1867: Women Readers

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On November 2 the first issue of the Harper brothers’ new magazine Harper’s Bazar appeared, based on the sophisticated German publication Der Bazar and headed by the admired translator and historian of New York City Mary L. Booth. Fletcher Harper’s brothers had been reluctant at first to back the effort; the Bazar would be aimed chiefly at women, who were still only a vaguely felt force among readers. Nevertheless, Fletcher’s enthusiasm prevailed. Most of his fashion illustrations would come from the Berlin edition, giving the sixteen-page magazine an air of European newness, while its editor, Mary Booth, would refine the mix of stories, serial fiction, columns, and domestic tips.

That she did, bringing the Bazar ’s readership up to eighty thousand within its first ten years. Booth had more than twenty volumes of translation to her name by the time she took the job with Harper’s, as well as an 850-page history of the City of New York, the first of its kind.

But she was also no stranger to deadlines; she had written for The New York Times and had translated Count Agenor de Gasparin’s fat work The Uprising of a Great People: The United States in 1861 in one virtually sleepless week. While her interests were often scholarly, Booth knew how to keep her readership entertained and uplifted for the twenty-one years she held the editor’s job, until her death in March of 1889.