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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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November 2004 issue
Editor James Marcus
President John R. MacArthur
Categories Art, culture, literature
Frequency Monthly
Total circulation
(December 2015)
First issue June 1850; 167 years ago (1850-06) (as Harper's New Monthly Magazine)
Company Harper's Magazine Foundation
Country United States
Based in 666 Broadway
New York City, New York, U.S.
Language English
ISSN 0017-789X

Harper's Magazine (also called Harper's) is a monthly magazine of literature, politics, culture, finance, and the arts. Launched in June 1850, it is the second-oldest continuously published monthly magazine in the U.S. (Scientific American is the oldest, but did not become monthly until 1921). The current editor is James Marcus, who replaced Christopher Cox in March 2016. Harper's Magazine has won twenty National Magazine Awards.[2]


Harper & Brothers founders Fletcher, James, John and Joseph Wesley Harper (1860)
An issue of Harper's from 1905

Harper's Magazine began as Harper's New Monthly Magazine in June 1850, by the New York City publisher Harper & Brothers. The company also founded the magazines Harper's Weekly and Harper's Bazaar, and grew to become HarperCollins Publishing. The first press run of Harper's Magazine—7,500 copies—sold out almost immediately. Circulation was some 50,000 issues six months later.[3]

The early issues reprinted material pirated from English authors such as Charles Dickens, William Makepeace Thackeray, and the Brontë sisters.[4] The magazine soon was publishing the work of American artists and writers, and in time commentary by the likes of Winston Churchill and Woodrow Wilson. Portions of Herman Melville's novel Moby Dick were first published in the October 1851 issue of Harper's under the title, "The Town-Ho's Story" (titled after Chapter 54 of Moby Dick).[5]

In 1962, Harper & Brothers merged with Row, Peterson & Company, becoming Harper & Row (now HarperCollins). In 1965, the magazine was separately incorporated, and became a division of the Minneapolis Star and Tribune Company, owned by the Cowles Media Company.

In the 1970s, Harper's Magazine published Seymour Hersh's reporting of the My Lai Massacre by United States forces in Vietnam. In 1971 editor Willie Morris resigned under pressure from owner John Cowles, Jr., prompting resignations from many of the magazine’s star contributors and staffers, including Norman Mailer, David Halberstam, Robert Kotlowitz, Marshall Frady and Larry L. King:

"Morris’s departure jolted the literary world. Mailer, William Styron, Gay Talese, Bill Moyers, and Tom Wicker declared that they would boycott Harper’s as long as the Cowles family owned it, and the four staff writers hired by Morris—Frady among them—resigned in solidarity with him.”

Robert Shnayerson, a senior editor at Time magazine, was hired to replace Morris as Harper's ninth editor, serving in that position from 1971 until 1976.[7][8]

Lewis H. Lapham served as managing editor from 1976 until 1981; he returned to the position again from 1983 until 2006. On June 17, 1980, the Star Tribune announced it would cease publishing Harper's Magazine after the August 1980 issue. But, on July 9, 1980, John R. MacArthur (who goes by the name Rick) and his father, Roderick, obtained pledges from the directorial boards of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Atlantic Richfield Company, and CEO Robert Orville Anderson to amass the $1.5 million needed to establish the Harper's Magazine Foundation. It now publishes the magazine.[9][10][11]

In 1984, Lapham and MacArthur—now publisher and president of the foundation—along with new executive editor Michael Pollan, redesigned Harper's and introduced the "Harper's Index" (statistics arranged for thoughtful effect), "Readings", and the "Annotation" departments to complement its fiction, essays, reportage, and reviews. As of the March 2011 issue, contributing editor Zadie Smith, a noted British author, writes the print edition's New Books column.

Under the Lapham-MacArthur leadership, Harper's Magazine continued publishing literary fiction by John Updike, George Saunders, and others. Politically, Harper's was an especially vocal critic of U.S. domestic and foreign policies. Editor Lapham's monthly "Notebook" columns have lambasted the Clinton and the George W. Bush administrations. Since 2003, the magazine has concentrated on reportage about U.S. war in Iraq, with long articles about the battle for Fallujah, and the cronyism of the American reconstruction of Iraq. Other reporting has covered abortion issues, cloning, and global warming.[12]

In 2007, Harper's added the No Comment blog, by attorney Scott Horton, about legal controversies, Central Asian politics, and German studies. In April 2006, Harper's began publishing the Washington Babylon blog on its website,[13] written by Washington Editor Ken Silverstein about American politics; and in 2008, Harper's added the "Sentences" blog, by contributing editor Wyatt Mason, about literature and belles lettres. Since that time these two blogs have ceased publication. Another website feature, composed by a rotating set of authors, is the Weekly Review, single-sentence summaries of political, scientific, and bizarre news; like the Harper's Index and "Findings" in the print edition of the magazine, the Weekly Review items are arranged for ironic contrast.


Editor Lewis H. Lapham was criticized for his reportage of the 2004 Republican National Convention, which had yet to occur, in his essay "Tentacles of Rage: The Republican Propaganda Mill, a Brief History," published in the September 2004 issue which implied that he had attended the convention. He apologized in a note.[14][15] Lapham left shortly thereafter and launched Lapham's Quarterly.

