The Sunset Bibliography

by Michael A. Keller, University Librarian & Director of Academic Information Resources, Stanford University

Originally published in 1998 on Stanford Libraries' web site and in Sunset Magazine: A Century of Western Living 1898 - 1998

Stanford University Libraries are publishing this bibliography for students of Western American life and culture as a means of tracking the growth of the modern West of the United States through the pages of the region's long-lived, distinctive, and successful chronicle, Sunset. This selective subject and chronological bibliography lists 9,400 significant articles printed in Sunset magazine from May 1898 through January 1998, documenting how the magazine reflected and communicated a range of topics of regional interest. Sunset is also a leading publisher of popular "how-to" books on various aspects of Western living; we provide in this volume a chronological list of Sunsetbooks. The reader will also find a set of essays and images that delineate the history of the publication and place Sunset in the context of its times.

The first question to address is: Why the bibliography? In part, it is a celebration of Sunset's remarkable publishing achievement, an uninterrupted century of regional publication. In part, this bibliography marks the start of Stanford's new multidisciplinary program, the study of the American West. In part, the bibliography with its marvelous introductory texts reveals numerous insights into the Western landscape (both natural and built) as it has evolved in the twentieth century. To assure widespread access to these fascinating articles, Stanford will distribute free copies of this bibliography to libraries with known significant holdings of Sunsetthroughout the West and to important centers of research in American Studies throughout the world.

The second question is: Why has Stanford produced this work? The simple answer is that there is a singular appropriateness in our doing so. The connection between Stanford and Sunset goes back to the founding of both, each a scion of the nineteenth-century railroad boom that reshaped the West. The early connection is fully described in Kevin Starr's introduction as well as Tomas Jaehn's essay on the founding of the magazine: neighbors for nearly half a century, each institution a pillar and focus of Peninsular and California culture (understood broadly); affiliates through the education of some of its early editors and writers; and very importantly through the generous loyalty to Stanford on the part of alumni Bill and Mel Lane, Sunset's longtime owner/publishers. The relationship between Sunset and Stanford is deep, multivalent, and lasting. Our decision to prepare and publish this volume is the result of those enduring and profound connections.

The third question is: How to use it? The question is well matched to the long-term practical bent of Sunset itself. While this is not the only bibliographic resource for getting at the contents of Sunset (it has, after all, produced a detailed Annual Index since 1952) or at the history of the publication, the topical-chronological listing of notable articles provides a new way of reviewing trends and directions in the West and in the magazine. The index (keyed numerically to the listing of articles) provides a more detailed and less structured way of finding articles on particular topics.

Bill and Mel Lane's contributions present firsthand insights into the workings of the publication, explaining how it achieved its definitive success. The introduction, "Sunset Magazine and the Phenomenon of the Far West," by Kevin Starr, the State Librarian of California, places the magazine in the context of the emerging West. Dr. Starr is, of course, uniquely qualified to write such an essay as he is the pre-eminent historian of California, with five scholarly monographs about California published by Oxford University Press, an aerial- photography essay, Over California, in addition to numerous articles in learned society journals and other historical introductions. Tomas Jaehn, American and British History Curator of the Stanford University Libraries, provides a four-part essay on the eras of ownership which reveals much insight into how Sunset survived, changed, and prospered. The list of Sunset Books, closely linked to the magazine by content and emphasis, provides another bibliographic resource, while shedding light both on popular publishing and on the markets Sunset addresses.

To the serious student of the West, to the self-avowed lover ofSunset, to the thinking, reading Western public, I encourage you to read each of the texts, scan the graphics, and peruse the topical listings and index. What will emerge from these forays together will likely be a different and surely richer perception of the magazine itself and of Western living in the twentieth century. When your imagination is so piqued that you need to consult the cited articles, you can find Sunset in almost 1,500 libraries in the 13 states of the Far West; alternatively you might use interlibrary loan procedures to obtain articles or even send a request to a document delivery company (the West's principle such service is Information Express, whose contact numbers and procedures are cited at the end of this Foreword).

There may also be questions about how the bibliography was compiled. In its 100 years of existence, Sunset magazine has published more than 18,000 feature articles, secondary articles, regular monthly columns, news notes, poetry, and fiction. We have listed about 9,400 of these, according to the following guidelines.

