Robert Merry’s Museum began its 32-year career as a magazine in 1841 with two statements of intent. The “Address to the Reader” on the first page of the magazine introduced its guiding spirit, “Robert Merry,” who invited subscriptions from “all those young people who have black eyes, and all those who have not black eyes!” The prospectus on the back cover more soberly explained the magazine’s purpose to the adults who likely would be paying for the work, assuring them that the magazine would provide a broad education—intellectual, social, and moral. It likely appeared elsewhere as an advertisement for the magazine before being printed here.

Appropriately, “Uncle Robert” ’s warm greeting would be the one retained when issues of the magazine were bound for readers to keep. The unique relationship between editor and reader soon became the heart of the magazine. The prospectus would be discarded with the covers—unfortunately for researchers, for here is the first round in the question of whether or not Samuel Griswold Goodrich was sole founder of the magazine. The language here hints that publishers Bradbury & Soden may have considered themselves the Museum’s founders; they followed it up in the November 1842 issue by explaining that “[t]he choice of an editor was a matter involving much responsibility, and in securing the services of the author of the long to be remembered ‘Peter Parley’s Tales,’ in that department, they felt that his well-established reputation, as a writer for youth, would fully satisfy the most fastidious parent, teacher or guardian.” Goodrich, though, explained in his 1856 Recollections of a Lifetime that the magazine was “was begun and established by me.” (vol 2: 543)

Most likely, the magazine was what Dorothy Dechert calls “a composite affair.” (“The Merry Family: A Study of Merry’s Museum, 1841-1872, and of the Various Periodicals that Merged with It.” MA thesis. Columbia University, 1942; p. 136.) Goodrich—having given up claim to Parley’s Magazine and having “killed off” the character of “Peter Parley” in the book Peter Parley’s Farewell—created “Robert Merry” and published Robert Merry’s Miscellany in 1839. He and Bradbury & Soden may have started the magazine together, recycling most of the material in the Miscellany. (Meanwhile, Samuel Colman, who published the Miscellany, published Robert Merry’s Annual for All Seasons, which doesn’t contain work by Goodrich. Goodrich sued him in 1841, but unfortunately for researchers, they appear to have settled out of court.)
“Prospectus of Robert Merry’s Museum” (from Robert Merry’s Museum, February 1841; back cover [cover page 4])

The subscribers have made arrangements to publish a Magazine for the Family Circle, and especially the younger portion of it, under the above title. The design of the work is to do good; to aid in the formation of character; to establish good principles; to cultivate right feelings; to furnish innocent amusement; to promote correct habits of thought and sentiment. Nor is the plan confined to these limits: it is the purpose of the Editor to make the work useful in storing the mind with knowledge; in teaching the rules of behavior, and in pointing out the highways and by-ways to success in life. In such a design, the religious and moral duties will not be overlooked.

To carry out the plan, it is deemed essential that the work should be interesting—that it should be a favorite with those for whose benefit it is designed. Accordingly, it will embrace a great variety of topics—as History, Geography, Geology, Natural History, Travels, Biography, &c. It will be enlivened with Tales, Sketches, Adventures, Incidents, Narratives, Anecdotes, Fables, and Allegories—nor will Poetry or Music be forgotten. Every available means of rendering the work useful, lively, and entertaining will be resorted to, and numerous embellishments and illustrations will be inserted.

As a specimen of the work will be offered to the public in the first number, it is needless to say more than that ample arrangements are made to bring out the work with punctuality, and in the best mechanical style. The editorial charge of it is to be committed to the Author of Peter Parley’s Tales, whose reputation is a sufficient pledge to the public that the present undertaking will be conducted in a manner to claim a share of patronage, especially at the hands of parents, teachers, guardians, and all who feel interested in the young.

One number of the work will appear on the first day of each month, containing 32 pages royal 8vo; the price to subscribers being One dollar and fifty cents, payable in advance. Any person remitting five dollars, post paid, shall receive four copies. The first number will appear on the first of February.

Office, No. 10 School Street, Boston. hand pointing right Any aid given to the work by Post-Masters, Teachers, and Friends of Youth, will be thankfully received.

January, 1841.      BRADBURY & SODEN.


William K. Vaill is our duly authorized agent for New York City and vicinity, and authorized to appoint sub-agents for his district. Joseph H. Waitt and Wesley Whitcomb are travelling agents. All who subscribe to the above persons may rest assured they will receive the work promptly.

Boston, February 1, 1841.      BRADBURY & SODEN.

hand pointing right Wanted, a number of intelligent and respectable Agents, to procure subscribers to the above work. Apply at No. 10 School Street, Boston.

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