishers, booksellers, and stationers." Customers could visit Weeks, Jordan's "literary rooms," a more elegant term that some booksellers used to describe their showroom, to browse their wide selection of books, foreign and domestic periodicals, and engravings. But the company also sold these materials at wholesale, connecting booksellers and itinerant salesmen from surrounding areas with stock.20 Godey partnered in a similar fashion with New York City publisher and periodical distributor Israel Post by 1838.21 [End Page 167]

Godey benefitted from the network of agents that these central periodical dealers cultivated in the hinterlands. After Godey partnered with New York distributor William M. Christy in 1843, Christy advertised on the Lady's Book's wrappers that "Country Agents" in the city's vicinity could acquire all the latest works from him.22 A letter from Weeks, Jordan, and Company to Cyrus Farnham illustrates how the firm sought out agents in nearby towns. The company offered Farnham the opportunity to sell the Lady's Book and other book and periodical publications to his neighbors in Haverhill, Massachusetts, roughly thirty-five miles north of the city.23 Farnham and agents like him took a twenty-five percent commission on a subscription, and Weeks, Jordan almost certainly took their own cut. But for Godey, an arrangement such as this one helped to build the distribution network for the magazine. He could ship hundreds or thousands of copies of the magazine to Weeks, Jordan and to Christy. They in turn distributed the Lady's Book to city readers in New York and Boston and to their agents.

Godey's efforts to expand his network of agents through urban periodical dealers seemed to increase the Lady's Book's circulation. He reported having 10,000 subscribers by December of 1837, a number that "was one-third larger than that of any preceding year."24 This boost coincided with Hale's debut as editor of the Lady's Book. Agents on the ground, advertising the magazine and facilitating subscriptions, continued to connect to new subscribers. By early 1840 the list was at 17,500; Godey speculated that it would soon reach 25,000.25

Although postal rates for magazines were high throughout much of the antebellum era, Godey cultivated postmasters as agents and advertisers in some communities. Post offices served as important communal hubs for more than receiving mail, even though they were rarely large physical spaces. Antebellum post offices occupied modest spaces within buildings like the mercantile exchange in commercial centers like New York and Philadelphia. In more rural areas, Americans visited post offices located in a room in a downtown commercial building or a counter in a general store.26 Godey competed for space on the walls of those heavily-trafficked public spaces by sending out eye-catching broadsides. For example, he sent large illustrated posters to postmasters in Bradford, New Hampshire, and Caldwell County, North Carolina, for display in their offices.27

Like periodical agents such as Morgan Safford, postmasters promoted magazines and facilitated subscriptions. Postmasters worked on commission and did not necessarily become wealthy from such work. As such they often found other lucrative opportunities related to the post. An 1840 circular [End Page 168] from Jordan and Company addressed to the postmaster in Lowell, Massachusetts, advertised both the Lady's Book and Graham's Magazine. It enticed the postmaster to display the flier and to seek out subscribers. He would earn a commission based on the number of subscriptions he submitted at one time.28 Others created secondary revenue streams as agents for products like sewing machines or profited from their central role in their communities by reporting on the character of local businessmen—an early version of a credit check.29 Comfort Avery Adams wasted no time in initiating correspondence with periodical publishers when he was appointed postmaster of Warren, Ohio, in 1849. He reached out not only to Godey but to other Philadelphia publishers including Charles Peterson, John Sartain, and Samuel D. Patterson (then publishing Graham's Magazine). Warren was a county seat in northeastern Ohio where the local inhabitants came to visit the Post Office, the court, and various merchants.30 Adams first requested one or two "specimen" issues and subscription terms from Godey. He showed these specimens to Warren residents, demonstrating the quality of the engravings and the literary matter. Adams promised to "endeavor to get up a club for it," meaning that he would attempt to attract five or more subscribers from among his postal customers. Adams fulfilled his promise to Godey and remitted payment upfront: seven subscribers in 1850 and five in 1851.31

Godey cultivated good relations with postmasters like Adams not only to increase profits but to decrease business expenses. Postmasters enjoyed the ability to send correspondence without paying for it, known as the franking privilege. This was well-known among citizens, who sometimes rejoiced when a family member was appointed postmaster and could circulate letters for free.32 Godey essentially created a local contact person in communities that lacked a periodical depot. He then directed his readers to take advantage of the services of the local postmaster to forward him payments. For example, on one Lady's Book wrapper he advised, "Subscribers living in the vicinity of a Postmaster can call upon him and have their letters containing money franked … Many hundred dollars might be saved us if attention was generally paid to this matter." Postmasters who used their franking privileges to convey a subscriber's payment saved Godey the higher cost of postage on personal correspondence.33

Throughout the 1840s and early 1850s Godey and other periodical publishers employed traveling agents who sought potential subscribers further afield from eastern urban areas. Mrs. Sally Baskervill and her daughter Virginia of the Lombardy Grove plantation in southern Virginia acquired their [End Page 169] Lady's Book subscriptions through these agents. Extant periodical receipts bear the signature of I. E. James—Israel E. James, as he was identified on the Lady's Book's wrappers. (Figure 2) He assisted the Baskervills with their subscription to the Lady's Book for at least a decade.34

James was one of a select group of traveling agents employed by Philadelphia publishers. Godey first advertised a small group of traveling agents on the Lady's Book's wrappers in 1840. By June 1841, Godey noted that Mr. James was a "General Agent for the South Western States" with two assistants.35 This list soon increased to half a dozen. James and his crew served the southern states including Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Godey reminded readers on a monthly basis of the names of these agents, who covered areas including Canada, parts of New England, and westward to Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Kentucky.36 They were not solely in his employ, however. Other monthly literary magazines advertised their work in the 1840s, such as Philadelphia's Graham's Magazine and Richmond's Southern Literary Messenger. Much remains unknown about James and his colleagues, including how they made their rounds and how they were paid. A comprehensive history of their work has yet to be written.37

Eastern periodical publishers tapped into a longer history of independent peddlers when they employed these traveling agents. Since the colonial era, it was not unusual to see itinerant men plying their wares in rural areas. Peddlers received no formal training in selling and quickly figured out how to close sales on their own, or moved on to other employment. They were not unlike itinerant preachers who visited communities on a circuit, providing a familiar face in the absence of an established church in a community. These "hawkers and walkers" found easier access to new consumers via the burgeoning canal and railroad networks in early decades of the nineteenth century. They brought with them an increasing assortment of goods, convincing farm families that they needed the newest wonders of the market revolution like shelf clocks and sewing machines.38

Peddlers brought printed materials to those far-flung consumer bases as well. One of the most famous book peddlers in the new nation was Reverend Mason Locke Weems, an ordained Anglican minister, itinerant preacher, and popularizer of the George Washington cherry tree myth in his book, Life of Washington. Philadelphia publisher Mathew Carey partnered with Weems at the turn of the nineteenth century to capitalize on customers beyond the reach of bookstores, first in the Chesapeake and later in the Carolinas and Georgia. Weems's travels familiarized him with the needs and [End Page 170]

Figure 2. During the 1840s, Godey printed a wealth of information about how to access the Lady's Book on its ephemeral paper covers. Travelling agents visited subscribers and collected payments from subscribers along the east coast of the U.S., in western territories, and in Canada. This July 1844 notice shows little empathy for subscribers who paid swindlers who posed as Lady's Book agents. It also refers New York City subscribers to Godey's local distributor, William M. Christy. Courtesy, American Antiquarian Society.
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Figure 2.

During the 1840s, Godey printed a wealth of information about how to access the Lady's Book on its ephemeral paper covers. Travelling agents visited subscribers and collected payments from subscribers along the east coast of the U.S., in western territories, and in Canada. This July 1844 notice shows little empathy for subscribers who paid swindlers who posed as Lady's Book agents. It also refers New York City subscribers to Godey's local distributor, William M. Christy. Courtesy, American Antiquarian Society.

desires of rural customers who sought cheap and useful texts rather than heavy tomes. Carey and other Philadelphia publishers slowly learned that a backcountry book market depended on the large sales and small profits of "steady sellers" like Bibles and schoolbooks. Weems's charisma and oratorical skill helped him to put these books in people's hands and money in his and Carey's pockets. The American Bible Society and the American Tract Society each developed large corps of traveling agents who both sold and gave away religious publications in the early decades of the nineteenth century.39

Agents like Israel James, however, bridged the traditional barter economy and the emerging market economy by functioning as much as bill collectors for the Philadelphia publishers as roaming salesmen. In the absence of Godey's business records, the announcements to subscribers on the magazine's wrappers are illuminating. He alerted subscribers in 1845 that his western agents were to begin a "collecting tour" through Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, and Wisconsin. He directed postmasters to "invariably refuse" to provide lists of Lady's Book subscribers to anyone who asked. "Our authorized agents, a list of whom is given below, have the bills for each subscriber with them," Godey explained. He advised readers in 1849 to remit payment at once rather than wait for the visits of agents, because a cholera [End Page 171] epidemic prevented them from traveling.40 Mrs. Baskervill's receipts from James corroborate that his visits were to collect payments and not for the delivery of issues. He collected overdue payments from Mrs. Baskervill on two occasions.41 It is unlikely that she or any other subscribers on his circuit waited for two years of back issues to arrive during James's visit. At a time when Americans expected to exchange goods and currency with merchants or peddlers, agents' "collecting tours" brought a trusted representative to town to collects payments for subscriptions that had been fulfilled by the postal service.

