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PRINTED FROM the OXFORD RESEARCH ENCYCLOPEDIA, RELIGION ( (c) Oxford University Press USA, 2016. All Rights Reserved. Personal use only; commercial use is strictly prohibited. Please see applicable Privacy Policy and Legal Notice (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 17 August 2018

Print Media and Religion in America

Summary and Keywords

An extraordinary number of printed words about religion have been produced and consumed in the United States. Religious print media in America encompasses the Christian Bible (a perennial best-seller) and scriptures of other religions; religious books, both fiction and nonfiction; pamphlets and tracts; periodicals; and, more recently, electronic media. The bulk of this output has been Protestant, because the United States has always been a predominantly, though never exclusively, Protestant country, and because Protestants have always been especially fond of print. The main historical trend, however, has been in the direction of increased diversity. The proportion of religious media within the universe of American media, and the proportion of Christian media within the universe of American religious media, both fell from the colonial period to the present. The trajectory of religion as a topic in secular periodicals has been less linear, rising and falling in conjunction with news events and perceived cultural trends. America has come a long way since the early 1740s, when revivalist George Whitefield absolutely dominated the media landscape, but religion remains a potent force in print, especially if one broadens the category to include the non-creedal spirituality of a figure like Eckhart Tolle or Oprah Winfrey.

Three goals have spurred the proliferation of religious print media in the United States. (Religion coverage in secular print media has followed a separate logic, commonly known as “news values.”) The first and perhaps most obvious goal is proclamation, or the transmission of religious ideas. Dissemination of scriptures, evangelistic or apologetic works, sermons, speeches, and educational materials all fit within this category. The second goal is religious community formation and boundary marking. Periodicals have contributed most significantly in this realm, linking co-religionists across often vast spaces, preserving languages and other communal traits, and providing in-group perspective on current events. The third goal is making money. While much religious publishing has been conducted on a nonprofit basis, many Americans have made careers in the trade, and a few have become rich and famous. Because printed materials fill the archives that are foundational for religion scholarship, knowledge of print media history is extremely useful for researchers interested in a variety of topics, not only those working on print culture specifically.

Keywords: print media, print culture, history of the book, Bible, scripture, communication, publishing

Colonial Beginnings

In 1539, about one hundred years after Johannes Gutenberg introduced the movable type printing press to Europe and nearly a century before the first printer arrived in the British American colonies, Juan Pablos, an Italian-born printer living in Mexico City, published the first book in the Americas. Breve y mas compendiosa doctrina Christiana en lengua Mexicana y Castellana was written by the city’s bishop, Juan de Zumárraga, as a manual to be used by missionaries in their efforts to convert Native Americans to the Roman Catholic faith. Nearly fifty years later, in 1584, the Spanish crown granted permission for a printing press to be established in Lima. By 1600, ten different printing presses were operating in Spanish America. Of the more than two hundred works printed in New Spain and Peru during the 16th century, most were catechisms, tracts, and sermons commissioned by the Spanish authorities, usually for the purpose of Native American evangelization. Scarcity of publishing and regulation by religious authorities marked the first century of printing in Spain’s American colonies.1

Similar themes governed the history of print in 17th-century British America. The earliest and most substantial publishing occurred in New England. In 1638, Matthew Day immigrated to the New World and established the colony’s first printing press in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Financed and overseen by the board of Harvard College, Day’s venture produced publications that promoted the colony’s Puritan faith, including the Bay Psalm Book (1640), the first English-language book printed in America. His successor, Samuel Green, published numerous books in the Algonquin language under the direction of Puritan missionary John Eliot, whose 1663 “Indian Bible” was the first Bible published in America (Figure 1). These landmark publications notwithstanding, both the Cambridge press and the other presses that arose in Boston during the 1670s and 1680s were small-scale ventures. Moreover, even after changes to Massachusetts’s charter in 1691 placed printing under the control of the colonial governor, publishing was still largely under the influence of Puritan ministers, particularly the powerful Mather family.2

Print Media and Religion in AmericaClick to view larger

Figure 1. Title Page of John Eliot’s “Indian Bible” (1663).

Courtesy of Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Whereas widespread literacy helped to propel Puritan New England’s modest beginnings in publishing, print culture in the Chesapeake was meager. No press existed in Anglican Virginia during the 17th century. The colony’s governor, William Berkeley, provided the rationale in 1670: “I thank God, there are no free schools nor printing, and I hope we shall not have these [for a] hundred years; for learning has brought disobedience, and heresy, and sects into the world, and printing has divulged them, and libel against the best government.”3 In Maryland, a single printing house existed during the 17th century. Its proprietor, William Nuthead, moved his venture there in 1685 after being shut down in Virginia before he could print a single publication. After his death ten years later, Nuthead’s wife, Dinah, took over the press, becoming the first female publisher in the New World.4

Early printing in the Middle Colonies resembled New England more than the Chesapeake. Shortly after the founding of Pennsylvania in 1681, William Bradford crossed the Atlantic to found the colony’s first press. Like those in Massachusetts, Bradford’s press operated under religious auspices. Unlike the publishers in New England who bowed to Puritan authority, however, Bradford clashed with Pennsylvania’s Quaker establishment. After several disputes over the contents of his publications, he accepted an invitation to become the official printer of the colonial government of New York. Shortly thereafter, he assumed the same role in New Jersey. While his primary responsibility was to print public documents, Bradford also printed religious materials for both the Dutch Reformed and Anglican Churches, including America’s first Book of Common Prayer in 1706.5 In the American colonies, printing was scarce and controlled by authorized printers.

Eighteenth-Century Expansion

Several developments in the early 18th century caused a dramatic increase in both the amount and diversity of colonial print media. The first was increasing inter-colony competition, due to the loosening of legal restrictions on the press and the further integration of the British colonies into the trade networks of the Atlantic world. In New England, new publishers such as Thomas Fleet and James Franklin challenged the hegemony of the Green family. Similarly, new printers broke up the Bradford monopoly in the Middle Colonies, including John Peter Zenger in New York, and Samuel Keimer and Ben Franklin in Pennsylvania. The latter colony also was home to Christopher Saur, the first German-language printer in America. Saur, a free-church Pietist, printed religious materials for the Pennsylvania German community, most notably an edition of Luther’s Bible in 1743, the second Bible printed in the British colonies.6 Though the majority of printers were located in New England, New York, and Pennsylvania, publishing also expanded into the South, so that by 1763 all thirteen of the colonies that would become the United States possessed a printing house.7

With the increasing number of publishers, new forms of print media emerged. Most important was the newspaper. As late as 1718, only one newspaper existed in all the British colonies, the Boston News-Letter, first published in 1704 by Bartholomew Green. By 1740, fifteen additional newspapers were started, such as Franklin’s pioneering Pennsylvania Gazette. The demand continued to grow. Charles E. Clark has calculated that by 1790 newspapers constituted about 80 percent of all publications in America.8 Along with newspapers, almanacs increased in popularity. According to historian T. J. Tomlin, in the 18th century, “other than a Bible and perhaps a few sermons and schoolbooks, an almanac was the only printed item most people owned.”9 Both forms of print media appealed to a wide range of religious believers in order to increase their readership.

