Eras: 1929-1990

The Lane Family Defines A Vision of Western Living

by Tomas Jaehn, Former Curator for American and British History, Stanford University Libraries

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

The "Roaring Twenties" and the "Ballyhoo Years" are terms that remind us what the 1920s stood for: hope, wealth, optimism, to name but a few qualifiers. In spite of the fact that the 1920s had their downsides, they are generally considered a prosperous and happy era. Indeed, it was for many a very good time. More people were comfortably well-to-do, and American capitalism was in a hopeful phase. Business earnings were rising and opportunities were plentiful. (36) Toward the end of the 1920s more than 5 million automobiles were produced. But mass consumerism was not confined to automobiles; ideas and news flourished as well. "It was now possible in the United States," remembered Frederick Lewis Allen, "for more people to enjoy the same good show at the same time than... at any previous time in history." (37)

In the spirit of the times, in 1928 an optimistic magazine executive from Des Moines, Iowa, sought financial backing from friends and purchased the ailing Sunset magazine from Woodhead, Field and Company. When Laurence W. Lane, embodying the American dream of the 1920s, became owner of the business, he and his wife, Ruth Bell Lane, were already visionaries for a Western magazine. Little did they know that the economic bubble would soon be punctured.

Larry Lane was well prepared to accept the responsibilities of a magazine. Born in 1890 in Horton, Kansas, Lane was educated at the University of Chicago and Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. In 1913 he joined Meredith Publishing Company--publisher of Successful Farming and, later, Better Homes and Gardens--and remained with the company until 1928. At Meredith he worked in personnel, research, and sales, and was its advertising director by the time he left the company. He traveled extensively for the company and thus found ample opportunities to observe the Western landscapes. (38)

Ruth Bell Lane, too, who did not officially join the Lane Publishing Company until the 1940s, had the qualifications to make the magazine a success. Born in Lincoln, Nebraska, she attended Drake University, where her father, Hill McLeland Bell, was president. During her college years she was assistant editor of the student newspaper Quax and a member of the Literary Society. She graduated from Drake University in 1917 with an A.S. and a B.S. Soon after graduation she and Laurence were married. After raising two sons, Ruth officially joined the company as managing editor during the Second World War, later became vice president, and finally chaired Lane Publishing Company. (39)

Both Ruth and Larry were well grounded in Western traditions and understood the regional differences in the American landscape, in part because Mrs. Lane's parents had retired to Los Angeles, where they hosted visits of the Lane family during the 1920s. Their sons, Mel and Bill, remember as small boys the exciting train trips to and from their grandparents' home. The couple shared a clear vision of what Sunset should be and knew from the beginning that the magazine would need significant editorial changes. "Mr. Lane intends changing the policy of Sunset, making it more of a home and garden magazine but retaining the best features of the present magazine" read the stockholders in 1928. (40)

The "best features" to be retained were not specifically defined, but the magazine changed immediately, scarcely resembling its predecessor. During years of traveling the West for Meredith, Lane recognized the West's difference from other regions in the United States. The Sunbelt climate, the lack of water, the spacious, largely mountainous land, and cultural differences were so distinct that Lane was convinced a magazine addressing everyday people's needs exclusively in that region could be successful. Lane's extensive experience and expertise in Better Homes and Gardens and Successful Farming, combined with the less-than-successful concepts of the previous Sunset owners, made changes inevitable. Neil Morgan, the journalist, observed the obvious when he wrote that Sunset "divested itself of its involvement with the arts and the world of thought; it had tried, and it had failed." (41)

Lane borrowed editorial techniques from Meredith Publishing Company, and especially from Successful Farming, which was edited for both men and women, focusing on farming techniques in the Heartland with its many regional variances. He pursued his vision to make a regional family magazine that encouraged the rudimentary and underdeveloped interests of Westerners. So began the first evolutionary steps that over time transformed Sunset: The West's Great National Magazine into Sunset: The Magazine of Western Living, a title used to this day. In the last Sunset issued by Woodhead, Field and Company, the incoming owner announced the new concept of the magazine to the readers:

It is keyed to the prime interests of life in the West--indoors and out. It is pitched in the modern tempo. It's your editorial policy--as asked for in thousands of letters from readers over the past year. Sunset heartily endorses these wants. They are intelligent. They are progressive. They are intensely human. And so we know you will like the new spirit of Sunset. We think it will go far beyond any magazine printed in helping you get the most fun out of living in the West.

