Crowell, Collier, Knapp
This profile considers the US publishers Crowell-Collier (best known for Collier's Magazine) and Thomas Y Crowell, along with JP Knapp.
It covers -
- Crowell and Macmillan Inc
- Thomas Y Crowell
Collier's Weekly originated in 1888 as Collier's Once a Week, a magazine of "fiction, fact, sensation, wit, humor, news". Founder Peter Fenelon Collier (1849-1909) established publisher P F Collier & Son after work as a book distributor. By 1892 the magazine's circulation reached 250,000 and in 1895 became Collier's Weekly: An Illustrated Journal, with an emphasis on news (particularly snappy reportage by figures such as Ray Stannard Baker and Jack London), photojournalism and muckraking by Ida Tarbell, Upton Sinclair, Samuel Hopkins Adams and C. P. Connolly. Crusades include attacks on Standard Oil, the Chicago meat industry and patent medicines, helping to push circulation to a million per week by 1913.
On Collier's death his son Robert assumed control. Under Mark Sullivan, editor from 1914, Colliers emphasised serialisation of novels. Robert Collier's death in 1918 saw control of the publishing house pass to associates Harry Payne Whitney, Samuel Dunn and Francis Garvin. They sold control to Crowell Publishing in 1919.
Robert Collier (1885-1950), son of Peter Collier's nephew John Collier, founded Robert Collier Publications and gained attention for works of "practical psychology" (aka faith healing) with titles such as The Secret of the Ages and The God in You.
Crowell was founded in 1878 by editor John S. Crowell, Springfield agricultural manufacturer P. P. Mast and Mast's nephew Thomas Kirkpatrick. Their Crowell, Mast & Kirkpatrick published Farm & Fireside magazine. It acquired Woman's Home Companion (originally Ladies’ Home Companion) in 1885. Mast's concentration on manufacturing saw it become The Crowell & Kirkpatrick Company and The Crowell Publishing Company from 1902.
In 1906 John Crowell sold his interests to American Lithographic publisher Joseph Palmer Knapp for about US$750,000. Knapp acquired The American magazine for US$334,000 in 1911 and in 1915 launched Every Week magazine (abandoned in 1918).
Knapp (1864-1951) was the son of Metropolitan Life Insurance founder Joseph Fairchild Knapp (1832-1891). The elder Knapp had joined with tobacco magnate James Buchanan Duke in publishing the New York Recorder. His son founded the American Lithographic Company in 1895 and later built Alco Gravure into the largest rotogravure printer in the US, a precursor of Quebecor.
He had indifferent success at the turn of the century with Associated Sunday Magazines, which offered a multicoloured sunday tabloid supplement - Sunday - for insertion in newspapers but Every Week gained national weekly circulation of over 550,000 (as an insert to the New York Herald Tribune, Baltimore Sim, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Chicago Daily News, and Washington Star among others) before being crimped by wartime paper shortages.
In 1919 Crowell acquired control of Collier's Weekly, expanded into book publishing and acquired The Mentor travel and arts magazine in 1921. The Mentor was unloaded in 1930 and soon disappeared.
During the Roaring Twenties Crowell successfully emphasised spritzy journalism and fiction serialisation, achieving sales of 11 million issues per month by 1926. The American peaked in 1927. In 1930 Farm & Fireside became County Home, discontinued in 1939. At that time the publisher became The Crowell-Collier Publishing Company, reflecting an aggressive push into mass market books (notably Collier's Encyclopedia and a Junior Classics series) and door to door sales of magazines and books based on installment payments.
In 1943 Collier's Weekly circulation reached 2.5 million but slumped after the war, reflecting factors such as the fabled 'flight to the suburbs' and uptake of television. Earnings - by then heavily dependent on books rather than magazines - dropped from US$6.5 million in 1946 to a derisory US$76,497 in 1952. During the next year Collier's Weekly became a bimonthly to cut costs, while concurrently seeking to buy circulation through reduced subscription and newsstand prices that resulted in what was claimed to be a loss of between 14 and 20 cents per cover.
The group's magazine circulation peaked in mid 1955, after an infusion of US$3 million but decreasing confidence among suppliers and advertisers resulted in a shortfall of US$2.5 million at the end of the year. Gardner Cowles II of Look magazine advanced Crowell-Collier US$2 million for its Springfield printing plant, agreeing to pay US$1 million for Collier's Weekly and a further US$1 million for the group's subscription list. The Woman's Home Companion ceased in 1957.
