Sunset Magazine and the Phenomenon of the Far West
by Dr. Kevin Starr, Former State Librarian of California
Originally published in 1998 on Stanford Libraries' web site and in Sunset Magazine: A Century of Western Living 1898 - 1998
Through the influence of the thousands of articles documented in this bibliography, Sunset has shaped the way people live in the Far West and exercise their stewardship of the environment. Without Sunset, in fact, it would be much more difficult to document the evolution of Far Western lifestyle and values. With Sunset, it is possible to understand not only what these values and ways of life are but how they evolved over the course of a century. Very often, the subjects covered in the magazine influence national magazines and lifestyles across the nation. Founded a century ago, Sunset began its existence serving a Far West on the verge of large-scale settlement. In 100 years it has never missed an issue, even when earthquake and fire destroyed its printing press in April 1906. It has enjoyed, moreover, during this century a significant and generally increasing circulation. Today, it continues to serve an expanded Far West, which has become a region of global importance, with powerful connections to Latin America and the Asia Pacific Basin. As Sunset reported to its advertisers in 1989 (1), were the Far West a nation, it would be the sixth largest economic power on earth.
Like the Atlantic Monthly, Harper's Magazine, and the Overland Monthly (2), Sunset has helped its readers--in this case, the educated people of the Far West--discover and define, in the course of the thousands of articles presented in this bibliography, the values and lifestyles; the intellectual, emotional, and imaginative context; indeed, the very psychological center of the region in which they were pursuing their lives. Like these and other great periodicals--the North American Review, Scribner's Monthly, The New Yorker--Sunset has helped its readers define their intellectual preferences and tastes. Like The Saturday Evening Post, Colliers, Look, and Life, Sunset verified for them the unfolding pageant of life. Like the Ladies' Home Journal, the Woman's Home Companion, and McCall's magazine, Sunset has helped them articulate and direct their emergent tastes, guiding them through a thousand domestic decisions. Like such partisan reviews as The Nation, The New Republic, and The National Review, Sunset also stands for something--a cluster of values and ideals, a program of action--although Sunset rarely preaches overtly (except in matters of conservation), preferring, rather, in the Lane era to allow ideas and values to emerge ever so subtly by implication from staff-written articles tightly controlled by the editorial process.
In its journey to identity and success, Sunset had to find its own distinctive path and format. Energized by, and serving, the drama of the unfolding Far West--a region without precedent and with few certainties, struggling for idea and metaphor--Sunset was embarked upon a pioneering journey, an odyssey of travel and exploration, as vivid as any of those described by its articles. By the time that journey was nearing completion, in the flush and expectant years following the Second World War, Sunset: The Magazine of Western Living had become more than a magazine. It had become a key prism through which the people of the Far West were glimpsing the possibilities and futures of themselves and their region. Sunsetentered the twentieth century primarily as a tourist magazine. Sunset ends the twentieth century as a Far Western institution, its Menlo Park headquarters a place of near-pilgrimage. Through 100 years of Sunset, the Far West, now expanded to include the Mountain states, Hawaii, and Alaska, had voiced, and continues to voice, its deepest hopes and dreams: its collective pursuit of happiness through an equally intense pursuit of the good life.
The railroad hauled people and goods, linking marketplaces throughout the U.S. with the Far West. The Southern Pacific Railroad founded Sunset with the premier issue of May 1898, naming the magazine in honor of its crack overland Sunset Limited, operating between New Orleans and Los Angeles. The Southern Pacific, in establishing Sunset, promoted travel and migration to the states it served. Quite naturally, the Southern Pacific had an interest in promoting travel to the states it served: California, Oregon, Nevada, Texas, Louisiana, and the territories of Arizona and New Mexico, together with hotel resorts en route, culminating in the Hotel Del Monte in Monterey, one of the great resort hotels of turn-of-the-century California. It was a time when all California, especially the Southland, with its favorable climate, was attracting visitors and developing its economy via such impressive resort hotels as the Coronado off San Diego, the Horton House in San Diego, the Hotel Virginia in Long Beach, the Hotel Green in Pasadena, the Hotel Wentworth in Santa Barbara, and, later, the Beverly Hills Hotel in the lima bean fields west of Los Angeles. Catering to elite visitors from the Eastern and Midwestern United States, these great resort hotels--so many of them destined to stimulate cities in their immediate environs--were intimately dependent upon the Southern Pacific, which offered package tours, with an emphasis upon long winter sojourns. The Southern Pacific, in fact, owned outright the Hotel Del Monte, and beginning with the first issue, Sunset helped to promote that property. Dedicated to providing, in the words of its founding motto, "Publicity for the attractions and advantages of the Western Empire," Volume One Number One of Sunset, rather expectedly, devoted its lead article to the Yosemite, one of several primary tourist attractions of the Far West. The Yosemite was the Niagara Falls of California, the one place which had emerged in the nineteenth century as the primary icon of all that the Far West offered in the way of scenic grandeur and subliminal release. Ironically, the reference to Yosemite was balanced by the use for the first several issues of the cover image of the Golden Gate, later the setting for two national parks.
There were also chatty descriptions of hotel life throughout the state. At the Hotel Del Monte, for example, Mr. B.F. Jones and a party of Pennsylvanians had arrived in their private railroad car, the Cleopatra, and spent the month of March enjoying the delights of the season. On hand as well were other Pennsylvanians, including Governor Daniel H. Hastings and Mr. J.T. Brooks, second vice president of the Pennsylvania Railroad. From Southern California there was news of the recently remodeled and enlarged Hotel Metropole at Avalon on the island of Santa Catalina. Mrs. Robert Louis Stevenson, widow of the author, had made a visit to the Glenwood Tavern in Riverside, en route to Scotland, where she was traveling to settle the estate of her late husband. The Hotel Del Coronado, meanwhile, seemed packed with New Yorkers arriving on the Sunset Limited. California, in short, provided a delightful destination for Easterners and Midwesterners anxious to escape the wintry rigors of the East and Midwest via a luxurious transcontinental journey on the Sunset Limited to hotels on the shores of the Pacific, where one awoke each morning, as one visitor to the Hotel Del Monte put it, to "see one hundred acres of lawn and flowers from my window while the air is fragrant with the perfume of roses, violets, heliotropes, and other flowers." (3)
Even amidst such gentility in the pages of Sunset, aimed so precisely at the patrician and upper-middle classes, another aspect of the Far West managed to assert itself alongside the discussions of hotels, resorts, and rose gardens. Gold had been discovered in Alaska and the Klondike, and the Southern Pacific was anxious to point out that it might arrange a direct connection from San Francisco to the Far North via the Pacific Coast Steamship Company for adventurers en route to the Klondike via the Chilcoot Pass. (Did young Jack London of UC Berkeley read this notice? He would, in any event, be shortly embarking upon this very journey and later writing about it for Sunset, to the benefit of American literature.) Sunset published arrivals and departures from San Francisco of steamers of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company and the Occidental and Oriental Steamship Company for Honolulu, Yokohama, Kobe, Nagasaki, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. Thus even in its first issue, Sunset magazine, founded primarily to promote the genteel pleasures of scenic travel and resort life, was noting as well the surviving frontier of the Pacific Northwest, the Yukon and Alaska, the enchanted islands of Hawaii, and the mysterious lands of the Far East. Here from the very start, then, was Sunset country, if only by inference: the Far West as it swept to the Pacific, leapt north to Alaska, and rolled majestically westward toward the Hawaiian Islands, which were the northern edge of Polynesia, and beyond the islands encountered the vast and mysterious lands of the Far East. It would take not even a half-century for Sunset fully to possess on the level of engaged journalism this vast area, this Far West as pivot of continental and Asia-Pacific Empire; but it was there from the first, glimpsed through a glass darkly: the gorgeous and heroic spectacle of an empire that began in the Spanish Southwest and, later, embraced the Rocky Mountain states, the Pacific Northwest, including the Alaskan territory, and the lands and islands of the Pacific.