James and his colleagues provided solutions to hurdles to making secure payments via the postal service as well. The postal service was reliable enough for receiving Philadelphia magazines, but subscribers and publishers alike were not as eager to use it for payment. Postage on correspondence was assessed by each sheet mailed and the distance to be traveled instead of by weight. A banknote or any other enclosure was charged as a second sheet. People rarely used envelopes because they would be charged additional postage, so a subscriber who mailed coins needed to secure them tightly within a folded-up sheet in order to make their journey. A letter and a banknote from Mrs. Baskervill would have traveled a distance of over 300 miles and cost Godey fifty cents at the post office. In the absence of a periodical depot or traveling agent, using the postmaster's franking privilege was a cheap alternative. Throughout the early 1840s, however, agents provided a way to avoid these problems and saved Godey and other publishers the high rates of postage on letters from dozens of individual subscribers as well.42

More importantly, James and his associates could redeem southern and western bank notes locally, netting the publishers greater profits. For Godey and other Philadelphia publishers, a growing national audience for their periodicals was a double-edged sword. How did one deal with the variety of banknotes coming in as payment for annual subscriptions? Banknotes lost value the farther they traveled from their issuer. In turbulent financial times Godey assessed a penalty on conscientious subscribers who sent local notes. For example, in July 1842 he notified readers that notes from any bank "which are at more than five per cent discount here, the excess of discount will be deducted from the subscription."43 Such notifications must have frustrated subscribers and publishers alike. Periodical subscribers were notoriously lax in remitting payment because it was not required up front. But Godey's notices about currency and discounting suggest that a lack of national paper currency also impeded the development of national magazines during the antebellum period. Traveling agents could collect [End Page 172] banknotes from local financial institutions and redeem them locally rather than in Philadelphia, avoiding deep discounts that were sometimes assessed on southern and western currency.44

Godey was plagued for more than a decade, however, by fraudsters who preyed on rural consumers who sought subscriptions to Philadelphia periodicals. Enterprising and unscrupulous men began to pose as Lady's Book agents even before Godey engaged the traveling agents like Israel James. As early as November 1838, he called out an "unprincipled swindler" who posed as a representative not only for his magazine but for fellow Quaker City publishers Samuel Atkinson, M'Maken and Holden, and Charles Alexander. The early con men targeted New England and New York, likely because of the work that Weeks, Jordan, and Company undertook to foster legitimate agents outside of Boston. One bold fellow even adopted Godey's surname to reinforce his own trustworthiness, prompting the publisher to declare: "We have a receipt before us, given to D. C. H. Thomas, of Mt. Holly, Ohio, for subscription to Graham's Magazine, by Geo. N. Godey. There is no such person. There is but one Godey, and that is ourself."45

Such warnings indicate the kind of commercial transaction that subscribers expected and speak to the challenges of cultivating a national circulation during the market revolution. Like men who ran periodical depots, traveling agents offered a local contact for the Lady's Book in areas that did not have one. But this arrangement was wide open to confidence men to take advantage of it. Rural readers had bargained with and purchased items from itinerant salesmen for years. But purchasing a magazine subscription was not the same as buying gewgaws from a Yankee peddler. The peddler left a customer with the goods they purchased, even if the product was low-quality or did not live up to all the promises a peddler made.46 Godey's traveling agents left with the promise of future goods, or as Mrs. Baskervill's receipts demonstrate, more often with payments on goods already received. The agents were not supposed to bargain with subscribers over discounted fees. The fraudsters, however, often succeeded because they would accept any amount of cash. The situation was likely compounded by the fact that Godey advertised the names of his agents, but never what they looked like. Like other antebellum businessmen, he viewed complaints through the lens of caveat emptor, the principle that placed responsibility on purchasers to evaluate the quality of articles bought and to assume all of the risk. He disparaged people who gave money to con men without getting a receipt or even sometimes the man's name. There was little he could do to change their behavior, though. Godey continued to warn readers of the existence of fake [End Page 173] agents and that legitimate agents did not sell subscriptions at a discount, and listed his agents' names on the wrappers. In May 1845, Godey began providing his agents with certificates of authenticity, though fraudsters still prevailed upon some customers.47

Debating the Terms of Being Neighborly: A Campaign against Borrowers

The context changed when Congress voted to decrease postal rates on personal correspondence and magazines in the mid-1840s and early 1850s. The Postal Service faced repeated questions about content and form because the 1792 act did not define "newspaper" and "magazine." Publishers took advantage of low rates by creating massive "newspapers" that contained reprinted British fiction. Postmasters constantly needed to determine what constituted a newspaper and which rate to charge. By the 1840s, lobbyists argued that lower postal rates across the board would increase use of the Postal Service instead of private express companies. Congress passed a new postal act in 1845 that made magazine postage more equitable to, but not as low as, newspaper postage. The new law still left loopholes and raised questions. Congress passed a new, even more confusing postal act in 1851 that created five zones based on the distance mail was being sent. The following year another postal act eliminated both the zones and the distinctions between newspapers and magazines. Even better, subscribers could save money by pre-paying the postage for each quarter.48

Godey's frustrations with the traveling agents and swindlers ended with the 1852 Postal Act, which prompted him to abandon his traveling agents entirely and looked to the Post Office for cost-effective conveyance. "WE HAVE NOW NO TRAVELING AGENTS," he announced, and directed subscribers to send payment directly to him. "The cost of postage for a remittance is ONLY THREE CENTS." Rather than relying on Godey's traveling agent Mr. James, Virginia subscriber Mrs. Baskervill now needed to expend a few pennies to mail her payment. From this time on, he often reminded readers that postage on the magazine only cost two cents per issue if paid in advance, when it had been 4.5 cents per issue since 1845 and more prior to that.49

Agents within communities continued to connect subscribers to the Lady's Book, particularly as Americans moved west. Periodical depots sprung up in new communities, allowing emigrants to pick up the latest Lady's [End Page 174] Book when it arrived by steamer. San Francisco's Daily Alta California shows that as early as 1850, booksellers like Cook & Lecount received shipments of eastern periodicals.50

Godey turned his attention to a different problem: two areas in the community of readers that allowed borrowing the flourish. First, there was his "exchange network" of newspaper editors with whom he swapped free copies of their newspapers for copies of the Lady's Book. Periodical editors had engaged in "exchanges" with each other since the colonial period, sending a free copy of their newspaper for one from other areas. Editors found these exchanges to be a valuable source of content for their own newspaper, and thousands of stories and poems moved across the country via this common practice. Godey enthusiastically built an exchange network and sent gratis copies to colleagues in the business. The Lady's Book received free publicity when a newspaper editor skimmed the issues and printed a puff piece in his paper.51 His editorial comments reveal that he perceived that lower circulation rates stemmed from his exchange network: it allowed too many women to read the Lady's Book for free. Thousands of women, perhaps upwards of 10,000 Godey guessed, avoided paying money justly due to him because they borrowed the free copy that their local newspaper office received.52

The second problem was women themselves, or more specifically, that their anxiety over being seen as neighborly contributed to the number of borrowers. For decades, settler women valued neighborliness. Women in New England communities, for example, borrowed and shared material goods and workloads. The birth of children often brought women within a community together. These connections among women endured into the Early Republic. Their production and consumption of goods and services tied them to expanding economic networks in both urban and rural settings.53 Borrowers and lenders negotiated the conveniences and frustrations of sharing consumer goods as new generations of emigrants moved westward. For example, British-born author Susanna Moodie settled in Canada in the 1830s and chronicled the frustrations of "the borrowing system" that her frontier neighbors employed. She complained that neighbors visited to "borrow" everything and anything—food, candles, kitchenware, blankets—with empty promises of repayment. One lectured her on the morality of giving rather than receiving and left insulted after Moodie pointed out that the Bible also cautioned, "The wicked borroweth and payeth not again." She dedicated much of a chapter to the most egregious borrowers, and yet those borrowers almost always prevailed upon her.54 Whether Moodie exaggerated the frustrations of frontier life aside, her chapter echoed the sentiments [End Page 175] in the Lady's Book regarding borrowing. Godey's correspondents worried that their social capital would decrease in light of refusing to lend their copies of the Lady's Book. A teacher in Virginia lamented that her neighbors "will make sour faces, and my kindness and benevolence will suffer; but I have resolved that they shall pay for the 'Book' themselves."55 Withdrawing from the network of borrowers might cause others to see her as unfriendly and unsociable, but she was willing to risk the companionship of the half dozen ladies who took advantage of her purchase.