The new Sunset will cover the whole range of home-life and family interests with timely and practical suggestions on gardening, building, home-decorating and furnishing, cooking and home management, traveling, enjoying outdoor life and a host of other subjects of equal interest to men and women. (January 1929)

With the very first issue, Lane implemented the promise to attract both men and women readers and to emphasize the importance of family and home. That issue included excerpts from radio broadcasts by Herbert Hoover as part of his campaign for president, stressing family and home. Another article in that issue, "The House a Man Calls Home," drew attention to the importance of the man of the house as part of the family, also appealing to the male reader.

Lane limited Sunset's target audience to the seven Far Western states, dropped articles on politics and economics altogether, thus choosing to focus on a wholesome Western American world of gardening, home improvement, travel, and cooking. Beginning with the first issue in February 1929, Sunset became a magazine of service that could be welcomed in "any home of refinement." (42) Lane adopted a policy he learned from Better Homes and Gardens and designed articles for Sunset that helped readers to do something: to remodel a house, to decorate a room, to travel the countryside, or to plant a beautiful garden. (43) In its segments on gardening and cooking, Lane could draw on his experience from Successful Farming. Successful Farming, in an attempt to add more women to its readership, had implemented a cooking department to its lineup. The editorial segments on building, cooking, gardening, and traveling were directed toward concerns and interests specific to Westerners. To achieve his vision, Lane relied heavily on the talents of his senior editors, Genevieve A. Callahan and Lou Richardson, whom he had hired away from Better Homes and Gardens.

Following Lane's vision, in articles such as "A Trio of Attractive Sacramento Homes" (January 1930) and "From Carriage House to Cottage" (May 1936), Sunset featured Western homes along with floor plans and placed them in the historical context of the region. It suggested interior decoration ideas for "The Pictures on Your Wall" (August 1930) and for "Mailboxes That Are Different" (July 1936). Occasionally, Sunset displayed European leanings through such topics as Louis XVI furniture, which had little to do with the West but a lot to do with the cultural background of Sunset's readership. Plenty of cooking ideas were featured in Sunset pages, from herbal cookery (April 1942) and pizza (May 1948) to shish kebab (February 1948) and chorizos (April 1954) to Hawaiian laulaus (April 1980) and marinated cheeses (January 1989). Travel articles were understood both by the Lanes and their advertisers to appeal to male readers. Every nook and corner of the Western region was visited, complete with helpful hints and inviting photographs spread across the pages. It looked at what Alaska had to offer (March 1949) and addressed Westerners "who have yet to discover the [California] islands" (May 1951). It sampled the wilderness in the heart of Idaho (January 1951) and combed the beaches of Oahu (June 1956). In recent years, Sunset took its readers on desert walks in Arizona (May 1980) and helped them find gold in the Sierras (March 1989). Over time, Sunset's understanding of the West grew to eventually encompass not only the Rocky Mountain states but Alaska and Hawaii in its 13-state target market.

New kinds of monthly editorials, too, appeared in the magazine. The magazine's editorial introduction, "Sunset Gold," emphasized such Western values as individuality, tradition, and generosity. Containing inspirational family-oriented messages that reflected the Lanes' Christian education at Drake University, "Sunset Gold" set the tone for what the magazine merited in living in the West. It addressed children's needs to experience the outdoors (February 1930), every Westerner's desire to relish nature's beautiful sunsets (November 1930), and the appreciation for hard-working men who helped make the West an attractive place to live (April 1936). Other regular monthly features were "Kitchen Cabinet," the creation of Ruth Lane in conjunction with Genevieve Callahan, which gave readers the opportunity to exchange culinary recipes, and "Tips for Tenderfeet," designed to encourage technically challenged Westerners to take their first steps in home improvement and gardening. Characteristic of the approach was the regular use of cartoon-like how-to illustrations demonstrating techniques for everything from building furniture to pruning trees to making sauces. As Bill Lane reminisced, "Reader participation became the holy grail of Sunset editorial policy." (44)

Sunset also recognized the growing contributions of Hollywood to cultural life in the West, before the town assumed national importance. (45) Acknowledging Hollywood as a maker of public opinion and popular culture in the West, the magazine began a short-lived column, "Headquarters Hollywood" (1936). In the column geared toward women, the magazine reported on the latest news and dernier cri in the world of fashion and makeup from Los Angeles.