For nearly 16 years the Southern Pacific continued to operateSunset on this basis, headquartered in a Mission Revival--style building near the Southern Pacific offices in San Francisco. From one perspective, the magazine, because it was limited to promotional and travel writing, was narrowly focused; yet because the region it covered was so vast and full of future promise, even this promotional magazine possessed imaginative implications.Sunset was about an empire and a way of life in the making. Sunsetwas about the next great stage of American development.
Reinvention as a Literary and General Review
As of the January 1912 issue, Sunset absorbed its northern counterpart, the Pacific Monthly, founded in 1898 in Portland, Oregon, to promote travel to and settlement of the Pacific Northwest. For the century to come, no matter what subtitle Sunset happened to be using at the time on its cover--The Pacific Monthly, The Magazine of the Border, The Magazine of the Pacific and All the Far West, The West's Great National Magazine, and finally and most successfully The Magazine of Western Living--the rubric Pacific Monthly remained fixed on the table of contents page, suggesting this first merger, which brought Sunset into the Pacific Northwest and foreshadowed its eventual editorial regionalization. When Sunset grew, it absorbed a magazine. Later, when the Far West had grown, Sunset partially subdivided itself better to cope with regional diversity. Sunset's most heroic moment in these years was its issue of May 1906, less than a month after the great earthquake and fire of April 18 had destroyed much of San Francisco, including the Sunset offices. Fortunately, despite the loss of its drawings, photographs, and engravings, its building and printing press, the mailing list and contract records were rescued. Within a few short weeks the more than 65,000 Sunset families in all parts of the world were holding in their hands the New San Francisco Emergency Edition of May 1906, with a cover by Maynard Dixon depicting the enduring spirit of San Francisco rising from the conflagration. No matter, wrote Southern Pacific president E.H. Harriman in the issue's lead article (an issue hastily printed on presses used ordinarily for tickets and schedules in the SP-owned Ferry Building), San Francisco would be rebuilt on a new and better basis. Editor Charles Sedgwick Aiken agreed. Not only would San Francisco be rebuilt, Sunset would reappear more excellent than ever. Aiken made good on his word, and within two years a thoroughly re-established Sunset was publishing an eight-page photographic panorama by H.C. Tibbitts, astonishing in its printing and binding virtuosity, depicting the rebuilt City by the Bay.
By 1914 the Southern Pacific was deciding to get out of the magazine business. Sunset, after all, had been established in great measure to promote the settlement of the Far West, which now stood at 6 million inhabitants and climbing. The economy of the Far West, moreover, was generally booming. The Far West, the Southern Pacific decided, no longer required the promotional efforts of an expensive magazine. Besides, the staff was interested in buying the property, led by editor Charles K. Field, who had succeeded Aiken after Aiken's death in 1911. And so in 1914 Sunset passed from the Southern Pacific to the ownership of its new publisher, Woodhead, Field and Company.
Some of the willingness, indeed eagerness, of the Southern Pacific to divest itself of its magazine property came, no doubt, from the fact that the editorial staff and contributors had long since grown restive with the subordination of Sunset to the corporate policies of the railroad. Editor Charles Sedgwick Aiken, after all, who had guided the magazine from 1902 to 1911, stated that it was his goal to make Sunset "a combination of the Atlantic Monthly, Outing, and McClure's magazines," which is to say, a magazine that would combine literary and intellectual distinction with an outdoor emphasis and an orientation toward usefulness in daily living. (4) Even while carrying out the general editorial policies of the Southern Pacific ownership, Aiken began to intensify the literary identity of Sunset by publishing, among other writers, the naturalist Charles Norris (brother of the late great novelist Frank Norris, author of The Octopus (1901), a powerfully anti-railroad novel); humorist Gelett Burgess, one of the demi-urges of the fin de siècle magazine The Lark and the author of the ever-surviving poem "Purple Cow"; a young writer by the name of Jack London, back from the Klondike; London's friend, San Francisco poet George Sterling; prose stylist Mary Austin, whose Land of Little Rain(1903) pioneered the aesthetic appreciation of the high desert plateau and arid back country; and--here from the very founding of California literature itself a half-century earlier--a poem by Bret Harte and several poems by Harte's colleague Ina Coolbrith, the poet laureate of California. Aiken also published such established California figures as John Muir, herald of the Sierra Nevada; the renowned historian Theodore Hittell; the poets Joaquin Miller and Charles Warren Stoddard, survivors alongside Bret Harte and Ina Coolbrith of the post--Civil War San Francisco literary frontier; the renowned horticulturist Luther Burbank of Santa Rosa; the San Francisco--born novelist Gertrude Atherton, then living in Europe; poets Vachel Lindsay, William Rose Benet, Witter Bynner, and Yone Noguchi, each at various stages of an emergent reputation; the young novelist Kathleen Norris, Charles's wife, destined to develop by the 1930s into the highest-earning novelist in the United States; and other aspiring writers--Sinclair Lewis, James Hooper, Stewart Edward White, Peter B. Kyne, Earl Stanley Gardner, Damon Runyon, Frederick Lewis Allen--each destined to win national reputation.
All this proved especially exhilarating to Aiken's protégé and successor, Charles K. Field, who headed the group buying the magazine and continued as editor-owner in the new regime. Now, if anything, the roster of notable writers expanded even further as Field sought to make Sunset the Atlantic Monthly of the Pacific Coast. Writing on nature and Native American life were such renowned figures as Charles Francis Saunders and George Wharton James. Professor E.J. Wickson of Berkeley wrote most gracefully on agriculture. From Stanford came articles by David Starr Jordan, the founding president. Other social commentators included Chester Rowell, later editor of the San Francisco Chronicle and a driving force in California Progressivism; Berkeley socialist Herman Whitaker, whom Jack London so admired; and reporters Rufus Steele, Will Irwin, and Lewis Stellmann, among the best journalists San Francisco has ever produced. Michael Williams, the future founding editor of Commonweal, covered the missions and religious life from San Francisco and Carmel. The renowned Charles Fletcher Lummis, himself the editor of his own regional publication, Land of Sunshine, later Out West, wrote from Los Angeles. Literary and cultural life was covered by Henry Meade Bland, a poet-professor from San Jose, Nellie Van de Graft Sanchez, a respected historian of California, and Rose Wilder Lane. Other writers included Charles Shinn, historian of the mining era, naturalist Galen Clark, artist Maynard Dixon, who contributed poetry as well as cover and other art, cowboy writer Will James, and Western novelist Zane Grey. Writer Walter Woehlke, secretary to the board of owner-publishers, wrote what seemed like hundreds of articles through the 1920s on every conceivable topic.
