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The History of Rand's Magazines

The Conservative Press in Twentieth-Century America profiles numerous conservative and libertarian publications. Robert Hessen wrote a profile describing the magazines edited by Ayn Rand.

[...] By late 1961, a master mailing list of over 10,000 people interested in Objectivism had been compiled.

Based on this explosive growth of interest in Objectivism, Rand and Branden decided to launch a journal of ideas devoted to applying her philosophy to the problems and issues of contemporary American culture. The Objectivist Newsletter, a four-page monthly, was first published in January 1962. Occasionally Rand and Branden wrote the whole issue, but usually only two-thirds of it. Other contributors included Barbara Branden, Leonard Peikoff, Edith Efron, Alan Greenspan, Robert Hessen, and Joan Mitchell Blumenthal. Articles on ethics, epistemology, economics, and psychology were dominant, but other subjects -- aesthetics, education, and political theory -- also were represented. Ayn Rand personally edited every article in every issue.


One of the Newsletter's most popular features was its "Intellectual Ammunition Department," which answered questions sent in by subscribers. Particular attention was given to questions involving personal choices and dilemmas in a society increasingly dominated by irrationalism and collectivism. [...]

Most issues of the Newsletter contained a book review, but with a unique feature: the only books reviewed were those that could be recommended favorably. These included the works of free market economists Ludwig von Mises and Henry Hazlitt, and the novels of Victor Hugo and Mickey Spillane. Nevertheless, the reviewers identified any premises or conclusions of the books' authors that were not philosophically consistent with Objectivism. These disclaimers made it possible to publicize and promote books that were not written by Objectivists, while still carefully differentiating Objectivism from other philosophies with which it shared some values.


Two years after it began publication, the circulation of the Objectivist Newsletter exceeded 5,000. Similarly, the lecture courses on Objectivism were being offered in more than thirty cities by the end of 1963, and enrollment reached 2,500 students.

During the next two years, the circulation of the Newsletter continued to grow, especially after the publicity generated by an interview with Ayn Rand in Playboy (March 1964). Late in 1965, Rand and Branden decided to change format, and the first issue of a sixteen-page monthly magazine, the Objectivist, appeared in January 1966. By the end of that year, the number of paid subscribers reached 21,000.


In 1971, Ayn Rand made another change in the format of her magazine. She had witnessed the success of several newsletters written by controversial commentators on the American scene (e.g., Marshall McLuhan), and she was persuaded that by adopting a newsletter format, she could reach a larger audience for her ideas. The new name for her publication became the Ayn Rand Letter. It was a fortnightly, consisting of four or six pages per issue, and typewritten rather than typeset to reduce the time between writing and publication. She undertook an extensive promotional campaign to increase the Letter's circulation, but her expectations were not met. She lost a large number of subscribers when the subscription price rose from $5.00 for the Objectivist to $36.00 for the Letter (even though a special reduced rate was available for college students who otherwise might not have been able to afford a subscription).


For the first two and a half years of its existence, the Ayn Rand Letter met its publication schedule without major problems or delays. Then two unforeseen developments forced Ayn Rand to fall far behind schedule. [...]

When she was able to resume regular publication, Ayn Rand hoped to catch up quickly with the issues that had been delayed, so each issue was dated when it should have appeared rather than on the actual date it did appear. The only indication of this unconventional dating was a brief postscript to some issues: "This Letter was written later than the date that appears on its heading." But these gaps were sometimes as long as eight months, creating the confusion of articles referring to events that occurred long after the date of the issue's publication.

[...] She informed her subscribers in April 1975 that "in view of the lengthy delay in our publication schedule, I am presently working out a change of format for the Letter." A month later, an announcement stated that the Letter would become a monthly publication, but even that level of output soon proved too demanding. In the December 1975 issue, Ayn Rand revealed her decision to discontinue the Letter.

From "The Objectivist" in The Conservative Press in Twentieth-Century America, edited by Ronald Lora and William Henry Longton, pp. 350-355. Omissions from the text are shown with bracketed ellipses. All other punctuation and spelling is from the original.

Additional keywords: Ann Rand, Anne Rand, Any Rand

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