It has been said that
It has been said that Mr. Curtis banished patent-medicine advertisements
from his magazine only when he could afford to do so. That is not true,
as a simple incident will show. In the early days, he and Bok were
opening the mail one Friday full of anxiety because the pay-roll was due
that evening, and there was not enough money in the bank to meet it.
From one of the letters dropped a certified check for five figures for a
contract equal to five pages in the magazine. It was a welcome sight,
for it meant an easy meeting of the pay-roll for that week and two
succeeding weeks. But the check was from a manufacturing patent-medicine
company. Without a moment's hesitation, Mr. Curtis slipped it back into
the envelope, saying: "Of course, that we can't take." He returned the
check, never gave the matter a second thought, and went out and borrowed
more money to meet his pay-roll!
With all respect to American publishers, there are very few who could
have done this--or indeed, would do it to-day, under similar
conditions--particularly in that day when it was the custom for all
magazines to accept patent-medicine advertising; The Ladies' Home
Journal was practically the only publication of standing in the United
States refusing that class of business!
Bok now saw advertising done on a large scale by a man who believed in
plenty of white space surrounding the announcement in the advertisement.
He paid Mr. Howells $10,000 for his autobiography, and Mr. Curtis spent
$50,000 in advertising it. "It is not expense," he would explain to Bok,
"it is investment. We are investing in a trade-mark. It will all come
back in time." And when the first $100,000 did not come back as Mr.
Curtis figured, he would send another $100,000 after it, and then both