Monday, July 28, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Saturday Evening Post to return to Philly: Update

With its 191-year archive and, maybe, its $70 million Norman Rockwell-Howard Pyle art collection

Saturday Evening Post to return to Philly: Update

UPDATE 12/18: The Saturday Evening Post's redesign and its return to Philadelphia -- along with its 191-year archive and, maybe, its $70 million art collection -- is headed by an editor with business chops and a serious tone:

"We'll be Vanity Fair meets Smithsonian," says Steve Slon, a founder of Rodale Press's Men's Health and editor of the AAPR's 40 million-circulation member magazine. "We're calling it the New Saturday Evening Post. We're redoing the logo. Our tag line is '200 years in the making.'

"The magazine in the last 30 years was relying on nostalgia, tradition, the good old days. We'll still have that, with the old Norman Rockwwell paintings. But we're relegating that to a small part of the magazine, like National Geographic's 'flashback' page. 

"Mainly we will be analyzing the trends of the day -- Are banks too big to fail? We'll write about gun control -- not covering last weekend's shooting tragedy, but telling you the history of the NRA and about how this country ended up with so many guns. 

"We redesigned the magazine," as a bimonthly. "We'll relaunching with the Jan-Feb issue. It's in homes in another ten days."

What's inside? "We've got a piece called Jailhouse Blues," by Philadelphia-based writer Todd Pitock, "that asks what it will take to reform our prison system. He starts with Eastern State Penitentiary," the Quaker-inspired early Philadelphia prison whose solitary confinement policy horrified visitor Charles Dickens, then "asks why the U.S. today is the 'superpower of incarceration'." Ex-Newsweek health writer Sharon Begley contributes a piece on placebos. There is a celebrity profile, on Shirley MacLaine. A humor piece targets the "Worst 10-1/2 Vice Presidents" of the U.S.

Slon raids the archives for fiction, but he's also buying new works. "We bring some of our tradition forward. F. Scott Fitzgerald. John O'Hara. Everyone from the day, except Hemingway," who Post editors notoriously turned down. The Post has sponsored a First Annual Great American Fiction Contest, attracting 250 entries, including the winner, Lucy Jane Bledsoe's "Wolf," which will be celebrated next month at a party at Michael's Pub, the literary salon -- in New York. 

The Post is negotiating for a suite in the Public Ledger Building -- next door to the old Curtis building where the Post was based -- for "a toehold, until we get established here." Sloan will be based in Philadelphia, and "I'm looking for a managing editor. We'll have a reporter and a couple of web editors." Business staff will follow if all goes well.

The SerVaas family, which bought the Post after its 1969 shutdown and has "curated" the reduced edition ever since, owns more than the magazine. "We have art, including half a dozen Rockwell originals, and 60 or 70 paintings," including Howard Pyle works, "worth $70 million. It's been a traveling collection. We'd like to create a gallery." The family "cares very deeply," Sloan added. "The archive back to 1821 is in their offices. They would consider donating it to a Philadelphia-based institution. They feel strongly it belongs in Philadelphia."

Slon joined the Post in January after serving as a consultant. His Rodale and AARP experience commended him to publisher Joan SerVaas. Says Slon: "The audience for this publication is an active engaged 45-60 year olds and anyone else who wants to read it. It's going to be a lot of fun."

YESTERDAY: The Saturday Evening Post, an Indiana-based doctors' waiting room magazine that recycles vintage Norman Rockwell-like illustrations and some early fiction and reporting items from the former Curtis Publishing Co. weekly of the same name in its quarterly issues, says it is going through a redesign and will move its offices back to Philadelphia, reports Publishing Executive here.

The Post, once the nation's biggest-selling magazine, formerly occupied the Curtis building on Washington Square (still home to a famous stained-glass installation by Post artist Maxfield Parrish, though the former Norman Rockwell Museum question has moved a few blocks to the Atwater Kent Museum), as well as the Curtis Park printing complex near Darby. The Post showcased political commentary and fiction by popular writers. After it closed in 1969 the intellectual assets were purchased by members of the SerVaas family, who have kept the property.

The move recalls last year's revival of the former Collier's magazine by Berwyn medical publisher John Elduff. (While Philadelphia was a mass-market publishing center from the 1790s into the TV Guide era, the old Collier's was based in New York. Elduff revived Collier's after buying the name at an auction, more than 30 years after the magazine ceased publication.) More on the Collier's revival here and here. 

Joseph N. DiStefano
About this blog

PhillyDeals posts raw drafts and updates of Joseph N. DiStefano's columns and stories about Philly-area finance, investment, commercial real estate, tech, hiring and public spending, which he's been writing since 1989, mostly for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

DiStefano studied economics, history and a little engineering at Penn, taught writing at St. Joe's, and has written the book Comcasted, more than a thousand columns, and thousands of articles, and raised six children with his wife, who is a saint.

Reach Joseph N. at JoeD@phillynews.com or 215 854 5194.

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