The New Yorker's Cosmopolitan Appeal

Harold Ross's Vision Statement for The New Yorker

"Jack and I are going to climb Mt. Everest this summer-if we can sublet our apartment."
Harold Ross had a theory about magazines. He believed that the humor in journals like Life was stale because by having a readership spread out over the nation, editors and writers could not get the material out fast enough to their readers. He wanted to create a weekly magazine that would not have a lengthy delay between deadline and delivery, and could stay in tip-top form, always on its toes with current events and wit. He was intrigued by local flavor and wanted to churn out a metropolitan magazine of wit as quickly as a weekly newspaper was produced. European humor magazines proliferated at the time, like Germany's Simplicissimus and London's Punch, and Ross thought it was time the Americans caught up.

The original conception of The New Yorker was to create a weekly humor magazine which was intended for an elite local audience. Ross was convinced that the residents of New York were unique and therefore were deserving of their own magazine, similar in concept to the city-based magazines that were springing up around the country in the 1930s. The readership and popularity of the publication grew until it enveloped a mass market of educated and sophisticated consumers, not all perhaps New Yorkers themselves, but "persons with a metropolitan interest."

But Ross was not only selling a magazine--he was selling a way of life, a slice of the city. Readers might live in Dubuque and not in New York, but they could get an insider's glimpse into the fast-paced cultural capital of the world through its pages. While the reader certainly wasn't going to get asked out to lunch with the Algonquin Round Tablers, reading The New Yorker could be a way to eavesdrop into the conversation of the witty exhanges and cultural topics that bubbled up to the surface in the text of the magazine. This idea of being able to purchase a sophisticated lifestyle, or at least an intimate glimpse of it, proved very attractive to many readers. Readers might not fool themselves into believing they belonged in that world, but they could imagine themselves there and could vicariously bask in the glow of high culture and literary circles.


the Covers
the War
House Style
The New
& Audience