The Business of Robert Merry's Museum

The Museum's office | A notice to resubscribe | A receipt | Some advertisements

Business records for Robert Merry’s Museum aren’t readily available; the offices suffered at least two major fires during the magazine’s history, and I haven’t located any records relating to its merger with Youth’s Companion. Occasionally, however, bits and pieces about the business end do surface. Some appear here.

The Museum’s office (?)

illus of the office In 1842, the publishers pictured the Museum’s office on the magazine’s back cover—well, perhaps they did. In 1842, the magazine actually had two offices: in Boston, Massachusetts, and in New York City. Which building this illustration supposedly represented isn’t apparent. It’s probably a generic scene with the signs added. But you can see that the publishers, Bradbury & Soden, published a number of magazines other than the Museum. (And, with those upright figures in front of an impossibly tall building, it’s a charming illustration.)

Resubscribe notice, 1842

resubscribe notice Subscribers in 1842 found a notice to resubscribe pinned to a page of the December issue which was meant to be used as a title page when they had the issues bound. (As an enticement, they received as frontispiece an illustration from a story which would appear in the January 1843 issue.) This scrap of paper gives us a look not only at an early American straight pin (its slightly rusted head has slipped down a bit from the end, but the pin part is still very shiny, and extremely sharp), but at magazine subscribing in the early 1840s, when editors sent the magazine to the subscriber unless they received notice that the subscriber was discontinuing. This practice could be expensive, since editors sometimes carried subscribers for years and still had to pay the expenses of publishing the magazine, even though they hadn’t received subscription money. Thus, subscribers who paid in advance received a 50% discount—a practice carried on in the Museum for many years. The notice also gives us a glimpse of early postal practices: a letter’s sender didn’t necessarily pay the postage. The editors of the Museum often reminded readers to pay the postage, or the letters would stay at the post office.

[Text of the notice:]

Important Notice

To our Patrons.

We wish our subscribers distinctly to notice that this number closes the year. We shall continue to send the MUSEUM to all our old subscribers for the coming year, unless they give us notice of a wish to discontinue, free of postage, (as letters on which the postage is unpaid are not taken from the office,) before the first of January, 1843.—The terms of the Museum are one Dollar if paid in advance, according to the terms on the first page of the cover.—Where payment is delayed we shall invariably charge one Dollar and fifty cents, from which there will be no abatement. Will our subscribers please notice this, and act accordingly.

Returned numbers meet with no attention. A written notice franked by the Post Master will secure instant attention.


Boston, Nov. 25th, 1842.

Paying for the Museum in 1844


After Mr. E. Ames paid for the 1844-1845 year of Merry’s Museum, the receipt was carefully folded and tucked away to surface about 160 years later. Mr. Ames was thoughtful enough to pay in advance, which not all subscribers were careful to do. Since magazine publishers often sent issues even if payment hadn’t been received, collecting subscription money from forgetful subscribers was a major chore for publishers. As a result, for a long time the Museum had two prices: $1 per year for those who paid in advance, and $1.50 for those who paid later. There were a few subscribers, however, who bartered for issues: H. P. I.’s mother sent poems which paid for the magazine in 1849 (the family had relocated in Michigan, where cash was hard to come by); Susan H. Johnson received the magazine for six months in payment for her long letter in 1848 (her father was a Presbyterian minister with five children and little money for extras).

The receipt served as a little advertisement for Bradbury, Soden & Company, who published several periodicals in 1844.

[Text of the receipt:]

Publication Office of Merry’s Museum and the Law Reporter,
No. 10, School Street, BOSTON.

[text in panel on left]

10 School Street, Boston,

ROBERT MERRY’S MUSEUM; a Monthly Magazine for Youth, Edited by S. G. Goodrich, author of Peter Parley’s Tales. Terms, if paid in advance, … $1 00

THE LAW REPORTER; Edited by P. W. Chandler, Esq., of the Suffolk Bar, … $3 00

pointing hand The above Magazines are mailed to subscribers in all parts of the United States and Canada on the first of each month.

pointing hand B., S. & Co. are also agents for all periodicals issued in this country.

pointing hand Entirely devoted to the periodical business, B., S. & Co. guaranty that all persons subscribing at their office, or through their agents, for any Magazine or Periodical, may insure themselves of the early and prompt reception of their numbers as soon as published.

pointing hand All Subscriptions to be paid in advance.

pointing hand All persons to whom we send bills by mail, are respectfully requested to hand the amount due to their Postmaster, who is authorized to remit to us.

[text in panel on right:]

M [handwritten]r E. Ames


For the MERRY’S MUSEUM,} $1.00.
from January, 1844, to January 1845.}

Received Payment, for Bradbury Soden & Co.

Boston, [handwritten] Jan 2 1844. [handwritten] Wm Guild

Advertising the Museum

The Museum was advertised in several magazines (see the bibliography of works on the Museum for other examples):

In 1842, Brother Jonathan was one arena in which Samuel Goodrich expressed his outrage at the editors of Parley’s Magazine, even as he advertised the magazine he now edited.

In 1865, the Youth’s Companion proved that in 19th-century America it wasn’t unusual for one children’s magazine to advertise a rival.

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