Magazines, Travel and Middlebrow Culture in Canada 1925-1960

Magazine name: Maclean's
Years: 1911-present
City: Toronto
Publisher: Maclean Publishing Company (Maclean-Hunter Publishing Company from 1945); currently published by Rogers Communications
Language: English

Downloadable files:

Table of contents, April 15, 1926. Link to PDF (~1mb)
Table of contents, February 1, 1928. Link to PDF (~1mb)
Table of contents, March 1, 1929. Link to PDF (~1mb)
Table of contents, March 15, 1930. Link to PDF (~1mb)
Table of contents, May 1, 1930. Link to PDF (~1mb)
Full issue, Maclean's, April 1st, 1932. Link to PDF (21mb) Note: As the pdf contains internal links, it is best viewed in Adobe Reader (Win/Mac) or Preview (Mac). Right-click on the PDF to download it and view it this way.

Maclean’s (1911-) was publisher John Bayne Maclean’s first foray into producing a commercial magazine.  He had established himself as a successful trade journal publisher, but Maclean’s would prove to be not only the first of four successful consumer-oriented titles (Mayfair, Chatelaine, and Canadian Homes and Gardens were the others), but also his flagship periodical: it was the one that attracted ‘high’ literary authors (Martha Ostenso, Morley Callaghan, Stephen Leacock, Thomas Raddall), important artists (A.J. Casson, Arthur Lismer, and J.E.H. MacDonald), and high-profile editors (Scott Young, Blair Fraser, Pierre Berton, W.O. Mitchell).  It was also the one that provided the most in-depth analysis on news and events most important to Canadians.  As a result, the magazine presents an intriguing blend of cultural prestige and consumerism.

Originally a monthly, titled The Business Magazine, and published by an advertising agency, the periodical was bought by Maclean in 1905. He changed the title to The Busy Man’s Magazine in 1906. Previously, the focus had been on re-prints of articles from other business journals, but by 1910 Maclean had begun to include original, commissioned features. In 1911, he re-named the magazine Maclean’s and started to target a broader audience —that is, Maclean’s was no longer aimed solely at professional men, but became a general interest magazine, with departments designed to appeal to female readers. This appeal was crucial. There was increasing pressure within the mainstream magazine industry to attract advertising as a means of funding magazine production, and advertisers wished to address female readers, as their research indicated that most shopping was done by women. At the same time, Maclean’s paid much attention to questions of Canadian identity, singling out this theme as the one that distinguished the magazine from its American competitors and that could, therefore, aid in building up a strong subscription list in Canada.

Maclean’s was published twice a month from 1 Feb. 1920 onward. It boasted 70 000 subscribers (Sutherland 143) at the time and, in the early 1930s, the magazine proclaimed a net paid circulation of 130 000 on its covers. Its circulation rose steadily over the next decade, and was boosted to over the quarter-million mark in 1945, when Maclean’s ran the celebrated journalist and politician Beverley Baxter’s diary of a 5 000-mile cross-Canada trip. Like many mainstream magazines, Maclean’s struggled in the 1950s, as advertisers and readers turned increasingly to television, but the adoption of a news-magazine format in the 1960s revitalised the periodical, and it is still in print as a weekly today.

When it came to travel, Maclean’s frequently promoted the edifying and pleasurable aspects of a trip abroad, yet equally often, nationalism and travel were combined, and readers were urged to tour Canada. A piece by Fred Bodsworth in the 11 June 1951 issue, for instance, claimed that ‘auto-camping’ was ‘the best way to take a holiday’ (32) and encouraged families to try it, for it was both economical and adventurous. Readers were also encouraged to share images of their travels. For the 15 June 1930 issue, Maclean’s received over 6 000 snapshots in response to a call for ‘holiday snapshots’ (84). Editors selected a ‘representative few’ for their ‘Summer Snapshot Album,’ which took readers on a coast-to-coast tour of the Dominion. The feature wove together images of Canada into a visual narrative that offered readers a sense of community, shared landscape, and ownership in what was ostensibly ‘their’ magazine.

This page was informed by Aston and Ferguson's article "Maclean's: The First 100 Years" on Maclean's website: http://www2.macleans.ca/about-macleans/macleans-the-first-100-years/

For full references, see our Bibliography page 

Please see our timeline to learn more about Maclean’s editors and owners

Accessing the magazine For the period 1925-60, a relatively complete print run is available, in print, at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Room (University of Toronto). Microfilm sets of the complete print run of Maclean’s are available at many libraries across Canada.

  • Cover. Maclean's, 15th June, 1925.
    15th June 1925
  • Cover. Maclean's, 15 July, 1929
    15th July, 1929
  • Cover. Maclean's, 15th June, 1930
    15th June, 1930
  • Cover. Maclean's, 1st August, 1931
    1st August, 1931
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