Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Longest Running Pulps

By Mike Ashley

[Editor’s note: Mike Ashley is an indefatigable bibliographer, anthologist, and historian of fiction magazines. He’s sort of a genre fiction bon vivant. If you’ve ever walked through the fiction aisles of a bookstore, you’ve probably seen at least one of his many Mammoth Book Of anthologies of stories. The only topic I can think of he hasn’t tackled is an anthology of stories about international covert plumbers. Ahem. I may be wrong. He has written The biography of ghost-story author Algernon Blackwood and a trio (at this count) of books narrating the history of science fiction magazines. A recent book written for the British Library, The Age of the Story Tellers: British Popular Fiction Magazines 1880-1950, is the definitive history of magazine fiction during its heyday. I must admit, I enjoy just about everything Mike puts his hand (or typewriter) to.

Mike wrote the following article for the Pulp Era Amateur Press Society (PEAPS), a collection of pulp fiction fans, collectors, and readers. Mike very graciously provided permission to publish it here, and I am very, very happy to do so.

I’ve noted elsewhere that Westerns probably accounted for more ink on pages than any other genre. Keep that in mind as you read the following essay. We’ll take up the topic again at the end.]

By Mike Ashley

I'm an inveterate list maker and am always fascinated by statistics, such as which pulp magazine had the most issues. It becomes complicated by those magazines that survived beyond the pulp age, such as Argosy turning into a men's semi-slick magazine, or indeed Analog and Weird Tales, still around today though far removed from their pulp origins. Nevertheless, they survive, and I thought it might be interesting to put together a list of those magazines which saw the most issues. Hopefully I haven't missed any. I've drawn for data upon a variety of sources but most significantly what is known as “The Big List: maintained by Phil Stephensen-Payne from an earlier version which was cobbled together by David Pringle and myself. You can view The Big List at .

For the following, therefore, I have taken the complete run of a magazine provided that it was in pulp form for at least a significant part of its existence. Analog has, of course, been non-pulp for more than sixty years, and was only ever a pulp -- as Astounding -- for thirteen years, but I don't think anyone could deny that those were thirteen significant years. It's more of a problem with a magazine like Railroad Stories, which came and went, and which continued as a non-fiction enthusiasts' magazine for years after its original pulp life. It's one I've therefore queried below.

I haven't included Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine or The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, since they were never pulps, but if you want comparative figures, as of December 2008 their totals are respectively 624, 781 and 673. It has become a habit to have double-month issues and number those as a double issue -- for subscription purposes. I have only counted these once, though, since they remain a single issue. So the numbers cited are physical issues you would count on your shelf.

One of the main problem areas are when pulps continued from original dime-novel series, such as Wild West Weekly or Detective Story Magazine. I've applied certain criteria depending on each publication and have noted accordingly below.

I've drawn the line at those publications exceeding 500 issues. I've included British pulps. The figures quoted for current magazines are as at December 2008.

1. Argosy, 2,578 issues from 9 December 1882 to Spring 2005.
This includes the original tabloid weekly as The Golden Argosy, the subsequent men's magazine "slick" issues, and the various incarnations since the original magazine folded in 1979. The pulp issues proper run from December 1896 to August 1943, a total of 1,532 issues.

2. Wild West Weekly, 2,118 issues from 24 October 1902 to November 1943.
This began in dime novel format and remained so until August 1927. Its first pulp issue was 13 August 1927, and it saw 824 issues in that format.

3. Western Story Magazine, 1,286 issues from 12 July 1919 to August/September 1949.
This also took over from a dime novel series, New Buffalo Bill Weekly, and as it kept the volume numbering, then strictly the dime novel issues ought to count -- especially as the name change happened before (12 July 1919) the first pulp issue (5 September 1919). The series had started as Buffalo Bill Stories in May 1901 and ran for 591 issues before changing to New Buffalo Bill Weekly for a further 356 issues. This would produce a total of 2,233 issues. What's more, the magazine was revived by Popular Publications in October 1952 and ran to June 1954, a further 11 issues. So the true total is 2,244.

4. Love Story Magazine, 1,158 issues from 1 August 1921 to February 1947.
This was also revived by Popular Publications and ran for a further 14 issues from June 1952 to September 1954, giving 1,172 in total.

