The two authors
The two authors of that day who commanded more attention than any others
were William Dean Howells and Rudyard Kipling. Bok knew that these two
would give to his magazine the literary quality that it needed, and so
he laid them both under contribution. He bought Mr. Howells's new novel,
"The Coast of Bohemia," and arranged that Kipling's new novelette upon
which he was working should come to the magazine. Neither the public nor
the magazine editors had expected Bok to break out along these more
permanent lines, and magazine publishers began to realize that a new
competitor had sprung up in Philadelphia. Bok knew they would feel this;
so before he announced Mr. Howells's new novel, he contracted with the
novelist to follow this with his autobiography. This surprised the
editors of the older magazines, for they realized that the Philadelphia
editor had completely tied up the leading novelist of the day for his
next two years' output.
Meanwhile, in order that the newspapers might be well supplied with
barbs for their shafts, he published an entire number of his magazine
written by famous daughters of famous men. This unique issue presented
contributions by the daughters of Charles Dickens, Nathaniel Hawthorne,
President Harrison, Horace Greeley, William M. Thackeray, William Dean
Howells, General Sherman, Julia Ward Howe, Jefferson Davis, Mr.
Gladstone, and a score of others. This issue simply filled the
paragraphers with glee. Then once more Bok turned to material calculated
to cement the foundation for a more permanent structure.
He noted, early in its progress, the gathering strength of the drift
toward woman suffrage, and realized that the American woman was not
prepared, in her knowledge of her country, to exercise the privilege of
the ballot. Bok determined to supply the deficiency to his readers, and
concluded to put under contract the President of the United States,
Benjamin Harrison, the moment he left office, to write a series of
articles explaining the United States. No man knew this subject better
than the President; none could write better; and none would attract such
general attention to his magazine, reasoned Bok. He sought the
President, talked it over with him, and found him favorable to the idea.
But the President was in doubt at that time whether he would be a
candidate for another term, and frankly told Bok that he would be taking
too much risk to wait for him. He suggested that the editor try to
prevail upon his then secretary of state, James G. Blaine, to undertake
the series, and offered to see Mr. Blaine and induce him to a favorable
consideration. Bok acquiesced, and a few days afterward received from
Mr. Blaine a request to come to Washington.