Unencumbered by its bleeding magazine operations, Crowell-Collier used the revenue from its successful book publishing arm to expand into broadcasting. It acquired radio station KLX (later KEWB) from the Oakland Tribune in 1959, KFWB in Los Angeles and KDWB in Minneapolis-St Paul but was thwarted by the FCC in a planned US$10.95 million purchase of radio WMGM New York from Loews in 1960.
Perhaps in response, it merged with the Macmillan Company of New York in 1960, followed by acquisition of the Free Press of Glencoe, Inc (established 1947) in 1961. Macmillan was the US offshoot of UK publisher Macmillan (later acquired by Holtzbrinck). The Macmillan family had sold its stake in the US arm during the 1940s and 1951.
In 1966 Crowell-Collier Broadcasting sold KEWB to Metromedia for US$3 million, buying printers Publication Corporation for US$34.2 million in 1968. The group then went for a strategic wander. The Macmillan Company of New York and Crowell-Collier became Macmillan Inc in 1973, with the Collier-Crowell imprint being sold to Harper & Row in 1978.
In 1981 Alco Industries - the printing giant that was independent of Crowell Collier and Macmillan Inc - bought the group's printing arm (centred on the former Publication Corporation). Seven years later the Robert Maxwell took control of Macmillan Inc for US$2.6 billion, also acquiring Alco Industries. Following the collapse of Maxwell Communications, Alco was sold to Quebecor in 1992.
Cleon ['Bud'] Knapp, an heir of Alco's Joseph Palmer Knapp, founded Knapp Communications Corporation. That group gained attention for glossy titles such as Architectural Digest and lifestyle magazine Bon Appétit. Both were sold to Newhouse's Condé Nast Publications in 1993.
1834 Thomas Y. Crowell founds bindery
1857 Sarony & Major lithographers becomes Sarony, Major & Knapp
1863 becomes Major & Knapp
1868 Joseph Fairchild Knapp co-founds Metropolitan Life Insurance Company
1871 becomes second president of Metropolitan Life
1873 Ladies' Home Companion founded
1875 Peter Fenelon Collier, not related to Thomas Crowell, founds Collier & Son
1876 Thomas Y Crowell launches publishing house
1879 John Crowell, PP Mast & Thomas Kirkpatrick form publishing company (later The Crowell and Kirkpatrick Company), launch Farm & Fireside
1885 Crowell buys Ladies' Home Companion
1888 Major & Knapp becomes Knapp & Son
1888 Collier launches family magazine Once a Week
1892 Joseph P Knapp founds American Lithographic Company
1895 Once A Week becomes Collier's Weekly: An Illustrated Journal
1897 Ladies' Home Companion becomes Woman's Home Companion
1898 Robert J. Collier becomes partner in Collier
1902 Crowell & Kirkpatrick becomes The Crowell Publishing Company
1903 Knapp launches Associated Sunday Magazine
1906 John Crowell sells stake to Knapp for US$750,000
1909 Colliers introduce The Harvard Classics
1909 death of Peter Fenelon Collier
1911 Crowell pays US$334,000 for The American Magazine
1915 launches Every Week magazine
1918 death of Robert Collier, leaves Colliers to Samuel Dunn, Harry Payne Whitney and Francis Garvin
1919 Crowell Publishing Company buys Colliers
1921 buys Harper's subscription business
1921 launches The Mentor travel and arts magazine
1929 Knapp merges American Lithographic with US Printing & Lithographic, retains control of Alco-Gravure
1930 sells The Mentor
1930 Farm & Fireside becomes Country Home
1935 Crowell launches This Week syndicated Sunday newsmagazine
1939 group becomes The Crowell-Collier Publishing Company
1939 closure of Country Home
1951 UK Macmillan family sells stake in Macmillan Company of New York
1953 Collier's Magazine becomes a bimonthly
1956 closure of Collier's Magazine
1957 closure of Woman's Home Companion
1959 Oakland Tribune sells radio KLX (later KEWB) to Crowell-Collier for US$0.75m
1960 Crowell-Collier announces US$10.95m purchase of radio WMGM New York from Loews but licence transfer prohibited by FCC
1960 Crowell-Collier merges with Macmillan Company of New York
1961 acquires Free Press of Glencoe, Inc (est 1947)
1966 Crowell-Collier Broadcasting sells KEWB to Metromedia for US$3m
1968 Macmillan acquires printers Publication Corporation for US$34.2m
1969 This Week closes
1973 Macmillan Company of New York becomes Macmillan Inc
1978 Collier-Crowell imprint sold to Harper & Row, becomes Crowell & Lippincott
1981 Alco Industries acquires Macmillan, Inc's printing arm
1988 Maxwell buys Macmillan Inc for US$2.6bn
1988 Alco Industries acquired by Maxwell Communications
1992 Alco sold to Quebecor