Multiple ownership, evolving formats, and policy changes provided some challenges in the compilation of this bibliography. The editors had to limit this bibliography in several ways. Of the four current regional editions of Sunset, it seemed most appropriate to use the Northern California edition (and its predecessor, the Central West edition), for this bibliography, as the magazine's home has always been in Northern California. The overwhelming number of potential entries required further exclusion: monthly columns, freestanding recipes, brief notices, primarily pictorial layouts, floor plans, fiction (short stories, serial stories, and poetry), and artwork have been excluded in favor of "feature" articles, of which over 9,400 are represented. Poetry and fiction have been excluded as well.

Finally, in order to allow this volume to be issued during the centennial month of May, the selection of articles herein ends with the January 1998 issue. Note, however, that an on-line version of the bibliography will also include future articles selected per the criteria described below through the May 1998 issue. This Web site,, has an anticipated launch date in May 1998 and will provide text-searching capabilities, free to the world.

Over the years, the extent of typical feature articles, which at some, but not all, stages in the magazine's history were identified as such in the magazine, has varied from fewer than two to five or more pages. We have excluded some articles that were significantly shorter than the norm for the time. From 1962 on, the tables of contents specifically identified "feature" articles, and the bibliography accepts such designation by Sunset editors as definitive. Elsewhere in this volume, the term "notable" refers to these selection criteria.

It is important to note that these selection criteria undoubtedly resulted in the omission of materials of historic interest; truly noteworthy, indeed "notable," topics are to be found throughout the columns, brief listings, sidebars, one-page articles, and other editorial content not listed in this volume (and the advertising, moreover, is raw material for any number of scholarly or popular inquiries). We can only suggest that serendipity is an invaluable tool and encourage the reader to use the bibliography as a starting point for hands-on investigation of the magazine.

Frequently, titles in the table of contents differed from those used on the actual articles. At various times, article titles were merged imperceptibly into introductory segments of text or were discarded in favor of enlivening phrases used as page composition elements, making it problematic to identify an authoritative title. In practice, we relied heavily on the tables of contents, but often adapted the caption title in the interest of clarity. In line with general editorial and business plans, authors were frequently credited with bylines up to about 1930, and again from 1990, but rarely in the intervening (i.e., Lane) years, and the bibliography reflects this pattern.

The bibliography is divided topically into 10 major categories (most of which are further divided into subcategories), within which articles are listed chronologically. Each item indicates the author (if applicable), title, month and year, volume, issue number, and pagination. Each major category of the bibliography begins with an introductory statement giving some perspective on the category as a whole, with notes indicating the relation of the subjects covered relative to other categories. It is recommended that readers interested in the development or history of a particular topic review these introductory statements to ascertain other areas that might pertain to their inquiry. Assignment of articles to these categories had to be somewhat arbitrary, as many of the contributions might easily have been included in two or more categories. All but the most cursory users of this bibliography would be well advised to read the introductory statements for all categories, and refer to the index, which brings together references for subjects, place names, and authors. The reference numbers listed in the index refer to the sequential numbering of articles throughout the bibliography.

Note that the index does not replicate the category in which each article appears. For example, an article listed in the category of general gardening will not be indexed under "gardening." However, an article in the topical listing for domestic architecture which also bears on gardens would be indexed under "gardening" (but not under "home design" or the like). When an article is indexed under a specific term (say, "plums"), it is probably not indexed under a more general term encompassing the specific term used (in this instance, "fruit"), unless the article also addresses the general subject. We have tried to provide as many index points as necessary to reflect the subject matter of the article, but not to burden the index with excessive numbers of common terms. For example, we could have had a thousand or more reference numbers listed under the index term "recipes." Not only would this abundance be daunting to a reader, it would have been largely redundant with the chronological listings for food-related articles.

It is worth noting that Sunset has, since the early 1950s, published an Annual Index of the magazine's contents. These indexes are very specific--down to the level of each variety of sandwich described in an article on cold buffets--and are clearly intended to accompany working sets of the magazine. They point directly to the issue and page, rather than to an article title or bibliographical citation. The present volume, with its longer chronological scope and more historical orientation, does not attempt to replicate either the detail or the purpose of the Sunset Annual Indexes, which continue to be of considerable utility.

