The first group of vintage popular American magazines from the 19th and early 20th centuries, with descriptions and links to free online versions.
(Here are the Second Group of Free Magazines, and the Third Group of Free Magazines) Each magazine entry below has links to two or three volumes.
You can find many more magazines and hundreds of issues at Century Past Magazines.
Please also see “Finding Additional Issues of Magazines” after the last magazine entry for advice on finding additional issues. For reading magazines online at the sites Internet Archive or Open Library, see the tip at the bottom of the page for enlarging text.
Most of these magazine titles have pages on Wikipedia or other websites that provide useful background information about publishers and changes in title.
Lippincott’s Magazine of Popular Literature and Science
Volume 10; July – December, 1872. Volume 39; January – June, 1887Go to Vol 10|Go to Vol 39
The exact name changed somewhat over the years, but can be found in a search under the name “Lippincott’s Magazine“. In 1915 the magazine moved from Philadelphia to New York and was then renamed “McBride’s Magazine“. In 1916 it was absorbed into Scribner’s.
Godey’s Lady’s Book
Volume 45, 1852. Volume 117, No. 702, December 1888Go to Vol 45|Go to Vol 117
This was also known as Godey’s Magazine and Lady’s Book. It was published by Louis Godey from 1830 to 1878, when it was sold to John Hill Seyes Haulenbeek. The magazine ceased publication in 1898 with Haulenbeek’s death. Subscribership reached 150,000 in the 1870s, which may have been the highest of any magazine of the era.
St. Nicholas: An Illustrated Magazine for Young Folks
Volume 11 Part 1; November 1883 – April 1884. Volume 22 Part 1; November 1894 – April 1895
Go to Vol 11 Part 1|Go to Vol 22 Part 1
St. Nicholas was founded by Scribner’s in 1873, and included work by some of the country’s best writers. It continued until 1940.
Scientific American. A Weekly Journal of Practical Information, Art, Science, Mechanics, Chemistry and Manufactures
Volume 1 No. 51; September 1846. Vol 39 no. 24 (New Series); December 14, 1878
Go to Vol 1 No. 51|Go to Vol 39 no. 24
Scientific American began in 1846 and is still popular in 2014, as the oldest continuously published monthly magazine in the United States. Online, it could not be found in bound volumes; only in individual issues.
Finding Additional Issues of Magazines
These sites can be checked for additional issues. Normally the issues are bound into volumes, each of which contains all issues for a 6-month or one-year period. Some volumes can also be found and read on Google. Links below are for the site’s search tool rather than the home page. Note that many of these magazines changed names over the years, which will complicate a search.
All these sites are excellent sources for digitized books as well as for magazines.
Hathi Trust. Provides relatively complete runs of many magazines through approximately 1923. Issues after that are not available because copyrights have not expired. Issues at Hathi Trust can be read online. They can also be downloaded, but only in PDF format.
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The Online Books Page. For most of these magazines the Online Books Page provides a guide to links at other sites for every volume, if available. Their preferred host site is Hathi Trust, so other sites are only referenced when a volume is not available at Hathi Trust.
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Internet Archive. Contains a large number of magazines and many volumes, but searches are hampered by the format of search results, which presents a list of volumes for a title in random order, often without volume numbers. Patience is required to open each entry to find which volume it is. If the title you’re seeking doesn’t appear at the top of the results page, look down through the page, as results are somewhat scrambled. This site has a very good online viewer and normally enables downloads in several formats, although documents loaded onto the site many years ago may only be available in OCR text. See the tip at the bottom of the page for using the online viewer.
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Open Library. Sister site of Internet Archive (above), and searches here often open documents that are saved in Internet Archive. It uses the same online viewer as Internet Archive and enables downloads in several formats. Because the site has many items not available for download, it is best to check the “Show only eBooks” option under the search box to avoid cluttering your results with items you can’t access. Although searches in either Open Library or Internet Archive often turn up items at the sister site, it is best to search each site. See the tip at the bottom of the page for using the online viewer.
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Making of America at Cornell University Library. This site provides many issues of 22 19th Century American magazines, for online reading.
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Project Gutenberg. This has limited runs of several magazines, providing download capability in a variety of formats as well as a good viewer for reading online.
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Internet Archive and Open Library: Tips for Reading Online and Downloading
Some of our magazines are hosted by Internet Archive or Open Library. They are sister organizations and use the same online viewer application. In most cases this viewer will allow you to greatly enlarge and provide clear text if you;
1. switch from the double-page to the single-page view by using the icons in the bottom right corner, and;
2. Keep zooming in until the text snaps into a clear focus.
Using the single-page view allows you to scroll pages down with your mouse wheel.
You can download magazines from these two sites by clicking on the book name at the top-left corner of the page (in the viewer) to get to the download menu.