That Was The Year That Was: Marking a Publishing Milestone
Word went around the office this morning that North American Publishing Company, publisher of Publishing Executive and Book Business, is 55 today—"officially the speed limit," as one staffer put it. NAPCO was founded March 5, 1958 in Philadelphia by Irvin J. Borowsky. Its flagship publication, Printing Impressions, is still going strong—albeit in a vastly changed world from the hot type era it was born into.
The anniversary got me thinking about what was happening in publishing in 1958, back when John F. Kennedy was a senator, Sputnik was a shiny new satellite and Elvis Presley's "Don't" and the The Silhouettes' "Get a Job" topped the pop charts the month NAPCO opened its doors.
In 1958, Philadelphia loomed large in the publishing universe, with Curtis Publishing's Ladies Home Journal, Saturday Evening Post and The American Home three of the most popular magazines in the country. Horizon magazine began publication in New York. Modern Maturity was launched. The pianist Van Cliburn, who died last week at 78, appeared on the cover of Time in May, having just won the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. Time's Man of the Year was Charles de Gaulle; Newsweek, in March, trumpeted on its cover a "heart disease breakthrough at hand." Readers Digest, under founders Lila Bell and DeWitt Wallace, was a print powerhouse, expanding into new editions around the world.
Random House's children's imprint, Beginner Books, was founded in 1958. On the adult circuit, "Lolita" was published in the U.S. for the first time, as was the far less scandalous "Breakfast at Tiffany's."
Newsweek, of course, no longer exists in print. Curtis Publishing is no more, except as a licensing concern, and Horizon folded in 1989. Reader's Digest teeters on the brink. As for Modern Maturity—well, it's now AARP: The Magazine, at over 22 million subscribers, the largest-circulation magazine in the U.S.
A lot has changed, but as AARP: The Magazine demonstrates, you can't always predict what's going to rise to the top. Fifty-five years from now? I can't imagine...