The final development that spurred the expansion of American print media was the series of evangelical revivals during the 1730s and 1740s collectively known as the Great Awakening. Beginning with Jonathan Edwards’s best-selling account of the revival at his congregation in Northampton, Massachusetts, first published in 1737 (Figure 2), and climaxing with George Whitefield’s tour of the colonies from 1739 to 1741, the revivals were, in the words of librarian and print culture expert James N. Green, “mediated by, and to some degree created by, print.”10 In 1740, during the height of Whitefield’s popularity, Ben Franklin observed that “No Books are in Request but those of Piety and Devotion.”11 Franklin and other printers capitalized on this religious enthusiasm by printing news of the awakenings in their newspapers and publishing sermons and other writings of the revivalists. Between 1740 and 1742, Franklin published forty-three books and pamphlets related to the awakenings. Though the religious excitement would eventually subside, the boost the revivals gave to publishing and bookselling helped to establish the prominence of the printer in colonial America.12

Print Media and Religion in AmericaClick to view larger

Figure 2. Title Page of Jonathan Edwards’s Faithful Narrative (1737).

Courtesy of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, 1742 Yale Library 1.5.56.

Yet despite the role played by religion in transforming colonial printing, American religious publishing was still in its infancy during the early and mid-18th century. While most newspapers and magazines gave space to religious topics, exclusively religious periodicals were rare and short lived. For example, Christian History, the first religious periodical in British America, lasted only from 1743 to 1744. Though most printers in the colonies published religious books and pamphlets, no religious publishing house existed in America until the Methodist Book Concern was established in 1789. Moreover, colonial religious publishing was still heavily reliant on British printers. This was especially the case with the King James Bible. Because the king’s printers in London held the monopoly on this Authorized Version, the most widely owned and read book in 18th-century America was only available via import.13 Colonial dependence extended beyond Bibles. Most popular devotional writings and learned works of theology, even those by American writers, were produced across the Atlantic, usually in London. According to one estimate, between 1765 and 1774 twice as many books were imported from England to America as were produced in the colonies.14 Thus, despite the progress made by colonial printers, American publishing, both religious and secular, was still largely dependent on transatlantic trade.

Revolution and Early Republic

The Revolution drastically altered this situation. Nonimportation agreements and then the war itself cut off American booksellers from British products. The demands of war also limited the colonial presses’ productivity, as most publishers focused on printing newspapers, political pamphlets, and documents for the new American government. Nevertheless, religious print media continued to be produced during the war, including numerous sermons in support of both the patriots and loyalists. Even political pamphlets not typically regarded as religious utilized religious rhetoric. For example, Thomas Paine’s Common Sense (1775), the most influential pamphlet during the Revolution, employed biblical ideas to argue for independence. Though the cause of the patriots was hardly religious in nature, religious print media explicated and justified the war for many Americans.15

More important than the effects of sermons, pamphlets, and other religious publications on the Revolution was the influence of the Revolution on religious print media. After independence, print in the newly formed republic was both nationalized and democratized. No longer dependent on Britain, the revolutionary generation sought to create a distinctively American republic of letters. The freedom of the press and of religion, enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution, released printers from the constraints imposed by both state and church. The growth of print outpaced the rapidly expanding population and geographical area of the young nation. In 1776, the United States possessed thirty-seven newspapers. By 1810, the number had grown to 359.16

The growth in publishing helped to increase literacy. Colonial Americans, particularly those in New England and the Middle Colonies, already enjoyed the deserved reputation of being highly literate. During the first decades of the new republic, literacy became even more widespread. In 1840, the U.S. census determined that the nation’s illiteracy rate was a mere 8.5 percent, one of the lowest in the world. (The census did not account for slaves, however, who were denied access to books and education.)17 The increase in literacy was welcomed by American leaders, who believed that the ability to read and write was essential to a self-governing people. Yet instead of creating an enlightened print culture informed by republican virtue, as many of the founders anticipated, the publishing marketplace in the early republic, in the words of historian Richard Brown, “took on the character of a competitive free-for-all.”18

In this democratized environment, new forms of religious print media proliferated. The most significant were Bibles. No longer under the strictures of British law, in 1782 the Continental Congress approved Robert Aitken to print ten thousand copies of the King James Version, the first complete English-language Bible published in America. Aitken’s Bible, however, was a commercial failure. Instead, the preeminent printer of Holy Scripture for Christians in the first decades of the new nation was the Irish Catholic Mathew Carey. After printing the Catholic Douay Bible in 1790, Carey was prevailed upon by Protestant associates to print several editions of the King James Bible. From his first printing in 1801 until the rise of the American Bible Society fifteen years later, Carey dominated the market for Bibles in the United States.19

As with Bibles, the production of magazines blossomed in the first decades of the new nation. Unlike the thriving newspaper business of the colonial era, a distinctly American magazine culture had failed to take off prior to the Revolution. The most ambitious attempts, Andrew Bradford’s American Magazine and Ben Franklin’s General Magazine, both founded in 1741, did not last a full year.20 After the Revolution, however, the number of magazines grew rapidly. Only twenty-three magazines were founded in America before 1783. By 1825, 883 were launched, over one-fourth of which were religious magazines.21 Counted together with religious newspapers, 578 religious periodicals were founded in the four decades after the ratification of the Constitution, compared to twelve before 1789.22 Most of these religious journals and newspapers, like their secular counterparts, lasted for less than a few years. Nevertheless, in the first decades of the United States, religious publishing was developing as an important component of the new nation’s culture of print.

The Communications Revolution

The American Revolution had democratized and nationalized publishing, both secular and religious, but at the beginning of the 19th century, the technology for producing and disseminating print media still differed little from that in the 16th century. Because of this, although presses were spreading across the rapidly expanding nation—the 1840 census counted 1,573 printing offices—publishing was still a local and small-scale venture.23 Beginning in the 1820s, innovations in printing and transportation, collectively known as the communications revolution, gradually transformed the business of printing. Canals, steamships, and especially railroads began to overthrow the “tyranny of distance,” allowing printers to deliver publications more easily to a wider national audience. On the publishing end, stereotype plating and steam power improved the productivity of the printing press, a technology that had changed little since Gutenberg. Though these and other innovations were not immediately adopted by all printers, their collective effect was to make print media more extensive and abundant.24

Protestant Publishing

The first publishers to take advantage of these innovations were nonprofit societies founded by evangelical reformers. Seeking to disseminate what they understood as the message of salvation to the widest possible audience, the American Bible Society (1816), the American Sunday School Union (1824), and the American Tract Society (1825) pioneered the phenomenon of mass media. Under the program of “General Supply,” these societies sought to flood the nation with religious literature by producing massive quantities of printed materials and distributing them through their auxiliary agencies. Though never achieving their millennial vision of universal distribution, during the 1820s and 1830s these three organizations circulated one million Bibles, five hundred thousand Sunday school books, and fifteen million tracts. Also drawing on this evangelical fervor and the model of General Supply were single-issue reform movements, such as the American Temperance Society, founded in 1826; and the American Anti-Slavery Society, founded in 1833. Both societies achieved wide circulation of their publications, although in the slave states abolitionist literature was met with fierce resistance and eventually censored by Southern post offices. After two decades of initial success, financial troubles brought on by the Panic of 1837 and divisions over theology and politics forced these nondenominational societies to scale back their output. Nevertheless, as during the Great Awakening a century before, evangelical religion had transformed American publishing.25

Despite this initial burst of inter-Protestant cooperation, most religious print media in mid-19th-century America were produced by individual denominations. Between 1820 and 1852, approximately two-thirds of all religious magazines and newspapers identified with a particular sect or tradition. By 1880, when the U.S. census counted 552 religious periodicals, 82 percent of those in circulation identified with a denomination.26 The most sophisticated of these publications were theological journals, typically published quarterly. Most of these periodicals were institutionally based and reflected a particular theological school, such as the Biblical Repertory of Princeton Theological Seminary. Though small in circulation, these publications exerted considerable influence on the American clergy, who were often the most learned figures in a local community.27 More widely disseminated were religious newspapers. These weekly and monthly periodicals sought to inculcate particular doctrinal perspectives, inform members of church news, and offer distinctive viewpoints on national and international events. The most popular church papers gained national circulation, such as the Methodists’ Christian Advocate, which by 1828 reached 28,000 subscribers.28 Other periodicals spoke to state or regional audiences. This was especially the case after the nation’s two largest Protestant denominations, the Methodists and Baptists, split over the issue of slavery in 1844 and 1845.

