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Heather Haveman. Magazines and the Making of America: Modernization, Community, and Print Culture, 1741-1860

Heather Haveman. Magazines and the Making of America: Modernization, Community, and Print Culture, 1741-1860. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015. 432p. ISBN 9780691164403. US $45.00.

Haveman’s work explores the changing ways that American magazine publishing and distribution helped create and shape local communities and, increasingly during the nineteenth century, the trans-local communities that are a hallmark of modern life. Her narration and synthesis of data and scholarship on the evolving genres, contents, infrastructures, and institutional workings of American magazines in chapters two through four alone make her work an important source on magazine production and distribution. Subsequent chapters provide a series of case studies on how magazines engendered communities around religion, social reform, and economic development. Following her conclusion, Haveman provides rich, detailed appendices on data and method.

The work’s most compelling claims link the growth of infrastructure to the persistence of the local even as trans-local communities flourished alongside the efflorescence of nineteenth-century magazines. For example, Haveman provides interpretive weight to her overview of magazine distribution via post by observing that the “[e]asy movement across space, made possible by advances in communication systems like the postal network, may actually make location even more important by heightening contrasts between local…and non-local…cultures, thus amplifying local attachments” (70). Here, as well as elsewhere, Haveman convincingly argues for the importance of examining how magazines’ contributions to the making of communities could be simultaneously local, regional, and national.

Less compelling is Magazines and the Making of America’s vexed relationship to “the literary.” Haveman pejoratively and inaccurately describes a number of relatively recent works as “focus[ing] exclusively on literary life” (4). She relies, however, on one such work – Jared Gardner’s The Rise and Fall of Early American Magazine Culture (2012) – to support her successful claim that sites and objects of production are important sources of evidence for identifying communities created by publishing and publishers (7). Also problematic is Haveman’s print culture paradigm, which foregrounds technologies of printing, paper making, and engraving in ways that foreclose questions about how related means of mediating magazines provide insights into community-making and identity. For example, when Haveman observes that Henry Rowe Schoolcraft’s Muzzinyegun or Literary Voyager, an Ojibwe- and English-language magazine, was handwritten, one wonders if the radically different materiality of the magazine held any significance for the community of writers and readers that contributed to and read it (49-50). Similarly, when Haveman notes that the American Temperance Society employed a multimedia campaign of lecturing and print distribution (190), the relationship between the audiences for such lectures and the readerships (or potential readerships at least) of such print publications goes unexplored.

A glimmer of the relationship between embodied performances and printed magazines appears later when Haveman notes that social reform magazines could energize audiences by republishing works such as abolitionist speeches (207). But the connection is underdeveloped – and understandably so in a work aimed primarily at cultural sociologists. Haveman does have a section in chapter eight called ‘Implications for Newer Media,’ but she leaves much of the scholarly work on the connections among media in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries undone. This is an opportunity for book history scholars, whose media ecology-based approaches uniquely qualify them for filling out the connections between print and non-print media in shaping communities.

Mark Alan Mattes
University of Louisville

Published inBook review

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