Along with the new editorial policy, remnants of the old Sunsetremained still visible in the early years of Lane Publishing Company, reinforcing the regional flavor of the magazine. In a series on personalities of the Old West, Leland Stanford, Charles Crocker, Mark Hopkins, and Collis Huntington were featured as "Makers of the West" (January 1934). When Sunset reported on contemporary Western personalities, as in the case of "Silver Key Pittman of Nevada" (May 1935), it confined its discussions to aspects of historical and socialite nature. And although Lane abandoned fiction, some of Sunset's earlier stories were fiction in disguise, telling "good yarn[s]" about fishing, camping, and outdoor cooking (e.g., "Now You Tell One," July 1930). The magazine continued to feature Western heritage in the form of travel reports on Geronimo country (June 1956), Hopi snake dances (February 1962), and Navajo lifestyle (March 1963).

As much as Sunset portrayed itself as a Western magazine, marketing regionalism and making readers feel at home in a special place, Sunset needed Eastern capital in the form of advertisement revenue. Many major national advertisers such as Lucky Strike cigarettes, Gillette razor blades, Pontiac automobiles, and Shell gasoline joined California advertisers such as Southern Pacific Railroad, Golden State dairy products, and Standard Oil (of California) gasoline in appealing to the Western market. Perhaps vital to its success, Sunset had kept advertisement representative offices in New York, Chicago, and Boston long before it opened such an office in Los Angeles.

Ominously, events in the East almost overcame Larry and Ruth Lane's dream of a Western magazine when, in October 1929, the stock market crashed in New York and Sunset, like many other businesses, fell on hard times. Uncertainty and frugality widened among the population and unemployment spread. (46) Businesses, if they did not close as they found their trade fading, discharged employees and cut down on production and advertisements. The immediate impact of the Depression varied in the West, but it did eventually affect every sub-region and every industry of the relatively underdeveloped West. (47) To Sunset it meant lost revenue in advertisers as well as readers. Continuous financial support from friends in the East, loyal staff, and a readership still a bit better off than most of the West's population or infected with the "extravagant, Sunset-magazine dream of relocating in an easy oasis life" (48) helped Sunset to survive the Depression, as reflected by the magazine's gradual circulation growth through the Depression years.

One of its loyal business partners out West was Crown Zellerbach Company. Neighborly business relations between the two companies dated back to the beginning of Sunset in the late nineteenth century, a time when the fledgling new business owner Anthony Zellerbach found a reliable and respectable customer in the Southern Pacific Railroad. Both companies had offices on Sansome Street in San Francisco until the 1906 fire destroyed their businesses. The cordial relationship was maintained throughout the ownership changes at Sunset and paid off for the magazine in times of need. If Isedore Zellerbach's personal style (he was reputed to have been very generous to people in need) was any indication for the company's fiscal policy, it was not surprising that Crown Zellerbach repeatedly extended Sunset's credit. (49) Finally, in 1952, Sunset made its last credit payment to Crown Zellerbach. Years later, Bill Lane joined Crown Zellerbach's board of directors.

In spite of the Depression, Lane continued to further refine the magazine and to streamline his vision of Western living. In 1932 Sunset began publishing separate editions of the magazine, tailored to the needs of the Pacific Northwest, central West, and the Desert West and Hawaii. At first, differences in the regional editions were editorial only, but regional advertising soon followed. By doing so, Lane not only acknowledged ecological and cultural diversity within the West but also implemented a marketing device that gave advertisers the opportunity to concentrate sales efforts in specific localities. (50) In 1936 Lane made Sunset an entirely staff-written magazine, permitting a more uniform style and better editorial control. (51) Both previous experience and continuous experimentation had convinced Lane that specialized employed writers could best convey the recurring ideas of Western living. (52)

