Creating the College Man: American Mass Magazines and Middle-Class Manhood, 1890–1915
Creating the College Man:
American Mass Magazines and Middle-Class Manhood, 1890-1915 (Studies in American Thought and Culture)
by Daniel A. Clark
University of Wisconsin Press
$26.95 List Price
Magazines were the first national news medium. They arrived before the radio and newsreels, backed by techniques and technologies (mass advertising, photo engraving, the rotary press) that spread a sensational brand of reporting that challenged governments, put pressure on trusts, and stimulated reform. Daniel A. Clark takes up an aspect of this story in Creating the College Man, an engaging contribution to the history of the mass media that provides evidence of the power of magazines to shape our mental lives. His close reading of Munsey's, Collier's Weekly, Cosmopolitan, and the Saturday Evening Post focuses on the importance of such publications in constructing a myth of self-improvement for the increasingly anxious American male. Periodicals spread across America just before the turn of the twentieth century, as mergers gave rise to modern capitalism. The corporate life was high-powered and fast-paced for the man at the top, but it relied on the mind-numbing work performed by the man at the bottom. In the 1890s, when magazines ran nervous stories about clerks committing suicide, the message was clear: Office work was deadening.
Stymied and stultified by the modern corporation, native-born Anglo-Saxon men also faced economic threats from women entering the workplace and from working-class immigrants who pushed the boundaries of whiteness. In response to this crisis of confidence, magazines posed the answer of college—a place where the middle-class white man could gain technical expertise, acquire cultural brio, and assemble that intangible mixture of elegance and mettle