The postal rate reductions in 1845 and 1852 overlapped with a discernable shift in Godey's marketing and distribution strategies: he increasingly framed a paid subscription as a characteristic of respectable womanhood. He had occasionally prodded ladies who saw value in reading, but not buying, the Lady's Book. For example, in July 1840 he reprinted a letter from a subscriber who threatened to cancel her subscription because of "the intolerable nuisance of lending." She claimed that five or six families sent messengers to her home as soon as they knew the magazine had arrived. She lamented that her copy returned with "the plates torn, or soiled with grease and dirt, and the cover commonly gone."56 This letter, whether real or not, acknowledged that some women borrowed the Lady's Book, but it was not part of a sustained conversation about the practice. There are a number of reasons why Godey might have accepted a certain amount of lending and borrowing among his readership. The postal rates and the subscription price certainly prevented some women and families from affording it. Collecting payment from subscribers, even well-meaning ones, was already a challenge. Those fraudulent agents occupied his time and energy until the decrease in postal rates.

He launched a campaign in 1853 to reshape the modes of accessing the magazine by making it more acceptable to purchase than to borrow. He issued a plea to his exchange network: please stop lending your free copies of the Lady's Book. At the same time Godey began printing a column, "The Borrower's Department," among the other monthly columns at the end of each issue, including the book reviews and Godey's and Hale's editorial columns. The department ran for a little more than a year and a half, and it featured reprinted notices from local newspapers as well as letters that Godey purported to receive. A reprinted notice from the Pennsylvania Democratic Register referred to Godey's plea to exchanges and was representative of the column: "Godey asks a 'leading question' in this issue. He wishes to know how it is that, in towns where he sends the most exchanges, he has few, or what is more generally the case, no subscribers … The practice of borrowing [End Page 176] literary publications from editors has become systematized and perfected." "The Borrower's Department" depicted the arrangement between readers and the newspaper editors in their towns as an entrenched practice, but one that could easily cease to exist if editors would not lend their specimen issues. Godey reprinted notices from editors whom he had convinced to stop lending their issues to show that the custom was changing.57

Subscribers' moral character was on the line in Godey's campaign. In February 1854, he added a tagline to the usual header for "The Borrower's Department": "The wicked borroweth and payeth not again." The phrase, taken from Psalm 37:21 and quoted in Moodie's chapter, would have been widely recognizable to Lady's Book readers, meant to make borrowers reflect upon whether their worldly condition was so low that they could not provide for themselves. Pieces in "The Borrower's Department" often depicted borrowers who returned copies torn apart, implying how careless borrowers were with items they did not own. He reprinted a notice from the Missouri Western Pioneer that chided borrowers, "a person that is too stingy to subscribe for it is generally too negligent or indifferent about returning it when borrowed." The reprinted notice explicitly linked parsimonious borrowers with carelessness as to when and in what shape a magazine was returned. These were undesirable traits in women who were supposed to be the moral compasses of their families.58

A fictional item from November 1855 reinforced the virtue of subscribing, arguing that it was often those with greater means who took advantage of those aspirant subscribers lower on the socioeconomic scale. The story's protracted title aimed directly at those who were reading a copy they had not purchased: "The Life and Adventures of a Number of Godey's Lady's Book, Addressed Particularly to Borrowers, Having Been Taken Down in Short-Hand from a Narration Made by Itself, When the Unfortunate Creature Was in a Dilapidated State, from the Treatment Received at the Hands of Cruel Oppressors." It follows a physical copy of the Lady's Book itself through its short life, detailing its journey from the bindery to an unidentified town somewhere in the United States. This vagueness allowed a reader to imagine that the story of the magazine's abuse by readers could happen in their own town. This particular copy belonged to a man named Mr. Slocum, a schoolmaster. His copy is read by everyone except Mr. Slocum. The post office clerks enjoyed its contents for two days, then it began its rounds among twenty-eight townspeople who read every issue.59

The story was clearly a thinly veiled advertisement also meant to induce guilt in borrowers who could easily pay. Lucy, a wealthy heiress and the [End Page 177] first borrower, embodies the worst in borrowers. She laughs when her more humble friend Mary says that she will purchase a $3 subscription. Lucy asserts, "as long as I can get the 'Lady's Book' for nothing, I don't intend to pay for it." Identifying the male schoolmaster as the subscriber allowed the author to further highlight Lucy's cruelty. Her father is one of the town school directors, and she abuses her socioeconomic position. Lucy argues that if Mr. Slocum refuses to lend her the magazine, he could lose his job. She has no remorse about taking another's possession. Her family has greater wealth than that of the lender, but she will think little of tattling on him if he refuses her request. The young lady is heartless and cheap—hardly a good neighbor. Mary, on the other hand, has internalized Godey's advertisements for the magazine and is eager to subscribe. She argues that the Lady's Book "becomes a necessity very soon; it is mental food. If it be a luxury only, so much the worse." Her argument encourages readers accustomed to paying for necessities to think of the magazine as such.60

The combined effect of these items was a vision of the borrower herself as unneighborly because she imposed her wants on those upstanding people who paid for their own subscriptions. Instead, a good neighbor was one who did not borrow and destroy her friend's Lady's Book. A letter from a lady in New York drove home the practice's immorality by comparing reformed borrowers to the success of the temperance movement: "But that habit, like that of drinking ardent spirits, is growing less, as decent people are ashamed to practice it." Whether she abused the newspaper editor's copy or flaunted her wealth while borrowing from a more modest neighbor, a borrower was in the wrong—not the person who refused to lend.61

The Saleswoman in the Parlor: Subscription Clubs

By the end of the 1840s, the circulation had plateaued at 40,000.62 The Lady's Book faced increasing competition from a number of literary periodicals coming out of Philadelphia at that time. Graham's Magazine and Sartain's Union Magazine, published by his colleagues George Graham and John Sartain, sought female and male readers. Graham's and Sartain's offered readers the same kind of content as the Lady's Book at the same price point of three dollars per annum: fiction, poetry, engravings, sheet music.63 These Philadelphia periodicals were quite successful in the 1840s. For example, Graham claimed that his magazine's circulation of 40,000 copies per month was "never equaled by any Magazine" in 1842.64 Publisher and author [End Page 178] Charles Peterson founded the Ladies' National Magazine, later known as Peterson's Magazine, in 1842.65 Peterson's sold for a dollar less than the Lady's Book, and it targeted the same female audience with similar content and fashions. Publishers in Cincinnati, Nashville, and Savannah vied for women's money and attention with their own women's magazines as well.66

In the face of growing competition Godey offered deal-sweeteners that only benefited subscribers. He first tried a free gift with a paid subscription. In June 1845, when Congress passed the first decrease in postal rates for magazines, he hoped to create a deal that readers who were not subscribers could not refuse. Besides the new reduced postage, he threw in an additional "Inducement to Subscribe": an "original portrait" of George Washington. Subscribers in 1850 could choose from two of five engravings, including "Death-Bed of Rev. John Wesley," "America Guided by Wisdom," and "General Taylor and Old Whitey." These images appealed to readers' patriotism and to their religious beliefs, whether they were part of the growing Methodist church or wanted to celebrate the sitting President and Mexican-American War hero Zachary Taylor. Bold text beneath descriptions of the quality and cost of these engravings declared, "These Plates cannot be purchased at the Stores at less than $3 each." Both of these deals combined the appearance of high value for a low price with rewards that could only be enjoyed by those who paid. Godey pitched a subscription as a bargain. A subscriber received not only her Lady's Book for the year but two images to show off to friends in her parlor at a fraction of the cost. If asked where she acquired such images, a subscriber could proudly describe that they came with her magazine.67

The campaign against borrowers worked in tandem with Godey's increasing emphasis in the 1850s on women's subscription clubs. The advantage of "clubbing," as Godey referred to it, was that customers received more reading material for less money. As with any marketing that promises consumers a bargain, however, clubbing held distinct advantages for Godey: clubs moved products. He had long offered subscribers two different kinds of "subscription clubs." One club option coupled the purchase of a Lady's Book subscription with another publication. Godey offered such schemes for the same reasons that he employed traveling agents: to facilitate payment. Godey and other magazine publishers encouraged consumers to send in orders for goods worth $5, which allowed them to send "a five dollar note … This will render a remittance easy."68 For example, in the late 1830s Godey offered customers the opportunity to combine a one-year subscription with the purchase of reprints of the collected works of popular British authors. He produced and sold these reprints for $3 per collection. Readers [End Page 179] received discounts when they subscribed to the Lady's Book for a year and added one of those reprints "for the purpose of remittance," for a final purchase price of $5. Or, two collected works cost $5. Godey was willing to discount both items by fifty cents and required that customers pre-pay for the item to get customers to remit $5 banknotes with their orders.69

Godey offered a second kind of discount to subscribers who "clubbed" together and ordered in bulk. Nearly from the magazine's founding, two subscriptions could be had for $5. Godey gradually added more options that provided the bulk discount, such as five subscriptions for $10 or eleven subscriptions for $20.70 (Figure 3) "Why will not every subscriber constitute him or herself an agent, and procure us one subscriber?" he modestly asked in an 1849 editorial message.71 This appeal was inclusive of women and men who subscribed, whether the latter made the purchase on behalf of wives or daughters or for their own enjoyment like schoolmaster Slocum. Unlike agents, however, a person who "got up" a club did not earn a commission. Throughout the 1850s, Godey added an extra copy for the person sending clubs of five, eight, or eleven subscribers.