What did these writers, and hence, Sunset, have in common? The answer to this query is significant because these writers, who today might seem a mere roll call of half-forgotten names, were bound together by shared values and assumptions which would never be lost to the Sunset ethos, despite what may be seen as drastic changes in editorial policy once the magazine was acquired by Laurence W. Lane in late 1928.
First of all, with the exception of such older Literary Frontier figures as Miller, Stoddard, Hittell, and such an arch-conservative figure as Gertrude Atherton, most of the Sunset writers from the Aiken-Field era were Progressives. Whether or not they were overtly political, that is, each of these writers adhered to and exemplified a cluster of values regarding public and private life which in the political world, more formally designated as Progressivism (5), was then in the process of reforming California. Progressives were white, Protestant, tending toward the upper-middle class. Instinctively they gravitated toward a reforming middle ground in politics, avoiding corporate monopolies (such as the railroad!) on the one hand, and immigrant-dominated big labor and big city political machines on the other. Progressives valued taste and efficiency in the arts and private life. In the two decades before the First World War, and to a lesser extent after, their sensibility accounted for the simplification and harmonizing of architecture and interior design. They came to a new respect for Native Americans and wrote of Native American culture. They preserved the missions and appropriated, indeed semi-Protestantized, the Hispanic heritage of California as their own. To the Progressive point of view, the entire Far West--California especially--offered a tabula rasa upon which might be projected and achieved a society based upon values of education, taste, beauty, and restraint. Today, at the end of the century they began, a significant percentage of the enduring books defining the California and Southwestern heritage--books by John Muir, Charles Fletcher Lummis, E.J. Wickson, Charles Francis Saunders, Charles Holder, George Wharton James, Joseph Le Conte (whose photographs of the Yosemite appeared in the first issue), and other Sunset writers--bear their names on the title page.
Above all else, they were conservationists. In 1892 they had organized the Sierra Club as the key expression of their conservationism, with Sunset author John Muir, the single greatest figure among them, serving as founding president. Gifted writers in the main, they were skilled at describing the scenic beauties of California and the Far West. Committed activists, they joined forces with their colleagues in the East to help found the National Park Service in 1916 and fought a score of local skirmishes on behalf of conservation throughout the Far West. The loss of one such battle, the fight to prevent the Valley of the Hetch Hetchy from being dammed, is said to have cost John Muir his life.
They were, in the main, university men, although not all of them, for in that era self-educated men and women were more than capable of rising to intellectual careers and good prose. This was the era between 1880 and 1920, when the American university, blending the Germanic ideal of research and the English ideal of collegial instruction, invented itself. Without the presence of such university-educated men and women, in fact, Progressivism would not have gained the momentum it did, nor, indeed, existed at all; for it was the educated classes, the professionals, doctors, lawyers, university professors and administrators--the clerisy as Samuel Taylor Coleridge described them--who provided the intellectual structure and moral force of the Progressive movement. In a very real sense, they were new men and women. Just prior to their generation, it must be remembered, a college or university degree was in general not required, even for many of the learned professions; but from the turn of the century onward, as the American university and its graduate and professional schools emerged on the horizon of American life, university men and women would increasingly take hold of professional and managerial positions. Theirs was a sense of caste, true, as testified to by the founding of University Clubs throughout the major cities of the nation in this era; but it was not a sense of caste based on lineage--but on service. "Princeton in the Nation's Service" was the way that Woodrow Wilson, president of that university, described this Progressive ideal.
The Stanford Connection
Hence an all-important and enduring Sunset trait from the very beginning: the Stanford University connection. True, Sunset writers had other university affiliations, and over the years Sunset would publish articles on the University of California at Berkeley, its second favorite campus, together with articles on such emergent institutions as the California Polytechnic Institute at San Luis Obispo, the University of Nevada, the University of Arizona, and other state universities in the Far West; but it was Stanford--as place, as alma mater, as another legacy of the Southern Pacific Railroad--which most nurtured and structured the emerging Sunset ethos. Charles K. Field, after all, had been a member of Stanford's first (and brilliant), Pioneer graduating class of 1895, whose first citizen and lifelong leader was Herbert Hoover, the Chief, as he came to be known in later years. Throughout his life--as a mining engineer in Australia and China, as director of the Commission for Relief of Belgium, as food administrator in the war and postwar period, as secretary of commerce, as president of the United States, as senior statesman and library-builder--Herbert Hoover would surround himself with Stanford classmates, Stanford graduates of other years, and Stanford faculty, whose names (Vernon Kellogg, Will Irwin, Charles K. Field, Rose Wilder Lane, and, above all, David Starr Jordan, founding president and continuing avatar of the Stanford spirit) continued through the 1920s to appear so conspicuously in Sunset. Many, quite naturally, being outdoors men, were early members and supporters of the Sierra Club. Many of the men, such as Herbert Hoover, were lifelong members of the Bohemian Club of San Francisco and spent part of each July in the Bohemian Grove on the Russian River in Sonoma County. Charles K. Field wrote much of the book and lyrics for the annual Cremation of Care ceremony in the Grove, where an amphitheater was later named in his honor.
Stanford University, founded by Leland Stanford, first president of the Southern Pacific, offers a key expression of Progressivism in the Far West. Here was a university which admitted men and women on the same basis and where a significant percentage of students were on scholarship. Here was a university which from the start excelled in such Far Western subjects as mining engineering, geology, economics, and the emergent science of business management. Here was a university whose founding president, David Starr Jordan, a physician by training and an ichthyologist by practice, preached his own version of the strenuous life, based on values of physical fitness, outdoor activity, conservation, a gracious but restrained lifestyle, internationalism, and public service: a prefigurement, it might be said, of the emergent Sunset ethos. All great university campuses--the Palladian grandeur of Jefferson's Virginia, the Gothic spires of Yale, Princeton, and Chicago, the Georgian, Federalist, and Romanesque solidity of Harvard Yard--are in their own way utopian statements of regional life and value. For Jordan and for the first generations of students he produced into the 1920s, so many of them Sunset writers, the Romanesque quadrangles of Stanford University, admixed with Mission Revival (designs first sketched out by the great H.H. Richardson shortly before his death), embodied a shimmering ideal of Far Western life refined and intensified to a new plateau of style, efficiency, and proper social value.
