Monday, August 15, 2016


This 1932 issue marks the end of the line for Adventure in its classic 192 page form. With the September 1 number the perhaps-greatest of pulps slashed its page count by half, to 96 pages, and cut its price by more than half, from 25 cents to a dime. Adventure maintained its twice-a-month schedule until the end of May 1933, when it went monthly while raising the page count to 128 pages. Even then you got less for your dime, at least quantitatively, than in the weekly Argosy, while Short Stories, Adventure's most direct competitor continued to deliver 176 pages twice a month after its chicken-game jump to 224 in 1932. What happened to Adventure? I don't know the business end of pulp enough to say, but I know the reading end enough to say it didn't deserve this humbling. The magazine's decline after the 1927 departure of longtime editor Arthur Sullivant Hoffman is not self-evident to me. Hoffman's star writers still appeared regularly. The August 15 issue, for instance, features the opening of an Arthur O. Friel serial and the conclusion of a Talbot Mundy two-parter, along with a W. C. Tuttle short story. It also sports an Ared White spy story and fiction by Andrew A Caffrey, William Edward Hayes, Capt. Frederick Moore and James Stevens. Are they so awful? I leave it to more experienced readers to tell us. Regardless, Adventure was humbled, but survived the humbling thanks to Popular Publication and survived as a still-respectable pulp until 1953, and even then it still survived, after a fashion, into the 1970s. The one thing you can say for certain was that as of this day in 1932, Adventure's best days were definitely behind it.


  1. I wonder if this was due to being overstocked on stories while the circulation was dropping due to the Great Depression of 1929. As you say, there seems to not have been a noticeable drop in the quality of writing in the magazine after 1927. Having too many stories in inventory might have motivated them to stretch out the existing stories for a longer time, while keeping circulation constant. Dropping page size to 96 pages (half the existing size) would have done that.

    What we do know for sure is that Short Stories which was at 224 pages till August 1932, dropped to 176 pages but retained the 25 cent price. Smart move, because Adventure circulation continued to drop till Popular Publications bought the magazine in 1935, and Short Stories managed to grab the market while still managing to cut costs. They also reused earlier covers including some from other magazines; I'm guessing that was another move to save money.

    This is what the editor of Adventure at the time, A. A. Proctor, had to say about the change in the September 1 1933 issue Campfire column:

    WITH the current issue the price of Adventure goes to ten cents. While the magazine will be smaller in size, I want to impress on all of you that no other change whatsoever will be made in the contents.

    Almost a quarter of a century ago the magazine was dedicated to the policy of printing the finest adventure stories available. We are going to continue to print the finest. All your favorite authors, who built Adventure’s enviable reputation for high grade fiction, will appear regularly—and with their best work.

    While there has of necessity been an adjustment in the quantity of fiction in each issue, there will be no compromise with quality. We shall unswervingly maintain Adventure’s own level.

    A word or two about the contents of prospective issues: In the past, at the twenty-five cent rate, each issue contained from eight to ten fiction stories, besides the usual short articles. In our new format, each issue will contain at least seven stories, besides the miscellaneous non-fiction. It will be obvious that from the point of view of the number of items, the difference will not be great. While, surely, with the generous reduction in price of the magazine, it will be possible for a great many more readers who appreciate superior fiction, yet who in these times found the twenty-five cent rate prohibitive, to become regular buyers of Adventure.

    Though some of you may regret that there must be some reduction in size, all of you will feel, I’m sure, that the new price more than compensates. We plan to make Adventure, at ten cents absolutely the best fiction magazine at its price. And to keep it, as far as quality goes, the best at any price.

    —A. A. P.

    1. The Campfire column is from September 1, 1932 issue, of course. Not 1933.

  2. In the May 1st, 1933 issue the editor, A.A. Proctor, makes the announcement that the reader's reaction to the smaller size was very negative. It was just too big a change to go from 196 pages to 96 and from 25 cents to a dime. He prints 10 letters in The Campfire and says these letters represent the ratio of all letters received. Out of 10 letters 8 were definitely against the decrease in size and price, and only 2 of the letters supported the decrease.

    In view of this reaction, Proctor also announces that the magazine will be bigger with the June issue and the price will rise to 15 cents. He also says the magazine will go to once a month instead of twice a month. This extra two weeks on the the newsstands must of helped circulation.

    So two recent experiments failed with ADVENTURE. The attempt to publish a high quality book paper magazine with Rockwell Kent illustrations failed and now this attempt to publish a smaller, cheaper magazine also was rejected by the readers.

    Soon the magazine would be sold to Popular Publications and they would revive it under the excellent editors Howard Bloomfield and Ken White.

  3. Thanks, guys, for the informed and informative discussion. The most I can add is that Popular reinstated the twice-a-month schedule, at 128 pages, from September 1934 through October 1935. The closest Adventure came to its glory-days page count was from July 1943 through April 1944, when the monthly ballooned to 160 pages. That matched Short Stories' page count until it shrunk to 144 in February 1944. Of course, Short Stories continued to chug along on a twice-a-month schedule through this whole period.