Print Media and Religion in AmericaClick to view larger

Figure 3. New York City Headquarters of the Methodist Book Concern (1893).

Courtesy of the British Library.

Further contributing to the eclipse of the evangelical publishing societies was the rise of denominational publishing houses. Following the example of the Methodists, the other major American Protestant denominations established their own nonprofit publishing arms: the American Baptist Publication Society in 1824, the Congregationalist Doctrinal Tract and Book Society in 1829, and the Presbyterian Board of Publications in 1838. Yet it was the publishing house of the Methodists, who from the outset had hesitated to participate in united Protestant publishing agencies because of their Calvinistic leanings, which took the lead in denominational printing. By 1863, the Methodist Book Concern, based in New York City, not only was outproducing the American Bible Society and the American Tract Society, but also claimed to be the largest publishing house in the world (Figure 3).29

Pluralization in 19th-Century Print

In the 18th and 19th centuries, religious print media, both nondenominational and denominational, was primarily produced and written by white, English-speaking, evangelical Protestant males. However, during the mid-19th century, different religious traditions, as well as African Americans and women, began to increase their presence in the nation’s culture of print. A further revolution in American religious publishing, then, was increasing pluralization.

By 1850, due to high levels of Irish and German immigration, Roman Catholicism became the largest denomination in the United States. With this increasing size came numerous publications. Unlike evangelical publishing societies and denominational printing houses, Catholic publishing and bookselling in the antebellum era was decentralized and for-profit. Scores of independent printers established themselves in cities with high Catholic populations, such as Baltimore, New York, and Philadelphia in the East, and Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Milwaukee in the West. Like Protestants, Catholics produced a wide array of periodicals, both popular newspapers such as James A. McMaster’s Freeman’s Journal and scholarly magazines such as Brownson’s Quarterly Review. After the Civil War, the Catholic convert Isaac Hecker established a national, nonprofit publishing house, intending to rival those of American Protestants. Founded in 1866, the Catholic Publication Society went bankrupt within thirty years. Though Hecker’s influential periodicals, including the Catholic World, would live on, Catholic publishing remained highly diffuse throughout the 19th century.30

Other immigrant groups also increased the diversity of American religious print. Immigrants from Germany and Scandinavia made Lutheranism the fourth largest American Protestant denomination by 1880. Primarily settling in the Midwest, these highly literate immigrants quickly established their own periodicals and publishing houses, such as the Augustana Book Concern in 1855 by Swedish Lutherans and Concordia Publishing House in 1869 by German Lutherans.31 The Jewish population in the United States also grew steadily, from around 2,000 in 1800 to about approximately 250,000 in 1880. Most Jews in the mid-19th-century United States were immigrants from Germany, including the religion’s two most prominent American printers, Rabbi Isaac Leeser and Edward Bloch. Leeser is notable for producing in 1853 the first English translation of the Hebrew Bible in America. Bloch, together with his brother-in-law Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, published the most widely circulated Jewish magazines, the Israelite and Deborah, as well as the popular series of English-language prayer books, Minhag America. In 1888, when large numbers of Eastern European Jews were beginning to immigrate to America, the Jewish Publication Society was founded as the central agency to educate American Jews about their history, doctrine, and practices.32

While immigrant religious groups utilized publishing to gather in and educate the scattered, other Americans harnessed the power of print to create entirely new religious systems. The first were the Mormons. In 1830, Joseph Smith Jr. published the Book of Mormon in Palmyra, New York. The book became one of the Holy Scriptures of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, founded that same year. Throughout the 19th century, leaders of the new church published a wide range of newspapers, pamphlets, and books. According to historian David Whittaker, the first phase of Mormon publishing, led by figures such as Parley and Orson Pratt, focused on missionary work. The second phase, after the church had established its publishing center in Utah, focused on improving youth education and maintaining group cohesion.33 Other new religious movements followed a similar pattern. The visions of Ellen G. White, published at first without her consent and later by her husband and publisher James White, helped create the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. Yet most of her twenty-six books, some two hundred tracts and pamphlets, and countless articles in the Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, were intended for an Adventist audience.34 Similarly, the publications of Mary Baker Eddy and Charles Taze Russell, begun in the late 1870s, helped to spur the establishment of the Church of Christ, Scientist and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, respectively, though their later writings were intended more for those already converted.35

Non-Western religious traditions also contributed to this increasing pluralism. In the mid- to late 19th century, immigrants from China and Japan brought Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Shinto to California. While these new arrivals helped to shape the unique religious culture of the American Pacific Rim, the introduction of Eastern religious texts to the United States primarily was due to the curiosity of white intellectuals. Transcendentalists, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, read widely in the Hindu, Confucian, and Buddhist scriptures. The Theosophical Society, formed in 1875, studied not only East Asian religious traditions but also Islam. One Theosophist, Mohammed Alexander Russell Webb, converted to Islam and in 1893 established both the Moslem Publishing Company and a periodical entitled The Moslem World. The culmination of this growing interest in non-Western religions occurred at the World’s Parliament of Religions at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Several writers, including the event’s chairman, John Henry Barrows, published accounts of the event, drawing further attention to religious traditions that were largely foreign to a predominantly Protestant nation.36

Black Christians, outsiders not because of their religion but because of their race, also began to cultivate a distinctive print culture in the 19th century. Racial minorities had authored religious works in the 18th century—the most famous of whom included the former slave Phyllis Wheatley, the freeborn John Marrant, and the Native American evangelist Samson Occam. But the production and distribution of their writings was largely controlled by white publishers. This began to change in the 19th century. In 1817, the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church founded its own publishing house. The first periodical edited by and for black Americans, Freedom’s Journal of New York City, was established ten years later. The most significant African American religious publication of the mid-19th century was the Christian Recorder, the official periodical of the AME Church. As print culture scholar Eric Gardner’s study of the paper shows, during the Civil War the Recorder reached a readership that stretched “from Massachusetts to California and from Michigan to Mississippi” and helped to create the idea of a “national Black community.”37 Still, 19th-century African American religious print culture was mostly limited to the North, even after nearly four million Southern blacks were freed from bondage.

