The last days of the magazine Short Stories

Last week, I reprinted the editorial from the Mar 25, 1940 (50th Anniversary) issue of Short Stories. This week, i just received a copy of the last issue of the magazine, and thought it would be interesting to look at the changes before the magazine ceased publication. It was one of the last pulps, stopping in 1959. All photos are from my collection, except the Dec 1957 one which i took from the FictionMags Index.

1951 Feb – Last pulp issue with original fiction, also possibly the last pulp issue with an original cover. It has a John D. MacDonald story.

1951 Mar – First all-reprint pulp-size issue

1953 Jun – Last pulp-size issue.

They had to choose between making it into a digest or a men’s magazine, and they chose digest. One new story from James B. Hendryx, everything else is still reprints.

The editorial 

WITH this issue your old friend, SHORT STORIES, has a new appearance. We feel that in this new size we shall be easier to read, to carry about and to enjoy. Our contents will remain the same, because we are convinced that today, confronted by the sex, crime and bloodshed displayed on every news counter, there are still a lot of men who like to read stories of high adventure, where courage and resource count in the outcome of exciting situations; tales which tell of peril, triumph, pioneering exploits, and are colored by the background of far places.

True, the world has fewer unexplored regions than it used to have, fewer lost valleys to lure men on, but there are still left plenty of spots where individual stamina counts and men take pleasure in plains and mountains, horses and hidden plateaus, the hunt and the chase—and all the things SHORT STORIES authors have written over the years.
1954 Sep – Last issue edited by Dorothy McIlwraith, all reprints. Magazine stopped publication for 2 years after this issue. 

A genuine attempt to revive the magazine in June 1956 by the publisher William J. Delaney, with a new editor M.D. Gregory and original fiction from first rate authors – P.G. Wodehouse, Frank Gruber, B. Traven, Steve Frazee, H.A. DeRosso, John Jakes, Steve Fisher.

A little bit of desperation from Frank Gruber in his letter about his story:

Dear Editor:

I have looked over the list of contents of this, the September, 1956, issue of SHORT STORIES and if this doesn’t do the trick, I do not know what today’s readers of magazine fiction want in the way of reading entertainment. It is so refreshing to know that every story is brand new from current top writers and no old reprints are being used.

This strikes me as just about as good an issue of stories, as you could hope to find in any magazine, anywhere, anytime.

1957 Dec – New publisher (Leo Margulies), a mix of original fiction and reprints from Short Stories, Western Story and  Weird Tales

1959 Feb – Last digest issue, mix of 5 reprints and 3 originals

1959 Aug – Last issue, bedsheet/quarto sized. Tried to make a men’s magazine of it. Three issues in this size, very hard to find. Original stories by Theodore Sturgeon and Elmore Leonard.

Another note of editorial desperation, this one prophetic:

SHORT STORIES Needs Your Friendship

Long ago Emerson said that if you build a better mousetrap than anyone else, the world will beat a path to your door. Like so many wise and witty sayings, it contains an element of truth. But in the field of modern merchandising and mass distribution there are qualifying factors, particularly if you publish a magazine that must reach a very wide audience if it is to survive at all. And SHORT STORIES is not a mousetrap. A tiger-trap, perhaps, in some of its aspects, for in the many tales of high adventure which have made it America’s outstanding all-fiction adventure magazine for seventy years not a few hove dealt with the actual trapping of tigers.

For seventy years SHORT STORIES has built strength with a rugged fiction appeal, it has shunned the unwholesome, the luridly suggestive, the brutally sadistic. But it has drawn no punches in its vigorous portrayal of life in the raw on far frontiers. And because SHORT STORIES has something both universal and very special to offer, we felt that, as a small, digest-size magazine, it wasn’t getting the newsstand attention it deserved. That’s why we went large, flat size. Its future will depend on you. It could fold. This could be the last issue. We’re being completely frank.

In a venture of this magnitude everything depends on the readers. They must tell their friends, for enthusiasm must be communicated If a magazine is to prosper. So we’re making a direct appeal to you. If SHORT STORIES means to you what we think It does—spread the word around. If you do. we won’t even have to say “thank you” in so many words. The contents of the magazine for the next seventy years will tell you exactly how happy you’ve made us. and how grateful we are.

That was it; the last issue of a nearly 50 year old pulp magazine.


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