5. Short Stories, 1,114 issues from June 1890 to August 1959.
A complicated magazine to monitor, which went through various incarnations. The pulp issues proper ran from March 1910 to June 1953, a total of 849. Phil Stephensen-Payne has pointed out that although the final issue bears the number 2014, there was a numbering error in December 1948, which added 900 to the running total and was never corrected.

6. Detective Story Magazine, 1,057 issues from 5 October 1915 to Summer 1949.
Here we have the same problem as with Western Story. Detective Story was a continuation of Nick Carter Stories -- itself a continuation of Nick Carter Weekly, which was a continuation of Street & Smith's very first dime novel series, Nick Carter Library, which began on 8 August 1891. Those three series had a total of 1,261 issues, making the full run 2,318 issues. In addition, Popular Publications revived Detective Story for six more issues from November 1952 to September 1953, giving 2,324 issues in total, of which 1,063 were pulp.

7. Astounding/Analog, 935 issues from January 1930 to date.
A valiant survivor from the pulp days, though its last true pulp issue was in October 1943, including a run of 16 issues in the larger flat format (erroneously called “bedsheet”). That means its total pulp run was only 155 issues.

8. Flynn's/Detective Fiction Weekly, 923 issues from 20 September 1924 to August 1944.
It was revived briefly from January to July 1951 for six more issues, giving an overall total of 929.

9. Adventure, 881 issues from November 1910 to April 1971.
The last true pulp issue was in May 1953, though it had toyed with both some slick issues and digest issues earlier. Nevertheless, the magazine's life was continuously evolving from a men's adventure magazine to a men's adventure magazine! The number of pulp issues total 756.

10. Ranch Romances, 863 issues from September 1924 to November 1971.
The last surviving continuous pulp.

11. Cassell's Magazine, 789 issues from April 1867 to December 1932.
This is the first British magazine. It started as a large standard Victorian magazine, upgrading to a slick in December 1896 to match the popularity of The Strand. However, in April 1912 it converted to an all-fiction pulp magazine and remained so for the next twenty years, with occasional attempts to improve the paper quality. This final incarnation saw 249 pulp issues.

12. Railroad Man's Magazine, 782 issues from October 1906 to January 1979.
This is another complicated one. Its first incarnation lasted until January 1919, when it merged with Argosy. It was revived in December 1929 and was taken over by Popular Publications in January 1942, remaining a pulp until December 1942. Its total pulp life, therefore, was 315 issues. It continued as a semi-slick until January 1979. It was revived as a railroad enthusiast's magazine in May 1979, with no fiction at all, and retitled Railfan and Railroad. I've no idea how many issues of that have appeared and perhaps we can treat that as another entity entirely.

13. Red Magazine, 620 issues from June 1908 to September 1939.
The second British magazine and the first that was a pulp throughout its lifetime, although its format varied slightly, and at times it ran better quality (and often thicker) book paper. Nevertheless, few would argue that it was a pulp.

14. Blue Book, 613 issues from May 1906 to May 1956.
I’ve called Blue Book a “slick in pulp clothing,” because for many of its issues it seldom felt like a pulp. Twice it shifted to the large flat format, and it switched to a men's service magazine in February 1952. The paper, though, didn't change. There were slight variations in quality, but it was essentially pulp to the end. The magazine was revived in October 1960 as Bluebook for Men, this time as a man's magazine. I've never been interested in this incarnation and am not sure how many issues appeared. The last I know of is January 1975, and if it was monthly all that time that would be an additional 172 issues.

15. Popular Magazine, 612 issues from September 1903 to October 1931
This began as a boy's magazine, more an outgrowth of the dime novels, but soon switched to true pulp format and lived up to its name as a popular pulp until it merged with Complete Stories in 1931. The short-lived magazine Hardboiled, also from Street & Smith, changed its name to The Popular in March 1937, but I believe that was a digest-size series full of reprints. I'm not sure how many issues appeared.

16. Amazing Stories, 609 issues from April 1926 to March 2005.
The final issue was published only as a webzine. Amazing went through various changes in its final years with some rather impressive slick issues. Its last pulp issue was in March 1953. Strictly speaking, its early Gernsback issues weren't pulp, as these were on special quality book paper -- but let's not get too technical. There were 284 pulp issues, including the early large flat-format ones.

17. Top-Notch, 602 issues from March 1910 to Sep/Oct 1937.
The first seven issues were in the dime novel format, but thereafter all are standard pulps.

