Frank Andrew Munsey
(21 August 1854
– 22 December 1925
) was an American
newspaper and magazine publisher and author. He was born in Mercer
but spent most of his life in New York City
. The city of Munsey Park, New York
is named for him.
Munsey is credited with the idea of using new high-speed printing presses to print on inexpensive, untrimmed, pulp paper to mass produce affordable (typically ten cent) magazines, chiefly filled with various genres of action and adventure fiction and aimed at working-class readers who could not afford and were not interested in the content of the 25-cent slick magazines of the time. This innovation, known as pulp magazines, became an entire industry unto itself and made him quite wealthy. Munsey often closed down or changed the content of magazines when they became unprofitable, quickly starting new ones in their place.
Early in life Munsey ran a general store
, at which he failed. He next became a telegraph
operator and then manager of the Augusta, Maine Western Union
telegraph office. Munsey was very ambitious, and being in charge of the telegraph office, a vital connection for the news media of the time, gave him an awareness of the publishing industry, particularly as it was also a sizable industry in Augusta at the time.
In 1882 he moved from Augusta to New York City to enter the publishing industry, having used his savings to purchase rights to several stories and arranged to form a partnership with a friend in New York and an Augusta stock broker. The stock broker backed out after he arrived in New York, and he released his friend from any obligations. Pitching the magazine to a New York publisher, Munsey managed to edit and publish the first issue of his magazine, Golden Argosy, only two months and nine days after his arrival.
Five months later, the publisher went bankrupt and entered receivership. By placing a claim for his unpaid salary, Munsey was able to take control of the magazine. Borrowing $300 from a friend in Maine, he managed, barely, to keep the magazine going while learning enough about the publishing industry to succeed.
was a weekly "boys adventure" magazine in a dime novel
format with a mix of both articles and fiction. After a few years, Munsey realized that targeting a young audience had been a mistake, as they were hard readers to retain since they rapidly grew out of the publication, and since children of the time had very little spending money, advertisers were not interested in such a publication. In 1888, the name was changed to The Argosy
to attract an older audience. In 1894 it became a monthly, designed to complement Munsey's Magazine
, and in December 1896 it became the first true pulp, switching to an all-fiction format of 192 pages on seven-by-ten inch untrimmed pulp paper. It was renamed Argosy Magazine
, and by 1903, circulation climbed to a half million copies per month.
In 1889 he founded Munsey's Weekly, a 36-page quarto magazine, designed to be "a magazine of the people and for the people, with pictures and art and good cheer and human interest throughout. It was a success, soon selling 40,000 copies per week. In 1891 the magazine became a monthly, Munsey's Magazine, in 1892 the magazine began to include a "complete novel" in every issue, and in 1893 the price was dropped to ten cents per issue. By 1895 circulation was over half a million copies per month, by 1897, 700,000 copies per month. In October, 1906, he began publishing Railroad Man's Magazine, the first specialized pulp magazine which featured railroad related stories and articles. It was soon followed by a similar magazine, The Ocean, which featured sea stories and articles. The Ocean debuted with the March 1907 issue; after the January 1908 issue, it changed title and content to the general purpose The Live Wire, which also had a short run.
Munsey was very active in the newspaper
industry, at one time or another owning at least 17 different newspapers. As the number of newspapers in America declined, Munsey became known for merging many of his properties; though probably financially wise, this earned him a great deal of enmity from those who worked in the industry. His papers included:
The sale of the Herald in 1924 left Munsey owning only two newspapers. The Evening Telegram was sold to Scripps-Howard in 1927, two years after Munsey's death.
Other Munsey pulps and magazines included Puritan, Junior Munsey, All-Story Magazine, Scrap Book, Cavalier, Railroad and Current Mechanics.
Munsey also authored several novels:
- Afloat in a Great City (1887)
- The Boy Broker (1888)
- A Tragedy of Errors (1889)
- Under Fire (1890)
- Derringforth (1894)
Munsey became directly involved in presidential politics when former President Theodore Roosevelt
announced his candidacy to challenge his hand-picked successor William Taft
for the 1912 Republican Party
nomination for the presidency. Munsey and George W. Perkins
provided the financial backing for Roosevelt's campaign leading up to the Republican National Convention
. When Roosevelt supporters bolted from the convention, Munsey was one of the most outspoken critics of the proceedings and announced that Roosevelt would run at the head of a new party. His encouragement and offer of financial backing led to the formation of the Progressive Party
, which nominated Roosevelt for president. Munsey was one of its most ardent supporters and one of the largest contributors to its campaign expenses.
Demise and legacy
Munsey died in New York City December 22, 1925 of a burst appendix at age 71. In his will he made large bequests to his sister, nephew and niece, generous bequests to many cousins, gifts and annuities to a large number of old acquaintances. He bestowed large sums to 17 of his best paid employees, but to the numerous employees who worked for him he left nothing. Surprisingly, he bequeathed an annuity of $2000 to Annie Downs, a love interest of the young Munsey who "turned him down for marriage because she didn't think he was a good enough prospect for success." Munsey also contributed considerably to Bowdoin College, the Maine State Hospital at Portland, Central Main General Hospital at Lewiston. All the remainder of his fortune he gave to the Metropolitan Museum of Art
. The village of Munsey Park, New York
was founded on land owned by Munsey in 1922. At the time of his death his fortune was estimated to be $20,000,000, today with the rate of inflation it would be valued at $260,000,000.
After his death, the Frank A. Munsey Company continued publishing various magazines, including pulp detective fiction, such as (Flynn's) Detective Fiction and All-Story Love. In 1942 they sold out to rival pulp publisher Popular Publications.
- Chace, James. 1912: Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft & Debs — The Election That Changed the Country. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004. ISBN 0-7432-0394-1
- Haining, Peter. The Fabulous Pulps. Vintage Books (a division of Random House), 1975. ISBN 0-394-72109-8
- Britt, George "Forty Years — Forty Millions, The Career of Frank A. Munsey". Copyright 1935. Farrar & Rinehart, Inc. Murray Hill, New York