Godey began encouraging a national audience of women to create subscription clubs themselves during the 1850s. In November 1855, he pitched clubs and thanked current subscribers in a two-page piece titled "To the Lady Subscribers of 'Godey.'" Readers found the insert sewn into the front of each issue between the cover and the first engraving. In it, Godey commended American women for the "immense increase" in subscriptions over the previous three years; elsewhere he claimed the 1856 edition would be 100,000 copies.72 The insert gives an accounting of the differences between the Lady's Book and a "Two Dollar Magazine," Godey's customary and thinly-veiled reference to rival Peterson's Magazine. He compares his sixty-two articles, fifty-six engravings, and one hundred pages to Peterson's thirtysix articles, thirty-two engravings, and sixty-four pages. For those concerned about affordability, he tries to close the deal with a price comparison: "The lowest club price of the Two Dollar Magazine is $1.25; lowest club price of 'Lady's Book' is $1.67, only forty-two cents difference." To achieve such a low price—only available to clubs of eight or eleven—the creator would have had to contribute to the pool rather than take his or her copy for free. The insert also incorporated puff pieces from around the United States, including New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina, and Texas. Godey concluded with a "Particular Notice about Sending Clubs," requesting that ladies who submitted club subscriptions sign the request with her name and town. He sought to recognize each woman laboring on behalf of his magazine by sending a receipt and "our thanks directly to her."73 [End Page 180]

Figure 3. The January 1855 prospectus informed readers of the many merits of a subscription as well as the "clubbing" options. Godey encouraged subscribers, particularly women, to form clubs in their towns. During the mid-1850s, this menu of rates potentially allowed a club of twelve subscribers to decrease the Lady's Book's yearly $3 price to as low as $1.67. Courtesy, Virginia Museum of History & Culture (Virginia Historical Society).
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Figure 3.

The January 1855 prospectus informed readers of the many merits of a subscription as well as the "clubbing" options. Godey encouraged subscribers, particularly women, to form clubs in their towns. During the mid-1850s, this menu of rates potentially allowed a club of twelve subscribers to decrease the Lady's Book's yearly $3 price to as low as $1.67. Courtesy, Virginia Museum of History & Culture (Virginia Historical Society).

[End Page 181]

These two strategies—against borrowing and for clubbing—aligned in a pair of 1856 fiction stories about a town called "Borrowdale." The authorship of these pieces remains obscure. They are attributed to "Debby Downright," presumably the Mrs. D---- who narrates the stories. The author had clear familiarity with selling techniques that agents used. The stories also incorporate lines about the Lady's Book that Godey used in advertisements. It is possible that the Borrowdale stories were Godey's first literary contributions to his magazine. Godey communicated with readers via his editorial notices, but he did not claim to author any fiction or poetry in his magazine. It seems more likely that he collaborated with Hale or perhaps his close friend and contributor T. S. Arthur. Both Hale and Arthur were seasoned authors familiar with periodical publishing, and thus could have easily set Godey's marketing within a sentimental tale in the whimsically named Borrowdale.

At the heart of this pair of stories was an empowered female consumer. The first story, "Getting Up a Club in Borrowdale," provided a blueprint for readers on how to canvass for subscriptions. It opens with a conversation between Mrs. D---- and her husband. He refuses to renew their subscription to the Lady's Book because he shares the frustrations expressed in "The Borrower's Department" and "The Life and Adventures of a Number of Godey's Lady's Book": their neighbors constantly borrowed it and returned it "shorn of many of its attractions." Mrs. D---- did not acquiesce submissively to her husband's decision; instead, she took the situation into her own hands to turn borrowers into subscribers. She resolves to recruit four other subscribers to make a club, which also lowers each person's fees to $2 from the $3 for an individual subscription.74

Mrs. D----'s journey through her town provided readers with sales pitches that they could deploy when gathering club members. She plans out her route for the day and couches her inquiries about the subscription club within traditional social calls on her townswomen. Her first sales pitch falls on deaf ears at the home of Borrowdale's lawyer. Mrs. Lee spends the first part of Mrs. D----'s visit showing off "a new lot of finery received on the day before from the city … most of them were quite beyond the reach" of the latter's pin-money. Mrs. Lee refuses to join the subscription club, however, arguing that even at $2 the magazine was too expensive for such a frivolous purchase. Mrs. D---- persists, arguing that the club price only costs four cents per week. Mrs. Lee's obvious conspicuous consumption and lame excuses echoed complaints in "The Borrower's Department" that those with the means often relied on neighbors with less income to lend their issues.75 [End Page 182]

Mrs. D---- meets success at the home of the doctor and convincingly argues with the town storekeeper that he can afford a subscription. She asks for the storekeeper himself when his wife, Mrs. Grant, hesitates to join the club. She disposes with the small talk that she engaged in with the women and directly demanded that Mr. Grant pay the $2 so that his wife can have the Lady's Book. After Mrs. D---- points out that he spends somewhere between a quarter to a half-dollar a week on cigars for himself, she closes the sale. This was not simply a detail in the story; it cleverly educated burgeoning female agents for the Lady's Book.76

The story was also capacious in its definitions of who was a "lady" by mobilizing women lower on the economic spectrum in its argument about the affordability of a club subscription. Mrs. D---- visits a widow and her two grown daughters, demonstrating to readers how to pitch a subscription to those who could not already afford it. Mrs. D---- convinces the Byers women to join the club by pointing out how often they use the Lady's Book's needlework patterns. She even goes so far as to negotiate on behalf of Mr. Grant, the storekeeper. While he imports lace collars from the city to sell in their town, Mrs. D---- argues to elder daughter Margaret Byers that he would surely sell collars that she made. Margaret warms to that idea and is confident that she could earn the cost of a subscription "ten times over in the year."77 The author explicitly connects women's labor, in this case that of the needlework, to earning enough wages in order to afford a discounted club subscription.

At the same time this story's encouragement of women's entrepreneur-ship and its conception of the magazine's readership imposed limits. It did not suggest that ladies cross socioeconomic or racial boundaries to canvass for subscribers among factory workers or black women. By setting the story in Borrowdale's parlors, the author allows for these events to take place in an Ohio town like Warren or in a bustling mill town such as Lowell, Massachusetts, or even a southern city like Charleston or New Orleans. Mrs. D---- approaches women in her social circle where she can comfortably call on them to make these sales. Even though she uses different tactics when talking to the widow Mrs. Byers and her daughter Margaret as well as links the magazine's affordability to work, it is still work that is done in the family's home. Mrs. D---- does not suggest the daughters find employment in a factory in order to pay for the magazine. Ultimately she does not step beyond her social circle, modeling how a potential agent might sell to a woman who is employed in full-time work. This approach, which pushed the boundaries of women's activities within their proper social sphere, is consistent with Hale's editorials and other publications that more explicitly [End Page 183] outline her vision of white domesticity. Literary scholar Amy Kaplan argues that Hale's "conception of domesticity takes on a decidedly racial cast" in the 1850s, particularly with her publication of the pro-colonization movement novel, Liberia. The campaigns against borrowing and for clubbing sought to increase the number of subscribers among middle-class people reticent to spend the money on a subscription; this marketing did not fundamentally expand the socioeconomic or racial boundaries of Godey's and Hale's envisioned audience.78

The sequel, "Borrowdale in a Flutter," follows the new club once their first issues arrive in town. The members emulate the strategy of those whose purported letters Godey published in "The Borrower's Department": they would refuse to let the townsfolk borrow their copies of the Lady's Book. This plan does, indeed, cause a flutter. But the result was a victory for the new club members as well as for Godey. Those who were initially shocked to find that they could not borrow resolved to form their own clubs, with twenty Borrowdale families subscribing to the magazine. It turns out that Mrs. Lee, the lawyer's wife, not only had the money for a subscription; she created a club herself.79

The shift from male intermediaries to an emphasis on subscription clubs has two broader implications for the history of the magazine and for ante-bellum gender norms. Antebellum print culture outlined white, middle-class women's ideal roles in the domestic sphere, caring for children and making pleasant homes for their husbands. Scholars often turn to the Lady's Book for evidence of that domestic ideal.80 Tracing Godey's marketing campaign demonstrates one way that the Lady's Book increasingly engaged those women in commercial transactions rather than framing an impervious domestic sphere. By the 1850s, Godey, Hale, and the Lady's Book sought to define white middle-class "ladies" not as passive mothers, frivolous spend-thrifts, or negligent borrowers but as intelligent, discerning consumers. Mrs. D---- sought likeminded readers in her social circle to purchase the magazine. She modeled how easy it was for others to "get up" clubs or to start up their own business ventures to sell needlework that simultaneously necessitated a subscription and paid for one. Her blunt, no-nonsense demeanor and willingness to march into her neighbors' homes to solicit subscriptions and collect money may have appeared extreme to more timid readers. The campaign against borrowers and the Borrowdale stories argued, however, that regardless of a woman's personality, being a good neighbor and respectable woman meant paying money for a worthwhile product. A woman who would not create a club on her own had no excuse for not joining one when a neighbor called on her. [End Page 184]

The net result of this campaign to turn borrowers into subscribers also reframed selling as an acceptable activity in which white, middle-class women could engage in their own domestic spaces. Male traveling agents and peddlers might have been looked at with some suspicion, but they had long been bringing commercial activity into the home. The con men Godey warned about in the 1840s showed there was some need for caution. Mrs. D---- and women who created clubs were fulfilling a role that male peddlers and Godey's own traveling agents had enacted for decades. The Borrowdale story went a step further by recognizing women as laborers who earned money and encouraging them to labor on behalf of the magazine.

