NINETEENTH-CENTURY AMERICAN CHILDREN & WHAT THEY READ:
Some of Their Magazines
Over 380 periodicals for children were founded in the U. S. before 1873. Learn more about them at “American Children’s Periodicals, 1789-1872,” an ever-growing descriptive bibliography.
Works on pre-1873 American children’s periodicals are listed or transcribed in a separate bibliography.
Puzzles appeared in most nineteenth-century American magazines for children. The Puzzle Drawer is a selection of puzzles printed in Woodworth’s Youth’s Cabinet and Robert Merry’s Museum. They range from the easy to one designed to be impossible. Try your wits! (And your patience!)
While most periodicals are simply intended for the young, the Juvenile Gazette also was produced by someone young: 15-year-old Oliver Kendall, jr, of Providence, Rhode Island. The weekly paper’s slogan—“Much in a Little”—was appropriate. At four tiny pages, it was a brief read. Each unillustrated issue was jammed with text: jokes, stories, moral pieces, town news, marriage and death notices. Readers also got to enjoy some creative spelling and proofreading. A bargain at 25 cents per year!
Though the periodical ran for a year, I have copies only of the first six months; selections will come from issues 1-26.
In a brief address to the readers (24 November 1827), the editor thanked those who helped him, described the purpose of the periodical, and gave clear instructions for subscribing.
Marriage and death notices appeared almost every week.
“Remarks on Children’s Play” (1828) was a running series that discussed the moral and health implications of various games children played in the 1820s. (Kite flying was fun, but illegal.) Oliver seems to have been fond of ice skating: while he warns of the dangers of swinging, of marbles, and of blind man’s buff, he waxes only lyrical about skaters moving “like the bird sailing through the air with wings unmoved.”
Emphasizing education, the Juvenile Rambler was a weekly compilation of bits of biography, snippets of natural history, brief stories, odd facts, and the occasional stock illustration. Though one school apparently took 30 copies, the periodical never really prospered.
One of a handful of secular children’s periodicals published in the South before the Civil War, the Rose Bud was one of the few edited by a woman: Caroline Gilman, a popular contributor to works for children published in the North and the South. Originally intended for children, after two years it became a family paper with a section for young readers.
In the 1830s, Cincinnati, Ohio, was one of the major culture centers west of the Appalachian Mountains. It also was a raw-boned frontier town. Both elements are reflected in Youth’s Magazine.
The magazine included pieces both edifying and uplifting, on natural history, religion, ancient times, and temperance—or any subject which could be wrapped around its small stock of stock illustrations. Authors printed (or, more likely, reprinted) include Lydia Sigourney, Caroline Gilman, and the many unnamed writers of a plethora of newspapers and magazines scissored into a biweekly magazine. The few illustrations apparently available to the editor were used often and creatively. Thus, a three-part piece on Niagara Falls is accompanied in each issue by the same space-devouring illustration of the Falls. A family who in April 1837 are pictured “Reading the Youth’s Magazine” are in June 1837 discussing “The Literary History of the Bible” and in July 1837 provide an example of the correct formation of “Early Habits.”
“The Aurora Borealis” (April 14, 1837), by “Francis,” describes magnificent auroras in 1835 and 1837.
“Interview of the Blind with the Deaf and Dumb” (April 14, 1837), reprinted from an Ohio paper, gives glimpses of the education of deaf and of blind children in the 1830s.
“Reading for Young Ladies” (July 7, 1837) adds a twist to the usual advice on reading.
“Do Your Duty to Your Brothers and Sisters” (July 7, 1837), by Lydia Sigourney, exhorts readers to treat their siblings well, using the example of two deaf sisters.
“War and Glory” (July 7, 1837), by Samuel Johnson, is a satiric explanation of the real beneficiary of war’s largesse.
“The Beautiful Slave” (September 1837), reprinted from the New York Sun, has all the elements of melodrama.
“The Noble Negro” (September 1837), by Hannah More, gives an example of self-sacrifice.
“Exemplary” (October 1837), reprinted from the New Bedford Gazette, extolls the African-American sailors of the Rising States, for their temperance and their obedience to duty.