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The Circulating American Magazines Project provides tools to understand and explore the circulation of American periodicals from 1880 to 1972.

Circulation has always been a problem for anyone interested in periodicals. Data has remained difficult to obtain and verify. Scholars, for example, often depend on unreliable and anecdotal circulation numbers cited in letters or memoirs. Fortunately, starting in 1914, American advertisers joined to form the Audit Bureau of Circulations (A.B.C.), an organization that solicited reports and audited circulation numbers for major magazines. If a magazine sought to attract major advertisers, it joined the A.B.C. and provided detailed reports every six months. These reports are the most detailed information available on magazine circulation in the United States in the twentieth century.

Unfortunately, A.B.C. data remains difficult to access. The A.B.C. issued some summary reports that reside in libraries across the country, but these reports synthesize and interpret data without presenting any original data sets. Copies of original reports, however, reside at at a small number of research libraries. They are largely often difficult to access, as they are held offsite and cataloged in a cryptic fashion.

The Circulating American Magazines Project addresses the critical absence of reliable circulation information by digitizing data from the A.B.C., building a robust database of Audit Bureau of Circulations data covering the period 1919 to 1972. The A.B.C. figures will eventually be supplemented by summary data from advertisers George P. Rowell and Ayer & Son’s reports from 1868 to 1918, which provide the most reliable circulation information before the A.B.C.’s founding.

The Co-Directors of this project are Brooks Hefner, Associate Professor of English at James Madison University, and Ed Timke, Instructor in the Department of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University. Hefner and Timke, along with a team of technical experts, have built this site to enable advanced studies of literary modernism and popular literary genres, the history of American publishing, the history and sociology of popular reading in the United States, among many other topics. We hope you find this resource helpful in your study of American periodicals. We welcome any feedback, suggestions, or ideas as our project advances.

This project is made possible in part by a National Endowment for the Humanities Digital Advancement Grant, awarded 2017.