The 19th century also witnessed the increased participation of women in the nation’s print culture, even as their roles in society were becoming more circumscribed. In the 18th century, it was not uncommon for women to work as printers, either as partners with their husbands or as sole proprietors after being widowed.38 However, over the course of the early and mid-19th century, publishing increasingly became seen as belonging to the sphere of men. In the realm of writing, the number of women authors multiplied, though the range of subjects on which it was deemed proper for them to write was often limited. The emerging Victorian ideals of domesticity saw women as guardians of religious purity, whose proper sphere was the Christian home. Because of this, though many women contributed articles to evangelical religious periodicals, the articles almost always addressed the religious life of the family rather than ecclesiastical affairs or theology. Female writers also discussed home life in the growing number of women’s magazines. Between sixty and ninety such periodicals, most of which were edited by women, were published from 1850 to 1865. These popular publications, such as the widely circulated Godey’s Lady’s Book, edited by the Episcopalian Sarah Josepha Hale, discussed the spiritual aspects of domesticity among a variety of topics. Others, such as Baptist Daily Visitor and the Mother’s Journal, were more explicitly religious in nature.39

The Rise of the Novel

Undoubtedly the most influential form of print media read and written by women was the novel. In the early 19th century, fiction was slowly becoming accepted as a legitimate venue for disseminating spiritual ideas. While many religious leaders criticized novels for their open displays of immorality, others believed that the genre could be sanctified for salutary purposes. Some, however, argued that even religious novels were beyond the pale, because fiction was quintessentially deceptive. “[T]he effects of truth can not be reached by . . . cunningly executed counterfeits,” admonished one widely circulated tract.40 Despite these criticisms—or perhaps because of them—religious novels were among the best-selling books in the mid-19th-century United States. These included Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), Joseph Holt Ingraham’s The Prince of the House of David (1855), Elizabeth Stuart Ward’s The Gates Ajar (1868), Elizabeth Prentiss’s Stepping Heavenward (1869), and Lew Wallace’s Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1880). As print culture historian Paul Gutjahr argues, Wallace’s novel, which sold 2,500,000 copies by 1913 and was adopted by use in churches and Sunday Schools throughout the nation, represented both the end of religious opposition to fiction and the move of the Bible to “the periphery of American print culture.”41

The massive success of Ben-Hur also signaled the ascendancy of the trade publisher. Unlike the evangelical publishing societies and denominational publishing houses that arose in the early 19th century, firms such as Harper and Brothers, which published Wallace’s novel, were for-profit and had no specific mission of evangelization. Yet virtually all of the major 19th-century trade publishing firms printed a wide range of religious materials and were closely connected to religious organizations: J. B. Lippincott and Company with the Episcopalians, Gould & Lincoln with the Baptists, Charles Scribner and Sons with the Presbyterians, and Harper and Brothers with the Methodists. This development increased the production and variety of religious publications, but it also blurred the boundaries between secular and religious publishing.42

Modern Market Segmentation: Bibles

The diversification of religious print media in America continued after 1880 and into the 20th century. More religious traditions—immigrant faiths, new religious movements, and new divisions within older traditions—established print presences. Genres proliferated. Publishers came and went, often setting up shop far from the old East Coast centers of the trade. Amid this broadening, though, individual pieces of religious print media became more and more targeted to specific readers. When “general interest” in white, Protestant Christianity could no longer be assumed among a wide readership, religious print trended in the direction of niche marketing.

The segmentation of religious print was most clearly seen in Bibles. Diversity existed in 19th-century Bibles, but one translation (the King James Version) and one publisher (the American Bible Society) dominated. Choices expanded when the Revised Version appeared in 1881 (New Testament) and 1885 (Old Testament), to much celebration and consternation, but after an initial flurry of sales the Revised Version failed to capture more than a small percentage of the American Bible market. The King James was just too familiar—and, unlike the Revised Version, it was not copyrighted, so it was cheaper and easier to reprint.

The next sensation in Bible publishing was the Scofield Reference Bible, published by Oxford University Press in 1909. This Bible paired the King James text with extensive annotations by Cyrus Ingerson Scofield, a dispensationalist pastor attached to the institutional networks that would later be known as fundamentalist and evangelical Protestantism. Sales of this Bible picked up after a 1917 revision, initially to a somewhat broad audience, then to conservative Protestants, and, by the end of the 20th century, only among fundamentalists. Even as its readership narrowed, with ten million copies sold in the century after its appearance, the Scofield Bible was both the best-selling book ever produced by its publisher and, for a time, the best-selling Bible in America.43

By the later 20th century, seemingly every Christian tradition or demographic group had its own, tailor-made Bible. Mainline Protestants used the Revised Standard Version (first published in 1946, updated as the New Revised Standard Version in 1989). American Catholics preferred the New American Bible (1970), a product of Vatican II reforms with multiple subsequent revisions. This is the only Bible approved for liturgical use in American Catholic churches, although Catholic Bible scholars frequently use the New Revised Standard Version-Catholic Edition. Many non-scholarly Protestant readers came to love the Living Bible (1971; updated as The New Living Translation in 1996) and The Message (2002), which prioritized conversational English over literal translation. Evangelicals favored the New International Version (first published in 1973), which was eventually packaged in men’s, women’s, teens’, boys’, girls’, study, devotional, outreach, and numerous other forms. The NIV became the best-selling English-language Bible in the world, with more than 450 million copies sold, though it never became the most-read translation in America. According to a 2014 national study by The Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture, 55 percent of Bible-reading Americans most often read the King James, followed by the NIV at 19 percent, the NRSV at 7 percent, the NAB at 6 percent, and the Living Bible at 5 percent.44

Fiction and Nonfiction after 1880

Although the Ben-Hur phenomenon was never duplicated, the periodic blockbuster success of religious books kept trade presses invested in the subject. Breakout hits in this category included Quo Vadis (Little, Brown), a historical novel about early Christianity that topped the American fiction best-seller list in 1897; The Man Nobody Knows (Bobbs-Merrill), a portrait of Jesus as a businessman that was the best-selling nonfiction book of 1926; and The Robe (Houghton Mifflin), another historical novel about ancient Rome that held the top spot on the New York Times fiction best-seller list for almost all of 1942. Congregational minister Charles Sheldon’s 1896 novel In His Steps, which gave rise about a century later to the What Would Jesus Do? (WWJD) craze, outsold all of these titles in part because of a publishing quirk. The book first appeared in serial form in the Chicago Congregationalist weekly Advance. The Advance subsequently published the text in book form, but the magazine staff was unfamiliar with book publishing and made errors in the copyright application. The incomplete application meant that the text remained in the public domain. A host of publishers brought out editions of the book, which sold more than thirty million copies.45

Entertainment, edification, and profit served as powerful motives in religious book publishing, but culture-shaping motives came into play as well. As historian Matthew S. Hedstrom argued in The Rise of Liberal Religion: Book Culture and American Spirituality in the Twentieth Century, in the middle of the 20th century liberal Protestant leaders, publishing executives, and other tastemakers worked together to publish and market books that they hoped would preserve religion from the onslaught of secularism while forging an uplifting, nonsectarian cultural center for the modernizing nation. The effort worked fairly well, in that it sold a lot of books and helped such liberal values as tolerance become culturally mainstream. Some scholars have argued that the project worked too well, however, creating a “spiritual but not religious” ethos that operated independently of (or even undermined) the liberal religious institutions that birthed it. Oprah’s Book Club, with its eclectic spirituality and dissociation from any institution other than Oprah herself, could be seen as both the apotheosis of the Religious Book Club Hedstrom described and as a repudiation of the earlier organization’s culturally imperialistic commitment to liberal Protestantism.46

