Entry updated 9 January 2023. Tagged: Publication.
US Magazine established by Frank A Munsey and historically important as the first ever Pulp magazine when it changed format (October 1896) and switched to pulp paper (December 1896). It was published weekly from 9 December 1882 as The Golden Argosy, became The Argosy from 1 December 1888, went monthly April 1894-September 1917, then weekly, as Argosy Weekly, 6 October 1917 to 17 July 1920. It combined with All-Story Weekly (see The All-Story) to become Argosy All-Story Weekly from 24 July 1920 to 28 September 1929. It then combined with Munsey's Magazine to form two magazines, Argosy Weekly and All-Story Love Tales, the former continuing as a weekly from 5 October 1929 to 4 October 1941; it went fortnightly from 1 November 1941, monthly from May 1942 to October 1978, and its final four issues from August-November 1979. It has had two subsequent incarnations and several special issues which are discussed below. Its primary area of interest with regard to science fiction is its period as a pulp magazine from December 1896 to August 1943. It switched to the large (letter-size) pulp format from 18 January 1941 as the first phase of moving towards being a men's adventure magazine. It was briefly called The New Argosy from 7 March-July 1942, and it also reverted briefly to standard pulp size in January 1943 before converting to a letter-size semi-Slick in September 1943 with the shift in emphasis from a fiction magazine to a men's magazine. It was edited by Frank A Munsey from the start but when from 8 September 1883 he also took over from E G Rideout as publisher, Malcolm Douglas came in as editor. Matthew White Jr was editor from 4 December 1886 to 2 June 1928, its chief period of science fiction interest. There were many subsequent editors who are listed at the end of this entry. The Frank A Munsey Corporation remained the publisher until December 1942 when it was taken over by Popular Publications until November/December 1978. The final four issues were published by Lifetime Wholesalers, Inc.
The Argosy began as a weekly boys' magazine, The Golden Argosy, in small tabloid format of just eight pages. It ran primarily serials, typical boys' adventure stories as featured in Dime Novels. A few of these were science fiction of the Lost Race type, such as Van; or, In Search of an Unknown Race (1 October-31 December 1887; 1891) by Frank H Converse (1843-1889) and "Under Africa; or the Strange Manuscript of the White Slave" (19 July-18 October 1890; 1902 as The River of Darkness; or, Under Africa) by William Murray Graydon (1864-1946). Even after The Argosy switched to a monthly schedule and became an adult magazine in October 1896, it continued to run several serials simultaneously, and this remained a feature of the magazine until the 1930s. Many of these, including such Lost World serials as A Queen of Atlantis (February-August 1899; 1899) by Frank Aubrey, Beyond the Great South Wall (September 1899-February 1900; 1899) by Frank Savile and "The Land of the Central Sun" (July 1902-January 1903) by the almost certainly pseudonymous Park Winthrop, were still only a little above juvenile adventure stories. William Wallace Cook, who had also been a prolific author of dime novels, became arguably the first regular contributor of science fiction to The Argosy with A Round Trip to the Year 2000, or A Flight Through Time (July-November 1903; 1903), the first of his five sf adventure novels and two short stories in the magazine.
The Argosy also ran a lot of humorous Invention stories, notably by Edgar Franklin and Howard R Garis and it was only steadily that more mature, serious sf appeared in the magazine. An early example is "Finis" (June 1906; vt "The Last Dawn" August 1963 Magazine of Horror) by the Canadian writer Frank Lillie Pollock, a poignant story of how one couple face the End of the World. The Argosy had a growing number of companion magazines and all of these, but especially The All-Story, attracted most of the science fiction. The Argosy retained the humorous invention stories but primarily ran historical adventures, mysteries and a growing number of Westerns. An outgrowth of the invention story was the highly Gernsbackian "On the Brink of 2000" (January 1910) by Garret Smith in which a scientist has perfected television, limitless power and a global viewer. Smith later contributed several more sf stories including a revision and expansion of "On the Brink of 2000" as "The Treasures of Tantalus" (11 December 1920-8 January 1921). Another early story of interest is "Who is Charles Avison?" (April 1916) by Edison Marshall, an early use of the Counter-Earth concept. Stories from these early (pre-1912) issues may be found in The Space Annihilator and Other Early Science Fiction from The Argosy (anth 2010) edited by Gene Christie.