If the Depression tested the survival of Sunset, the onset of World War II did not make the market for service magazines any easier. Federally enforced rationing of resources meant reduction in personal items such as home construction, cars, and gasoline, reducing many advertisements from manufacturers of building supplies, automobile makers, home appliances producers, or furniture makers. (53) Paper to print the magazine was equally difficult to come by, and Sunset's cordial relationship with (and its financial obligations to) Crown Zellerbach, the San Francisco distributor of print paper, was certainly beneficial. The scarcity of paper was one reason for Lane in December 1939 to increase the subscription price for states outside the West and then in April 1943 to discontinue "until further notice subscriptions new or renewals" to them. Yet despite all the war-related difficulties that created an obstacle course for a still struggling magazine, Sunsetbegan to make "circulating" as well as "operating" profits in 1938 for the first time. (54)

Sunset used the Depression and war years not only to improve its fiscal situation but also to fine-tune its editorial content. Through direct reader contacts and company-sponsored surveys, the magazine learned that recipes without sugar, inexpensive vacation destinations, or victory gardens helped readers to cope with war-related scarcities and to observe self-reliance. (55) But it was undoubtedly in the post--World War II era that Sunset took off as the magazine of Western living and saw its profits and popularity soar. Despite the growing acceptance of television, which in turn caused many families to take fewer magazines, magazines that catered to more specialized audiences thrived. (56)

Like no other region of the nation, the West had been economically and demographically transformed by the war. Americans' mobility and increased automobile ownership and usage, two simple factors in the West's population increase, were momentous Sunset trademark values almost from its inception in 1898. Population density was heretofore low and open spaces were still available. The mild climates, particularly along the Pacific Coast, and the natural beauties of the West were attractive prospects and longtime selling points of Sunset. Taken all together, the environment and job opportunities promised an attractive lifestyle, on which Sunset had capitalized all along. (57)

While increases in population and infrastructure took place throughout the West, the largest increases were registered in California. Huge aviation and shipbuilding plants and many smaller supplier establishments accounted for the vast influx of immigrants--and tight housing markets. (58) Its population growth was spectacular, increasing from 9 million in 1945 to 19 million in 1960. Indeed, in 1962 California overtook New York as the most populous state in the nation. More significantly for Sunset, this postwar immigration contributed to the development of suburban communities. There, the historical dream of "homesteading" continued in the form of assorted types of ranch houses for an upwardly mobile middle class.

Postwar United States gave magazines like Sunset a rich market, for the numbers of families owning or planning to own homes was immense. Years of rationing had developed a desire that needed to be appeased, and long hours of work to support war efforts provided ready cash to be spent. Sunset, practicing and preaching Western lifestyle for decades, was there for its readers with advice and suggestions on how improve their quality of life. It suggested home building and interior decorating, provided garden designs and patio layouts, exposed Westerners to new and often ethnic cuisines, and pointed to nearby and faraway travel spots. Later, in the face of "seam-splitting pressure of expanding population," Sunset helped interpret zoning laws and ordinances for those considering property in urbanized areas ("How to Look Into the Future," September 1960). Often it was on the forefront of picking up trends by promoting such lifestyle enhancements as air travel, garage-door openers, barbecues, recreational vehicles, and patios. To Larry Lane it was a Western dream come true. He was taking part in the development of distinct Western and California lifestyles.

This dream was even sweeter because Sunset was now a family-managed publication. Not only had Ruth Lane become managing editor of Sunset but the Lanes' two sons, Bill and Mel, joined the Sunset workforce in the late 1940s. After both graduated from Palo Alto High School and Stanford University and served in the U.S. Navy, they returned to San Francisco to become part of Lane Publishing Company. After brief stints in positions such as elevator operators, and training in the sales, circulation, production, and book departments, they rose quickly through the ranks, Bill in sales and editorial and Mel in production and business operations. In 1952 the operating management was turned over to Bill and Mel.

Earlier, Larry Lane had put his sons in charge of the book department; their challenge was to persuade their father to keep the Book Division with its large inventories. The elder Lane entertained thoughts of selling Sunset Books, which published 19 titles before the war. By the 1960s, after Mel had become publisher of Sunset Books, however, it sold 13 million books and by the 1980s had offered hundreds of titles, many in multiple editions, packed with expert advice. Its classic Sunset Western Garden Book, frequently updated (and completely revised and expanded most recently under Time Warner in 1995), is generally considered to be an indispensable reference work, "the bible" for Western gardeners. (59) Covering many of the magazine's topics in more detail and publishing monographs for corporations such as United Airlines, the book department furthered the company's reach for a wider audience. (60)

