On this day in 1914, while World War I rages in Europe, the first issue of a new weekly magazine, The New Republic, is published in the United States.
The New Republic’s editorial board was presided over by the journalist Herbert Croly, author of the influential 1909 book The Promise of American Life. Impressed by Croly’s arguments for greater economic planning, increased spending on education and the need for a society based on the “brotherhood of mankind”—ideas that were said to have influenced both Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson—the heiress Dorothy Payne Whitney and her husband, the banker and diplomat Williard Straight, approached Croly and asked him to join them in launching a new liberal journal that would provide an intelligent, opinionated examination of politics, foreign affairs and culture. After recruiting his friend and fellow journalist Walter Lippmann, Croly saw the first issue of the new magazine hit the stands on November 7, 1914.
Though its first issue sold only 875 copies, after a year the circulation of The New Republic reached 15,000. Strong supporters of Theodore Roosevelt and his newly formed Progressive Party, the magazine’s editors were wary of the administration of Woodrow Wilson, although they did support Wilson’s proclaimed neutrality at the beginning of World War I. In May 1915, however, a German submarine sank the British passenger ship Lusitania, killing 1,201 passengers and crew members, including 128 Americans. The New Republic began to switch its anti-war position, eventually throwing all its support behind President Wilson’s decision to take the nation to war in April 1917. Walter Lippmann especially grew close to the administration during wartime, working as an assistant to Newton Baker, the president’s secretary of war, and with Colonel Edward House, Wilson’s closest adviser.
In the aftermath of the war and the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, both Croly and Lippmann became critical of Wilson and the viability of the Versailles peace treaty and the League of Nations. Croly went so far as to call the treaty a “peace of annihilation” in its harsh treatment of Germany and to claim that the League would “perpetuate rather than correct the evils of the treaty.” Meanwhile, sales of The New Republic declined from a wartime high of 43,000 and the journal soon was operating at a loss. Lippmann left the magazine in 1920, and in 1930 Croly was replaced as editor. Today the magazine—headquartered in Washington, D.C.—still operates as a weekly journal of opinion, with a subscription rate between 45,000 and 60,000.