In an era of fake news and slanted history, Americans need a trusted source of information about their past. For more than 65 years, American Heritage has been that source as the leading journal of U.S. history. Millions of readers, including many students and teachers, have benefited from its accessible, interesting stories crafted by respected historians.
But these are challenging times for magazines. In recent years, with increased competition from the Internet, American Heritage was only able to charge for subscriptions the same price that it had in 1961 -- half a century earlier. The magazine was forced to stop print publication in 2012.
Since then, a small group of volunteers has kept the magazine and its archives alive. They often paid for web hosting out of their own pockets, and commissioned articles for new issues by authors such as James McPherson, John Eisenhower, Tom Fleming, and Harold Holzer. They built a major educational system, Fourscore, and created ebook versions of 130 previously published books as well as new anthologies.
But to relaunch the magazine, at least digitally, American Heritage needs to 1) update its website, which is now running on outdated and unsecure software, 2) build systems to create new issues and new types of web content, and 3) construct a system to track subscribers.
That will enable the magazine to sustain itself into the future and allow it to provide future generations with the lessons (and entertaining stories) from our past.
Telling the American Story for 67 Years
Since 1949, the mission of American Heritage has been to make top-tier scholarship accessible to a wide range of audiences, proving that history can be lively, interesting, even spell-binding. It has won numerous awards including the National Magazine Award. American Heritage has always been apolitical and non-partisan, but tells the story of our nation and the diverse people who built it with respect and affection.
Hardbound editions of American Heritage were an iconic presence in homes across the country. “My family subscribed to this marvelous publication when I was a girl,” writes former First Lady Laura Bush. “I vividly remember the special shelf of white hardback volumes and how we eagerly awaited each new issue.”
Founded by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Bruce Catton, American Heritage has published hundreds of the nation’s most respected writers including Stephen Ambrose, Ed Ayres, Douglas Brinkley, Malcolm Cowley, John Dos Passos, Joseph Ellis, Eric Foner, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., John F. Kennedy, Pauline Maier, David McCullough, Samuel Eliot Morrison, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and Barbara Tuchman.
Praise for American Heritage
“I am delighted to recommend AMERICAN HERITAGE to anyone looking for an enjoyable reading and learning experience” —George H.W. Bush, former President of the United States
“A great national resource” —David McCullough, Author, Historian
“Illuminates and interprets the past so one can better understand the present, with grace, wisdom and style.” —Barbara Walters, TV Commentator
“A nation’s history is its memory, its identity, the embodiment of its values and its sense of self-worth. A society that knows its heritage has the faith to face its future. I know of no other publication in the world that captures the vitality of a nation’s history as well as AMERICAN HERITAGE does. It is an extraordinary magazine.” —Henry A. Kissinger
“AMERICAN HERITAGE is everything a magazine of popular history should be – elegant, lively, informative, entertaining, and intelligent.” —Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Historian
What Happened, and How We Rebuild
Like many other print publications, American Heritage faced increased competition from other media including the Internet, declining ad revenues, and rising costs.
In 1960, subscribers paid $15 a year for American Heritage at a time when a nice car cost $2,000, movies were 25 cents, and Cokes set you back a nickel at the soda fountain.
In 2013, more than half a century later, American Heritage was still only able to charge $15 a year. That barely covered printing, paper, and postage expenses. The cost of maintaining the subscriber list alone (invoicing, renewals, labels, address changes) was $350,000 a year.
After taking over the magazine in 2007, we cut costs as best as we could and the magazine broke even in 2009. But few investors stepped up to help cover losses during the recession and to pay for promotion and other critical expenses. After print publication stopped in 2012, revenue dropped off to almost nothing.
How can American Heritage keep this extraordinary archive accessible, continue to publish writing by younger historians, and add new types of content to encourage the next generation of Americans to learn about history?
It can be done, but not without resources. To survive, the magazine must:
1) Modernize its complex, 30,000-page website, which was mostly built eight years ago. Its software is now unsecure and no longer updated by developers
2) Hire writers, editors, and designers to help create new issues of the magazine, at least for digital editions
3) Build systems to publish future issues, and add new content and website features to attract new readers, and
4) Build systems to enroll and track subscribers, and hopefully restart the print edition if subscriber lists grow. This will enable us to continue to produce the kind of respected, accessible historical writing that American Heritage is famous for. If we can build our subscription rolls high enough, we might even be able to relaunch the print edition.
Donation Levels and Gifts
We are pleased to offer a variety of gifts to express appreciation to donors who help us save American Heritage and renew an interest in our Nation's history.
$9 - Inauguration subscription One-year subscription to the new American Heritage (digital edition), plus access to 7,000 essays in the archives The following donation levels all include an annual subscription and access to website archives.
$20 - Signers Level w/ American Heritage pen
In addition to your subscription, you will receive this American Heritage pen -- which we actually use in our office because it writes well and dependably, and looks nice, too!
$30 - Francis Scott Key Level w/ desktop flag
In addition to a subscription and archive access, donors will receive a desktop version of the original 15-star flag that flew at Fort McHenry in 1814. It will help you remember the heroic defense of Baltimore and the Star-Spangled Banner that Francis Scott Key saw waving in the battle smoke that September morning -- the kind of story that all Americans should know as part of our shared heritage!
$40 - Sixtieth Anniversary Level w/ poster
We celebrated our 60th Anniversary with this elegant 22" x 17" poster suitable for framing, and still have a few left! Look carefully at each figure in our version of Washington crossing the Delaware. Lincoln? FDR? Mark Twain? Is that Harriet Tubman and Robert E. Lee sitting together in the stern? Celebrate the American journey -- and our Diamond Anniversary -- with this one-of-a-kind poster!