The August 2004 issue contained a photo essay by noted photojournalist Peter Turnley, who had been hired to do a series of photo essays for the magazine. The eight-page spread in August 2004 showed images of death, grieving and funerals from both sides of the U.S. war in Afghanistan. On the U.S. side, Turnley visited the funeral of an Oklahoma National Guard member, Spc. Kyle Brinlee, 21, who was killed when his vehicle ran over an improvised explosive device (IED) in Afghanistan. During his funeral, Turnley shot the open casket as it lay in the back of the auditorium and this photo was used in the photo essay. Consequently, the family sued the magazine in federal court. The case ended in 2007 when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ruling of the Tenth Circuit that the magazine had not violated the privacy rights of the family.[16]

The March 2006 issue contained Celia Farber's article, "Out of Control: AIDS and the Corruption of Medical Science," presenting Peter Duesberg's theory that HIV does not cause AIDS.[17][18] It was strongly criticized by AIDS activists,[19] scientists and physicians,[20] the Columbia Journalism Review,[21] and others as inaccurate and promoting a scientifically discredited theory.[22] The Treatment Action Campaign, a South African organization working for greater popular access to HIV treatments, posted a response by eight researchers documenting more than fifty errors in the article.[23]

The abrupt firing of the magazine's well-liked editor, Roger Hodge, by publisher John R. MacArthur, on January 25, 2010, was met with widespread and well-publicized criticism among the magazine's subscribers and staffers alike.[24][25][26] MacArthur initially claimed Hodge was stepping down for "personal reasons," but later disclosed that he fired Hodge.[27] In January 2016, MacArthur fired Christopher Cox, who had been named editor in October 2015.[28] According to Gawker, "Cox’s termination was reportedly opposed by the magazine’s entire staff, none of whom were consulted about MacArthur’s decision."[29]

Notable contributors[edit]


Posters by Edward Penfield

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "eCirc for Consumer Magazines". Alliance for Audited Media. December 31, 2015. Retrieved April 8, 2016. 
  2. ^ "Awards and Honors" (PDF). Retrieved 29 December 2014. 
  3. ^ "History of Harper's" (PDF). Retrieved 29 December 2014. 
  4. ^ "Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. History: Publishing Industry". Retrieved 2013-02-13. 
  5. ^ "JiffyNotes: Moby Dick: Summary: Chapters 51 - 55". Retrieved 29 December 2014. 
  6. ^ Scott, Sherman (Nov–Dec 2007). "The Unvanquished". Retrieved 2012-05-16. 
  7. ^ ""The Press: New Head at Harper's," ''TIME'' magazine, June 28, 1971". Retrieved 2012-05-16. 
  8. ^ "''Harper's Magazine,'' "About This Issue," September 1971". Retrieved 2012-05-16. 
  9. ^ Facts on File 1980 Yearbook, pp.501, 582
  10. ^ Woo, Elaine (2007-12-05). "Arco founder led firm into major civic philanthropy". Los Angeles Times. p. B6. 
  11. ^ "NY Times Makes Harper's Publisher Look Ineffective". 1 February 2010. Retrieved 29 December 2014. 
  12. ^ An American Album: One Hundred and Fifty Years of Harper's Magazine, a 712-page illustrated anthology, with an introduction by Lewis H. Lapham and a foreword by Arthur Schlesinger Jr.
  13. ^ Archived April 24, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  14. ^ Shafer, Jack. "Lewis Lapham Phones It In: Figuring out what's wrong with Harper's magazine." Slate 15 September 2004.
  15. ^ Lapham, Lewis H. "Tentacles of rage: The Republican propaganda mill, a brief history." Harper's September 2004. pp. 43–53.
  16. ^ Reporter's Committee for Freedom of the Press, Dismissal upheld in magazine's open-casket photo case, March 28, 2007.
  17. ^ Farber, Celia (2006-03-01). Out Of Control, AIDS and the corruption of medical science. Harper's Magazine. Retrieved 2006-03-13. 
  18. ^ Miller, Lia (2006-03-13). An Article in Harper's Ignites a Controversy Over H.I.V. The New York Times. Retrieved 2006-03-13. 
  19. ^ Farber Feedback. POZ Magazine. Retrieved 2006-03-13. 
  20. ^ Letters from scientists and physicians criticizing Harper's for poor fact-checking of Celia Farber's article on AIDS. Accessed 21 Oct 2006. Archived August 12, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  21. ^ Harper's Races Right over the Edge of a Cliff, by Gal Beckerman. Published in the Columbia Journalism Review on March 8, 2006. Accessed June 14, 2007.
  22. ^ Kim, Richard (2006-03-02). Harper's Publishes AIDS Denialist. Retrieved 2006-03-13. 
  23. ^ Gallo, Robert; Nathan Geffen; Gregg Gonsalves; Richard Jeffreys; Daniel R. Kuritzkes; Bruce Mirken; John P. Moore; Jeffrey T. Safrit (2006-03-04). Errors in Celia Farber's March 2006 article in Harper's Magazine (PDF). Treatment Action Campaign. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-06-16. Retrieved 2006-03-13. 
  24. ^ Clifford, Stephanie (2010-01-31). "Editorial Shake-Up as Harper's Tries to Stabilize in a Downturn". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 December 2014. 
  25. ^ "Harper's Publisher Backlash Grows After Firing Beloved Editor". 3 February 2010. Retrieved 29 December 2014. 
  26. ^ John Koblin. "Listening in on the Harper's Meltdown". New York Observer. Retrieved 29 December 2014. 
  27. ^ Clifford, Stephanie (2010-01-26). "Update: Harper's Magazine Editor Hodge Fired; Didn't Quit". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 December 2014. 
  28. ^ Alexandra Alter. "Harper's Magazine Publisher Fires Christopher Cox as Editor". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 May 2016. 
  29. ^ "Harper's Editor-in-Chief Christopher Cox Suddenly Fired After Editing Only Three Issues". Gawker. 2 February 2016. Archived from the original on 20 May 2016. Retrieved 18 May 2016. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Thomas Lilly, "The National Archive: Harper's New Monthly Magazine and the Civic Responsibilities of a Commercial Literary Periodical, 1850—1853," American Periodicals, vol. 15, no. 2 (2005), pp. 142–162. In JSTOR

External links[edit]


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