Members of other Protestant groups also made significant bids to influence 20th-century American culture through books. Fundamentalists took their name from The Fundamentals, a series of pamphlets, later published as paperback volumes, which appeared between 1910 and 1915. These collected essays endeavored to stop the spread of theological modernism by articulating defenses of such “fundamental” Christian doctrines as the infallibility of the Bible and the historical reality of Christ’s bodily resurrection. Oil tycoons Lyman and Milton Stewart financed the free distribution of three million of these volumes, which largely failed to persuade members of their original target audience (college and seminary professors, prominent pastors, Sunday School superintendents, editors) but became the touchstone for the fundamentalist movement. Years later, elements of fundamentalist theology hit the mass market through Hal Lindsey’s surprisingly successful book on prophecy, The Late, Great Planet Earth (1970); and Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins’s runaway hit novel series, Left Behind (1995–2007). Evangelical theology infused the top-selling nonfiction books of 1975 (Billy Graham, Angels: God’s Secret Agents), 2001 (Bruce Wilkinson, The Prayer of Jabez), and 2003–2004 (Rick Warren, The Purpose-Driven Life). To put that last book in perspective, the best-selling novel of 2004 was Dan Brown’s anti-Catholic conspiracy tale The Da Vinci Code. Cultural influence can swirl in a number of directions at once.47

Of course, the world of religious books was never limited to Protestantism. For example, the 1946 best-seller Peace of Mind, by Rabbi Joshua L. Liebman, combined Jewish thought and psychology to soothe readers unsettled by World War II. A look at best-selling books in the 1960s reveals fierce competition among religious and secularizing perspectives. In Publisher’s Weekly’s top 10 list of best-selling fiction in 1963, the number 1 novel (The Shoes of the Fisherman) was a Cold War thriller centered on papal succession; the number 2 novel (The Group), written by notable ex-Catholic Mary McCarthy, skewered “traditional” sexual ethics; and the number 6 novel (Grandmother and the Priests) celebrated the Catholic priesthood. Top nonfiction books of 1965 included the humorous How to Be a Jewish Mother and the hard-hitting Autobiography of Malcolm X, which described the protagonist’s journey from Christianity to the Nation of Islam and finally to a more standard form of Islam. These books might have been less intentional about cultural influence than the Protestant books listed above, but they nonetheless served to render visible an array of religious perspectives. Being featured in a best-selling book is one way for a religious expression to establish itself in the social imaginary.

Modern Religious Periodicals

If mass-market religious books primarily brought profit and cultural visibility, the most notable work performed by religious periodicals was community building. Religious periodicals did not reach millions of readers, and they rarely made very much money, but they connected their far-flung constituencies and provided shared lenses with which to understand the world. Applying the insights of sociologist Émile Durkheim to the field of media, communication theorist James W. Carey wrote that media create a “symbolic order that operates to provide not information but confirmation, not to alter attitudes or change minds to but represent an underlying order of things, not to perform functions but to manifest an ongoing and fragile social process.” Put differently, reading religious periodicals had less to do with learning facts than with crafting and reinforcing a religious identity.48

The history of modern American religious periodicals is mostly a story of magazines, because religious daily newspapers have been very rare. The Daily American Tribune, published in Dubuque, Iowa, in the 1920s, was the first English-language Catholic daily newspaper in the United States, and it was the only one to last any number of years (it ceased publication in this format in 1929). The Christian Science Monitor appeared daily from 1908 to 2008 before switching to a weekly format plus daily Internet content, but, despite its name and some recurring religious content, it never considered itself a church publication. Religious weeklies, a category with attributes of both newspapers and magazines, were more common. According to historian Jonathan Z. S. Pollack, “By the 1920s most major cities had at least one English-language Jewish weekly, devoted to the social whirl of the communities they covered, along with publicity for fund-raising drives and coverage of the Zionist movement.” Many Catholic dioceses had official weekly newspapers as well. Such publications were less prevalent among Protestants, who were more likely to find adequate coverage of their activities in the local mainstream press.49

Religious magazines with weekly or less frequent distribution have been legion since the 1880s. Magazine historian Frank L. Mott counted more than 650 religious titles in circulation in 1885, ranging from large-circulation Sunday school papers (such as the Sunday School Times) and nondenominational magazines (such as the Christian Herald), to substantial denominational periodicals (led in number and circulation by Roman Catholics and Methodists), to small-circulation theological quarterlies and sectarian publications. New religious movements that appealed to an educated elite, such as free-thought, New Thought, spiritualism, Ethical Culture, and theosophy all produced periodicals in order to define themselves, expand their reach, and give readers a sense of belonging. The most successful periodical produced by a new religious movement has been The Watchtower, the monthly publication of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Launched in 1879 by the movement’s founder, Charles Taze Russell, The Watchtower was by 2017 the highest-circulation magazine in the world, publishing almost 62 million copies in nearly 300 languages (Figure 4).50

Print Media and Religion in AmericaClick to view larger

Figure 4. Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence, October 1, 1907. The magazine had several titles over the years, all containing some variation of the word watchtower.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The number and variety of religious periodicals in modern America is staggering, but two methods of categorization can help to make sense of the whole. First, the religious periodical world remains clearly segmented by tradition, as embodied by the major religious press associations: the Catholic Press Association, founded in 1911; the Associated Church Press, affiliated with mainline Protestantism, founded in 1916; the American Jewish Press Association, re-founded in 1944; and the Evangelical Press Association, founded in 1949. Generally speaking, periodicals in any of these groups compete for awards and subscribers within their group while remaining largely detached from the other groups, or from religious periodicals that fall outside any of these categories. Another way to subdivide the world of religious periodicals is by type. The most common type of periodical is the “house organ,” or official publication of a religious body or ministry. This type of periodical draws its budget from the sponsoring organization and exists mainly to raise awareness and funds. A notable example in this category is Decision magazine, the official publication of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, with a reported monthly circulation of 425,000. A second type is the religious news or lifestyle magazine, which supports itself through circulation, advertising, and donations. Though associated with a particular religious expression (such as Commonweal for liberal Catholics, First Things for ecumenical conservatives, Charisma for Pentecostals, Tricycle for Western Buddhists, and Muslim Journal for African American Muslims), these publications have a degree of editorial freedom to cover whatever developments they deem significant and even to critique their own tradition. A third type is the theological journal or other scholarly publication, which tend to have very small circulations but considerable influence at institutions of higher education. Conversely, a fourth type of religious periodical, the devotional, tends to have a large circulation while receiving little notice from scholars.51

Religion in the News

A popular narrative, promulgated especially by the Religious Right, holds that religion coverage in mainstream news has declined from an era when sermons received front-page treatment to an era when only a pastor’s sex scandal or an act of faith-based terrorism attracts journalists’ notice. There is some truth to this narrative, especially when applied to the turn of the 20th century. In the summer of 1891, as the heresy trial of Union Theological Seminary professor Charles A. Briggs filled countless newspaper and magazine pages, The Chautauquan (the magazine of the cultural education movement of the same name) observed, “For several weeks, the press of the country has been proving that religion is still the most interesting subject—by the amount of attention and by the prominence it has given theological matters.”52 Religion soon lost this press prominence, however. Between 1900 and 1930, the percentage of Reader’s Guide indexed periodical articles dealing with religion fell from 21.4 percent to 10.7 percent. To make matters worse, a majority of the articles in the later period took a negative view of religion. The biggest religion stories in this period, such as the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925—which was extensively and scathingly reported upon by H. L. Mencken in the Baltimore Sun—and the disappearance of Pentecostal celebrity Aimee Semple McPherson in 1926, did not throw favorable light on faith.53