The bibliography may seem to appear at times overly selective, because it reflects the vicissitudes and varieties of editorial policies. For example, readers will find a variety of articles from the 1890s to the 1990s in the subcategory "Environmental Issues and Concerns," although the meaning of "Environment" was decidedly different in the era of Teddy Roosevelt from its meaning today. There are voids apparent in certain chronologies, due to changes in editorial direction. The fact that works of fiction and artwork are excluded from the bibliography makes the Field years appear quantitatively less significant than they actually were. Authors like Jack London, Upton Sinclair, Mary Austin, and John Steinbeck wrote stories for Sunset, but appear here mainly to the extent that they may also have provided nonfiction articles; even prominent artists such as Maynard Dixon will not often be found in the bibliography listing (but try the table of illustrations). While the bulk of this bibliography (roughly two-thirds) represents the Lane Publishing Company years that turned Sunset into a profitable and well-recognized Western magazine, the topical listings clearly indicate how distinctly the Lanes' editorial direction differed from that of the previous management.

Sunset gave rise to a variety of monographs early in its history, but the book program became far more organized and successful under the Lanes' Book Division, as described in the piece by Mel Lane, longtime head of the Book Division. The Lane Publishing Company created a Sunset Book Division circa 1950, which produced not only a large body of books published for Sunsetreaders and for sale to the general public but also numerous books and booklets on behalf of other businesses--such as appliance manufacturers--to be used for promotional or instructional purposes. On the other hand, Sunset Books collaborated editorially with some firms (spice importers and barbecue manufacturers come to mind) to produce works for sale to the public. Sunset has also published some dozens of video programs, language instruction cassettes, and a few multimedia works on CD-ROM.

A chronological list of over 900 Sunset books follows the article bibliography. This list, based primarily on information supplied bySunset Books, includes only books made available to Sunsetreaders or to the general public. As such, we have not included non-print publications, calendars, or various other ephemera also published by Sunset. During the mid-1970s, the Sunset Book Division produced a series of publications in magazine format for seasonal newsstand sales, such as Christmas Ideas & Answers '75 ; these short-lived materials are not reflected in the listing. Several Sunset titles dealing with home repair and remodeling have more recently been translated into Spanish and published by a Mexican publisher (which is no longer active); as these were not Sunsetimprints, we felt they were outside the scope of the present volume. Among the many Sunset titles scheduled for release in 1998, we listed only those already produced and available for inspection in early January.

Many Sunset books have gone through numerous editions and re-issues, often with ambiguous or incomplete edition statements and often with variations in title or binding, making something of a challenge for the bibliographer. Some apparent reprints were, in effect, new editions, while some "new" editions were, in essence, reprints. In general, we have taken a middle ground in distinguishing releases, looser than national standards for bibliographic description, but more restrictive than the publisher's lists. We chose not to include a number of titles which appear in lists provided by Sunset Books, but which are neither represented in the major national bibliographical utilities nor to be found in Sunset Publishing Company's archives. In some cases, new titles have been applied to books previously released under different titles, a common enough practice. Conversely, there appear to be cases where an entirely new work appeared under an older title. More often than not, Sunset books provide a choice of several variant titles; in the vast majority of cases, the word (or logo) Sunset appears in or above the title on the title page or the cover. We have credited and indexed prominently named authors, editors, and other contributors; for technical reasons, the listing treats all named individuals (and some firms) equivalently, whether they are the primary author or not. It would be fair to say that most, but by no means all, Sunset books have been collaborative efforts. All listed books are indexed along with articles in the single master index, and are identifiable by numbers beginning with "B."

Sunset is, of course, well known for its intense use of graphics, and we felt it important to document this aspect of the magazine. A series of over 20 visual themes, running parallel to the essay texts in the outer margins, provides a complementary, but separate, narrative about Western life and Sunset through its illustrative matter. The graphics used throughout this book (with the exception of one or two group portraits of the Lane family) were scanned directly from either the pages of Sunset or book covers. We felt it important to use the illustrative material from the actual source, though there were some technical challenges to overcome in so doing. Credits to the photographers are indicated as published in the original issues. We thank here the photographers for permission to reproduce their pictures in this bibliography.

Finally, there is the question of obtaining copies of articles. Few individuals will have direct access to (to say nothing of possessing) a continuous set of Sunset since 1898, but virtually anybody can obtain photocopies of articles from the pages of Sunset, by any of various means.