Not surprisingly, then, Stanford found its way into Sunset, for Stanford had shaped so profoundly the founding generation at the magazine. As this bibliography indicates, Stanford received more than its fair share of articles through the early period, including numerous articles by David Starr Jordan and Herbert Hoover, dual embodiments of the Stanford spirit and the Stanford man in the founding generation. This Stanford orientation would continue down to the present, through the two generations of Lane management. Mr. and Mrs. Laurence W. Lane settled in Palo Alto. Each of the Lane sons graduated from Stanford. Sunset would eventually locate its mission-style headquarters in Menlo Park near the Stanford campus, in buildings designed by Cliff May very much in keeping with the Stanford style.
From this perspective, the Sunset spirit and the Stanford spirit, while not fully synonymous, were powerfully and continuously linked not only by the Stanford connections of the Lane family but by deeper connections that came from the founding era of each institution. The same entrepreneurial drive, the same pioneering and adventuresome spirit, and the same family values that nurtured Stanford spilled over into Sunset and remained. The early Stanford style, as preached by Jordan and practiced by the first generations of graduates, was partially transmuted into the Sunset style as well. Like Stanford, Sunset cherished values of education, conservation, social responsibility, and a slightly understated yet enthusiastic lifestyle. Aesthetically, more specifically in terms of architecture and design, Sunset, like the Stanford campus before it, favored a certain dryness of style in dialogue with the water-scarce, semi-arid realities of the Far West. Like Stanford University, destined to nurture twentieth-century engineering sciences and to generate the computer revolution, Sunset had a continuing belief in practical technology, whose fundamental assumption was: The simpler way of doing things was frequently the better way.
Concerns and Interests in the Early Years
But that was for the years to come. In the meanwhile, Sunsetcontinued as a general interest magazine until February 1929, when Larry Lane's first issue was published with completely revised editorial direction. A perusal of this bibliography will reveal how certain subjects treated in these pre-Lane years did not make the transition into the new era. Aiken, for example, published articles on Spanish art in Texas and an essay by Bruce Porter (Henry James's nephew-in-law) on Arthur Putnam's animal sculpture. During the Panama Pacific International Exposition, Michael Williams wrote a key article on Western artists, and sculptor A. Stirling Calder covered sculpture. Other art-oriented articles covered art, bookplates, fabrics, mosaics, and tiles. All this was very much in the Arts and Crafts mood of the early 1900s. Sunsetalso reviewed the many instances of outdoor drama, and both Charles K. Field and Rose Wilder Lane submitted film criticism. There were also book reviews and literary chitchat aplenty, as befitting a journal which had the Atlantic Monthly as its model. This rapidly disappeared with Lane's new editorial direction.
Social questions--by which is meant politics, economics, industrial relations, and various sociological topics--which occupied a reputable percentage of Sunset pages in the pre-Lane era, did not survive into the 1930s. Between 1914 and 1928, Sunset published 119 notable articles on politics, and only 6 in the ensuing decade. Most of these, however, with the exception of Walter Woehlke's four-part series on the Tom Mooney case in 1919 and an article or two on the IWW, were not gritty, engaged pieces, but more philosophical essays such as David Starr Jordan's "What of the Nation?" series running through 1916 and early 1917 and Jordan's essays on the peace process following World War I. Other writers on politics included Governor, later Senator Hiram Johnson and San Francisco Call editor Fremont Older. After the war, Senator Johnson took over the "What of the Nation?" column. Jordan, Johnson, Older: solid Progressives all, and very much indicative of the politics of Sunset in these early years.
Between 1898 and 1931 Sunset ran 177 notable articles on business and industry, many of them by Walter Woehlke. Interest in these early years was very much on mining, a survival from the frontier Far West, but also upon such new industries as electricity and telephone service, irrigation, oil drilling, ship building, dam building, timber, and cattle ranching in Hawaii (a 1927 article most charmingly entitled "Ukulele Cowboys"). Sunset's coverage of ranching and agriculture, especially the articles by Walter Woehlke, were among the glories of the magazine in its first two decades. Here, after all, was the long-desired Garden of the West being brought to fruition. At the same time that Jack London was ranching in the Valley of the Moon in Sonoma County, and setting some of his fiction there, Sunset was also on the scene covering the very same agriculture which London had now declared to be his life's work along with writing. Sheep and cattle raising throughout the Far West; the raising of chickens and ducks; the introduction of rice into the marshy regions of the Delta; the growing of prunes in the Santa Clara Valley; the planting of onions and celery; the growing of olives, almonds, walnuts in the Central Valley (increasingly under irrigation); the spreading orange and lemon groves of the Southland; the hardscrabble life of ranching in the Imperial Valley, so recently seized from the desert; the patient, Virgilian work of bee-keeping--in article after article, the writers of Sunset were there, on the spot, creating a prose Georgic of California and Far Western agriculture for the ages to come.
Nor was this an exclusively California-centered perspective. Sunset, after all, had absorbed the Portland-based Pacific Monthly in 1912 and thus moved easily into coverage of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and even Alaskan agriculture. One is constantly impressed, moreover, by the continuing high-mindedness of the coverage: of seeing agriculture as moral science and art as well as an economic activity. Who else but Sunset could publish such articles as "Among Oregon Apples" by "A Harvard Man" or Walter Woehlke's "The Soul's Awakening and the Price of Prunes"?
Biography and military studies were other editorial categories that did not survive into the 1930s. Historical articles did not represent a large category, only 92 notable entries in this selective bibliography, of which a third appear after 1928; yet such reputable Western writers as the novelist Eugene Manlove Rhodes, Los Angeles Times columnist Harry Carr, and budding journalist John Considine, who would eventually gain a national reputation, submitted articles in this genre. Since 1929, historical context, including military ones, became a significant sub-theme in travel and other articles; such inclusion made Sunset attractive for educational use, especially in the Lane years. Biographical articles, by contrast, received much more attention in the pre-Lane years, 343 notable biographies in all. Some of these--UC Professor Edward Wickson on Luther Burbank, David Starr Jordan on Jane Stanford, Michael Williams on Junipero Serra, Hamlin Garland on Joaquin Miller, Walter Woehlke on Abbott Kenny, Flora Hines Longhead and Madera Holt on Ina Coolbrith, Charles Fletcher Lummis on Theodore Roosevelt, Rose Wilder Lane on Jack London, Lewis R. Freeman on Calamity Jane, Will Irwin on Hiram Johnson, Charles K. Field and Rose Wilder Lane on Herbert Hoover, and Aimee Semple McPherson on herself--remain classics of their kind, possessed as they are of what Edmund Wilson called the shock of recognition: the moment, that is, when writer and subject collaborate in mutual recognition and statement. In Theodore Roosevelt, after all, Charles Fletcher Lummis saw in his Harvard classmate, so quintessentially Eastern in his origins, very much the man of the Far West. In Junipero Serra, Michael Williams, a recent convert to Catholicism, en route to becoming one of the foremost Catholic journalists of his generation, perceived the Roman Catholic dimensions of European culture in California. The articles on Herbert Hoover by Charles K. Field and Rose Wilder Lane are especially interesting; for by this time, Herbert Hoover was on the verge of taking the Stanford style (dare one say the Sunset style?) eastward to the White House itself.