According to communications professor Doug Underwood, however, the mainstream press did not merely switch from wide-eyed reportage of religion to sneering dismissal. “[I]f anything characterized twentieth-century journalists’ attitudes toward religion,” he wrote in From Yahweh to Yahoo! The Religions Roots of the Secular Press, “it was probably not a rebellion against religious tradition or even a longing left in the wake of its demise but simply indifference.” Some values associated with (liberal) religion, including a search for truth, care for the downtrodden, and a desire to hold the powerful to account, were absorbed by American journalism, as when frustrated Social Gospel Christians became muckrakers. Otherwise, journalists typically took note of religion only when a religious story merited attention on the basis of “news values”—characteristics such as controversy, immediacy, proximity, novelty, and celebrity. Because, by the later 20th century, journalists were less likely than the general population to claim religious affiliation, and because no writer could claim equal familiarity with all religious traditions he or she might be asked to cover, the resulting stories often lacked nuance or irritated members of the tradition being described. Religion News Service, a nonprofit organization founded in 1934, aimed to strengthen such coverage by making the work of its staff of professional religion news writers available to media outlets on a wire service model, similar to the Associated Press.54

Two major events in the later 20th and early 21st century prompted mainstream news outlets to pay more sustained attention to religion. The first was the rise of the Christian Right, which became a big story when Ronald Reagan courted that constituency during the 1980 election. (Jimmy Carter’s claim to be “born again” had caused Newsweek magazine to declare 1976 “The Year of the Evangelical,” but the story grew much larger, and more sharply defined, four years later.) The second major event was the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. In the immediate aftermath, prayer services and attendance at houses of worship made headlines, while intense curiosity grew about Islam and religious fundamentalism more broadly. The “religion beat,” a subject many news outlets had shut down or shuffled to the sleepy back pages, was suddenly vibrant again, although in a radically different form than it had taken at the start of the 20th century.

Religion Online

Market segmentation has intensified now that all forms of religious print media exist additionally, or (in many cases) primarily, online. Granted, individual readers now have access to a much wider range of religious content than they ever would have seen when limited to their local newspaper or library. The methods by which religious content are produced, marketed, and consumed, however, tend to narrow rather than expand most readers’ exposure. The minimum audience size required to make a media project viable has shrunk in the age of e-books and blogs, so messages can be aimed at the faithful few rather than an imagined general readership. Invisible algorithms filter the stories and advertisements that online readers see, replacing the editorial plan of a magazine or the serendipity of a bookshop display. Each reader is, effectively, an audience of one.

The culture of religious print media could hardly be more different in the 21st century than it was in the colonial period. Then, print was a scarce luxury; now, Americans are inundated daily with more words than they could possibly read. Then, Americans who owned books likely possessed the same ones as their neighbors; now, even members of the same household might live in separate literary worlds. Then, capital and expertise were required to generate a print product; now, anyone with a smartphone can transmit messages to millions instantly. How all of these changes have affected, and continue to affect, religion in America is a subject for fruitful scholarship.

Review of the Literature

An excellent place to begin any study of print media in the United States is the five-volume History of the Book in America, of which David D. Hall is the general editor. The collection defines “the book” broadly, as any printed or electronic publication.55 Though not exclusively about religion, writings produced by religious people and about religious topics figure prominently in the volumes’ essays. Other works that provide important background on the history of publishing in America include John Tebbel’s four-volume History of Book Publishing in the United States; James Philip Danky and Wayne A. Wiegand’s edited collection, Print Culture in a Diverse America (1998); and David Paul Nord’s Communities of Journalism: A History of American Newspapers and Their Readers. In each of these scholarly studies, religious publishing factors heavily in the authors’ analysis.56

Along with general works on print media in American history, there exists a sizable corpus of scholarship specifically on religious publishing. This historiography focuses on two interrelated questions. The first is technical: How were books, newspapers, tracts and other religious publications manufactured and distributed? The second question asks about purpose: What did authors and publishers hope to accomplish with their writings? Because the intended mission of religious print media often shaped the ways in which they were produced and disseminated, most scholars address these questions in tandem. For fine examples of these types of studies, see David S. Reynolds, Faith in Fiction: The Emergence of Religious Literature in America; Paul C. Gutjahr, An American Bible: A History of the Good Book in the United States, 1777–1880; Joanna Brooks, American Lazarus: Religion and the Rise of African-American and Native American Literatures; Candy Gunther Brown, The Word in the World: Evangelical Writing, Publishing, and Reading in America, 1789–1880; David Paul Nord, Faith in Reading: Religious Publishing and the Birth of Mass Media in America; and John Fea, The Bible Cause: A History of the American Bible Society.57

A final question is perhaps the most important for assessing the cultural impact of religious publications, but is also the most difficult to answer: How have the consumers of the various forms of religious print media used and understood these published works? Where available, statistics on periodical subscriptions and book sales are helpful in this assessing a publication’s influence. Reference works containing such information include Charles H. Lippy, Religious Periodicals of the United States: Academic and Scholarly Journals; Gaylord P. Albaugh’s two-volume History and Annotated Bibliography of American Religious Periodicals and Newspapers Established from 1730 through 1830; and Mark Fackler and Charles H. Lippy, Popular Religious Magazines of the United States.58

But mere statistics do not tell the whole story. A best-selling book may have been owned by many people but made little long-term impact. Conversely, a newspaper or journal may have had small circulation figures but a large influence, because it was read and studied by those in positions of power. In order to determine how religious print media were viewed by individual readers, historians can look at letters, diaries, and other published writings that comment on the publications in question. They can also evaluate a work’s collective influence by examining how its arguments and tropes seeped into public and popular discourses. For recent examples of studies that attempt to assess various religious publications’ impact on American culture, see Matthew Hedstrom, The Rise of Liberal Religion: Book Culture and American Spirituality in the Twentieth Century; Elesha J. Coffman, The Christian Century and the Rise of the Protestant Mainline; T. J. Tomlin, A Divinity for All Persuasions: Popular Print and Early American Religious Life; Erin A. Smith, What Would Jesus Read? Popular Religious Books and Everyday Life in Twentieth-Century America; Eric Gardner, Black Print Unbound: The Christian Recorder, African American Literature, and Periodical Culture; and Mark A. Noll, In the Beginning Was the Word: The Bible in American Public Life, 1492–1783.59

Further Reading

Brooks, Joanna. American Lazarus: Religion and the Rise of African-American and Native American Literatures. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.Find this resource:

Brown, Candy Gunther. The Word in the World: Evangelical Writing, Publishing, and Reading in America, 1789–1880. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004.Find this resource:

Cohen, Charles Lloyd, and Paul S. Boyer, eds. Religion and the Culture of Print in Modern America. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2008.Find this resource:

Coronado, Raúl. A World Not to Come: A History of Latino Writing and Print Culture. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013.Find this resource:

Fackler, Mark, and Charles H. Lippy. Popular Religious Magazines of the United States. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1995.Find this resource:

Fagan, Benjamin P. The Black Newspaper and the Chosen Nation. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2016.Find this resource:

Fea, John. The Bible Cause: A History of the American Bible Society. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.Find this resource:

Fessenden, Tracy. Culture and Redemption: Religion, the Secular, and American Literature. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007.Find this resource:

Gardner, Eric. Black Print Unbound: The Christian Recorder, African American Literature, and Periodical Culture. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.Find this resource:

Gutjahr, Paul C. An American Bible: A History of the Good Book in the United States, 1777–1880. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999.Find this resource:

Hall, David D., ed. A History of the Book in America. 5 vols. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007–2014.Find this resource:

Lippy, Charles H. Religious Periodicals of the United States: Academic and Scholarly Journals. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1986.Find this resource:

Noll, Mark A. In the Beginning Was the Word: The Bible in American Public Life, 1492–1783. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.Find this resource:

Nord, David Paul. Faith in Reading: Religious Publishing and the Birth of Mass Media in America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.Find this resource:

Ryan, Barbara, and Amy M. Thomas. Reading Acts: U.S. Readers’ Interactions with Literature, 1800–1950. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2002.Find this resource:

Smith, Erin A. What Would Jesus Read? Popular Religious Books and Everyday Life in Twentieth-Century America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015.Find this resource:

Tomlin, T. J. A Divinity for All Persuasions: Popular Print and Early American Religious Life. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.Find this resource:

Underwood, Doug. From Yahweh to Yahoo! The Religious Roots of the Secular Press. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2002.Find this resource:

Weyler, Karen A. Empowering Words: Outsiders and Authorship in Early America. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2013.Find this resource:

Winston, Diane, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Religion and the American News Media. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.Find this resource:


(1.) John Tebbel, A History of Book Publishing in the United States, Volume I: The Creation of an Industry (New York: R. R. Bowker, 1972), 2–3; Hortensia Calvo, “The Politics of Print: The Historiography of the Book in Early Spanish America,” Book History 6 (2003): 278–279; and Pedro Guibovich Pérez, “The Printing Press in Colonial Peru: Production Process and Literary Categories in Lima, 1584–1699,” Colonial Latin American Review 10 (December 2001): 168–169.

(2.) Hugh Amory, “Printing and Bookselling in New England, 1638–1718,” in Hugh Amory and David D. Hall, eds., A History of the Book in America, Volume I: The Colonial Book in the Atlantic World (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007), 95; and Tebbel, Creation of an Industry, 8–10, 30–32.

(3.) Quoted in David D. Hall, “The Chesapeake in the Seventeenth Century,” in Amory and Hall, Colonial Book, 56.

(4.) Tebbel, Creation of an Industry, 41–42.

(5.) James N. Green, “The Book Trade in the Middle Colonies, 1680–1720,” in Amory and Hall, Colonial Book, 199–223.

(6.) Hugh Amory, “The New England Book Trade, 1713–1790,” James N. Green, “The Middle Colonies, 1720–1790: Part One: English Books and Printing in the Age of Franklin,” and A. Gregg Roeber, “The Middle Colonies, 1720–1790: Part Two: German and Dutch Books and Printing” in Amory and Hall, Colonial Book, 317, 248–255, and 302; and Tebbel, Creation of an Industry, 178.

(7.) Tebbel, Creation of an Industry, 51.

(8.) Charles E., Clark, “Periodicals and Politics: Part One: Early American Journalism: News and Opinion in the Popular Press,” Amory and Hall, Colonial Book, 355.

(9.) T. J. Tomlin, A Divinity for All Persuasions: Popular Print and Early American Religious Life (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), 2.

(10.) Green, “English Books and Printing in the Age of Franklin,” in 259. This is essentially the thesis of Frank Lambert, Inventing the “Great Awakening” (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999). See also Jonathan M. Yeager, Jonathan Edwards and Transatlantic Print Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016).

(11.) Quoted in Green, “English Books and Printing in the Age of Franklin,” 260.

(12.) Quoted in Green, “English Books and Printing in the Age of Franklin,” 260.

(13.) On the prevalence of the Bible in colonial America, see Mark A. Noll, In the Beginning Was the Word: The Bible in American Public Life, 1492–1783 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016).

(14.) Hugh Amory, “A Note on Imports and Domestic Production,” in Amory and Hall, Colonial Book, 198.

(15.) James P. Byrd, Sacred Scripture, Sacred War: The Bible and the American Revolution (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013); and Green, “English Books and Printing in the Age of Franklin,” 291–298.

(16.) Andie Tucher, “Periodical Press: Newspapers, Magazines, and Reviews: Part 1: Newspapers and Periodicals,” in Robert A. Gross and Mary Kelley, eds., A History of the Book in America, Volume II: An Extensive Republic: Print, Culture, and Society in the New Nation, 1790–1840 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010), 391.

(17.) Robert A. Gross, “Reading for an Extensive Republic,” in Gross and Kelley, An Extensive Republic, 525.

(18.) Richard Brown, “The Revolution’s Legacy for the History of the Book,” in Gross and Kelley, An Extensive Republic, 74.

(19.) Paul C. Gutjahr, An American Bible: A History of the Good Book in the United States, 1777–1880 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999), 20–29.

(20.) Clark, “Early American Journalism,” 360.

(21.) Heather A. Haveman, Magazines and the Making of America: Modernization, Community, and Print Culture, 1741–1860 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015), 26–27, 160–161.

(22.) Gaylord P. Albaugh, History and Annotated Bibliography of American Religious Periodicals and Newspapers Established from 1730 through 1830, Volume One: A–O (Worcester, MA: American Antiquarian Society, 1994), xi.

(23.) Robert A. Gross, “Introduction: An Extensive Republic,” and Jack Larkin, “‘Printing is something every village has in it’: Rural Printing and Publishing,” in Gross and Kelley, Extensive Republic, 6–8, 147.

(24.) Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815–1848 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 5; and James N. Green, “The Book Trades in the New Nation: Part I: The Rise of Book Publishing,” in Gross and Kelley, Extensive Republic, 112–119.

(25.) David Paul Nord, “Benevolent Books: Printing, Religion, and Reform,” in Gross and Kelley, Extensive Republic, 229–242. See also John Fea, The Bible Cause: A History of the American Bible Society (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), 1–60; Candy Gunther Brown, The Word in the World: Evangelical Writing, Publishing, and Reading in America, 1789–1880 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004), 60–65; and David Paul Nord, Faith in Reading: Religious Publishing and the Birth of Mass Media in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004).

(26.) Candy Gunther Brown, “Periodicals and Serial Publications: Part 4: Religious Periodicals and Their Text Communities,” in Scott E. Casper, et al., eds., A History of the Book in America, Volume III: The Industrial Book, 1840–1880 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007), 271.

(27.) “Introduction” in Charles H. Lippy, ed., Religious Periodicals of the United States: Academic and Scholarly Journals (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1986), 12.

(28.) Robert H. Krapohl, “Christian Advocate,” in Mark Fackler and Charles H. Lippy, eds., Popular Religious Magazines of the United States (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1995), 109.

(29.) Nord, Faith in Reading, 156; and Brown, Word in the World, 51–60.

(30.) Paul C. Gutjahr, “Alternative Publishing Systems: Part 1: Diversification in American Religious Publishing,” in Casper et al., eds., Industrial Book, 199–200, Tebbel, Creation of an Industry, 524–530; Apollinaris W. Baumgartner, Catholic Journalism: A Study of Its Development in the United States, 1789–1930 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1931), 12–35; and John Tebbel, A History of Book Publishing in the United States, Volume II: The Expansion of an Industry (New York: R. R. Bowker, 1975), 547–548.