In addition, women's increasing participation in the magazine's distribution demonstrates that Godey and Hale mobilized women in every step of the magazine's production and distribution. Hale not only wrote literary matter and editorials but cultivated her own network of female contributors. Many female hands also shaped the production of the Lady's Book: those who worked in T.K. and P.G. Collins' printing establishment which physically produced the magazine. Godey boasted in February 1851 that he employed "one hundred and fifty females in the coloring and binding departments alone." In the following year, he reported that twenty-five women worked alongside men in the magazine's pressroom. They fed paper into steam-powered presses and stitched together the letterpress and the engravings of each issue. And, as we have seen, by the 1850s, some women participated in the magazine's distribution by convincing neighbors of the worth of a subscription, gathering payments, and mailing in the names of club members.81

It is likely, then, that the magazine's phenomenal circulation in the 1850s was linked to the Lady's Book's promotion of women's participation in the market economy. Godey and Hale had created a strong identity for the magazine during its first two decades. Readers sought its contents, if not always their own subscription. The lower postal rates enacted by Congress in 1845 and the early 1850s helped to bring down the cost of a subscription, since subscribers needed to pay that cost separately. Godey's boasts of the Lady's Book's skyrocketing circulation, which peaked with his claim of 150,000 subscribers in the early 1860s, only occurred after attempts to convince Americans to deny their neighbors free enjoyment of a borrowed copy and demonstrating that selling club subscriptions was ladylike. The Lady's Book is often cited for advocating the ideology of separate spheres and middle-class women's exclusion from economic activities, but its remarkable success in the 1850s was directly related to those same women participating in commercial transactions. [End Page 185]

The Civil War halted both the increasing circulation and the low club rates. Godey continued to report numbers over 100,000 throughout the 1860s; however, he never bragged that he reached more than 150,000 subscribers.82 The war interfered with both his paper supply chain and ability to distribute magazines to subscribers in the newly-formed Confederacy. The club prices that had gone unchanged since the early 1850s fluctuated during the war because the price of paper increased.83 He set a new menu of rates in 1865 that he maintained until his retirement. Depending on the number of subscribers in a club, each individual's commitment increased anywhere from a quarter to more than sixty cents. The price for an individual subscription, however, remained $3 until Godey stepped down as publisher in 1877.84

More enduring than the Lady's Book's cheap bulk subscriptions was the idea of "lady agents" who sold publications and other goods. Godey was not the only businessman to see women as potential salespeople during the 1850s. Agency work became increasingly popular after the Civil War. Subscription book publishers employed women as independent contractors who visited homes, collected orders and payments, and often made deliveries. These companies often wanted educated women who could present themselves as refined ladies, although in reality many female agents were in precarious financial circumstances.85 The Lady's Book became a conduit for connecting employers to agents. Godey diversified the magazine's advertising in 1869 with the addition of a monthly "Godey's Lady's Book Advertiser" section, where readers found calls for "agents wanted" tucked among advertisements for seltzer, corsets, seeds, and other items. Their appearance among those appropriate for the Lady's Book reflected the increasing opportunities for, and implied a growing acceptance of, female agents for publications, sewing machines, and other items.86


The success of the Lady's Book was rooted in its popular content and Godey's and Hale's business and editing acumen, but this story cannot be told without the men and women who connected the production in Philadelphia with a readership across the Republic. First aided by periodical agents, newspaper editors, postmasters, and traveling agents who facilitated orders and moved money, the Lady's Book gained a wide following that extended beyond the mid-Atlantic. A decentralized network of agents eased the challenges posed by high postal rates and the logistics of accepting currency in the 1830s and 1840s. At the same time, con men posed as official representatives for the Lady's Book and other periodicals. [End Page 186]

Reconstructing these distribution networks and examining the adjustments that Godey made to his marketing strategies in the 1850s reveals that modes of selling the Lady's Book informed ideas of acceptable market transactions for white, middle-class women. During the decade that Godey bragged that the magazine's circulation increased to 150,000 monthly copies, the Lady's Book engaged in what twenty-first century Americans would recognize as a viral marketing campaign. He printed content critical of the widely-accepted practice of borrowing and praised the virtue of readers who paid for a subscription to reshape consumer behavior.

The reductions in postage rates played a key role in Godey's ability to shift from a network of male subscription agents to subscribers creating their own clubs. Content that instructed readers on how to become agents worked to merge an imagined community of Lady's Book readers with women's actual social networks. The Borrowdale stories in particular highlighted how white, middle-class women could and should ensure that their neighbors purchased their own subscriptions. The lower postal rates for magazines and the rhetoric against borrowing and for clubbing overlapped with Godey's boasts about skyrocketing circulation. Subscription clubbing fell out of fashion, but the core concept of turning women's social calls into sales gigs survives into the twenty-first century.

Amy Sopcak-Joseph

Amy Sopcak-Joseph completed a PhD in American history at the University of Connecticut and joined the faculty of Wilkes University as assistant professor of history in 2019. Her dissertation, "Fashioning American Women: Godey's Lady's Book, Female Consumers, and Periodical Publishing in the Nineteenth Century," brings together the histories of gender, print media, and the early American economy to trace how publisher Louis Godey deviated from his colleagues and increasingly treated women as eager participants in the market economy. She is a co-liaison from SHARP to the American Historical Association.


I would like to thank Catherine Thompson, Travis Ross, the attendees of a 2017 Five College Seminar in Book History (Amherst, MA), and the anonymous readers of Book History for their comments on earlier drafts of this material. This article was written with the financial support of the American Antiquarian Society, Library Company of Philadelphia, New England Regional Fellowship Consortium, Virginia Historical Society, and Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library.

1. J. A. Rockwell to Morgan Safford receipt, July 10, 1843, American Antiquarian Society, Newspaper and Periodical Receipts Collection, Box 3, Folder 18.

2. Benedict Anderson's term "imagined community" is rooted in the study of print culture, see his Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, rev. ed. (London: Verso, 2006).

3. Frank Luther Mott, A History of American Magazines, 1741–1930, Vol. 1: 1741–1850 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1930), 342. There were a dozen other periodicals from 1850 to 1865 that achieved circulation numbers over 100,000. More than half of these publications appeared weekly, including the New York Ledger, Gleason's Pictorial, Frank Leslie's Illustrated, Harper's Weekly, and New York Weekly. Peterson's Magazine, Godey's Lady's Book chief competitor among women's monthly periodicals, reportedly achieved circulations of 140,000 in 1869 and 165,000 in the 1870s. Frank Luther Mott, A History of American Magazines, 1741–1930, Vol. 2: 1850–1865 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1938), 10–11, 309.

4. "Lady's Book," Daily Chronicle, December 24, 1830, 3; "Editor's Table," Lady's Book, December 1837, 284; "American Ladies' National Magazine," Godey's Lady's Book, December 1841, unpaginated inside back wrapper; "Thirty Thousand Copies," Daily Atlas (Boston, MA), May 19, 1842, 4; "Our Dessert," Godey's Lady's Book, January 1845, 48; "Editorial Notices," Godey's Lady's Book, June 1849, 439; "We have no copies remaining…," Godey's Lady's Book, January 1850, 79; "Godey's Lady's Book for 1850," Godey's Lady's Book, April 1850, 296; "Godey's Arm-Chair," Godey's Lady's Book, November 1855, 471; "Godey's Arm-Chair," Godey's Lady's Book, February 1860, 183.

5. Scholarship on subscription publishing has focused on its use as a strategy in the book trade, though a synthetic history of that has not been written. Printers in colonial America and the new nation gathered subscriptions for a proposed work largely to estimate whether a project was financially viable. Signing up customers before a book was set in type, sometimes with a collection of payment but not always, allowed a businessman to reduce the chances that unsold copies would gather dust on his shelves. A 1943 Master's thesis by Marjorie Stafford remains a foundational study describing the general development of subscription publishing from its English roots through the early twentieth century emphasis on educational works like encyclopedias and the Harvard Classics. Marjorie Stafford, "Subscription Book Publishing in the United States, 1865–1930" (MLS thesis, University of Illinois, 1943). See also: Amy M. Thomas, "'There is Nothing So Effective as a Personal Canvass': Revaluing Nineteenth-Century American Subscription Books," Book History 1 (1998): 140–55; Michael B. Winship, "Charles Scribner's Sons as Subscription Publishers: The Canvass for Stanley's 'In Darkest Africa' in the Pacific Coast Agency," Princeton University Library Chronicle 71 (2009/10): 121–149; Janice Radway, A Feeling for Books: The Book- of-the-Month Club, Literary Taste, and Middle Class Desire (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997).