In one pre-Lane genre, military affairs--so seemingly remote from the normal concerns of Sunset--the magazine made a startling contribution. But then again, from the perspective of Sunset's dynamic relation to the Far West, this is not so surprising; for both the Army and the Navy had played major roles in the exploration of the Far West and the conquest of California during the Mexican War. Between 1846 and 1850, in fact, California remained a military territory, with the highest- ranking officer on the coast serving as the de facto civil governor, since Congress, divided on the slavery issue, had proven unable to grant California territorial status. Following the granting of statehood in September 1850, the United States Navy established a yard on Mare Island in San Francisco Bay, which represented the nation's strategic naval presence on the Pacific. Such distinguished Civil War generals as Ulysses Grant, William Sherman, William Halleck, and Albert Sidney Johnston all spent time in California before the war. The military, in short, was the midwife of California and the Far West's American identity in the mid-nineteenth century, and for the half-century to come the Army, and to a lesser extent the Navy, continued to play important roles in the governance and economy of this region, especially in the territories. Generals Lew Wallace, author of Ben Hur, and John Charles Fremont served as territorial governors of Arizona. The Army administered the Yosemite until the creation of the national park system. The Army Corps of Engineers exercised enormous influence and jurisdiction over the rivers, lakes, and inland waterways of the entire region.
The military emphasis of Sunset, then (between 1902 and 1928 the magazine published 116 notable articles on military topics), must be seen in this context. The states and territories of the Far West, especially California, Arizona, and Hawaii, had been and continued to be intimately dependent upon the military presence for the development of its society and economy. Hence, when Sunsetcovered, as it did, the Spanish American War, the Philippine Rebellion, the last phases of Apache resistance in the Far West, the growing naval presence on the Pacific Coast, the acquisition of Pearl Harbor and the creation of the Pacific Fleet, and the expedition against Pancho Villa, it was not only advancing a strategic argument, it was covering one of the important components of Far Western society and identity.
In naval and aviation matters, moreover, Sunset published articles of strategic importance. More than any other state, California, with its more favorable climate, welcomed the new art and science of aviation, beginning with the Los Angeles County Air Show at Dominquez Field in January 1910. Within a few short years both the Army and the Navy had centered their major aviation efforts on the Pacific coast. Hence the importance, among other articles, of "Can the Panama Canal Be Destroyed From the Air?" by Riley E. Scott, published in April 1914. Eight years before Brigadier General Billy Mitchell was court-martialed for advancing the same notion, Scott suggested that great battleships and shore installations were highly vulnerable to air assault. Likewise, in the matter of the projection of Japanese naval presence into the Pacific, Sunset was glimpsing, along with others, the probability of a trans-Pacific clash between the United States and Japan.
The more diversified Sunset became, however, the more it lost its focus. Already, Sunset had defied the odds by remaining in business as a Pacific Coast--based general interest magazine in competition with national magazines for the Far Western dollar. With the exception of the Overland Monthly, no Far Western--based general interest magazine had lasted longer; and yet by the late 1920s, Sunset was in financial trouble. The difficulties facing Sunset were more than a matter of focus, although it could honestly be said that Sunset was trying to be too many things to too many people. On a deeper level, the exhilaration of the early Progressive years had not survived the shock of World War I. Increasingly, middle-class Americans--traumatized by the casualties the United States had experienced in two short years of the AEF--were withdrawing from their previous stance of optimistic internationalism and becoming more cautious, isolationist, and conservative. And besides, the high-mindedness of the Progressive era seemed increasingly out of touch with the cynical syncopations of the Jazz Age. America had become frenzied and materialistic in contrast to the more philosophical and aesthetic stance of the pre--World War I Progressives. It was not so much that their time had passed. Far from it: Had Herbert Hoover been elected president in 1920, or even 1924, he might have emerged as the Progressive Triumphant. Although, even in this speculation one must take into consideration the figure of another shaken and defeated Progressive, Woodrow Wilson, stung by his nation's rejection of the League of Nations, felled by stroke, serving the final months of his presidency as a stricken recluse in an upstairs White House bedroom. Progressivism would never disappear, but it was losing momentum as a full-fledged social and political program. Magazines serve as arsenals, true; but by the late 1920s it was uncertain at Sunset which audience ought to be targeted, and circulation figures and the bottom line began to show the effects of the confusion.
A New Owner, A New Vision
Enter Laurence W. Lane, advertising director of the Des Moines--based Meredith Publications, owner of the widely read Better Homes and Gardens, Successful Farming, and two other magazines. With the help of six other Des Moines investors, Lane purchased Sunset from the Field group in September 1928 for $60,000. (Soon thereafter, Charles K. Field went into the radio business, winning fame and fortune as the commentator Cheerio.) Immediately, Lane laid down a new editorial policy. "The magazine,' he said, “will be maintained as a strictly western one, designed to serve western and national advertisers in reaching the substantial homes of the western states. Editorially, a large portion of the magazine will be devoted to the home and outdoor life of the west." (6) Sunset would no longer resemble Harper's and the Atlantic as a writer-driven literary review. And he leaned on President-Elect Hoover's family values plank, excerpted in the first Lane issue, to create Sunset magazine's editorial policy of service to the whole family with attention to men readers. That same issue included a piece entitled "The House a Man Calls Home," suggesting the importance of the man in the home. It would eventually become a staff-written magazine, with no bylines, focusing on the Far West lifestyle--meaning homes, gardens, cuisine, travel, and leisure.
Conventional opinion claims that Laurence W. Lane saved Sunsetby changing it. Yes and no. True, Lane drastically altered the nature of the magazine. Paradoxically, however, Lane saved the magazine by channeling values and energies of an earlier era into a precise pattern of highly useful topics. Indeed, it can be claimed that Laurence W. Lane saved Sunset by tightening its focus and keying it to the next Far West, suburban and middle-class, in the making.
A successful magazine publisher (which Laurence W. Lane certainly became) uses his or her magazine to explore a set of personal preoccupations as well as to meet the needs of a market. Lane formulated new editorial policies and recruited as senior editors two talented women from Better Homes and Gardens to help him implement those policies. The two, Miss Genevieve A. Callahan and Miss Lou Richardson, had top editorial responsibility and, together with the counsel of Lane's wife, Ruth Bell Lane, proceeded to fulfill those editorial objectives. These were pioneering roles for women in the magazine industry. At their high point, successful magazines are energized by the dialogue between editor and readership. In assigning stories, the publisher defines the product according to his own vision and what he understands the audience wants. When the vision and the audience's needs coincide, and the other aspects of publishing are in place--good writing, good design, good business practices--the stage is set for success. Good business practices include adequate and responsive circulation, a successful advertising program, and efficient and ever-modernizing production practices. Such figures as William Shawn at The New Yorker, Condé Nast at Vogue and Vanity Fair, and Clay Felker at New York magazine exemplify this process. From this perspective, there could have been no more suitable purchaser of Sunset in 1928 than the 37-year-old Midwesterner, Laurence W. Lane. He had acquired Sunset, after all, as the key instrument and source of energy for his own journey to Far Western identity.