Bill and Mel, after military assignments in Hawaii, convinced their father of the islands' importance to the West and to Sunset and so rediscovered the Pacific Rim for the magazine. Subsequently, both Mel and Bill became involved in the Pacific Area Travel Association (PATA, now the Pacific Asia Travel Association), founded by a group of individuals that gathered in Hawaii in the early 1950s to promote travel and tourism in the Pacific Rim region. The Lanes' active interest in the Pacific was not only a natural continuation of Sunset's role in promoting westward movement but also a realization "that the PATA region was bound to grow and be a source of advertisement revenues." (61) Bill Lane himself became such an expert in the affairs of the "West of the West" that in 1975 President Gerald Ford appointed him Ambassador-at-large and Commissioner General of Japan, and in 1985 President Ronald Reagan appointed him Ambassador to Australia and Nauru.

Mel and Bill were also on hand when the same "suburban" flu that caught many Westerners hit Lane Publishing Company. After more than 50 years in "the City," Sunset in 1951 moved its headquarters upon land that was originally part of a grant to José Arguello, governor of Spanish California in 1815, in suburban Menlo Park. (62) The Lanes knew that their new headquarters needed to reflect the company's Western philosophy. They hired a prominent builder of early California ranch-style homes, Clifford May, to design what Sunset had preached for residential houses all along: open space, individuality, innovation, and tradition. May's design, shaped by the tradition of Spanish colonists and the innovation of modern Californians, reflected the company's desire for a special way of living. (63) Sunset's residential- looking headquarters were revised to accommodate test kitchens, to provide for experimental gardens, and to serve as innovative office space. Architecture, design, and landscaping were so original and appealing to the public that the company offered daily "sightseeing tours" through its headquarters. The completed buildings offered spaciousness, social openness, indoor-outdoor living with privacy and protection.

Sunset remained a stoic defender of family values and middle-class merits, most directly reflected in its advertisement sections. Sunset's advertisement policies have always been selective, particularly since the magazine's owners began to endorse its advertising. (64) It abandoned tobacco advertisements early on and continued prohibition of liquor even after the Eighteenth Amendment was repealed. Nor did it accept ads for feminine personal products in an effort to avoid identification as a "women's magazine" (even though gender stereotypes from cooking to cleaning for women and home improvement and fishing for men were evident in its advertising). Restrictions for advertising categories had always been part of the Lanes' publishing business. "What might be common practice and very acceptable for other good media," Bill Lane once commented, "is ”just not our bag.'" (65)

But Sunset could afford the luxury of restricting advertisement. Especially since changing printing techniques in the 1950s from rotary letterpress to offset lithography, ad production became more cost--effective and attracted many advertisers' interest in Sunsetpages. By 1964, it had become one of the most successful magazines in the United States in volume of advertising and circulation, despite being regional. It had found an editorial balance that drew the desired readers, and thus continued the same formula with continuing evolution in style and focus. There was predictability to the editorial content that readers could expect from each issue: informative articles and familiar columns about gardening, traveling, home improvement, and cooking. Readability was paramount, with tables of contents on the first editorial page; departments always in the same relative place, and articles always continuous, without "continued on page x."

Sunset became such an icon of popular middle-class culture that it was subject to some biting ridicule (not unlike parodies of Martha Stewart today). In 1980 a mock magazine, Sunsect: The Magazine of Western Civilization, was featured in New West magazine. The cover photo pictured a family picnicking at a lakeshore in the backdrop of two towering nuclear reactors. "Toward evening," the cover is explained, "a towering cool engulfs the celebrants, and the entire scene is irradiated by a perfect California Sunset." Inside the magazine, Sunsect offered do-it-yourself advice on how "doors do double-duty as entrance [and] exit;" how to make an "under-counter recess" for used gum; and suggested that "slanted floors [will] make vacuuming a snap." (66) The spoof itself aside, it was a recognition of how deeply Sunset had become a part of segments of Western suburban society (and how difficult it was to maintain a successful Western magazine; New West is no longer in circulation).