(31.) Edwin Gaustad and Philip L. Barlow, The New Historical Atlas of Religion in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 379; and Tebbel, Expansion of an Industry, 550–552.

(32.) Gaustad and Barlow, Historical Atlas, 210, 212; Gutjahr, “Diversification in American Religious Publishing,” 200–201; Tebbel, Creation of an Industry, 530; and Tebbel, Expansion of an Industry, 549.

(33.) David J. Whittaker, “Joseph B. Keeler, Print Culture, and the Modernization of Mormonism,” in Charles Lloyd Cohen and Paul S. Boyer, eds., Religion and the Culture of Print in Modern America (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2008), 109–110. See also Paul C. Gutjahr, The Book of Mormon: A Biography (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012), 3–10.

(34.) Arthur Patrick, “Author,” in Terrie Dopp Aamodt, Gary Land, and Ronald L. Numbers, eds., Ellen Harmon White: American Prophet (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), 91–92.

(35.) Brown, “Religious Periodicals,” 272–273.

(36.) Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp, “Eastward Ho! American Religion from the Perspective of the Pacific Rim,” in Thomas A. Tweed, ed., Retelling U.S. Religious History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), 143; Thomas A. Tweed and Stephen Prothero, eds., Asian Religions in America: A Documentary History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 92–93, 95; Kambiz Ghaneabassiri, A History of Islam in America: From the New World to the New World Order (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010); Catherine Albanese, America: Religions and Religion (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1992), 283–284; and Richard Hughes Seager, The World’s Parliament of Religions: The East/West Encounter, Chicago 1893 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995).

(37.) Eric Gardner, Black Print Unbound: The Christian Recorder, African American Literature, and Periodical Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), 11, 14. See also Lara Langer Cohen and Jordan Alexander Stein, eds., Early African American Print Culture (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012); and Karen A. Weyler, Empowering Words: Outsiders and Authorship in Early America (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2013).

(38.) Tebbel, Creation of an Industry, 74–76; and Hugh Amory, “Reinventing the Colonial Book,” in Amory and Hall, Colonial Book, 51.

(39.) Joanne Dobson and Sandra A. Zagarell, “Women Writing in the Early Republic,” in Gross and Kelley, Extensive Republic, 364–366; and Brown, Word in the World, 183–185.

(40.) Charles Wesley Andrews, Religious Novels: An Argument Against Their Uses (New York: A. F. Randolph, 1856), 6; David S. Reynolds, Faith in Fiction: The Emergence of Religious Literature in America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981); and Brown, Word in the World, 95–105.

(41.) Gutjahr, American Bible, 173; and Brown, Word in the World, 77–78.

(42.) Brown, Word in the World, 65–78; and Gutjahr, “Diversification in American Religious Publishing,” 201.

(43.) B. M. Pietsch, Dispensational Modernism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), 174.

(44.) Nicola Menzie, “NIV Remains the Bestselling Translation,” Christian Today (March 27, 2013); and Philip Goff, Arthur E. Farnsley II, and Peter Thuesen, “The Bible in American Life Today,” in Goff, Farnsley, and Thuesen, eds., The Bible in American Life (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017), 5–34.

(45.) John P. Ferré, A Social Gospel for Millions: The Religious Bestsellers of Charles Sheldon, Charles Gordon, and Harold Bell Wright (Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1988), 38. Publisher’s Weekly lists of fiction best-sellers going back to 1895 can be found on Wikipedia. A less complete list of nonfiction best-sellers appears here: Nathan Bransford, “Bestselling Nonfiction Books by Year,” Nathan Bransford, Author, September 11, 2013.

(46.) Matthew S. Hedstrom, The Rise of Liberal Protestantism: Book Culture and American Spirituality in the Twentieth Century (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010). See also N. Jay Demerath III, “Cultural Victory and Organizational Defeat in the Paradoxical Decline of Liberal Protestantism,” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 34.4 (1995): 458–469; and Kathryn Lofton, Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011).

(47.) George M. Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), 118–123.

(48.) James W. Carey, Communication as Culture (Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1989), 19.

(49.) For holdings of the Daily American Tribune, see “Daily American Tribune,” Catholic Newspapers in Microform: A Directory of Works at Notre Dame, 129, compiled by Charlotte Ames and William Kevin Cawley (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame). On the history and purpose of the Christian Science Monitor, see “About Us,” Christian Science Monitor. Quote from Jonathan Z. S. Pollack, “‘Is This We Have among us Here a Jew?’ The Hillel Review and Jewish Identity at the University of Wisconsin, 1925–31,” in Charles L. Cohen and Paul S. Boyer, eds., Religion and the Culture of Print in Modern America (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2008), 157.

(50.) Frank L. Mott, A History of American Magazines, 1741–1930, vol. 3 (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1957), 63–89; vol. 4, 276–305. Watchtower circulation figures from the circulation statement in the periodical.

(51.) Brief histories of the press associations can be found at “History of the Catholic Press Association,” Catholic Press Association of the United States & Canada website; “Who We Are,” The Associated Church Press website; “A Brief History of the American Jewish Press Association,” American Jewish Press Association, website, November 2014; and Doug Trouten, “History of EPA,” Evangelical Press Association, website, 1999. Decision magazine circulation listed at “Ministry Facts,” Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, website.

(52.) “Editor’s Outlook: The Leaven of Heresy,” The Chautauquan 13, no. 4 (July 1891): 524.

(53.) Richard Flory, “American Journalism and Religion, 1870–1930,” in Diane Winston, ed., The Oxford Handbook of Religion and the American News Media.

(54.) Doug Underwood, From Yahweh to Yahoo! The Religious Roots of the Secular Press (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2002), 99. See also John Schmaltzbauer, People of Faith: Religious Conviction in American Journalism and Higher Education (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2003). For a standard list of news values, see “What Makes a Story Interesting, Relevant, or Useful?,” compiled by Bob Stepno, rev. September 7, 2008.

(55.) David D. Hall, ed. A History of the Book in America. 5 vols. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007–2014).

(56.) John Tebbel, History of Book Publishing in the United States (in 4 vols.) (New York: R. R. Bowker, 1972–1981); James Philip Danky and Wayne A. Wiegand, eds., Print Culture in a Diverse America (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1998); and David Paul Nord, Communities of Journalism: A History of American Newspapers and Their Readers (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2001).

(57.) Reynolds, Faith in Fiction; Gutjahr, An American Bible; Joanna Brooks, American Lazarus: Religion and the Rise of African-American and Native American Literatures (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003); Brown, The Word in the World; Nord, Faith in Reading; and Fea, The Bible Cause.

(58.) Charles H. Lippy, Religious Periodicals of the United States: Academic and Scholarly Journals (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1986); Albaugh, History and Annotated Bibliography of American Religious Periodicals and Newspapers Established from 1730 through 1830; and Fackler and Lippy, Popular Religious Magazines of the United States.

(59.) Hedstrom, The Rise of Liberal Religion; Elesha J. Coffman, The Christian Century and the Rise of the Protestant Mainline (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013); Tomlin, A Divinity for All Persuasions; Erin A. Smith, What Would Jesus Read? Popular Religious Books and Everyday Life in Twentieth-Century America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015); and Gardner, Black Print Unbound; Noll, In the Beginning Was the Word.