Born in Horton, Kansas, in 1890, Larry Lane grew up in an ethos of self-reliance and Midwestern values. His father died when Larry was a boy, and he and his mother moved to northern Illinois, where they lived with relatives. At the age of 16 the young man had gone to work as part-time salesman at a hardware supply company to support himself through school. After moving to Iowa with his mother, he attended Drake University and worked summers with the Meredith Publishing Company. He also found time to court Ruth Bell, daughter of the university president, whom he married upon graduation at the somewhat advanced age of 27. Shortly thereafter, Lane entered the Army, achieved the rank of first lieutenant, and served throughout the First World War.
Even with these sketchy details, a portrait emerges as if from a novel by Booth Tarkington: an ambitious Midwestern lad, forced into self-reliance by the early death of his father, eager for education and upward mobility, earns a college degree, marries his college sweetheart, earns an officer's commission in the Army. Of equal importance, he discovers his lifetime work, magazines, initially on a part-time basis, and then after the war as a full-time employee of Meredith Publishing Company, where he quickly rises up the ladder--personnel, research, and sales--to become advertising director for all Meredith publications. Successful Farming was a practically oriented, can-do magazine, equally aimed at the Midwestern farming husband and wife. After the war, Meredith purchased a defunct Seattle magazine, Better Homes, Fruits, & Gardens, which it re-designed, and, under Larry Lane's direction, brought back into circulation and renamed as Better Homes and Gardens.
Practical by temperament, formed in the school of hard knocks, yet not hardened by the process, managing to move himself solidly into the corporate upper-middle class by dint of his own efforts, socially connected to his local milieu through a happy and advantageous marriage, Laurence W. Lane had absorbed unto himself the best of the Midwest experience. He might have remained, in fact, in Iowa for a long, happy, and fulfilled lifetime, except for the fact that he fell completely, totally, in love with the Far West. With almost paradigmatic clarity, it happened during a visit to Yosemite National Park.
As advertising director, Lane traveled extensively throughout the country setting up sales offices, dealing with major clients, exploring new possibilities for advertising and circulation growth. Already, as advertising director for the hugely successful national publication Better Homes and Gardens, Lane had become sensitive to just how important regional matters were to his readership. What grew in Massachusetts, and when, was an entirely different matter to what grew in Illinois, and when, or Salt Lake City, Tacoma, Palo Alto, or Pasadena. Likewise was the question of home design and improvement dependent upon regional variation. Of all the regions he was visiting, Lane decided, the Far West--its terrain and climate, its flora and fauna, the special challenges and opportunities of its settings--was the most distinctive; and nowhere was this more true than in California, where Ruth's retired parents had settled, in Los Angeles. At one point in the early 1920s, Lane's boss Ed Meredith invited him to come along on a ride through the great San Joaquin Valley in the private car of the president of the Southern Pacific Railroad. Meredith--secretary of agriculture in the Wilson administration--was especially interested in the agricultural vitality of the Great Valley. Near Fresno the luxurious private car was transferred to a spur track leading to the El Portal terminal outside the Yosemite Valley. The party then transferred to a motorized open bus for the final stage of the journey to that place which had been symbolizing in the American imagination the special possibilities of the Far West ever since the 1860s. Thus within a few hours Lane had experienced the maritime setting and urban sophistication of San Francisco, the vast expanse of the irrigated San Joaquin Valley, the Sierra Nevada foothills, then the mountains themselves, and finally the great Yosemite Valley. "The dramatic transition from sea coast to broad valley to high mountains in only a few hours' travel," his son Laurence William Lane, Jr., later remembered, "made a lasting impression on Dad and convinced him that travel and recreation would increasingly play a significant role in the lives of Western families as one of the viable differences from the rest of the country." (7)
Because Larry Lane tended to see life in terms of magazines, he was soon seeing his growing interest in the Far West from this perspective as well. Already, he had been keeping his eye on the embattled Sunset, then up for sale. With the help of six other Des Moines investors, he acquired the company in September 1928. Within a month, he had moved to San Francisco to take over his new venture.
Definitive Rededication to a Fourfold Path
When Larry Lane stepped off the ferryboat at the foot of Market Street, a brass band was playing and a parade was passing by. It was, however, the annual Columbus Day celebration by the city's Italian community and not a welcoming demonstration for an Iowa publisher determined to become a citizen of the Far West. But the band might have been celebrating Lane's arrival as well, for a process was being set in motion that would eventually present the Far West with its most successful magazine and book publisher, from whom millions would learn how best to live in this still-new region, where the Lanes would now be rearing their two young sons, Laurence W. (Bill) Lane, Jr., and Melvin Bell Lane.
In buying Sunset, Larry Lane inherited the Progressive traditions of the magazine, its good will and reputation, and its flair for graphics and typography. Sunset had long since excelled, for example, in color. The April 1914 issue, for example (in which Riley E. Scott's pioneering article on air power also appeared), presented colored photographs of the Panama Pacific International Exposition under construction; an orange-sailed felucca sailing off Mt. Tamalpais on San Francisco Bay; Shoshone Falls on the Snake River; a buckboard rider in an idyllic Idaho countryside; a girl in a blossoming orchard in Washington; a steamer entering the Port of Columbia; motorists enjoying scenic Lake Tahoe; and Mrs. Phoebe Apperson Hearst's Hacienda del Pozo de Verona near Pleasanton, its white walls and red-tiled roof gleaming in the sun, its entrance pathway ablaze in blooming flowers. The covers of Sunset were likewise polychromatic and engaging. Many of them--produced by such noted artists as Maynard Dixon, Ed Borein, Maurice Logan, and Will James--were works of art. Covers by Maynard Dixon before and after the Lane acquisition, many of them depicting Native Americans in the Southwest, are especially notable. Taken cumulatively, Sunset covers from the first four decades of the century yield some of the finest iconography and image-making dealing with Western life. Across scores of covers was achieved an almost utopian presentation of the landscape, people, and pleasures of the Far West.
Larry Lane retained, indeed enhanced, this graphic tradition. Appropriately for a magazine celebrating beauty, Sunset would always itself be a beautiful instance of print, graphics, and photography. When it came to the editorial policy, however, Lane rejected the existing identity of general review and declared that henceforth Sunset would concern itself with four major fields: home, gardening, travel, and cooking. Each article, moreover, had to be useful to the reader. It had to teach a reader how to do something--prepare a certain dish, plant a certain tree, repair a window pane, make Halloween costumes for children. In contrast to Better Homes and Gardens and other home service magazines, the new Sunset suggested where a reader might travel and what sights could be visited there. Larry Lane was bringing to Sunset, in some measure, the practical orientation that had made Successful Farming and Better Homes and Gardens so successful.
