Chicago Ledger

The Chicago Ledger was a story paper published in Chicago, Illinois from 1872 until 1924. Put out by the Ledger Company and edited by Samuel H. Williams, the Ledger was a boilerplate literary magazine.[1] Such periodicals were printed using engraved steel sheets. The plates, or casts of them, were then sent out to be printed and inserted into other newspapers.[2] Ledger subscriptions originally sold for $1 for 52 issues and, by 1879, the paper had a circulation of 10,000.[3] Although begun as a literary paper of "a good class,"[4] the Ledger eventually became more melodramatic in tone. In his 1910 book, Newspapers and Periodicals of Illinois, Franklin Scott, notes that "[t]he sensational, although not immoral, character of the Ledger stories, and the use that the large mail-order houses have made of its advertising columns, have given this paper an unusually long life and extensive circulation."[4]

In 1892, William D. Boyce, who helped to found the Boy Scouts of America and later the Lone Scouts of America, purchased the Ledger and turned it into a "mail order" paper. As such, the Ledger relied on advertising by direct mail retailers to support its publication.[5][6] This kind of publication made money without a large initial outlay. The Ledger contained serialized fiction and short stories designed to appeal to the whole family. Later issues had a supplement called the Little Ledger, which offered "Useful Knowledge, Romance, and Amusement for Young People."[7]

The W.D. Boyce Company operated from the "second skyscraper in Chicago," at 30 North Dearborn Street[8] until moving to the historic Boyce Building at 500-510 North Dearborn Street. Boyce sold the Chicago Ledger and The Saturday Blade, known together as Boyce's Big Weeklies, through a network of news boys. They earned two cents per paper sold and were not charged for unsold issues.[9] This system worked well for the company as it provided them with a sales force in rural areas and functioned in accordance with Boyce's philosophy of providing rural boys with advantages more easily accessed in cities. Their recruiting material bore the slogan, "The best way to help a boy is to help him to help himself."[10]

Contributors to the Chicago Ledger included Weldon J. Cobb,[11] Harry Stephen Keeler,[12] and Randall Parrish.[13] Noted African-American author Charles W. Chesnutt[14] wrote two short stories, "The Doctor’s Wife" and "A Metropolitan Experience," published in June, 1887. Edward Stratemeyer,[15] whose Stratemeyer Syndicate was responsible for such series as The Hardy Boys, The Bobbsey Twins, and Nancy Drew, contributed to The Chicago Ledger under the name Edna Winfield.

In 1925, Boyce's Big Weeklies merged to become the Blade and Ledger. William D. Boyce died in 1929 in his penthouse apartment in the Boyce Building. The Blade & Ledger continued to be published monthly until 1937.


  1. Mott, Frank Luther (1957). A History of American Magazines, v.4. Cambridge(MA): The Belknap Press of the Harvard University Press. pp. 53–54.
  2. Allen, John Edward (1947). Newspaper Designing. New York: Harper. p. 468. Retrieved February 11, 2015.
  3. Fleming, Herbert E. (January 1906). "The Literary Interests of Chicago, III & IV". American Journal of Sociology. 11 (4): 501. JSTOR 2762563.
  4. Scott, Franklin William (1910). Newspapers and Periodicals of Illinois, 1814-1879, v.6. Springfield (IL): Trustees of the Illinois State Historical Library. p. 111. Retrieved February 11, 2015.
  5. Mott, Frank Luther (1957). A History of American Magazines, v.4. Cambridge(MA): The Belknap Press of the Harvard University Press. p. 39.
  6. "The Advertising Age and Mail Order Journal". 1916.
  7. "The Edward T. LeBlanc Memorial Dime Novel Bibliography". Retrieved February 12, 2015.
  8. "Advertisement". Marketing Communications. 117 (December 1): 148. 1921. Retrieved February 11, 2015.
  9. Frasca, Ralph (1992). The Rise and Fall of the Sunday Globe. Susquehanna University Press. p. 42. ISBN 9780945636168. Retrieved February 11, 2015.
  10. W.D. Boyce Company. "[The Saturday Blade and The Chicago Ledger agent solicitation], To: Sam Albert, July, 1911". Retrieved February 12, 2015.
  11. "The House of Beadle & Adams Online". Northern Illinois University Library. Retrieved February 12, 2015.
  12. Keeler, Harry Stephen (2009). Strands of the Web: The Short Stories of Harry Stephen Keeler (Fred Cleaver ed.). p. 253. ISBN 9781605431987. Retrieved February 13, 2015.
  13. "Chicago Ledger v.XLIX, no 21, Saturday May 21, 1921". Digital Library@Villanova University. Retrieved February 11, 2015.
  14. Browner, Stephanie. "The Charles Chesnutt Digital Archive". Retrieved February 11, 2015.
  15. "The Edward T. LeBlanc Memorial Dime Novel Bibliography". Retrieved February 12, 2015.
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