Although most of the major contributors of science fiction were appearing first in The All-Story, The Argosy did discover Murray Leinster. After a few non-sf stories he contributed the Timeslip adventure "The Runaway Skyscraper" (22 February 1919), followed by "The Mad Planet" (12 June 1920) and its sequel "Red Dust" (2 April 1921) set on a Far Future Earth where mankind has reverted to savagery.
When Argosy was merged with All-Story, Matthew White, who remained as editor, was able to draw upon a wealth of talent, of which he took instant advantage by serializing The Metal Monster (7 August-25 September 1920; 1946) by A Merritt followed soon by Tarzan the Terrible (29 January-26 February 1921; 1921) by Edgar Rice Burroughs. In addition to the works of Burroughs, Leinster and Merritt, throughout the 1920s and 1930s Argosy All-Story Weekly ran sf and scientific romance stories and serials by Ray Cummings, Ralph Milne Farley, Homer Eon Flint, Austin Hall, Otis Adelbert Kline, Fred MacIsaac and Victor Rousseau. Even Erle Stanley Gardner contributed seven sf stories.
By the 1930s such sf and weird-magazine authors as Eando Binder, R F Starzl, Harl Vincent, Donald Wandrei, Manly Wade Wellman, Jack Williamson and Arthur Leo Zagat were appearing in its pages. In 1938 Argosy polled its readers on what was the most popular story it had published and the result was The Ship of Ishtar (8 November-13 December 1924; 1926) by A Merritt, which was reprinted from 29 October-3 December 1938. The last sf to be serialized during Argosy's pulp incarnation was Earth's Last Citadel (April-July 1943; 1964) by C L Moore and Henry Kuttner. Many of the scientific romances and sf from the pulp years of The Argosy were reprinted in Famous Fantastic Mysteries, Fantastic Novels and A Merritt's Fantasy Magazine.
From September 1943 Argosy switched to a semi-slick format as a men's adventure magazine, responding to modern trends and the background of World War II. Science fiction took a back-seat for a while, although it did run a number of Walter R Brooks's humorous Mr Ed stories about a talking horse. After the War, interest returned. Nelson Bond's "Uncommon Castaway" (June 1945) was a Timeslip story of a World War II submarine thrown into the past. Murray Leinster, under his real name of Will F Jenkins, had the United States under nuclear attack by an unknown country in "Atoms Over America" (June-July 1946; 1946 as The Murder of the U.S.A.). A Bertram Chandler met the growing interest in UFOs with "The Ship from Nowhere" (March 1948). In "Gentlemen, Be Seated!" (May 1948) Robert A Heinlein posed the need to solve an engineering problem on the Moon. These show that Argosy was still a market for science fiction if correctly targetted at the post-war readership. The 1950s saw contributions by Ray Bradbury, Arthur C Clarke, Philip José Farmer and James E Gunn alongside other non-genre writers.
By the 1960s fiction generally was in decline in the Argosy and such stories that it ran were either reprints or aimed at the men's market. It did feature articles on the space race by Martin Caidin and on UFOs by Ivan T Sanderson. It was in Argosy that the term "Bermuda Triangle" first appeared in "The Deadly Bermuda Triangle" (February 1964) by Vincent H Gaddis. In its final years Argosy published a "Science Fiction Special" issue (1977), edited by Lou Sahadi, though its contents were entirely reprinted from Super Science Stories.
