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Chapter VI. "McClure's Is Edited with Clairvoyance" FROM ITS first issue in May, 1893, McClure's was as poised as a weather cock for the advent of the future. From then until its famous muckraking issue a decade later, in Jan­ uary, 1903, McClure's deviated very little from its an­ nounced plan to present "articles of timely interest," which included "the newest book, the latest important political event, the most recent discovery or invention—in fact, what is newest or most important in every department of human activity."1 "I will have," McClure correctly prophesied, "History, Politics, Finance, Invention, Education, National Health, Science, etc. etc. treated say one topic a month by great thinkers."2 While the content was intended to be encyclopaedic, McClure's editorial purpose was confused. "As a matter of fact," McClure told a baffled reporter, "I don't think of my readers at all. The original, the dis­ tinctive aim, is much broader and higher."3 Yet shortly he insisted, "I edit McClure's for its readers. . . ."4 The edi­ torial staff was told that McClure's was "performing a cer­ tain mission," but that it did not exist "for the sake of doing good or furthering a cause. . . ."5 Thus the editorial policy was, and is, confusing to map out for these years. One news­ paper insisted that McClure's was edited by instinct, per­ haps even by "clairvoyance," as much as by design.6 McClure admitted as much; "in editing McClure's Magazine, I do the thing that is really in me, precisely as a painter 1 McClure's, I (June, 1893), 96. 2 McClure to Hattie McClure, Jan. 10, 1893, McClure Papers. 3 Profitable Advertising (Oct. ig, 1897), 140, 142. * Ibid. B MeClure1 Staff speech, fall, 1904, McClure Papers. β Cleveland Plain Dealer, Jan. ?, 1903, clipping in ibid. " E D I T E D W I T H C L A I R V O Y A N C E " does. . . ."7 At other times McClure spoke of the need to be interesting, to achieve an unconscious unity of materials, to popularize the more optimistic tendencies of "the world's progress."8 This is probably as close as one can come to dis­ covering any metaphysical purpose behind the multicolored monthly that came out of the 25th Street factory. Most of the fifteen hundred articles published during the first decade sprang from McClure's creativity. Years later, as if they had been children, he could name them and recall the history of each. Whenever McClure's published Civil War memoirs, portraits of famous Americans, a study of the latest scientific discovery with hints of its future applicabil­ ity, or episodes in the industrial struggle, the articles re­ flected the mind and interests of McClure and conformed to his intuitive genie. And so the contents are pluralistic, each article shaped by a different set of hands, by different circumstances. Until 1898 the magazine operated relatively free of any ideological matrix, except that it carried articles pointed towards special groups such as women, workers, and children. In other words, in content it strongly resembled the syndicate from which it got much of its material. The Spanish-American War was a shock which perceptibly turned the contents of the magazine towards current events and, finally, political reform. Before an analysis of the types of articles which the mag­ azine carried, it might be well to see the editorial method at work. When not loping across his giant bailiwick sniffing for a story at court trials, conventions and exhibitions, and homes of famous authors, McClure scanned the newspapers and periodicals, collecting clippings on topics that inter­ ested him. The London and New York offices both collected leading daily papers for him, and frequently staff mem­ bers sent him clippings from their travels. All of the lead­ ing newspapers, along with the North American Review, Forum, Harper's, Cosmopolitan, Century, Review of Re1 McClure, Staff speech, fall, 1904, ibid. 8 Profitable Advertising (Oct. 15, 1897), 140. " E D I T E D W I T H C L A I R V O Y A N C E " views, and Munsey's, composed his literary diet. From these McClure gleaned leads. He and Phillips usually se­ lected some clippings for the staff to work into articles. A characteristic letter which shows this procedure was written by McClure to the home office while vacationing in Beuzeval, France, in 1897. First, there was a clipping about an exciting railway...


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