6. The scholarship on the distribution of periodicals has not developed as robustly as that on the books. The second and third volumes of A History of the Book in America reflect the state of the field: they each contain sections on distribution in the book trade while sections on periodicals primarily address authorship and editing, magazines as promotional vehicles by publishers, and the cultural work of these publications. Ronald J. Zboray and Mary Saracino Zboray provide general information about the intersection of book distribution and periodical distribution in their work. Scholars have paid particular attention to the cultural impact of newspapers in fomenting revolution and shaping the new republic. This work on the political and cultural influence of newspapers, however, is centered on men's experiences. "Periodical Press: Newspapers, Magazines, and Reviews," in An Extensive Republic: Print, Culture, and Society in the New Nation, 1790–1840, vol. 2, A History of the Book in America. eds., Robert A. Gross and Mary Kelley (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010), 389–421; "Periodicals and Serial Publication," in The Industrial Book, 1840–1880, vol. 3, A History of the Book in America. eds., Scott E. Casper, Jeffrey D. Groves, Stephen W. Nissenbaum, and Michael Winship (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007), 224–278; Ronald J. Zboray, A Fictive People: Antebellum Economic Development and the American Reading Public (New York: Oxford University Press), chs. 2 and 3; Ronald J. Zboray and Mary Saracino Zboray, Literary Dollars and Social Sense: A People's History of the Mass Market Book (New York: Routledge, 2005), ch. 4; Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities; Michael Warner, Letters of the Republic: Publication and the Public Sphere in Eighteenth-Century America (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992).

7. Gérard Genette's concept of "paratextuality" is foundational to my analysis of the Lady's Book. Genette describes the relationship between text and what he calls "paratext"—"those liminal devices and conventions, both within the book (peritext) and outside it (epitext), that mediate the book to the reader." Gérard Genette, Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation, trans. Jane E. Lewin (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997), xviii.

8. Studies of the history of women and gender attribute the Lady's Book's success to longtime editor Hale's acuity. While Hale's editorship championed the idealized middle-class womanhood, espousing domesticity was not new and cannot alone explain the sudden burst in circulation during the 1850s. For biographies of Sarah Hale, see Ruth E. Finley, The Lady of Godey's, Sarah Josepha Hale (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1931); Isabelle Webb Entrikin, Sarah Josepha Hale and Godey's Lady's Book (Philadelphia: Lancaster Press, Inc., 1946). For analysis of Godey's Lady's Book and Hale's editing and authorship, see Lawrence Martin, "The Genesis of Godey's Lady's Book," The New England Quarterly 1 (Jan. 1928), 41–70; William R. Taylor, Cavalier and Yankee: The Old South and American National Character (1957; repr., Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1979); Patricia Okker, Our Sister Editors: Sarah Josepha Hale and the Tradition of Nineteenth-Century American Women Editors (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1995).

9. Barbara Welter featured almost a dozen pieces of evidence from Godey's Lady's Book in her foundational study of nineteenth-century gender ideals. Scholars have since challenged the binary ideal of "separate spheres" for American men and women in the antebellum era. Linda Kerber's foundational 1988 article argues that scholars' understanding of the concept was shaped by a twentieth-century reprinting of Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America. Moreover, Leslie Howsam's 1998 call for more gender analysis of book history still resonates in the twenty-first century. This article seeks not only to insert women in the distribution history of the magazine, but also to argue that such activity shaped ideas about gender. See: Barbara Welter, "The Cult of True Womanhood, 1820–1860," American Quarterly 18 (Summer 1966), 152; Linda K. Kerber, "Separate Spheres, Female Worlds, Woman's Place: The Rhetoric of Women's History," The Journal of American History (June 1988): 159–99; Leslie Howsam, "In My View: Women and Book History," SHARP News 7, no. 4 (Autumn 1998): 1–2; Cathy N. Davidson, "Preface: No More Separate Spheres!," American Literature 70 (Sept., 1998): 443–463; Ellen Hartigan-O'Connor, "The Personal is Political Economy," Journal of the Early Republic 36 (Summer 2016): 335–341.

10. Mott, A History of American Magazines, Vol. 1, 342; Frank Luther Mott, A History of American Magazines, Vol. 4: 1885–1905 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1957), 3–7; Helen Damon-Moore, Magazines for the Millions: Gender and Commerce in the Ladies' Home Journal and the Saturday Evening Post, 1880–1910 (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994), 26–27; Christopher Clark, The Roots of Rural Capitalism: Western Massachusetts, 1780–1860 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990). For a comparison to subscription publishing in the book trade, Marjorie Stafford notes that subscribers were often requested to make a partial payment when they subscribed to a work. So while prepayment was not unheard of, customers were not expected to provide payment for a work sight unseen. See Stafford, "Subscription Book Publishing in the United States," 18.

11. Richard B. Kielbowicz, News in the Mail: The Press, Post Office, and Public Information, 1700–1860s (New York: Greenwood Press, 1989), 34; Richard R. John, Spreading the News: The American Postal System from Franklin to Morse (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995).

12. Kielbowicz, News in the Mail, 121–124.

13. Kielbowicz, News in the Mail, 122–123; "Reduction of Postage," Godey's Lady's Book, June 1845, unpaginated front and inside front wrappers; "Great Reduction of Postage," Godey's Lady's Book, May 1851, unpaginated inside back wrapper; "Congratulation to Our Subscribers," Godey's Lady's Book, June 1851, 395; "Postage According to New Law," Godey's Lady's Book, November 1852, unpaginated front wrapper.

14. "Norwich News Office," Norwich Courier, November 25, 1840, 3. Safford advertised that he would obtain domestic and imported periodicals, including quarterly reviews from Edinburgh and London; magazines including Hunt's Merchants', Blackwood's, Family's, Mother's, Sailor's, Parley's; medical journals including Johnson's Medical, American Medi- cal, Boston Medical, and Silliman's; Day's Bank Note Detector; high- and middle-brow literary magazines including the Knickerbocker, Bentley's Miscellany, The Metropolitan, and the Lady's Companion; and daily and weekly newspapers from Hartford, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. "News, News, From all parts of the World," Norwich Courier, February 10, 1841, 3. Periodical agents could be found up and down the eastern seaboard. Colman, Holden, & Co. of Portland, Maine, advertised that they were agents for more than two dozen periodicals. Bookstore owners such as William Stewart in Hagerstown, Maryland, advertised that they received the Lady's Book as well. Stewart alerted customers that he had sample issues "always on hand." "Periodicals," Eastern Argus, August 6, 1834, 3; "Periodicals—Wm. Stewart," Torch Light, June 19, 1834, 3; "Subscriber Names received," Torch Light, March 10, 1836, 4.

15. Zboray, A Fictive People, 29–34.

16. "Hunt's Merchant's Magazine," Norwich Courier, October 13, 1841, 2; "Hunt's Merchant's Magazine," Norwich Courier, January 12, 1842; "The Ladies' Companion," Norwich Courier, November 10, 1841, 3.

17. "Godey's Lady's Book," Norwich Courier, December 29, 1841, 3.

18. F. Pearson, Book of housekeeping, 1843, Winterthur Library.

19. "Just Received," North American, June 2, 1843, 3; "Keep Up the Steam!," Washington (PA) Reporter, April 29, 1843, 1. In Thomson and Brown's June 1843 advertisement of individual issues, they also offered Graham's, Miss Leslie's, World of Fashion, Saturday Museum, Saturday Courier, and the Weekly North American, in addition to the Lady's Book.

20. "Literary Rooms and Periodical Agency," Norfolk Advertiser, January 6, 1838, 3.

21. It is difficult to pinpoint precisely when Godey partnered with Israel Post because the evidence of this partnership is found on the magazine's wrappers. There are still chronological gaps in the series of wrappers that I have seen. The earliest reference to this partnership that I have found is on the front cover of the September 1838 issue. In 1843, the New York City periodical distributor for the magazine changed a number of times: Israel Post (February and April 1843 wrappers); Burgess & Stringer (July and August 1843 wrappers); and Graham & Christy (November 1843 wrapper), which soon became just William M. Christy (May and August 1844 wrappers). I have, however, located enough early and mid-1840s wrappers to know that Godey included his Boston and New York distributors in the colophon of issues they distributed. For example, the Library Company of Philadelphia has collected wrappers for nearly every month in 1843 and owns two individual copies of the November 1843 issue. One copy lists Godey as the publisher. The other copy lists Godey, followed by Graham and Christy in New York City. The difference indicates that those who acquired the Lady's Book through Graham and Christy, or from one of the agents who purchased stock from them, could trace their copy to a source in New York City.

22. "Agency in New York for Godey's Magazine and Lady's Book," Godey's Lady's Book, August 1844, unpaginated inside back wrapper. This kind of advertising on the Lady's Book's wrappers raises questions about whether it was paid for by Christy or whether Godey dedicated some space on the wrappers to Christy as payment for distributing the magazine in New York.

23. Weeks, Jordan, and Co. to Cyrus Farnham, n.d., Hooker Collection, Schlesinger Library.

24. "Editor's Table," Lady's Book, December 1837, 284; "Editor's Table," Lady's Book, January 1838, 48.

