Liberty was an American weekly, general-interest magazine, originally priced at five cents and subtitled, “A Weekly for Everybody.” It was launched in 1924 by McCormick-Patterson, the publisher until 1931, when it was taken over by Bernarr Macfadden until 1941. It featured contributions from some of the biggest politicians, celebrities, authors, and artists of the 20th-century. The contents of the magazine provide a unique look into popular culture, politics, and world events through the Roaring 20s, Great Depression, World War II, and Post-War America. It ceased publication in 1950 and was revived briefly in 1971.
star_border star_border star_border
Liberty Magazine was founded in 1924 by cousins Colonel Robert Rutherford McCormick and Captain Joseph Medill Patterson, owners and editors of the Chicago Tribune and New York Daily News respectively. In 1924, the owners held a nationwide contest to name the magazine offering $20,000 dollars ($300,000 in current dollar terms) to the winning entry. Among tens of thousands of entries, Charles L. Well won with his title Liberty “A Weekly for Everybody.”
The publication was constantly losing money under the family duo, though achieving high circulation. It is believed to have lost McCormick and Patterson as much as $12 million over the course of their ownership, and as a result, it was sold to Bernarr McFadden in 1931.
Under McFadden’s early leadership, the magazine was a strong proponent of Franklin D. Roosevelt, and an article proclaiming him to be physically fit to hold office may have held substantial sway in the outcome of the election. McFadden led the magazine to considerable success, until it was discovered in 1941 that he had been falsifying circulation reports by as many as 20,000 copies to increase advertising revenue. John Cuneo and Kimberly-Clark Paper company took over for McFadden in 1941 and righted the indiscretions, but ad revenues never recovered.
Following the lead of The Saturday Evening Post, in 1942 Liberty increased its price from five to ten cents, resulting in a drop in sales, down to 1.4 million, and advertising dollars. In 1944, the magazine was passed on to Paul Hunter, and until its final publication in 1950, a number of different owners would try to revive its former popularity, to no avail. A Canadian edition was published under a series of different ownerships, among them sports entrepreneur Jack Kent Cooke, through the mid-1960s.
In 1968, Dr. Seuss sued Liberty over a copyright dispute regarding cartoons he had sold to the magazine in 1932. Unlike most publications at the time, Liberty typically bought not only first serial rights, but all publishing and distribution rights to the work of their contributors. Liberty won the case, and their copyrights were solidly established by a landmark ruling in copyright law.