Most everyone who thinks he can accomplish anything at all, thinks there is some one particular thing that he can do just a little better than most people. If he thinks this hard enough, and tries hard enough to do it he is rather apt to do it really better than most people. He must back himself with faith to the limit of his ability and resource, however, and show that he himself is not afraid of any possible obstacle, and that he has the confidence in his own ability to do the thing set forth that he asks others to have. There is just one thing that I think I can do, and that is build up a journal to an enormous circulation and hold it there.
There is a time to do everything, and a thing may sometimes fail, no matter how meritorious, because of being untimely. For many, many years I have been convinced that the greatest journal of the age would be a PICTURE journal, one that gave the news of the whole world, and carried its editorial messages by ACTUAL PHOTOGRAPHS.
I Believe that the public has become PICTURE-MINDED. The moving pictures would seem to demonstrate this. The leading publishers of the day are beginning to recognize it by the constantly greater effort to illustrate their journals by actual photographs. But a real pictorial journal, one giving the news of the world by ACTUAL PHOTOGRAPHS gathered each month through world-wide services, from the ends of the earth, was the thing of which I dreamed.
Until very recently, this was impossible because of the MECHANICAL problems of reproducing the photographs. Then came the perfection of a very old process, that of intaglio, in the form of a fast rotary printing press, reproducing the actual photographs with great speed, even more beautifully than the original. It seemed to be the answer to my problem, and last September the first issue of The Illustrated Review was born.
The subscription price was put at 10 cents for the first year. The purpose of this was that since it would cost just as much to organize the world-wide photographic services and secure the thousands of photographs from the ends of the earth each month, and then to etch them on the copper cylinders for the printing, whether one copy or one million were printed, manifestly the great problem was to secure a paid subscription of several million in the shortest possible time. The advertising income would also be based on the CIRCULATION, and it is the advertising income that makes the profit. I figured that at 10 cents for a year’s subscription, I would quickly be able to secure an enormous circulation and then by giving the subscribers such a journal as they never saw before, would be able to RENEW their subscriptions for the second year at $1, while if I made the subscription price $1 to begin with, I would be a life time getting the desired circulation.
So The Illustrated Review was born at 10 cents per year, last September. It had been hatching in my brain for ten years, but its actual birth was made possible by the new process of printing…
Then came the rapid organization of world-wide photographic services, so that nothing of importance could happen in the world, but that as quickly as possible the actual photograph of the event, persons, places and things would reach The Illustrated Review. Today twelve great photo services bring to The Illustrated Review from three to four thousand photographs from every corner of the earth each month.
“You may read about it in the newspapers, but if you want to actually SEE it, you must get The Illustrated Review.”
Did the public take to it? Well they did, just like ducks taking to water. When the January issue had been reached, we printed an enormous extra edition over what we thought would be the utmost demand, and there was not a copy to be had by the second day of January. Then we printed 100,000 more copies of the February issue, and it was all gone the first day of February. Then we printed 150,000 more copies of the March issue than of the February issue, and again it was not enough. Now we are printing 150,000 more copies of the April issue than of the March, and they probably will not be enough. That means an INCREASE of FOUR HUNDRED THOUSAND in four months. Last week over FORTY THOUSAND subscriptions were received in two day’s mail.
It was just ten years ago next Sunday (March 4th) that a former little journal that I had spent many years in building up to a circulation the largest of any publication in the world was destroyed. In those days it was possible to destroy any magazine or newspaper at the whim of a public servant. Those days have passed, however, and with them have passed into oblivion and “innocuous desuetude” all who had a hand in that crime. Let us forget them and it.
As I gazed at the corpse of that life work, the thought of a new and better journal sprang to life—a journal that would reach into more American homes than any journal ever before; a journal that would fill a new place and a new want. But the time was not ripe and no then known mechanical facilities could produce the thing I thought of. Nearly ten years I waited and the time came. Now with the most astounding rapidity The Illustrated Review is becoming the great national illustrated journal of America and I believe that before this summer passes it will have reached a circulation in excess of THREE MILLION SUBSCRIBERS.
No publication in all the world ever had three million subscribers before. In it I see the rebuilding far greater, better, more useful and more influential than before, a greater publishing institution of the people. I see again the building in a thousand cities and towns those beautiful little chapter houses where the greatest of opportunities may be placed in the reach of every woman and her children. I see behind it great new artistic and educational institutions, and back of it there now stands Atascadero, an empire of happy homes, sunshine and flowers, whose thousands of acres of fruitful orchards shall send their products into a million homes without the aid of the middleman.
And I see other things of which I will not speak now.
The most pressing requirement at this moment is the immediate building of the greatest plant, for the production of the Review by the wonderful new rotary gravure process, in the world. I want this great plant and The Illustrated Review to be ABSOLUTELY FREE. I want to pay off quickly, the last dollar of debt on our great plants at University City that they also may be free, and become the Central and Eastern plants of The Illustrated Review.
The building of this great new plant at Atascadero, and the carrying out of my plans for the Illustrated Review calls for a large sum of money quickly. I could obtain this by mortgage loans, by the selling of stock to certain interests or by taking into partnership in The Illustrated Review, large capital. It would not then be free. There is one way I can get the money for this plant, and that way means to personally take all the risk. I have the faith, and knowing those plans, will take it.
Recently I sent a letter to a large number of friends, stating the case and suggesting that if they would lend me personally, from $100 to $1000 I would give my personal note, payable on or before one year, with interest at 6 % and would with this note, give as bonus $500 of the Dividend-Sharing certificates of the Publishing Company owning The Illustrated Review, for each $100 of the loan. These certificates are NOT stockholdings and have no vote whatever, but represent an assignment for the full life of the publishing company of one-half the net-declared profits. The certificates holder has no voice or vote and is not a stockholder and these certificates are not for sale, but whatever profits from The Illustrated Review may be for the next fifty years, one-half of those profits go to the certificate holders.
I personally take the risk, and whether The Illustrated Review becomes the great success and profit that I expect to make it or not, I will have to pay the loans, since I give my personal note for them payable on or before one year with interest at 6%. The Dividend-Sharing Certificates are given as bonus.
The response to these letters was very fine. Thousands of dollars were sent me as loans for the building of the great new plant for The Illustrated Review, and the building of The Review itself. The plans for the great buildings are nearing completion, and already the first of the great new presses is on the way, to be followed by five others. I hope by another month to have enough in hand to build and equip the great plant for spot cash, pay every dollar of remaining debt on the University City plants and then double the size of The Illustrated Review and also bring out THIS magazine by the same wonderful new printing process, superbly illustrated.
With the May issue, The Illustrated Review opens its columns to advertising for the first time, with an advertising rate up in the thousands of dollars per page. Beginning with June its subscription price goes to $1 per year. The new plant is estimated to save its entire cost, twice over, the first year, in the cost of producing The Illustrated Review.
If you would like to have a hand in this thing, you can do so to whatever amount you wish up to $1000. Whatever amount you loan, will be a personal loan to me. My personal note payable on or before one year will be sent you, bearing interest at 6% and with it a Dividend-Sharing Certificate in The Illustrated Review of a par value of $500 for each $100 of your loan.
E. G. LEWIS
James Wilkins is the president of the Atascadero Historical Society. The Colony Museum is located at 6600 Lewis Avenue, mailing address: P.O. Box 1047, Atascadero CA 93423. For more information, visit the website, www.atascaderohistoricalsociety.org or call 805-466-8341.