Was Larry Lane transforming Sunset into a women's magazine? Not really. In his "Mission Statement" published in the January 1929 issue, Lane specifically noted that he would be publishing a magazine for both men and women. Many of the articles--how, for example, to build a brick backyard barbecue, how to weatherproof an attic--would more than likely interest and instruct male readers. On the other hand, given the emphasis upon food and upon food preparation in the home as being largely women's work in that era, Lane was making the magazine more relevant to women. A more subtle analysis, however, might see that, as in so many other aspects of the Progressive tradition so evident in the pre-Lane publication, the new orientation of Sunsetwas being coaxed from its previous identity. Women, first of all, held an equal place among Sunset readers and subscribers. Women, that is to say, formed at least half the audience for Sunset's general interest articles. And then there was the question of articles expressly about women. Between 1902 and 1937, Sunset published over 100 notable articles about women and many more articles for women. These articles dealt with a variety of topics, some of them--such as Gladys Johnson's 1926 article on "Divorce and the American Home"--rather daring for their era, in contrast to those after 1928, such as Genevieve A. Callahan's "It Takes Two to Make a Home" in 1935.
In any event, Sunset ran articles on how to run a house without servants, how to get by on a secretary's salary, how to combine motherhood and a career, how to learn to fly fish, or run a ranch on one's own, or travel solo across the continent, or, in one instance, run a small regional railroad. In 1912, Sunset ran an article by the noted feminist Louise Bryant, companion of John Reed. Another contributor was the second Mrs. Woodrow Wilson, whom many consider to have been the de facto president of the United States during the last 18 months of her husband's second term.
Larry Lane, in short, was bringing to the fore a previously implicit aspect of the Sunset identity. Since women were primarily responsible for the home in that era, and since Sunsetwas concerned with the home as one of its four major editorial policy directions, Sunset was becoming in part a magazine appealing to women. It was not, however, becoming a women's magazine; for so many of the other articles--travel articles, for example--were gender neutral, while other articles were male-oriented. In time, Sunset would run an increasing number of articles oriented toward children and child care. By that time Sunset had very much become a family magazine.
But first Larry Lane had to get Sunset through the Depression. One of his techniques was a pioneering use of department store charge accounts to pay for subscriptions. That way, Sunsetenjoyed a convenience akin to the credit card long before the invention of that credit device and a pre-existent screening process. Customers, moreover, enjoyed the convenience of being able to order Sunset through their department store. Launched in 1932, regional editions--one for the Pacific Northwest, one for Northern and Central California, one for Southern California, and, later, one for the Desert Southwest--also helped Sunset weather the economic crisis; for these regional editions not only opened Sunset to more focused articles, they would also later bring in local businesses as advertisers. In time, Sunset would carry more regional advertisements than any other magazine.
Sunset helped its readers cope with the Depression through its selection of how-to-do-it articles and by keeping the prices of the magazine and growing book list low. As a business, Sunset was struggling along with everyone else, negotiating a deferred payment plan for paper with Crown Zellerbach. (Not until 1938 did Sunset experience an operating profit,10 years after Lane bought the magazine.) But within the pages of the magazine there unfolded a panoramic pageant of gardening, architecture, regional cuisine, patio dining, golf, tennis, horseback riding, and other leisure pursuits, which represented, in its own way, a cunning strategy for economic success. Sunset fought the Depression by holding before the middle classes opportunities to enjoy life even in dire times. At the very depth of the Depression, 1933, Sunsethad more than 200,000 subscribers, home owners in the main, who were paying a mere dollar a year for their subscription.
Larry Lane also fought the Depression through the bold device of launching Sunset Books, although this enterprise remained on a relatively small scale until after World War II. In time, however, under the direction of his son Mel as publisher, Sunset Books became an impressive publishing force. Since 1933, more than 900 titles and revisions have been issued.
Between 1934 and 1951 Sunset operated out of a slender, tower-like, seven-story building at 576 Sacramento Street in San Francisco. Gradually, the magazine was evolving. After 1936, photographs tended to replace original art on the cover. Yet artistic standards were not relaxed. Photographers of the stature of Ansel Adams and Imogen Cunningham were commissioned for Sunset covers. By the late 1930s, Sunset was reflecting the editorial character that persists to this day. Sunset made its first operating profit in the decade in 1938, thanks, in part, to Ruth, who remained close to the editorial process and personally tested many Sunset recipes and gardening ideas. Keeping with a family tradition, the Lane sons sold Sunset and several other magazines door to door. That year, everyone on the staff received an unexpected but welcome $500 bonus.
Period of Rapid Growth
During the Second World War, Larry Lane's sons, Bill and Mel, Stanford graduates, served as Navy officers. A major problem in these years was paper. Yet the War Ration Board allowed Sunsetextra paper for its Sunset Vegetable Garden Book (1943), which promoted Victory Gardens. In the face of wartime staffing shortages, Ruth Bell Lane became managing editor in 1944 as an additional contribution to the magazine. Returning from the service in 1946, the Lane brothers began an intense apprenticeship in every aspect of the publishing business. Their youth and energy would be very much needed. In the decades ahead the Far West, California and Arizona especially, would add millions of new residents, brought there by a booming economy and the desire for a better life free of Eastern winters and offering new job opportunities. Now more than ever, the classic work of a magazine--to provide information and guidance, to serve as a useful form of reference, to suggest and instruct--became the renewed Sunset mission and challenge. And as the West grew in population, competition for readers and advertisers became fierce, but Sunset thrived.
Literally millions of new homes would be built; whole cities and suburbs created, almost overnight. Millions of Americans who were born and raised elsewhere would now be seeking to transform themselves into Far Westerners. What kinds of homes should they build? What foods should they prepare? What trees, shrubs, and flowers should they plant in their new environment? Where should they go on family vacations? Sunset began to answer these questions in its own way, and by 1947, circulation, which had remained in the 200,000s during the war, increased by 100,000, and reached 400,000 in 1948 as more and more neophyte Far Westerners, together with longtime residents, were finding Sunset truly, as it described itself, The Magazine of Western Living. For many years, the rate of Sunset circulation grew even faster than that of the population.
In 1946, Sunset published its first large-format, hardcover Sunsetbook, Western Ranch Houses, written by Sunset editors with Cliff May and illustrated with May-designed houses. Ten years before, Sunset editors had discovered this San Diego home designer and began publishing his homes in the magazine. No single Sunsetbook before or since has had such a profound effect on the architectural environment of the Far West as it was being so rapidly actualized.
