A Whole-House Exhibit at the Trail End State Historic Site
April 2010 - December 2011
Early magazines covers (Various collections, TESHS)
IN THE DAYS before Google and Wikipedia, the library was where we went if we wanted to research something. Before Kindle and Talking Books, we entertained ourselves by reading printed novels and poems. Ink on paper was the highest form of technology available.
And what a wonderful technology it was. Having books in the home was considered one of the hallmarks of a cultured family. Illiteracy – not being able to read or write – was a sign of sloth. If one couldn’t read, one couldn’t vote, couldn’t enjoy Dickens or Whitman, couldn’t learn about different peoples in faraway lands, couldn’t better oneself.
John Kendrick knew the value of books when it came to bettering oneself. He had only a third-grade education when he came to Wyoming in 1879. To improve himself, he kept books in his saddlebags, reading them each night by the light of the campfire. He read everything from history and science to literature and law. In 1932, when he received an honorary degree from the University of Wyoming Law School, it was estimated that he had given himself the equivalent of a Master's Degree, just through reading.
Without computers, televisions and video games, homes – especially living rooms – were quieter places than they are today. For the Kendricks, their Drawing Room and Library were perfect places to enjoy a little time with a book or magazine.
Before television and the Internet – even before radio – magazines shaped the lives of most Americans. Along with newspapers, magazines went into private homes and showed everyone how to dress, how to act, how to recreate, what to read, which way to vote, and how to think about literature, science, art, politics, themselves, and the world. Some of America's best new fiction first appeared – in serialized form – in national magazines.
Thousands of titles were published in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The vast majority existed for a few years and then faded from the scene as new technologies and new sources of information emerged. A few are still with us today (date is the year the magazine was first published):
State Historic Site
Detail, Judge Magazine, 1912 (Private Collection)