July 13, 2010

Death of George Rex Graham

His leadership led to one of the most popular and successful magazines in the United States but the end of George Rex Graham's life was full of struggle. He died nearly friendless on July 13, 1894 at the age of 81.

Graham was 27 years old when he purchased and merged Burton's Gentleman's Magazine and The Casket, naming his new project Graham's Magazine. What started as a 5,000 circulation journal soon ballooned to five times as much. Credit for its success goes to Graham's business sense: to draw a large audience, he needed high-quality writing from well-known writers. He attracted them by paying them not only well, but very well; Graham estimated at least $1500 a month went to pay contributors (another $2000 was sometimes spent on "embellishments," like original illustrations by John Sartain and others). The term "a Graham page" became the standard rate by which all other magazine editors were judged.

In the 1840s, no other magazine challenged Philadelphia-based Graham's. His contributors over the years included Edgar Allan Poe, Rufus Griswold, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Bayard Taylor, William Cullen Bryant, James Russell Lowell, William Gilmore Simms, Fanny Osgood, Elizabeth Ellet, Christopher Pearse Cranch, Emma Embury, Edwin Percy Whipple, Fitz-Greene Halleck, James Fenimore Cooper, Alice and Phoebe Cary, and even Timothy Shay Arthur. Then Graham made poor personal investments in copper and by 1848, he sold his namesake publication. Benefactors helped him buy back his interest two years later but, by then, the heyday of Graham's Magazine was over. Graham walked away a couple years later and the magazine ceased by 1858. Graham himself disappeared from the literary scene.

By the end, Graham had lost much of his eyesight and relied on the younger generation of editor-friends for financial support. He died in a hospital in Orange, New Jersey, apparently alone and without friends or family. As literary historian Ellis Paxson Oberholtzer wrote, Graham died "a forgotten old man, broken in health and a charge upon the charity of his friends, who had all but disappeared." He was buried at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia; after over a century left unmarked, Graham's burial place was finally given a headstone in 2010.


  1. So sad! George Rex Graham was a terrific guy, and a great writer as well. He was far closer to Edgar Allan Poe than is generally known. How people could forget Graham of "Graham's" magazine is hard to believe. Anyone with any interest in George Graham, drop me a line at:

    RIP- GRG-
    Cynthia Cirile

  2. Hi, Cynthia. Thanks for commenting on a post from eight months ago - I hope you read the new ones too. Bear in mind that this blog is not an Edgar Allan Poe blog, so posts will not exclusively relate to him. Graham was much more interesting than his short working relationship with Poe, after all. I hope you read the circumstances at the end of his life here (Poe had been dead for nearly half a century by then).