The Post’s weekly circulationnreached one million in 1908 andnclimbed to nearly three million in thenlate 1920’s, when the average numbernof pages in a single issue burgeoned tontwo hundred. (The Post’s readership,nas Cohn rightly adds, was probablynthree to four times larger than thennumber of sold copies. In the agenbefore radio, and particularly duringnthe Depression, it is probable that ansingle issue was read by three or fournother family members or friends.)nMost telling are figures such as Lorimer’sn1929 salary, a modest $225,000,nand the $6,000 and $60,000 rates thatnthe Post paid respectively for shortnstories and serials in the late 1920’s. Asnthe most successful American magazineneditor of his time, Lorimernseemed to publish everyone who wasnanyone or who was bound to becomenanyone. He published the journalismnof the popular Sam Blythe, GaretnGarett, and Irvin S. Cobb; the illustrationsnof J.C. Leyendecker, GharlesnLivingston Bull, and (of course) NormannRockwell; articles by Trotsky,nChurchill, Mussolini, and virtually everynAmerican President and presidentialncandidate between Grover Clevelandnand FDR; and fiction by F. ScottnFitzgerald, Edith Wharton, Booth Tarkington,nO. Henry, Pearl Buck, JamesnGould Cozzens, and William Faulkner.nReaders of the Post read FranknNorris’s The Pit and Jack London’snCall of the Wild, Alfred Smith’s memoirsnand Mussolini’s autobiography,nand followed the adventures of G.K.nChesterton’s Father Brown, J.P. Marquand’snMr. Moto, Rex Stout’s NeronWolfe, and Agatha Christie’s HerculenPoirot.nBefore movies, radio, and televisionnchallenged the hegemony of the printednpage, the Saturday Evening Postnreigned supreme as America’s mostnpopular chronicler of eariy 20th-centurynculture. “No single contemporarynmedium has anything like so powerful,nbecause essentially unchallenged, anhold on mass society,” writes Cohn.nLorimer achieved celebrity status innhis lifetime, and he was frequentlynthe subject of articles and interviews innthe 1920’s. Most of these “personalitynprofiles” were mere hagiographical puffnpieces that paid homage to Lorimer’sngenius while offering little if any analysisnof his motives or methods. LeonnWhipple’s 1928 article in Outlook,nhowever, was different. Entitled then”SatEvePost: Mirror of These States,”nWhipple posed the following: whatndoes this “Niagara of Print,” as hendescribed the Post, do to us? “Whatnchannels is it wearing in our society?”nHis conclusion was astute: that the Posfnwas not merely a medium for entertainmentnand the disseminahon of information,nbut rather was a “mirror”nthat “not only reflects us” but alson”creates us.”nCohn picks up where Whipple leftnofl” and assigns responsibility for thisnPromethean mission to George Lorimer.nThe Post, she contends, was theninstrument Lorimer used to shapenAmerican society around a particularnset of values and to “interpret Americanto itself”nLorimer was conscious from thenoutset of his editorial work thatnAmerica was unformed as annation; he saw the country asnan unassimilated collection ofnregions and nationalities innwhich an overriding andnunifying consciousness ofnAmericanism had yet to bendeveloped. The Post wasnconceived … as the mediumnof an American consciousness.nThis new consciousness, as conceivednand propagated by Lorimer, was to benbased on the bourgeois culture of then19th century. Born into VictoriannAmerica and inculcated with its mores,nLorimer would forever judge events bynthe degree to which they reflected thenclassical liberal ideals of diligence, thrift,nsimplicity, sobriety, self-reliance, andnpersonal liberty. He never gave up hopenthat these 19th-century values could benmolded to 20th-century opportunitiesnand translated into a mass consciousnessnthrough the art, articles, and editorials ofnthe Post. Lorimer and the Post becamenfor rural, small-town, middle-classnAmerica what Henry Luce and Lifenbecame for the emerging suburbannculture of the 1950’s: the editor becamenits spokesman, and the magazinenits cultural voice.nLorimer wasted no time in moldingnthe Post to his purposes. The values henwished to inculcate in his readers werenperhaps nowhere better laid out than innhis didactic “Letters from a Self-MadennnMerchant to His Son,” which appearednanonymously and serially in thenPost between 1901 and 1902. Thenfictional self-made man was an oldnpork-packer named John Graham, andnhis son, Pierrepont, was a freshman atnHarvard. The letters trace the son’snfollies through college that give rise tonhis father’s homespun opinions andnadvice, and they set clearly in oppositionntwo sets of social values: one thatnincreasingly cherished titles and socialnstation over diligence and true accomplishment,nand another that covetednhonesty, simplicity, and commonnsense. “It’s good business, when anfellow hasn’t much behind his forehead,nto throw out his chest and attractnattention to his shirt-front,” writesnGraham. “But as you begin to meetnmen who have done something thatnmakes them worth meeting you willnfind that there are no ‘keep off thengrass’ or ‘beware of the dog’ signsnaround their premises, and that theyndon’t motion to the orchestra to playnslow music while they talk.” Lorimer’snletters were an instant success, andnthey were published as a book in 1902.nLetters of a Self-Made Merchant becamena best-seller both here andnabroad, and it was translated into morenlanguages than any other Americannnovel since Uncle Tom’s Cabin.nNot surprisingly, the America thatnLorimer and the Post portrayed wasnnot to everyone’s liking. Sinclair Lewisnwas perhaps the Posf s most vocal nemesisnin the 1920’s. His claim that thenmerrily ignorant Babbitt gained all hisnwisdom from the Post, which for Lewisnstood as the apotheosis of the middlenand middle-class America he sought tonridicule and mock, naturally outragednLorimer, and the latter answered Lewisnin the December 1924 Bookman.nLorimer conceded that Babbitt mightnexemplify one kind of American businessman,nbut added “there are quite asnmany Babbitts among the critics, thenwriters, the lawyers, and the professorsnas there are among the Rotarians.”nLorimer, however, would have the lastnlaugh. In 1931, the year after henreceived the Nobel Prize for Literature,nSinclair Lewis was published innthe Post.nCohn makes it clear that Lorimernsought not only to proselytize andnto declaim, but also to preserve and tonOCTOBER 1990/37n