This volume argues that the birth of mass culture in the USA can be traced to the rise of high-circulation magazines at the turn of the 19th century. It focuses on four leaders in the "magazine revolution" of the 1890s - "Cosmopolitan", the "Ladies Home Journal", "McClure's" and "Munsey's".
When did mass culture first appear in the United States? How was it conceived, produced and disseminated? Who were the main players in its manufacture? Richard Ohmann argues persuasively that the pivotal juncture came at the turn of the twentieth century when magazines began to reach large audiences and to depend heavily on advertising revenues. Mass circulation of magazines, combined with the rise of brand name products, facilitated the emergence of a homogenized mass culture (one produced by the few for the many in the name of profit) for the first time. This epochal change in the making of culture took place through the energy and innovations of diverse agents – publishers, readers, ad men, merchandisers—acting to achieve disparate but compatible goals. Ohmann shows how their efforts succeeded because they answered to the needs of big business at a time when industrial capitalism’s greatest achievements had led to its deepest crisis. Knitting together social and economic history with literary criticism and cultural theory, Ohmann develops a powerful new account of consumer society and of the social class in which it first took root.