Sunset, though apolitical for the most part, had looked favorably upon the environment for quite some time, which is not surprising. Highlighting the beauty of the environment in the West was long part of Sunset's appeal to readers and was of great personal concern to the Lanes and their editors. In a few instances, however, particularly during Sunset's formative years, the editors sent ambiguous messages to their readers. In one of its earlier issues, Sunset thanked "forward-looking men and women" for preserving trees along Redwood Highway: "Never to be sacrificed for progress" (November 1935). On the opposite page of the same issue, then, discussing "What the National Housing Act Means Here in the West," Sunset was enthusiastic about the Act's prospects to "stimulate our western lumber industry," and other industries such as transportation and publishing. Considering that the magazine experienced financial hardships and was searching for a way out of the Depression, it was not surprising that Sunsetsaw in the Housing Act a light at the end of the tunnel.

A notable issue among the magazine's environmental concerns was the DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloro-ethane) controversy that was sparked by Rachel Carson's Silent Spring in 1962. In what has been considered the bible for modern environmentalists--Silent Spring sold over 100,000 copies within one year (67) --Carson was deeply worried by the widespread use of this and other chemicals. In fact, DDT was so universally used that it took on "the harmless aspect of the familiar." (68) Even Sunset rendered to its gardeners cautiously optimistic advice on "How to Use DDT" (October 1945). DDT (and other chemicals) was a poison, Sunset suggested, that "present[s] no hazard if properly handled and properly applied." Increasingly concerned about the health of its gardeners and gardens, however, Sunset eventually joined those who raised awareness about the use of the chemical. In "It's Time to Blow the Whistle on DDT" (August 1969), the magazine urged its readers to cease buying DDT immediately: "Sunset believes that we cannot afford to debate this question while using DDT any longer. The evidence against DDT as the cause of bird failure is such that we must agree with the biologists."

To back up its editorial position, Sunset thereafter refused to accept ads for garden pesticides containing DDT and other hydrocarbons, putting at risk its garden-product ad accounts, a significant source of revenue. Senator Gaylord Nelson read Sunset's announcement of this policy into the Congressional Record. Sunset also ran many practical, rather than preachy, articles that impacted the (sub)urban environment and Western lifestyle. It featured articles such as "Riding a Bike to Work" (September 1983) and contributed pros and cons of moped use to the never-ending problem of urban congestion (December 1977).

Always supportive of the West's natural wonders, the Lanes increasingly realized that using the great outdoors--may it be in cities ("Wildlife Habitat on a Small City Lot," June 1979) or in the countryside ("Tin Can Clean-up in the Sierra," March 1961)--required a fine balance of multiple use and preservation. The urban West and the West of tourism, adventure, and national parks changed the way people related to the landscape. The editors acknowledged this and were committed in their own ways to protecting the quality of the environment in the American West. Sunset supplied information, reported on solutions, and always kept a balanced, if biased, viewpoint. (69) Through such articles as "Which Park for Your Vacation?" (April 1931), "When Is Yosemite Valley at Its Best?" (April 1956), or "How to Reach National Parks of the West Without a Car" (July 1979), Sunset provided entertainment and learning experiences, and publicized parks as tourist destinations with appropriate words and pictures. It promised its readers the beauty of the West as well as its mythology and romance. (70)

In the decades since Larry and Ruth Lane began building their American dream and their sons continued and strengthened the legacy, Sunset had established a faithful readership and a solid reputation. The Lanes' real genius was to limit the magazine exclusively to a Western audience and to withstand the temptation to broaden to a wider patronage. Sunset: Western Market Almanac, the last market analysis to be produced under the Lane family, told not only a promotional success story for Western advertisers but paid tribute as well to Sunset's efforts to capture a readership and a lifestyle and transpose them into a successful Western magazine. (71) When the Lane family decided to sell the magazine, Sunset's reputation and success made it an attractive investment for other companies who wanted to break into the regional market. Among the many companies that courted the Lane family for its prized possession, Time Warner Inc. succeeded and now carries the responsibility to lead the magazine into the twenty-first century.

In the 62 years since Ruth and Larry Lane bought the small, financially troubled magazine largely for its name recognition, the family and dedicated staff transformed Sunset into a highly profitable regional magazine. With vision and tenacity, with a fine sense for "Westering," and with luck, they developed a magazine that not only chronicled the tastes and lifestyles of the West's more affluent society but at times even defined those tastes. As the writer Wallace Stegner once noted, "You can't look closely at Sunset without developing a considerable respect for the intelligence that goes into that operation." (72) Over six decades, the Lane family had made sure that operation not only served its readers immediate needs but also proved influential in shaping the modern West for the benefit of millions of Westerners beyond its readership.


