Century Company.

Alternative names
Active 1924
Active 1933

History notes:

The Century Company was founded in New York City in 1881. Century published magazines including the Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine and St. Nicholas and publications such as Battles and Leaders of the Civil War. Roswell Smith formed the company and appointed Richard Watson Gilder as editor of the Century which was noted for its fiction, poetry, historical studies, and woodcut illustrations. In 1930 the Century was merged with The Forum magazine.

From the description of Century Company records, 1870-1924. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 144652312

The Century Company published periodicals and books. It was founded in New York City in 1881. Century's primary publication was The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine, which was regarded as the best general periodical of its time during the 1880s and 1890s. The Century Company had previously been a subsidiary of Charles Scribner's and Sons and called Scribners and Company. In 1881, Roswell Smith bought Scribners and Company for $2,000,000 and renamed it the Century Company, after the Century Club in New York. The magazine, then called Scribners Monthly, was renamed The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine. The Century Company's other publications included the ten-volume Abraham Lincoln, George Keenan's Siberia, and William Sloane's Life of Napoleon Bonaparte, all of which first appeared in part or full in The Century; the Century Dictionary; and St. Nicholas, a juvenile magazine.

When Roswell Smith formed his new company, he took with him the men who had made Scribners and Company successful: Josiah Gilbert Holland (who died shortly thereafter), Richard Watson Gilder, Alexander W. Drake, and Robert Underwood Johnson. Under Gilder's editorial leadership, The Century Illustrated Magazine thrived; Smith gave Gilder a free hand in forming editorial policy, and Gilder was ably supported by his associate editor, Johnson, and a team of dedicated and loyal editors. The magazine became noted for its short stories, poems, documentation of historical events, and fine woodcut illustrations, which, under Alexander W. Drake, superintendent of the art department, set the standard for quality in late nineteenth century commercial art.

The Century's greatest success was its series of articles on the history of the Civil War. The "War Series" began in November 1884 and continued for more than three years. It was conceived of by another member of Gilder's inner circle, Clarence Clough Buel, who assisted Johnson in editing the series. The series consisted of first-hand remembrances of events written by Union and Confederate combatants; 230 participants, from privates to generals (including Grant and Sherman), contributed. The series also included nearly 2,000 engravings, often based on the photographs of Matthew B. Brady and Alexander Gardner. The series doubled the magazine's circulation (to 250,000) and made the Century Company $1 million. The Century later published the articles as a four volume book, Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, also edited by Underwood and Buel.

Although The Century enjoyed years of critical and commercial success under Gilder's editorship, competition from cheaper magazines and newspapers during the early 20th century eventually resulted in declining readership. After Gilder's death in 1909, Robert Underwood Johnson became The Century's editor. Johnson tried to convince the publisher to start a new, inexpensive magazine to meet the competition. He failed. Johnson resigned after Roswell Smith's successor as President, Frank H. Scott, passed away. The woodcut illustrations for which The Century had been known were finally discontinued under the editorship of Hewitt H. Howland (1912-1930). In 1929, The Century Magazine became a quarterly. In 1930, the owners of The Forum bought The Century and merged it with their magazine.

From the guide to the Century Company records, 1870-1924, (The New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division.)


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Ark ID:


  • American literature--20th century
  • Periodicals--Publishing
  • Publishers and Publishing
  • Children's periodicals
  • Illustrated periodicals
  • American literature--19th century


  • Editors


  • Editors


  • Yosemite National Park (Calif.) (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Yosemite National Park (Calif.) (as recorded)