Potential research paths for The Masses. What questions do you have to contribute?

Suggested Research Problems

We’ll collect here some ideas for researching The Masses that are prompted by the MJP’s data of the journal. We’ll also, when possible, use the same resources to suggest some solutions.


Problem 1: How did The Masses change after Max Eastman became editor?

Because the magazine is commonly regarded as changing direction and spirit when Eastman became involved, we might emply the tools on the Masses work site for investigating the magazine over time–to confirm, qualify, or refute the various claims made about the magazine at this critical juncture of its development. (For a sampling of such claims, visit our scholarly claims page.)

One approach would be to compare data from the first two volumes (1 and 3) with data from the last five (4-9/10). For instance:

Masses during its first two years (and first three editors):

  • Number of issues; 20
  • Total pages: 400
  • Pages per issue: 20
  • Total words: 508,347
  • Average words per issue: 25,417.4
  • Average words per page: 1,270.9

Masses during its next five years (under Max Eastman):

  • Number of issues; 59
  • Total pages: 1,754
  • Pages per issue: 29.7
  • Total words: 1,482,165
  • Average words per issue: 25,121.4
  • Average words per page: 845

As the above figures indicate, The Masses under Eastman would go on to publish nearly 3 times as many issues (59 vs. 20) as it did under its first three editors, at pretty much the same rate of 1 issue per month, but it also published over 4 times as many pages (1754 vs. 400). In fact, the average number of pages per issue during this period increased by nearly half: 29.7 pages vs. 20 pages (which is an increase of 48.6%).

One might expect, then, that the words per issue would increase at a similar rate, but that figure surprisingly remains the same: 25,417.4 words/issue during the first two years, compared to 25,121.44 words per issue during the last five (which is a slight drop of 295.5 words, or a 1.16% decrease). More pages with slightly fewer words per issue means fewer words per page—and our data confirm that the magazine dropped from 1,271 words per page during the first two years to 845 words during the last five, or about 2/3 the number of words used previously.

So what explains this dramatic change—more pages, with fewer words on them—in the midst of a surprising consistency in the number of words per issue? One possibility is that the decrease of words per page might correlate with an increase in the number of images per issue. But that in fact doesn’t occur: the number of images per issue increases slightly in the Eastman years, but it’s not enough to explain the sizable drop in words per page.

So perhaps the pages in later issues have more generous margins—or might the images simply be bigger? That’s perhaps best decided by looking at the thumbnail view of different issues of The Masses on the MJP website.

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