On this day in 1914, The New Republic published its first issue. The magazine, then a weekly, was 32 pages and cost ten cents—$2.38 in today’s dollars.
The opening article set the tone for the magazine for years to come:
The New Republic is frankly an experiment. It is an attempt to find national audience for a journal of interpretation and opinion. Many people believe that such a journal is out of place in America; that if a periodical is to be popular it must first of all be entertaining, or that if it is to be serious, it must be detached and select. Yet when the plan of The New Republic was being discussed it received spontaneous welcome from people in all parts of the country. They differed in theories and programmes; but they agreed that if The New Republic could bring sufficient enlightenment to the problems of the nation and sufficient sympathy to its complexities, it would serve all those who feel the challenge of our time. On the conviction that this is possible The New Republic is founded. Its success inevitably depends on public support, but if we are unable to achieve that success under the conditions essential to sound and disinterested thinking, we shall discontinue our experiment and make way for better men. Meanwhile, we set out with faith.
The issue includes Rebecca West’s evergreen literary manifesto, “The Duty of Harsh Criticism,” whose principles we still aim to follow; a piece titled “A Narrow Escape for the Democrats,” reflecting on the recent midterm election (which stings just a little to read after Tuesday’s results); and another called “Force and Ideas” that begins: “Every sane person knows that it is a greater thing to build a city than to bombard it, to plough a field than to trample it, to serve mankind than to conquer it.”
One hundred years later, The New Republic is still an experiment. Frankly.
Check out this video for a preview of our 100th anniversary issue, the biggest we’ve ever made, rolling out next week.