EA4312, Dr. Pressman
A Hazard of New Fortunes: Finding a Catchy Name for the Magazine
William Dean Howells’s A Hazard of New Fortunes (1890) tells about the creation of a bi-monthly magazine in New York. Howells showcases the new magazine enterprise from its fledgling stage to its eventual success. Although the magazine’s success is essential, this factor is less significant than the finding of a catchy name for the magazine.
In the beginning, Mr. Fulkerson, creative genius and salesman extraordinaire, wants to start a bi-monthly magazine. He arrives in Boston from New York, hoping to convince his friend Basil March, an insurance salesman and wannabe novelist, to join him in this publishing venture. After discussing the venture at length, Fulkerson offers March the editor position. Fulkerson knows that March won’t accept the offer without first discussing it with his wife, but he immediately piques March’s interest by allowing him to take part in naming the new publication.
March sarcastically offers the name From Sea to Sea when Fulkerson tells him, “You can make this thing go, from ocean to ocean.” (10) Fulkerson’s comment to March proves highly significant, in that it foreshadows the ending—the magazine is a success from coast to coast!
Fulkerson had initially considered The Syndicate for the magazine’s name, but he found it to be “kind of dry, and it don’t seem to cover the ground exactly.” (10) Already in the business of selling syndicated stories to a newspaper, Fulkerson realized that a twist of the syndication theme would be mandatory for his magazine to be a hit. Fulkerson found “the twist” he was looking for in syndicating the magazine: cheap, but good illustrations by unknown artists, translations in German, and bi-monthly publication. The magazine might have been called The Syndicate, since its hierarchy was to include Fulkerson, March, and Jacob Dryfoos, a wealthy investor (Godfather). Even though Dryfoos never meddles with the magazine’s daily operations, he wields his power by forcing his son Conrad to be the magazine’s publisher.
Other magazine names were tossed about by Fulkerson and March including: The Mutual, The Round Robin, The Army of Martyrs, The Fifth Wheel, The Free Lance, and The Hog On Ice, but they are largely mentioned in relation to possible business outcomes—success or failure. Even the names The Madness of the Half Moon and Bedlam Broke Loose are mentioned, only jokingly. (13) But Fulkerson always refers to the magazine venture as “this thing.” (26)
March offers yet another name after Fulkerson says, “I shan’t start this thing unless you take hold of it.” (11) “I was telling you about the newspaper–syndicate business—beautiful vision of a lot of literary fellows breaking loose from the bondage of publishers, and playing it alone——” (11) March interrupts by saying, “You might call it The Lone Hand; that would be attractive,” This name, like From Sea to Sea, too, seemed to foreshadow the end when Dryfoos credits March for the magazine’s success and offers to sell it to him.
Fulkerson finally thinks of a name as he’s walking down the street, “I’ve got the name.” “What?” March asks. “Every Other Week,” replied Fulkerson.
Mr. Fulkerson, the creative genius, the consummate salesman, found the catchy name. He names the bi-monthly magazine the Every Other Week.