$50 - John F. Kennedy Level w/ book
President Kennedy wrote an essay for our magazine on why we should know history. He noted that "Americans are united by their history and their faith in progress, justice, and freedom." JFK would have enjoyed our book on "299 Things Every American Should Know"!
$60 -Teddy Roosevelt Level w/ cap
Donors will receive a high quality, cotton American Heritage cap in addition to the subscription and archive access. We love this cap -- it's comfortable and stays on in a breeze. Whether you’re sailing like JFK, on the golf links like Ike, or at the ballpark (Taft frequented Senators games) -- you’ll look great with an American Heritage cap!
$75 - Constitution Level w/ First Edition of New Book
Be one of the first to receive a copy of this brilliant new book chronicling pivotal events that shaped our nation. Fifty leading historians (including 17 Pulitzer Prize winners) contributed to 50 Decisive Moments -- an extraordinary anthology of best writing from American Heritage selected by its Editor, Edwin Grosvenor, with an introduction by David McCullough
$85 - Rosie the Riveter Level w/ book and Rosie bobblehead
Donors at this level will receive the 50 Decisive Moments book plus a delightful "Rosie the Riveter" bobblehead. American Heritage tells stories of “regular" Americans as well as political leaders and generals. While it was still possible, we interviewed dozens of Rosies and other WWII veterans and published their memories. Help us to keep these archives online!
$100 - Abraham Lincoln Level w/ book and bobblehead
Now you can keep a charming Abe Lincoln bobblehead on your desk, next to your new 50 Decisive Moments book, to remember how lucky we were to have this shrewd leader during our nation's most tumultuous time.
$125 - Polk and Garfield Level w/ with polo shirt
James K. Polk? James Garfield? There's a lot worth knowing about some of our former Presidents that many Americans barely knew served. American Heritage sheds light on their contributions, and the deeds of many others who made our country great. You won’t feel like an underrated President dressed in our handsome, all-cotton Polo shirt!
$150 - Jefferson Level w/ autographed book
Thomas Jefferson would have wanted an autographed first edition of 50 Decisive Moments in his famous library. Be the first on your block to own one! Did you know that American Heritage editor Edwin Grosvenor is the great-grandson of Alexander Graham Bell?
$250 - Stars and Stripes Level w/ with Betsy Ross flag
In addition to enjoying an autographed first edition of 50 Decisive Moments, these patriotic donors will receive an authentic 13 star Betsy Ross flag (12" x 18") to show your spirit! No artificial fabrics here -- only quality cotton antiqued with real tea to honor the spirit of '76! Suitable for framing, too.
$500 - Start Spangled Banner Level w/ flag
Own a piece of history with a historically accurate Star-Spangled Banner flag certified to have flown over Fort McHenry, plus an autographed copy of 50 Decisive Moments! The flag is five feet long and all cotton, with carefully stitched stripes and 15 embroidered stars. (At the time of the British attack on Baltimore in 1814, there were actually 18 states in the Union. But Congress couldn't agree on a new design for a flag. Are you surprised? Too bad they didn't read our special issue on "Great Compromises" in American history.)
$750 - George Washington Level w/ coffeetable book and gold inaugural pin
You will receive a beautifully illustrated copy of The World of George Washington by Richard Ketchum, whom Douglas Brinkley called "the finest historian of the American Revolution." Plus you're enjoy a 24 karat-plated gold lapel pin, an elegant replica of the one that George Washington designed to wear at his inauguration. It shows the American eagle, a rising sun, and the inscription “March The Fourth 1789 Memorable Era.”
$1,000 - Patriots Level w/ launch party, 24 karat gold cufflinks designed by George Washington, etc.
Patriots level donors will be thanked on our website and invited to join our editors, directors and favorite historians at a re-launch party at Gadsby’s Tavern in Alexandria, VA, where George Washington celebrated his birthdays. Other frequent patrons at Gadsby's included Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison and James Monroe. You'll receive a goodie bag with gifts including a pair of cufflinks with 24 karat gold plating -- replicas of the inaugural pin designed by George Washington himself. Did you know that General Washington didn't campaign for President and was opposed to the formation of political parties? But he was fine with tavern parties!
Gadsby's Tavern has entertained Presidents and citizens since the 1785 and is located at 134 North Royal Street in Alexandria, VA.
$5,000 Advisory Board Level
All the benefits of the Presidential Level, including an invitation to the re-launch party and a tote bag with gold cufflinks and other goodies. You will listed as a member of the Advisory Board, and your advice will be sought on how to encourage more Americans to appreciate the lessons of history.
$10,000 Founders Level
You can play a critical role as one of the Founders of the new American Heritage. You will receive all the benefits of the Presidential Level, plus be listed as a Founder. And your advice will be sought on how to take American Heritage to the next level of relevancy.
Pictured below at our 60th Anniversary celebration in 2010 at Gadsby's Tavern is former Virginia Governor George Allen, who gave wonderful remarks on the value of American Heritage and the importance of knowing history, with Edwin Grosvenor, the magazine's President and Editor, and Stephanie Pace Brown, former President & CEO, Alexandria Convention & Visitors Association.
Risks and challenges
Risks and challenges
The challenge for American Heritage is to keep its extraordinary archive accessible, and find ways to continue to publish writing by a new generation of historians.
To survive, the magazine must:
1) modernize its 30,000-page website, and update it with new content and features,
2) build a system to enroll and track subscribers, and
3) hire writers, editors, and designers to create new issues of the magazine, at least for a digital version, and hopefully restart the print edition.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (45 days)