What happens when you get Emerson, Longfellow, Lowell, and Holmes together for a meeting of the Saturday Club at the Parker House? Why, they create a magazine called The Atlantic Monthly, of course! According to Susan Wilson in her book Literary Trail of Greater Boston, “Between 1857 and 1890, a major landfill project eliminated the old tidal flats, and the new real estate soon boasted fine homes and a vareity of cultural institutions. One was the seminal Atlantic Monthly, which made its headquarters at 8 Arlington, on the corner of Arlington and Marlborough streets. … …the Atlantic began as a progressive Brahmin literary showcase, a self-proclaimed ‘journal of literature, politics, science, and the arts.’ Its first editors included James Russell Lowell (1857-1861), James T. Fields (1861-1871), and William Dean Howells (1871-1881). … In 1989, the Atlantic moved to Boylston Street, then to its current home, 77 North Washington.” It was also published by our favorite Boston historical publishers Ticknor & Fields!
…and then the Atlantic moved to Washington, D.C. (No hard feelings!)
It was the first publisher of quite a number of notable pieces, such as “Battle Hymn of the Republic” on February 1, 1862. The Atlantic also published William Parker’s slave narrative, “The Freedman’s Story” in 1866. It published a call to education reform from Charles W. Eliot entitled “The New Education.” The magazine also extensively published Mark Twain and Nathaniel Hawthorne. In 1963 they published Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”
According to managing editor Cullen Murphy in a presentation given in 1994 on the history of the Atlantic, “The first issue of The Atlantic Monthly appeared in November of 1857, and the magazine, which billed itself as a ‘journal of literature, politics, science, and the arts,’ was an immediate success. Lowell unswervingly trained his attention on American writers, providing a home both for the younger American talents, whom he cultivated, and for the established ones. The magazine thrived. Within two years the circulation of The Atlantic Monthly had risen above 30,000. The number of paid subscribers today is roughly 460,000; newsstand sales average more than 50,000 copies a month. All told, we estimate, at least 1.2 million people, not including the mail carriers, put their hands on each issue of The Atlantic Monthly.”