25. "Editor's Table," Lady's Book, July 1839, 46; "Editor's Table," Lady's Book, April 1840, 191.

26. John, Spreading the News, 112–113.

27. "Godey's Lady's Book! Literary and pictorial…," 1851, American Antiquarian Society; Jonathan Daniel Wells, The Origins of the Southern Middle Class, 1800–1861 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004), 53–54.

28. "New Vols. Lady's Book," Jordan & Company, 1840, American Antiquarian Society.

29. John, Spreading the News, 122–124.

30. John Kilbourne, The Ohio Gazetteer, or, A Topographical Dictionary, 11th ed. (Columbus, OH: Scott and Wright, 1833), 468.

31. Comfort Avery Adams letterbook, American Antiquarian Society.

32. Kielbowicz, News in the Mail, 40–41; John, Spreading the News, 123; David M. Henkin, The Postal Age: The Emergence of Modern Communications in Nineteenth-Century America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006), 19.

33. "Mail Receipts," Godey's Lady's Book, November 1844, unpaginated inside back wrapper.

34. Baskervill Family Manuscripts, Section 5, Folders 1 and 2, Virginia Museum of History and Culture.

35. The earliest Lady's Book wrapper that I have seen that includes traveling agents' names is from March 1840, and James is one of the six men listed. "Travelling Agents for the Book," Godey's Lady's Book, March 1840, unpaginated inside back wrapper; "Travelling Agents for the Book," Godey's Lady's Book, April 1840, unpaginated inside back wrapper; "Travelling Agents for the Book," Godey's Lady's Book, June 1841, unpaginated inside front wrapper.

36. For example, see: "Travelling Agents," Godey's Lady's Book, June 1843, unpaginated back wrapper; "Travelling Agents for the Lady's Book," Godey's Lady's Book, January 1846, unpaginated back wrapper; "Agents for the Lady's Book," Godey's Lady's Book, March 1851, unpaginated back wrapper.

37. "Agents for the Southern Literary Messenger," Southern Literary Messenger, January 1843, unpaginated inside back wrapper; "Traveling Agents," Graham's Magazine, May 1846, unpaginated back wrapper. The notice of the agents appears again in 1843 issues of Southern Literary Messenger in March (inside front wrapper), April (inside front wrapper), and December (inside back wrapper).

38. Walter A. Friedman, Birth of a Salesman: The Transformation of Selling in America (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004), ch. 1; David Jaffee, A New Nation of Goods: The Material Culture of Early America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010). Frank Lambert's study of eighteenth-century evangelical preacher George Whitefield links the tradition of peddling with religion, arguing that Whitefield capitalized on cheap print alongside his speaking tours. He was a skilled entrepreneur who used printed sermons, books, and newspapers to popularize his message. Frank Lambert, "Pedlar in Divinity": George Whitefield and the Transatlantic Revivals, 1737–1770 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994).

39. James N. Green, "The Rise of Book Publishing," in An Extensive Republic: Print, Culture, and Society in the New Nation, 1790–1840, vol. 2, A History of the Book in America. eds., Robert A. Gross and Mary Kelley (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010), 86–88; Rosalind Remer, Printers and Men of Capital: Philadelphia Book Publishers in the New Republic (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996), 125–132; David Paul Nord, Faith in Reading: Religious Publishing and the Birth of Mass Media in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004).

40. "Our agent, Mr. C. W. James…," Godey's Lady's Book, June 1845, unpaginated back wrapper; "Agencies," Godey's Lady's Book, April 1845, unpaginated back wrapper; "To Lady's Book Subscribers," Godey's Lady's Book, October 1849, unpaginated back wrapper. Another example of a warning to postmasters not to provide lists of subscribers to inquirers appeared on the unpaginated inside front wrapper of the November 1844 issue.

41. Baskervill Family Manuscripts, Section 5, Folders 1 and 2, Virginia Museum of History and Culture. An annual subscription to the Lady's Book was $3 if paid during the year but was $4 if payment was remitted the following year. James collected $7 from Sally Baskervill in October 1843 for her subscription for 1842 and 1843. He collected $9.50 in 1846, which covered 1844, 1845, and half of 1846. Thus Baskervill twice paid an extra dollar for subscription fees that were overdue, indicating that she only made her payments when he made his rounds.

42. For more on postage rates on letters, see John, Spreading the News, 159–161.

43. "Mail Receipts Notice," Godey's Lady's Book, July 1842, unpaginated inside back wrapper.

44. Jessica Lepler, The Many Panics of 1837: People, Politics, and the Creation of a Transatlantic Financial Crisis (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 15–16; Friedman, Birth of a Salesman, 27. An 1842 "Editors' Table" lamented that there is little hope of expanding the circulation of the Lady's Book until the western currency becomes more stable; see "Editors' Table," Godey's Lady's Book, August 1842, 107. Founding a printing business in 1809, Philadelphia entrepreneurs Jacob Johnson and Benjamin Warner opened a retail store in the city and employed traveling salesmen. Their practices were somewhat unusual in that they were willing to accept country produce as payment so that they could sell it for profit. How Godey's traveling agents worked on the ground remains obscure, but Johnson and Warner's tactics offer a precedent for receiving goods that could be sold for cash payment. See Remer, Printers and Men of Capital, 127, 133–134, 142–143.

45. "Travelling Agents," Godey's Lady's Book, November 1843, unpaginated inside back wrapper.

46. For more on the general suspicion of peddlers, see Friedman, Birth of a Salesman, ch. 1.

47. "Extracts from Letters," Godey's Lady's Book, March 1841, unpaginated inside front wrapper; "Travelling Agents for the Lady's Book," Godey's Lady's Book, May 1845, unpaginated back wrapper; Wendy A. Woloson, "Wishful Thinking: Retail Premiums in Mid-Nineteenth Century America," Enterprise & Society 13, no. 4 (Dec., 2012): 811. In her chapter on the business of subscribing to the Lady's Book, Elizabeth White Nelson argues that the traveling agents carried some kind of written authorization with them. Godey did indeed mention in passing in an August 1839 publisher's notice that agents "have a written commission to act as such." It is unclear here whether that commission was issued by Godey, or by his partners like Weeks, Jordan & Co. Godey eventually armed the traveling agents with certificates of authenticity—and advertised those certificates—but that practice did not begin until May 1845. See Nelson, Market Sentiments: Middle-Class Market Culture in Nineteenth-Century America (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Books, 2004), 69–72; "Editor's Table," Lady's Book, August 1839, 96.

48. Kielbowicz, News in the Mail, ch. 7.

49. Kielbowicz, News in the Mail, 131, 181; John, Spreading the News, 159–161; "Particular Notice to Subscribers," Godey's Lady's Book, March 1852, unpaginated back wrapper.

50. "Books and Stationary," Daily Alta California, October 5, 1850, 4. Thank you to Travis Ross for bringing my attention to advertisements for periodical agents in western newspapers.

51. Kielbowicz, News in the Mail, 141–155; John, Spreading the News, 32, 37; Ryan Cordell, "Reprinting, Circulation, and the Network Author in Antebellum Newspapers," American Literary History 27 (Fall 2015): 417–445. Godey twice undertook publishing a newspaper alongside the Lady's Book in order to take advantage of the ability to exchange papers postage-free; both ventures were short-lived. He published the Philadelphia Saturday News weekly from 1836 to 1838 with business partners Morton McMichael and Joseph C. Neal. He published the Lady's Dollar Newspaper semi-monthly from 1848 to 1850, and he explicitly directed his exchanges to address the newspaper: "We shall in future refuse papers addressed to the Lady's Book, as upon them we have to pay postage, and those addressed as we have requested are received free." "The Lady's Dollar Newspaper," Lady's Dollar Newspaper, February 15, 1848, 2.

52. "The Borrower's Department," Godey's Lady's Book, October 1854, 377. I surmise that Godey printed this plea to his exchange network on the wrappers of an 1853 issue, likely in June or July; I cannot confirm this directly because wrappers for those months have not surfaced. Items from newspapers reprinted in "The Borrower's Department" reference his request that exchanges not lend their copies. This request, however, does not appear in his "Godey's Arm-Chair" columns that year.

53. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England, 1650–1750 (New York: Vintage Books, 1980); Caroline Wigginton, In the Neighborhood: Women's Publication in Early America (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2016); Ellen Hartigan-O'Connor, The Ties that Buy: Women and Commerce in Revolutionary America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009); Clark, The Roots of Rural Capitalism.

54. Susanna Moodie, Roughing It In the Bush; or, Life in Canada (New York: G. P. Putnam, 1854), 54–80. The book was first published in England in 1852, and multiple British and American editions followed.

55. "The Borrower's Department," Godey's Lady's Book, August 1853, 186.

56. "Editor's Table," Godey's Lady's Book, July 1840, 46.

57. "The Borrower's Department," Godey's Lady's Book, September 1853, 282. "The Borrower's Department" first appeared in the July 1853 issue, on page 92. Its last appearance was in the February 1855 issue, though discussions of borrowing, exchanges, and clubbing continued to appear in the "Godey's Arm-Chair" column.

