The June 2013 exhibit on the seventh floor of the New York State Library featured colorful issues of Sunset magazine in all of their original glory, from the turn of the last century through the mid-1930s.
Sunset premiered in 1898 as a marketing tool for the Southern Pacific Railroad, promoting tourism and development.
A group of employees bought it out in 1914 in an attempt to broaden its appeal while distancing itself from obvious corporate interests. This was the richest era, in terms of literature and discourse, particularly with regard to the plight of Native Americans. Contributors to Sunset over the years have included Sinclair Lewis, Jack London, Upton Sinclair, Mary Austin, Dashiell Hammett, John Steinbeck and illustrator Maynard Dixon, who produced many of the finest covers.
In its next phase, the Lane family published the magazine (which until then was book rather than magazine-size) from 1928 through 1990, and it became more of a home and garden periodical, loaded with how-to articles but capable of addressing the issues of the day.
Time Warner took control after that, cementing its reputation as a western lifestyle magazine. Sunset, like the Sunset Limited train it was named after, is still running today.
New Yorkers can access more recent issues of Sunset magazine, from 1983 onward, through General OneFile, one of the databases available via NOVELNY.
Exhibit curated by Shawn Purcell