The Dial - Political Magazine

Political Magazine

After a one-year revival in 1860, the third incarnation of The Dial, this time as a journal of both politics and literary criticism, began publication in 1880. This version of the magazine was founded by Francis Fisher Browne in Chicago. Browne claimed it to be a legitimate offspring of Emerson and Fuller's Dial. Brown would serve as its editor for over three decades. He envisioned his new literary journal in the genteel tradition of its predecessor, containing book reviews, articles about current trends in the sciences and humanities, and politics, as well as long lists of current book titles. It was in this form that Margaret Anderson, soon to be founder of The Little Review, worked for the magazine. Although Chicago was a city reputedly indifferent to literary pursuits, The Dial attained national prominence, absorbing The Chap-Book in 1898.

Francis Browne died in 1913 after elevating the magazine by its unswerving standard in design and content. Control of the magazine shifted his siblings, and under their control, the magazine lost prominence because they lacked the editing and managing abilities of Francis. In 1916, rather than continuing the failing magazine, the Browne family sold The Dial to Martyn Johnson, who "set the magazine on a liberal, even increasingly radical course in politics and the arts as well as in literature." Although The Dial was, at the time, a reputable magazine with a noted Midwestern influence, Johnson decided to move to New York in 1918 to distance the magazine from the Midwest and reconnect with the city because many of the magazine's new editors had connections there. Johnson's Dial soon encountered financial problems, but future editor Scofield Thayer, heir to a New England wool fortune, invested in the magazine. During this time, Thayer met Randolph Bourne, a contributing editor to The Dial. Bourne's steadfast pacifism and aesthetic views of art inspired Thayer who reflected these philosophies in his life. After contributing to The Dial and sinking large sums of money into the company, Thayer hoped for some editorial control of the magazine. Johnson, however, would not yield any responsibilities, causing Thayer to leave the magazine in 1918.

During the latter stages of World War I, Bourne's followers at The Dial became opponents of John Dewey who advocated absolute violence as the sole means of ending the war. This, coupled with increasing financial problems, nearly ended the magazine. These internal conflicts over ideology and finances caused Johnson to put the magazine up for sale in 1919. Thayer had teamed with a friend from Harvard, James Sibley Watson, Jr., to buy The Dial late in 1919. Watson, being an heir to the Western Union fortune, had ample money to buy the magazine with Thayer.

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