Every Week Essays

The Production of the editorial content of Every Week

by Melissa Homestead

Because Every Week had no masthead and left no complete office archive, it is difficult to attribute responsibility for various tasks to individual staff members or to assign authorship credit for anonymous text (including text accompanying photographs in the picture-caption section and paragraphs in “The Melting Pot”). In later years, former staff members made conflicting claims about their responsibilities for the magazine’s innovations. Both Bruce Barton and Anne Herendeen claimed to have “invented” the picture-caption section, [note 1] while Edith Lewis claimed responsibility for “the organization of gravure picture pages and 'The Melting Pot,' two of the most successful departments of the magazine.” [note 2]

These conflicting accounts suggest a different truth—that the Every Week office was free-wheeling, lively, and collaborative. Week after week, staff members, individually and collectively, rushed to assemble enough (but not too much) heterogeneous content to fill the portion of each issue not dedicated to fiction, regular columns, and occasional longer articles. Lella Faye Secor wrote to her mother in 1916 that she found the nine-to-five office life confining; however, she also conceded that “Members of the editorial staff come and go as they like, and no one pays any attention to them. If we want to spend two or three hours at lunch, or stay home for half a day, we can, but of course the work is too heavy most of the time to permit dallying.” [note 3] Indeed, the office atmosphere was casual enough that Secor managed to use the office typewriter in the evenings to carry on the anti-war work of the American Neutral Conference Committee. [note 4] Brenda Ueland recalled that the office atmosphere was “frolicksome,” with Bruce Barton writing up funny captions for photographs with his left hand while simultaneously telephoning with his right. [note 5]

Even though Barton claimed he “invented” the picture-caption section, he also described it as “a joint production—three or four of my bright young people wrote them, and Miss Edith Lewis, my Managing Editor, edited them, and then I finally ran them through my typewriter.” [note 6] Furthermore, the work of creating a picture caption spread was often parceled out to new free-lance contributors aspiring to staff positions. Ueland ruefully recalled her own process as she created a picture-caption spread as a free-lance contributor: “The procedure went like this: First I had an idea. Say it was ‘Famous Bachelors.’ Then I collected twelve good pictures of twelve world-famous bachelors, including Eleanora Sears of Boston. Then the public library and the New York World morgue…for information about each of them. Then to write a hundred-word caption for each, crammed with much labored wit.” [note 7] Ueland is describing an actual picture-caption spread published in Every Week, which puts the unconventional, unmarried female socialite in the company of eligible men. As Ueland makes clear, staff members primarily “collected” existing photographs for the rotogravure section (Sears and her wealthy male peers were common targets of society photographers)—the magazine rarely commissioned or purchased new ones. Freda Kirchwey’s journal from January 1917, shortly after she joined the staff, references many references to similar trips to the New York Public Library to gather materials, and both Ueland and Kirchwey left materials in their papers documenting their authorship of text published anonymously in Every Week. Some staff members (including Ueland, Kirchwey, Herendeen, John Colton, and John Chapin Mosher) also contributed articles with by-lines.

Information about who was responsible for managing the staff and soliciting and editing content by non-staff is scant, but suggestive. Barton seems to have been relatively hands-off, while Edith Lewis as managing editor was more hands-on. In letters to her mother, Lella Secor referred to Lewis simply as “the editor,” the person who judged her free-lance submissions and who would decide whether or not she would be asked to do more work, while she designated Barton “the chief mogul.” [note 8] Similarly, Ueland described Barton as focused on dreaming up ideas for promoting the magazine, while she described Lewis as “our real boss on Every Week.” [note 9] Lewis also seems to have had primary, if not sole, responsibility for acquiring and editing fiction for the magazine, with fiction often circulated to the magazine through literary agents as intermediaries. [note 10] George Buckley, president of the Crowell Publishing Company, said Lewis was “one of the best judges of fiction they had ever known; that she had rewritten a great deal of the stuff that had come in to them.” [note 11]

1 Bruce Barton to Charles H. Brower, 1953, Bruce Barton Papers, Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, WI (Barton’s claim). “Personals,” JWT Co. Newsletter, 15 Oct. 1928, 3 (Herendeen’s claim). [back]

2 Edith Lewis, Personnel File, “Application for Employment,” 27 Nov. 1918, J. Walter Thompson Co. Archive, Hartman Center for Advertising and Marketing History, Duke University, Durham, NC. [back]

3 Lella Faye Secor to Loretta Secor, July 1916, in Lella Secor: A Diary in Letters: 1915-1922 (New York: Burt Franklin, 1978), 82. [back]

4 Florence, Lella Secor, 152n17. [back]

5 Brenda Ueland to Bruce Barton, Nov. 1931, Bruce Barton Papers, Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, WI. [back]

6 Bruce Barton to David A. Balch, 4 Sep. 1956, Bruce Barton Papers. [back]

7 Brenda Ueland, Me: A Memoir (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1939), 158. [back]

8 Lella Secor to Loretta Secor, 27 Feb. [1916] and 15 Mar. 1916, in Florence, Lella Secor, 41, 51. [back]

9 Ueland, Me, 156. [back]

10 See Melissa J. Homestead, “Edith Lewis as Editor: Every Week Magazine and the Contexts of Cather’s Fiction,” Willa Cather: A Writer’s Worlds, ed. John J. Murphy, et al., 325-52 (Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press, 2011), for a brief case study of Lewis’s role in acquiring and editing Conrad Richter’s stories for the magazine, and documenting the dealings of agent Paul Revere Reynolds with Every Week and Edith Lewis. [back]

11 Edith Lewis, Personnel File, Memo from J.C. Waller documenting telephone conversation with George Buckley, 3 Dec. 1918. [back]

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