Press: Digest Digested

  • Share
  • Read Later

After a life of 48 years, during which it achieved a unique place in U. S. journalism, the Literary Digest last week was taken over by TIME, thus ceasing to exist as a separate publication. First issue of the Literary Digest appeared on March 1, 1890. Its publishers, Isaac Kauffman Funk & Adam Willis Wagnalls, classmates at Wittenberg College (Springfield, Ohio) and ordained Lutheran ministers, conceived the magazine as "a repository of contemporaneous thought and research as presented in the periodical literature of the world.'' In 1905 this formula was extended to include newspaper comment on the news.

After Founder Funk died in 1912, the Digest became largely the creation of Robert Joseph Cuddihy, who was first employed by Funk & Wagnalls in 1878 as a 16-year-old office boy. He eventually came to own 60% of the company's stock. Retiring, kindly, generous Publisher Cuddihy used his magazine to collect some $10,000,000 for Belgian and Near East relief during and after the World War. In the ten years following the War, the Digest achieved its greatest period of power and prestige.

It originated in 1920 the first nationwide sampling of public opinion in its famed straw votes, the forerunners of such notable successors as the FORTUNE Quarterly Survey and the American Institute of Public Opinion. The Digest's Presidential polls were pre-eminent until they went on the rocks with Alfred Mossman Landon in 1936.

Having previously absorbed Current Opinion, the Digest last June was itself absorbed by Review of Reviews. After four months, it was again sold, but on February 24 it suspended publication. Purchase of the Digest by TIME, which will fulfill the 250,000 subscriptions now in the Digest's books, was consummated with George F. Havell, who last controlled it in behalf of a syndicate.

Said TIME'S Publisher Ralph McAllister Ingersoll: "We do not propose that the spirit of these great magazines, whose subscribers remained loyal to the very end, shall disappear from the American scene."

Wilfred John Funk, son of Founder Funk and onetime Literary Digest editor: "It is a very pleasant thing to have an old and honored magazine go into new and honored hands."