Depending on where the reader lives, the simplest course of action might be to go to the local public library. Many public libraries throughout the Western states (and elsewhere) have extensive sets of Sunset back issues. As most copies of this bibliography will be placed in such institutions, access to some or most Sunset articles may be immediately at hand: Ask a reference librarian for assistance. Similarly, many Western college, university, and state libraries have holdings (whether or not complete) of Sunset. For example, this bibliography was prepared using the complete sets at the Stanford University Libraries and at the California History Room in the California State Library, Sacramento.

While there is a not, to our knowledge, a complete digital archive of Sunset for the in-copyright period (1923-present), a number of institutions have scanned complete issues from the Magazine's earliest years 1898-1922. Additionally, the Magazine publishes what it states is an annual index that can be downloaded (available here for 1996-2009). Finally, here is a link to the Hathi Trust record.

As of the republication of this site in late 2018, Sunset Magazine is located in Oakland, California, is owned by Regent, L.P. and may be found online at:

Clearly, this volume is the result of much effort on the part of many individuals. First of all, this volume would not have been possible without the interest, commitment, and support of L.W. "Bill" Lane, Jr., Stanford alumnus of the Class of 1942 and a former publisher of Sunset. Many hands were involved over the course of a year of development. The contributors of the essays--Kevin Starr, Tomas Jaehn, and Stanford alumnus of the Class of 1944 Melvin B. Lane--provided needed context for the article and book listings and set forth a hitherto untold narrative history. The article database, on which the bibliography was based, was compiled primarily by Shana Bernstein, Jennifer Chin, Shawn Gerth, Camilla Lindsay, and Chad Martin--all graduate students in the Department of History at Stanford--under the direction of Tomas Jaehn, Curator of American and British History, supported by John McDonald, both members of the superb staff of the Stanford University Libraries. Much additional review and refinement of the database was performed by Karen Abbott and Kathy Hudson, with clerical support from Nathan Pudewell. Lois Shumaker made heroic efforts in shaping and augmenting the index. The book list owes much to the research and cooperation of Bob Doyle, Lisa Anderson, and Britta Schwartz at Sunset Books. Sunset Publishing Corp. management was helpful and supportive, most notably CEO Steve Seabolt and CFO James E. Mitchell, assisted by Lorraine Reno and Carole DeLong, respectively. Chuck Moses, also at Sunset, has been very helpful in locating materials. Ideas and materials were generously shared by Elena Danielson and Cecile Dore Hill, of the Hoover Institution of Stanford University, during their concurrent work on a centennial exhibit about Sunset at the Hoover. The design of the book is Chuck Byrne's work, with assistance on scanning the Sunset images and graphics from Jeong Kim. The copy editor was Madeline Johnson. The publication's managing editor and the one responsible for keeping all of the many threads necessary for weaving such a complex fabric is Andrew C. Herkovic. Support for the development and publication of this book came from a source which prefers to remain anonymous. It is with gratitude that I acknowledge this insightful philanthropy.

Richard Strauss's delightful tone poem, Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche (opus 28), refers in its title to a German peasant figure whose family name, Eulenspiegel, is a compound word meaning "true mirror." Sunset has been for its readers, for its advertisers, for the culture and values of the Far West, a true mirror. Strauss's tone poem is witty, colorful, vigorous, exactly as is and has been Sunset. We hope that this centennial bibliography will be a useful tool for an audience as broad as that Sunset itself has acquired over these past 100 years and will be of interest to many aficionados and students of Western Americana. The bibliography gives an overview of the achievements, the wide range of topics, and the often trendsetting stories that make Sunset uniquely The Magazine of Western Living.

When the original web site for Sunset Magazine was created by Stanford Libraries in 1998, it included a searchable interface to the bibliography. The bibliographic work is outlined in detail in the essay above. In recreating the original website on this platform, we consciously chose to preserve the bibliographic data in the Stanford Digital Repository, and make it available for download. In this era of data manipulation and transformation, we recognize that the greatest openness and flexibility we can provide is by sharing the data, so that it can be manipulated by users to best suit their specific research purposes.

Sunset Bibliography

A selective bibliography of over 9,400 Sunset Magazine articles and over 900 Sunset books, searchable by title, author (if applicable), date, topic, and also by issue and pagination for the magazine articles. Each bibliographic entry is assigned a 'REF' number that is referenced by the index of topics and names.

This downloadable resource derives from table data in a relational database used in an online exhibition that coincided with a print publication celebrating 100 years of Sunset. Please note the reference numbers assigned to each article and book in this resource are not identical to the numbers assigned in the print version.