Civil War Magazines in Perspective

51inuvum04l_ss500_
Yesterday I received an advanced copy of Gary W. Gallagher’s forthcoming book, Causes Won, Lost, & Forgotten: How Hollywood and Popular Art Shape What We Know About the Civil War (UNC Press, March 2008).  Gallagher surveys the last few decades of Civil War culture in movies and art, including the content of advertisements in the major Civil War magazines.  He notes in the introduction that Civil War Times Illustrated prints "approximately" 85,000 copies per issue while America’s Civil War has a circulation of 40-45,000.  I assume that North and South is operating somewhere below that number. 

I have to admit to being surprised by these numbers – they seem very low.  This is not a commentary on the quality of the magazines, which do indeed offer a wide range of topics and themes related to the war years.  It is tempting to speculate that very few people actually read Civil War history?  Perhaps I am missing something.

8 comments add yours

  1. I’m more surprised by the range of titles available: clearly the market can support more than one publication. Other than World War 2, I can’t think of another historical period where such a selection of specialist magazines are available.* I guess they must charge companies a lot to advertise their Stonewall Jackson figures in them or something.

    P.

    *Thought I might just not be looking hard enough. I wouldn’t dare run the risk of being caught buying a Civil War magazine in a shop.

  2. Phillip, — That’s a good point. The magazines have managed for the most part to carve their own niches in the field. I suspect that Blue and Gray subscribers appreciate the coverage of battlefields and accompanying tours while North and South began in 1997 with a broader focus than both CWTI and America’s Civil War. The numbers are, of course, relative.

  3. Kevin:

    I wonder: Does Gallagher indeed say that CWTI and ACW “print” 85,000 and 40-45,000 copies, respectively, of each issue? Or does he mean that these are the subscription numbers for these publications, i.e., the number of subscribers who receive a copy of each isuse? If the latter is the case, it means that the print run for each issue would be much higher.

    P.S. It’s raining in Ventnor right now…

  4. Kevin,
    Those are interesting numbers. Does Gallagher do anything with subscriptions/sales along “sectional” lines?

    Chris

  5. Terry, — Gallagher does indeed say “prints 85,000” in reference to CWTI and “circulation of 40-45,000” in reference to ACW. What say you? Should he have said subscription with a print number higher? I ran the magazine of a D.C. area Borders Books at the end of the 1990’s and I remember sending most of the shelf stock back for N&S, CWTI, ACW, and B&G each month.

    By the way I would do anything for a sub from Dino’s in Margate.

    Chris, — I’m pretty sure there is no breakdown of the numbers. Rather, Gallagher sticks to the content of advertisements for painting and all the rest of the crap that is sold in those magazines.

  6. Kevin:

    I think we should likely give Gary the benefit of the doubt. If he said “prints,” he surely means “prints.” That begs the question, How many subscribers do the CW magazines boast? Subscribers represent money in the bank (though at a discounted sales rate), whereas circulation or print numbers, as you say, don’t always translate into sales. I know from my N&S days that the magazine printed about 20,000 or so of each issue. The subscription base was a fraction of that. (Granted, my knowledge of what goes on there is now a year old.) I was under the impression that CWTI and ACW boasted subscription numbers in the ranges that Gallagher cites as their print runs. It would be interesting to try to pin all of this down.

    Love Dino’s. (My late father’s photo hangs on the wall; he was a loyal customer.) You’ve inspired me to make a special trip there over the weekend…

  7. Terry, — I hear that Dino’s dry freezes their cold subs for shipment anywhere in the country. Think about that as you are ordering.

Now that you've read the post, share your thoughts.