58. "The Borrower's Department," Godey's Lady's Book, February 1854, 184; "The Borrower's Department," Godey's Lady's Book, December 1853, 563. The "Borrowdale" stories cited below challenge the idea that lenders who refuse to comply are "unneighborly" as well.

59. "The Life and Adventures of a Number of Godey's Lady's Book," Godey's Lady's Book, November 1855, 425–427.

60. "The Life and Adventures of a Number of Godey's Lady's Book," 426. Literary scholar Leah Price analyzes this story among other "it-narratives," a nineteenth-century genre that tells the life story of an object from the object's perspective. She points out that women in this story are readers and men purchase the reading material. Within the broader context of Godey's campaign against borrowers and for subscription clubs, he stressed the economic decisions of women (to subscribe or ask for a subscription, to borrow or lend) regardless of who paid the subscription fee. See "From The History of a Book to a 'History of the Book,'" Representations 108 (Fall 2009), 120–138.

61. "The Borrower's Department," Godey's Lady's Book, April 1854, 377

62. "American Ladies' National Magazine," Godey's Lady's Book, December 1841, unpaginated prospectus pages at end of issue; "Editorial Notices," Godey's Lady's Book, June 1849, 439; "We have no copies remaining," Godey's Lady's Book, January 1850, 79.

63. Cynthia Lee Patterson, Art for the Middle Classes: America's Illustrated Magazines of the 1840s (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2010).

64. "Graham's Magazine for June," Charleston Courier, August 20, 1842, 4.

65. Mary M. Cronin, "Peterson's Magazine," in Women's Periodicals in the United States: Consumer Magazines, Kathleen L. Endres and Therese L. Lueck, eds., (Westport, CT: Green-wood Press, 1995), 270–274.

66. The Ladies' Repository, published from 1841 to 1876, was a Methodist-Episocopal publication from Cincinnati, OH. The Southern Ladies' Book was founded in 1840 in Macon, GA. Within two years, the title had changed twice, to Magnolia, or Southern Monthly and then Magnolia, or Southern Apalachian. With the name changes also came changes in its publisher, moving to Savannah, GA, and the Charleston, SC. The Southern Ladies' Companion was a Methodist periodical founded in 1847 in Nashville, TN. It was published until 1854. Paul E. Kostyu, "The Ladies' Repository," in Women's Periodicals in the United States: Consumer Magazines, Kathleen L. Endres and Therese L. Lueck, eds., (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1995), 180–191; David Spencer, "The Magnolia; or, Southern Apalachian," in in Women's Periodicals in the United States: Consumer Magazines, Kathleen L. Endres and Therese L. Lueck, eds., (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1995), 209–216; James L. Leloudis, II., "Subversion of the Feminine Ideal: The Southern Ladies' Companion and White Male Morality in the Antebellum South, 1847–1854," in Women in New Worlds, Rosemary Skinner Keller, Louise L, Queen, and Hilah F. Thomas, eds., (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1982), 2:60–75.

67. "Postage Reduced to 4 ½ Cents" and "The Pioneer Periodical of America," Godey's Lady's Book, June 1845, unpaginated inside front wrapper; "Godey's Lady's Book for 1850," Godey's Lady's Book, February 1850, 156. For more on the history of premiums and creating consumer desire, see Woloson, "Wishful Thinking," 790–831.

68. "A Suggestion," Godey's Lady's Book, June 1840, unpaginated inside front wrapper. The New York publisher of Mother's Magazine recognized the difficulties of paying a $1 annual fee, but argued, "To obviate the difficulty that may occasionally occur in remitting payments for one or two years, we repeat the suggestion that an addition be made for one, two, or three years in advance, so that a five dollar bill may constitute the remittance. When there may be but two or three subscribers in a place, it is presumed that a little effort, on the part of the friends of the Magazine will at once remove the difficulty referred to, and successfully extend the circulation of the Magazine." "To Subscribers," Mother's Magazine, January 1839, unpaginated inside front wrapper.

69. "Combination of Literary Talent," Lady's Book, December 1837, unpaginated back wrapper; "Novels. Godey's Uniform Edition," Lady's Book, July 1838, unpaginated inside back wrapper.

70. It appears that club subscriptions were distributed in bulk to the subscriber remitting the order until 1852. Many of the 1840s advertisements for the magazine are silent on the issue, but I surmise that many of these clubs were assembled by postmasters and local periodical agents. In 1851, Godey noted that it would be more convenient for everyone if one subscriber received the issues for a club. By January 1852, however, Godey reversed course and advertised that "Club subscribers will be sent to different towns." See: "Proud Triumph of Godey's Lady's Book," Godey's Lady's Book, March 1851, unpaginated leaf inside back wrapper; "Terms, Cash in Advance," Godey's Lady's Book, January 1852, 98.

71. "To Subscribers," Godey's Lady's Book, January 1849, 70.

72. "Godey's Arm-Chair," Godey's Lady's Book, November 1855, 471; "Godey's Arm-Chair," Godey's Lady's Book, December 1855, 564.

73. "To the Lady Subscribers of 'Godey,'" Godey's Lady's Book, November 1855, unpaginated insert at beginning of issue. Clubs that offered the best value needed to have nine or twelve subscribers. These were marketed as being clubs of eight or eleven plus an issue for the person creating the club; however, the price that Godey quotes, $1.67, was only attainable if the person creating the club also contributed payment rather than taking the issue for free and dividing the cost among the other club members.

74. Debby Downright, "Getting Up a Club in Borrowdale," Godey's Lady's Book, March 1856, 233. Barbara Welter argues that the Lady's Book was instrumental in promoting four "cardinal virtues" of the cult of domesticity, including submissiveness to husbands; see "The Cult of True Womanhood, 1820–1860."

75. Ibid., 234. See also: "The Borrower's Department," Godey's Lady's Book, August 1853, 186; "The Borrower's Department," Godey's Lady's Book, September 1854, 282.

76. Ibid., 234–235.

77. Ibid., 235.

78. Amy Kaplan, "Manifest Domesticity," American Literature 70 no 3 (Sept 1998), 592.

79. Debby Downright, "Borrowdale in a Flutter," Godey's Lady's Book, April 1856, 315–318.

80. Welter, "The Cult of True Womanhood, 1820–1860"; Okker, Our Sister Editors; Nancy Woloch, "Sarah Hale and the Ladies Magazine," in Women and the American Experience, 5th ed. (New York: McGraw Hill, 2011), 100–114.

81. "From the Periodical Archives: 'A Ramble Through the Mechanical Department of the 'Lady's Book,''" American Periodicals 16 (2006), 104, 112; Mott, History of American Magazines, 1:591. An 1855 illustration of the Harper & Brothers building in New York City showed women monitoring steam-powered presses, folding large printed sheets in preparation for assembling the texts, and sewing the folded sheets together. Godey's article does not detail all of these steps, but it is almost certain that women filled these roles in the Collins' establishment as well. Jacob Abbott, The Harper Establishment; or, How the Story Books Are Made (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1855), 41–50.

82. During the Civil War, Godey's editorials continued to claim that the magazine's circulation increased, but he rarely offered actual figures. In February 1864, for example, he claimed only that the increase in subscriptions was "unprecedented." In December of 1864 and 1865, he claimed producing editions of 150,000, although this is difficult to believe given the disruptions caused by the war. By 1869, an outside source reported the Lady's Book's circulation was 106,000. Louis A. Godey, "Godey's Arm-Chair," Godey's Lady's Book, February 1864, 205; Louis A. Godey, "Godey's Arm-Chair," Godey's Lady's Book, December 1864, 549; Louis A. Godey, "Godey's Arm-Chair," Godey's Lady's Book, December 1865, 541; George P. Rowell & Co., American Newspaper Directory (New York: George P. Rowell & Co., 1869), 100.

83. Godey announced in the January 1863 issue that club terms were changing starting in February, so there were a number of subscribers who had already subscribed at lower rates. He blamed the wildly fluctuating price of paper as the cause of changing the subscription fees for 1863. Directly after this announcement, he reprinted a tidbit from the Rockport Republic that many large daily newspapers in New York also increased their prices because of the cost of paper. "Godey's Arm-Chair," Godey's Lady's Book, January 1863, 98.

84. "The Terms of the Lady's Book for 1865…," Godey's Lady's Book, January 1865, 100. The Godey's Lady's Book Publishing Company, which took over after Louis Godey retired in 1877, immediately reduced the price of a single, one-year subscription to $2 and adjusted club prices accordingly.

85. Natalie Marine-Street, "'Agents Wanted': Sales, Gender, and the Making of Consumer Markets in American, 1830–1930" (PhD diss., Stanford University, 2016), ch. 1.

86. "Godey's Lady's Book Advertiser," Godey's Lady's Book, December 1870, 574. Eight of the nineteen advertisements on this page of the December 1870 "Advertiser" sought agents. The "Godey's Lady's Book Advertiser" section began appearing in 1869. Advertising pioneer William J. Carlton began advertising that his firm accepted advertisements for the Lady's Book in the January 1870 issue.

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