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Godey's Lady's Book

Milne Special Collections has bound copies for the year 1841-1882, with some gaps. See our holdings in the library catalog.

Godey’s Lady’s Book, alternatively known as Godey’s Magazine and Lady’s Book, was a popular 19th century magazine for women. Published from 1830-1878 by Louis A. Godey of Philadelphia (it continued publication for another twenty years after his death), by the outbreak of the Civil War it was the most successful women’s magazine in the United States, with a circulation of 150,000, and an estimated readership of a million persons. As the regions of the country became increasingly politically estranged, Godey’s remained a unifying force among elite women and those aspiring to that status.

The magazine was expensive; subscribers paid $3 per year (The Saturday Evening Post was only $2 per year). Even so, it was the most popular journal of its day. Each issue contained poetry, articles, and engravings and featured prominent writers of the time (Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Washington Irving were some of the most notable contributors). Sarah Josepha Hale, author of “Mary Had A Little Lamb”) and the magazine‚Äôs editor from 1837 until 1877 published only original, American manuscripts. Although the magazine contained work by both males and females, Hale published three special issues which only included work done by women.

The magazine is best known for the hand-tinted fashion plate that appeared at the front of each issue. Almost every issue also included an illustration and pattern with measurements for a garment to be sewn at home. A sheet of music for piano provided the latest waltz, polka or galop.

In 1845, Louis Godey began copyrighting each issue of the magazine to prevent other magazine and newspaper editors from pirating their texts. This move, a first in America, was criticized by editors at the Baltimore Saturday Visiter. They called it a “narrowly selfish course” and that Godey would “rue it bitterly.”