Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Birth of the Broadway Journal

Charles Frederick Briggs and John Bisco signed a contract on December 23, 1844 to begin a new publication in New York. Only a couple weeks earlier, Briggs was struggling over what to name the new periodical. He settled on "The Broadway Journal."

Bisco was the brains that handled the business operations while Briggs utilized his established literary reputation to attract both contributors and readers. Briggs, however, was no fool and wanted an even bigger name to attract attention. He asked his close friend James Russell Lowell how to get in touch with Edgar Allan Poe.

The Broadway Journal rose and fell very quickly. Briggs and Bisco partnered with Poe because of his reputation — a reputation earned partly from "The Raven" but also from his harsh, relentless literary criticism. When Poe did the same sort of criticism for the Journal, Briggs was offended (particularly when Poe attacked Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, angering mutual friend J. R. Lowell).

The three business partners never quite came together. Briggs, who was also dealing with personal financial difficulties, attempted to buy out Bisco to take in more profit for himself. Instead, he abandoned the journal he helped start only about six months into the project. Poe considered selling his share of the company to another editor, a lion of New York periodicals named Evert Augustus Duyckinck, or the main proponent of copyright law Cornelius Mathews. Instead, he borrowed money from Horace Greeley and bought out John Bisco. As of October 1845, Poe was the sole owner of The Broadway Journal. Despite Poe's high hopes, the publication shut down with its January 3, 1846 issue (after which Poe vowed to start the Stylus, which never came to be).

Briggs continued to work in the publishing industry, editing several other magazines, journals, newspapers, and annuals. He had a somewhat long run on Putnam's Magazine, where he worked with notables like Parke Godwin (son-in-law of William Cullen Bryant) and George William Curtis. Little seems to be known about John Bisco outside his connection to Briggs and Poe.

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