After it ceased publication in November 1979, Argosy has twice been revived. Firstly in May 1990, published and edited by Richard Kyle. This saw three quasi-Slick issues, on an irregular schedule until August 1991, and two slim non-slick "special" issues, in 1993 and 1994, all with a mixture of new and reprint science fiction, adventure and mystery fiction, and articles, of which of interest was an interview with Philip K Dick, "Piper in the Woods" (November 1990), by Gregg Rickman. All five issues were letter-size.
The second revival, or more accurately the third incarnation, appeared in 2003, published by the Coppervale Company, Silvertown, Arizona, and edited by Lou Anders and James A Owen. It saw three issues (January/February 2004; May/June 2004; Spring 2005), the final one retitled Argosy Quarterly and edited by Owen alone. It was printed on high quality coated matt stock and issued in a slipcase, slightly larger than Digest size. Anders noted the existence of the original Argosy, under various titles, but commented: "We're not any of those. We're our own magazine." More than any previous incarnation this version of Argosy was closer to a genre magazine, though rather than admit to science fiction or fantasy it labelled itself "an assortment of literary splendours and marvels" as if some cabinet of curiosities. The quality and originality of the fiction in the three issues was high, a range of science fiction, fantasy and mystery, with work by Carol Emshwiller, Jeffrey Ford, Caitlín R Kiernan, Richard A Lupoff, Mike Resnick, Benjamin Rosenbaum and Jeff VanderMeer. Each issue came with a separately bound novella, in sequence The Mystery of the Texas Twister (2003 chap) by Michael Moorcock; The Rapture of the Nerds (2004 chap) by Charles Stross and Cory Doctorow and The Dragons of Manhattan – Book One (2005 chap) by John Grant.
The US Argosy should not be confused with two UK magazines of the same name. The first, standard size, December 1865-September 1901, was edited for most of its life by Mrs Henry Wood (1814-1887) and her son Charles W Wood. It published occasional stories of the supernatural but was not known for sf. The second began as a Pulp magazine from June 1926 to January 1940, became a Digest in February 1940, retitled Argosy of Complete Stories, and as simply Argosy from April 1945. In both its pulp and digest forms this magazine primarily published reprints in many genres but increased its quote of new stories in the 1950s and 1960s. It was edited at the outset by E V Odle. It serialized Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897) from its first issue and later Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's Frankenstein (1818; rev 1831), and published stories by Lord Dunsany. Later, in its digest form, it published many stories by Joan Aiken and Ray Bradbury. It ceased in February 1974. [MA/JE]
- Frank A Munsey, 9 December 1882-1 September 1883
- Malcolm Douglas, 8 September 1883-27 November 1886
- Matthew White Jr, 4 December 1886-2 June 1928
- Archibald Bittner, 9 June 1928-1931
- Don Moore, 1931-1933
- Albert J Gibney, 1933-1934
- Frederick Clayton, 1934-1936
- Jack Byrne, 1936-1937
- Chandler H Whipple, 1937-1939
- George W Post, 1939-1942
- Rogers Terrill, January 1943-February 1944
- Harry Steeger, March 1944-July 1949
- Jerry Mason, August 1949-June 1953
- Howard J Lewis, July 1953-September 1954
- James B O'Connell, October 1954
- Ken W Purdy November 1954-May 1955
- Henry Steeger (second term), June 1955-April 1970
- Hal Steeger, May 1970-January 1972
- Milt Machlin, February 1972-March 1973
- Gil Paust, April 1973-February 1974
- Bert Randolph Sugar, March 1974-April 1975
- Ernest Baxter, May 1975-May 1976
- Lou Sahadi, July 1976-November/December 1978
- Garrik Roen, August-November 1979
- Sam Moskowitz, editor. Under the Moons of Mars: A History and Anthology of "the Scientific Romance" in the Munsey Magazines, 1912-1920 (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970) [anth: Scientific Romance: hb/]
- Frank A Munsey. The Story of the Founding and Development of the Munsey Publishing House (New York: Munsey, 1907) [nonfiction: hb/]
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