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An issue of Harper's from 1905

Harper's Magazine (also called Harper's) is a monthly, general-interest magazine of literature, politics, culture, finance, and the arts. It is the second-oldest, continuously-published monthly magazine (Scientific American is the oldest) in the U.S.; current circulation is more than 220,000 issues. The current editor is Roger Hodge, who replaced Lewis Lapham on March 31, 2006. Harper's Magazine has won many National Magazine Awards.


Harper's Magazine was launched as Harper's New Monthly Magazine in June 1850, by the New York City publisher Harper & Brothers; who also founded Harper's Bazaar magazine, later growing to become HarperCollins Publishing. The first press run, of 7,500 copies, sold out almost immediately; circulation was some 50,000 issues six months later.

The early issues reprinted material already published in England, but the magazine soon was publishing the work of American artists and writers, and in time commentary by the likes of Winston Churchill and Woodrow Wilson.

In 1962, Harper & Brothers merged with Row, Peterson & Company, becoming Harper & Row (now HarperCollins). In 1965, the magazine was separately incorporated, and became a division of the Minneapolis Star and Tribune Company. On June 17, 1980, the Star Tribune announced it would cease publishing Harper's Magazine after the August 1980 issue; however, on July 9, 1980, John R. MacArthur and his father, Roderick, obtained pledges from the directorial boards of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Atlantic Richfield Company, and CEO Robert Orville Anderson to amass the one-and-a-half million dollars needed to establish the Harper's Magazine Foundation that currently publishes the magazine.

In the 1970s, the magazine published Seymour Hersh's reporting of the My Lai massacremarker. In 1971, after the controversial editor Willie Morris left, Lewis H. Lapham became the managing editor, once from 1976 until 1981; and again, from 1983 until 2006.

In 1984, Lapham and MacArthur — now publisher and president of the foundation — along with new executive editor Michael Pollan, redesigned Harper's and introduced the "Harper's Index" (ironic statistics arranged for thoughtful effect), "Readings", and the "Annotation" departments to complement its fiction, essays, and reportage.

Under the Lapham-MacArthur leadership, Harper's magazine continued publishing literary fiction by the likes of John Updike, George Saunders, and others. Politically, Harper's was an especially vocal critic of U.S. domestic and foreign policies. Editor Lapham's monthly "Notebook" columns have lambasted the Clinton and the George W. Bush administrations, and, since 2003, the magazine has concentrated on reportage about U.S. war against Iraq, with long articles about the battle for Fallujah, and the cronyism of the American "reconstruction" of Iraq. Moreover, other stories have covered abortion, cloning, and global warming.

In April 2006, Harper's began publishing the Washington Babylon blog in its site, wherein Washington Editor Ken Silverstein writes about corrupt American politics. In 2007, Harper's added the No Comment blog, by Scott Horton, about legal controversies, Central Asian politics, and German studies. In 2008, Harper's added the "Sentences" blog, by contributing editor Wyatt Mason, about literature and belle lettres. Also, writers compose the Weekly Review, single-sentence summaries of political, scientific, and bizarre news; like the Harper's Index, the Weekly Review items are humorously and ironically arranged.


In his essay "Tentacles of rage: The Republican propaganda mill, a brief history," published in the September 2004 issue, Lewis H. Lapham fictionalized his reportage of the 2004 Republican National Convention, which had yet to occur. He apologized in a note.

The March 2006 issue contained the Celia Farber reportage, Out of Control: AIDS and the Corruption of Medical Science, presenting Peter Duesberg's theory that HIV does not cause AIDS. It was strongly criticized by AIDS activists, scientists, the Columbia Journalism Review, and others, as inaccurate and for promoting a scientifically-discredited theory. The Treatment Action Campaign, a South African organization working for greater popular access to HIV treatments, posted a response by eight researchers documenting more than fifty errors in the article.

In summer of 2006, Harper's serially published John Robert Lennon's novel Happyland when its original publisher, W. W. Norton, decided not to publish it, fearing a libel lawsuit. The protagonist is doll magnate Happy Masters, whose story parallels the life of Pleasant Rowland, the creator of the American Girl doll business.

Notable contributors


  1. Awards and Honors (PDF) at Harper's site
  2. History of Harper's (PDF) on Harper's site
  3. Facts on File 1980 Yearbook, pp.501, 582
  4. An American Album: One Hundred and Fifty Years of Harper's Magazine, a seven hundred twelve-page illustrated anthology, with an introduction by Lewis H. Lapham and a foreword by Arthur Schlesinger Jr.
  5. Shafer, Jack. " Lewis Lapham Phones It In: Figuring out what's wrong with Harper's magazine." Slate 15 September 2004.
  6. Lapham, Lewis H. " Tentacles of rage: The Republican propaganda mill, a brief history." Harper's September 2004. p. 43-53.
  7. Letters from scientists and physicians criticizing Harper's for poor fact-checking of Celia Farber's article on AIDS. Accessed 21 Oct 2006.
  8. Harper's Races Right over the Edge of a Cliff, by Gal Beckerman. Published in the Columbia Journalism Review on March 8 2006. Accessed June 14 2007.
  9. NYT Book Review

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