'American Heritage' Returns As Digital-Only Magazine

Like many other magazines, such as Mental Floss, Jet and Computerworld, American Heritage is going digital-only.

Appropriately, given its subject matter, the nonprofit American Heritage debuted its digital version on July 4, five years after it suspended print publication. The magazine, which focuses on lively, accessible scholarship, has won numerous awards, including the National Magazine Award.

The relaunch is still in its early stages. For a limited time, the publication is offering free subscriptions. Subscribers get access to digital issues, newsletters and the 7,000 essays in the AH archives. 

Eventually, the magazine hopes to sustain itself via paid subscribers, though the fund-raising effort is ongoing. The goal is to modernize the site, hire writers and editors, and build systems to track subscribers. There is also an advertising component.



The summer issue offers 10 major essays, in addition to departments such as “History News.” The big story is “Hail Liberty,” about the legacy of France’s most famous gift to the U.S. — the Statue of Liberty — that has stood in New York’s harbor since October 1886.

"The statue is still there, unrivaled at the gateway. She isn't a warrior. She isn't bombastic or threatening. She isn't a symbol of power. The Statue of Liberty is an act of faith," writes Pulitzer Prize-winner David McCullough.

Other stories include a baseball piece by Bill Veeck, who helped integrate the American League in 1949 and Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s strategy of splitting the South during the Civil War. Verticals on the AH site include Food, Travel, Historic Sites, as well as articles ranging from the Civil War to the Cold War.

In the new issue, publisher Edwin Grosvenor says American Heritage faced tough times since shuttering its print edition. A few volunteers paid for web hosting and its publishing partner, New Word City, helped digitize and create eBook versions of the 130 books previously published by AH in the past 70 years.

Such efforts supplied a modest income and kept the magazine on life support.

Grosvenor credits the relaunch to 600+ donors who paid to revamp the decade-old website, AmericanHeritage.com and create the technology to track subscribers. 

American Heritage was initially published under the auspices of the American Association for State and Local History in 1949. But it wasn’t until 1954, when famed history writers Bruce Catton and Oliver Jensen, along with Joseph J. Thorndike Jr. and James Parton, launched their own version, that the magazine enjoyed greater status.

Its authors read like a Who’s Who of great historians, such as Douglas Brinkley, Jon Dos Passos, Barbara Tuchman and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

There are plans to revive American Heritage's sister publication, Invention & Technology. The editors also created www.4score.org, a site for educators to teach U. S. history and government.

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