18. The Argosy, 571 issues from June 1926 to February 1974.
This is the British Argosy, no relation to the US pulp. The British Argosy was mostly a reprint magazine, but it did run occasional new stories. It began on slightly good quality book paper but soon devolved to pulp. Its pulp run ended in January 1940 after 164 issues. After that, wartime restrictions caused the magazine to shrink, first to a large digest, and then to digest, and finally pocketbook format. Nevertheless it was a continuous-run story-magazine.

Those are all the ones with more than 500 issues. The 19th is All-Story with 444 issues, and the 20th is Young's Magazine with, I think, 441 issues, though I'm not entirely sure how many appeared.

Supposing, though, we just took pulp issues alone, and not those in any other format. What does the top 20 become? Well, it changes quite a bit. For this list I have excluded everything which is digest, slick, or dime novel, though have kept in “bedsheet” size issues because it's an argument I'd never win either way!

1. Argosy, 1532 issues
2. Western Story Magazine, 1289
3. Love Story Magazine, 1172
4. Detective Story Magazine, 1063
5. Flynn's/Detective Fiction Weekly, 929
6. Ranch Romances, 863
7. Short Stories, 849
8. Wild West Weekly, 824
9. Adventure, 756
10. Red Magazine [UK], 620
11. Blue Book, 613
12. Popular Magazine, 609
13. Top-Notch, 595
14. All-Story, 444
15. Sport Story Magazine, 429
16. Grand MagaZine [UK], 422
17. Novel Magazine [UK], 393
18. Breezy Stories, 370+ (I'm not sure of the final total)
19. The Story-teller [UK], 361
20. West, 361

So, in come some new titles, such as the British Grand Magazine, The Novel and The Story-teller, and other pulps, such as Sport Story Magazine, West and Breezy Stories. I'm not too sure just how many issues there were of Breezy Stories in its final few days, and its total could be as high as 422.

It's possible I've missed out something or miscalculated somewhere along the line, so I'd welcome any comments and corrections.

One final thought. The above list accounts for almost 14,500 issues, which would be an impressive collection in its own right. But I wonder what proportion that is of the total pulp issues ever published? Anyone want to take that on?!

©2008 Mike Ashley

[Editor’s note: Take a look again at Mike’s two lists. In List 1, the three western-only titles (Wild West Weekly, Western Story Magazine, and Ranch Romances, at positions 2, 3, and 10, respectively) capture a total of 4,267 issues. You can assume a lot of pages were also devoted to westerns in the general-interest magazines in that list: Argosy, Short Stories, Adventure, Railroad Man’s Magazine, Blue Book, Top-Notch, The Argosy (UK), and All-Story. Perhaps the western pages from these titles would end up totaling at least a few hundred issues of what we might call a Generic Western magazine.

If you look at list 2 -- the pulp-paper-only issues -- the number of western titles increases, but the number of issues falls by nearly a thousand to 3,337: Western Story Magazine, Ranch Romances, Wild West Weekly, and West. The general-interest pulps in this second list changes slightly -- Argosy, Short Stories, Adventure, Blue Book, Top-Notch, All-Story, and The Story-Teller. (I’m not sure if westerns appeared in this last title, but I bet at least one slipped into an issue sometime.) Again, you would still probably be able to assemble a few hundred issues of what we might call a Generic Western magazine just from the western pages of these titles. I'm not sure if this haphazard and non-scientific tallying I'm doing tells us westerns had the lion's share of pages, but it's fun to do, anyway.

Again, many thanks to Mike
for allowing me to share this essay. You’ll find a selection of his great books listed at the Spur & Lock's Spinner Rack under the Mike Ashley Anthology-a-Rama category.]



Thanks for reprinting this great piece . I enjoyed that and will keep for refernce.

Steve M said...

Really enjoyed reading this and looking at think I'll be returning to this time and again.

Ray said...

One question: I saw the titles 'Amazing Stories' and 'Weird Tales' there - but the only way that I recall those titles were as horror comics that turned up in the UK in the Fifties.
Were these comics the off spring, as it were, of the pulps?

Duane Spurlock said...

Ray, I'm not sure about how the UK comics with those titles came about. In the States, those were (and in the case of WEIRD TALES, still is) fiction magazines focused on science fiction and horror/supernatural/fantasy stories, respectively. Steve Holland may have the answer to your question. I'll see if I can drag him into this conversation.