Pulp fiction was of great importance to the working classes. These were people who weren’t earning a lot of money and they couldn’t afford to buy many magazines until pulp fiction arrived. 1896 was when Argosy Magazine was first published, it was published on cheap wood pulp paper as opposed to the glossy magazines which were published on glossy paper. Pulp magazines cost 10c and glossy magazines cost 25c. Published by Frank Munsey they introduced cheap entertainment to the masses.
If you browse this Wikipedia article you can find the names of many magazines which gave so much pleasure to so many. They covered so many different genres including detective, fantasy and science fiction, they were the precursor to the penny dreadfuls and short fiction magazines in the nineteenth century. This wonderful era was phased out during the 1950s due to heavy competition from paperback novels and television.
So many writers got their start writing for pulp magazines. A number of them made a good living from this writing. Edgar Rice Burroughs (John Carter of Mars) was very conscious of the money to be made from writing for the pulps and wrote for maximum financial reward. Max Brand wrote mostly literary westerns under 26 different pen names. Jack London, author of Call to the Wild, was threatening suicide and receiving rejection after rejection when his story was accepted by The Black Cat. Dashiel Hammet was a private detective before becoming a crime writer for the pulps.
Frank Munsey was often quoted as saying ‘the story is more important than the paper it was printed on’. This was a fantastic idea in any age and current publishers could take note and learn much from Frank Munsey. Munsey was ruthless and eager to make money due to an upbringing in poverty, he started magazines and finished them abruptly when they didn’t make money.
I could go on forever, but I’ll come back next week with a little more about the writers.