(36) John Kenneth Galbraith, The Great Crash 1929 (1954; reprint, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1988), 2.

(37) Frederick Lewis Allen, Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the Nineteen-Twenties (1931; reprint, New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1964), 156.

(38) L. W. Lane, Jr., The Sunset Story: "To Serve the Westerner...And No One Else" (New York: Newcomen Society in North American, 1973), 16-17. Address delivered at the National Dinner of The Newcomen Society, San Francisco, Calif., 15 May 1969.

(39) Biographical Sketch--Ruth B. Lane," Vertical File, Cowles Library, Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa.

(40) "To the Stockholders of Sunset Magazine," Jordan Collection.

(41) Neil Morgan, Westward Tilt: The American West Today (New York: Random House, 1963), 17.

(42) Charles William Mulhall, Jr., "Sunset: The History of a Successful Regional Magazine" (M.A. thesis, Stanford University, 1955), 26.

(43) Theodore Peterson, Magazines in the Twentieth Century (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1964), 383.

(44) Bill Lane to the author, January 23, 1998. The author acknowledges Bill Lane's guidance leading toward the preparation of this essay.

(45) Gerald D. Nash, The American West Transformed: The Impact of the Second World War (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985), 178-79.

(46) Frederick Lewis Allen, Since Yesterday: The Nineteen-Thirties in America (New York: Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1940), 28.

(47) Gerald D. Nash, The American West in the Twentieth Century: A Short History of an Urban Oasis (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1973), 139-40.Donald Worster, Rivers of Empire: Water, Aridity and Growth of the American West (New York: Pantheon Books, 1985), 229.

(48) Donald Worster, Rivers of Empire: Water, Aridity and Growth of the American West (New York: Pantheon Books, 1985), 229.

(49) The Years of Paper: Isedore Zellerbach, 1866-1941 ([San Francisco]: Crown Zellerbach Corporation, 1941), 13.

(50) Peterson, Magazines in the Twentieth Century, 112.

(51) Mulhall, "Sunset," 42.

(52) Proctor Mellquist [Managing Editor of Sunset], "Sunset Is Unique as a Magazine," Quill 42 (February 1954): 13.

(53) Peterson, Magazines in the Twentieth Century, 386.

(54) Lane, The Sunset Story, 19.

(55) David E. Faville, How Sunset Magazine Subscribers Evaluate the Magazines They Read: A Study of Magazine Preferences (Stanford, CA: Graduate School of Business, 1940).

(56) James L. Baughman, The Republic of Mass Culture: Journalism, Filmmaking, and Broadcasting in America since 1941, 2nd ed. (Baltimore, ML: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997), 64.

(57) Nash, The American West in the Twentieth Century, 218.

(58) Nash, The American West Transformed, 62-63.

(59) Morgan, Westward Tilt, 17; "A Walking Tour of the Sunset Garden" leaflet.

(60) Lane, The Sunset Story, 22.

(61) Chuck Y. Gee and Matt Lurie, eds., The Story of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (San Francisco: Pacific Asia Travel Association, 1993), 49-50.

(62) "A Walking Tour of the Sunset Garden."

(63) Sunset Western Ranch Houses (San Francisco: Lane Publishing Company, 1946), 23.

(64) Mulhall, "Sunset," 73.

(65) Lane, The Sunset Story, 21-22.

(66) "Sunsect Magazine: A Parody," The New West (11 February 1980): 27-35.

(67) Jennifer Curtis and Tim Profeta, After Silent Spring: The Unsolved Problems of Pesticide Use in the United States (New York: Natural Resources Defense Council, 1993), 3.

(68) Rachel Carson, Silent Spring (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1962), 20.

(69) Bill Lane, "Letter From Sunset," Sunset (November 1989): 230-31.

(70) Michael L. Johnson, New Westers: The West in Contemporary American Culture (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1996), 360.

(71) Sunset Western Market Almanac (Menlo Park, CA: Lane Publishing Company, 1989).

(72) Wallace Stegner and Richard W. Etulain, Conversations With Wallace Stegner on Western History and Literature, rev. ed. (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1983), 127.