In 1951, Cliff May designed new headquarters for Sunset on the former Timothy Hopkins property in Menlo Park on the edge of San Francisquito Creek, originally part of a land grant made to Don Jose Arguello, governor of Spanish California, in 1815. The renowned landscape architect Thomas Church laid out the gardens. Working with the magazine's garden editors, Church created a garden with distinct areas representing the major climate zones of the West: Northern California, Central California, the Southwest Desert and Southern California, and the Northwest. He also helped establish a Test Garden for use by the editors. All this was centered around a 1.2-acre lawn, planted in colonial bent grass of the Astoria strain. At one end of the lawn stood the Old Man, a magnificent coast live oak hundreds of years in age. All in all, more than 300 kinds of shrubs, trees, vines, ground covers, annuals, and perennials were growing--and blooming!--in the garden at any given time. Eventually, after 1977, this entire garden would be irrigated from a well dug on the property.
Cliff May and Thomas Church: Each designer was a master in expressing an enchanted, almost dreamlike ambiance for gracious living in the West. (Thomas Church, after all, had invented the deck, first recognized in Sunset, perhaps the Far West's most notable contribution to domestic architecture after the Spanish-inspired patio.) In its headquarters, then, Sunset was making in architecture and landscaping an idealized presentation of the values for which it stood. Here at last was room and facilities not only for the editorial process but for what the magazine was soon calling a Laboratory of Western Living, including extensive kitchens and barbecue area where recipes could be tested. Not surprisingly, the Sunset headquarters itself became an object of tourist interest and soon averaged some 75,000 visitors a year.
In June 1952, the Territory of Hawaii became part of the editorial and circulation domain of Sunset, which took over the circulation of Hawaii Farm and Home, a magazine published by the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. The magazine now had editorial offices in Menlo Park, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Honolulu. In March 1952, the names of Bill and Mel Lane appeared on the Sunset masthead for the first time, Bill as advertising manager, Mel as business manager, with both involving far broader operating responsibilities than these titles imply. In fact, they were running the company, though under the watchful eye of their father. Adding Hawaii to the Sunset coverage was their first major policy decision. Now ensued a decade-plus of astonishing growth. As advertising manager, Bill Lane brought out back-to-back record-size 336-page issues in April and May 1956. Circulation topped 700,000 by 1957, more than 800,000 by 1965, in spite of the rapid growth of television and regional editions of national magazines. In 1957, the magazine began a series on the major cities of the Far West which began with San Francisco in November 1957 and ended with Salt Lake City in April 1965. In 1959, while Larry Lane remained chairman of the board, Bill Lane became publisher of Sunset magazine, and Mel Lane assumed the direction of Sunset Books. It was a new and continuously expanding era. In 1967 alone Sunset Books sold an astonishing 1.5 million copies.
On February 20,1967, just short of his 77th birthday, Larry Lane passed away. Modified and updated, but steadily adhered to, the editorial direction and business policies he had established nearly 40 years earlier had guided the enterprise into an era of unprecedented success. Lane's fourfold editorial policy of 1928--building, gardening, travel, and cooking--had brought discipline to a magazine that had lost its way. It did not, however, cut off variety within each category. Surveying the articles in this bibliography, in fact, one can see at once how Larry Lane's makeover of the magazine has been kept consistent across 70 years, but also how certain aspects of the previous Sunset identity, travel and recreation, for example, found congenial re-expression in the Lane editorial policy.
Heralding a New West
Sunset had begun as a vehicle to promote the West as place, for both settlement and travel. That orientation continued more vigorously than ever, following Larry Lane's editorial credo that it should be a magazine for the West, not about the West. This bibliography reveals an almost heroic inventory of the geography, flora, and fauna of the Far West. Even poison oak received its own article in 1960! And as early as 1930, the threat to the California live oak received attention. In each instance, following the Sunset editorial program, articles not only described the Far West but brought readers to it, as visitors or as settlers in a most engaged and practical, how-to-do-it way. Sunset was interested in scenery for its own sake, true; but the magazine was also concerned with the human equation: in bringing scenery, flora, and fauna together with people in an atmosphere of respectful enjoyment. Whether coming as tourists from one region of the West to another, or staying close to home (where the regional editions emphasized localized information), Sunset readers were encouraged to learn to live with nature, side by side, and absorb nature's gifts in a respectful, caring manner. This orientation toward the human equation no doubt accounts for the large number of notable articles, 408, devoted to landscaping and landscape architecture, which is to say, the human art form of working with nature to bring forth even further beauty.
When it came to landscapes, moreover, Sunset was no snob. Respecting wilderness, Sunset did not insist that only wilderness represents nature in its truest form. Sunset was interested in the irrigated landscapes of the California Central Valley and Arizona, as well as in the dry deserts of the Southwest, the wilds of the Snake River, or the glacial regions of Alaska. In each instance, whether wilderness preserve or urban park, Sunset was concerned with proper stewardship, use, and enjoyment: a direct continuity of its progressive heritage. Hence, Sunset's continuing interest in national parks, places of natural beauty set specifically aside for human enjoyment. Two important national parks, in fact, Redwood National Park in Del Norte County on the Northern California coast and the North Cascades National Park in Western Washington at the Canadian border, partially owe their creation in 1968 to the advocacy of Sunset editors and readers. Hence also Sunset's interest in urban parks. Golden Gate Park in San Francisco received frequent coverage, as did parks in other Western cities. Sunset played a major role in the establishment of the American River Parkway running through Sacramento. In its May 1973 75th Anniversary edition, Sunset ran a long article encouraging its readers to enjoy Griffith Park in Los Angeles. In November 1989 Sunset published a pioneering article outlining not only how visitors could enjoy the Presidio of San Francisco, but also its possible future as a public park, together with a rare signed editorial by Bill Lane entitled "Sunset and the Environment: Working With You to Help Conserve and Improve the West."
Hence also Sunset's continuing interest in cities and especially their suburbs, where much of Sunset's readership had homes. Over the years Sunset has given regular coverage to the older cities of the Far West, especially San Francisco and Los Angeles in their home state. As Northwest cities achieved greater prominence--Portland, Seattle, Tacoma, Boise, Salt Lake City--Sunset was on hand, providing early coverage; indeed, a significant number of articles deal with Portland and Seattle, two cities in which the Garden City ideal seemed especially promising of realization. Sunset introduced its readers to the overnight phenomenon of Phoenix, and later, when the Mountain states were added to Sunset's territory, such cities as Denver and Albuquerque appeared in the pages of the magazine. Nor wasSunset neglectful of smaller cities, for here as well were significant variations of the Far Western dream. When San Jose made its dramatic comeback in the mid-1970s, Sunset announced, "San Jose--Nowheresville in Renaissance."
In covering cities, Sunset also managed to introduce its readership to various ethnic groups in the Far West, new and old: the Chinese of Chinatown, and the Italians of North Beach, San Francisco; the Japanese of Los Angeles; the East Asian Indians and Basques of Central California and Nevada; the Mexican Americans of the Southwest. Sunset approached ethnicity not as part of the problem, but as part of the solution. Each ethnic group was frequently presented in terms of its food, traditions, and celebratory customs, in an effort to capture the poetry of heritage and identity.
In the matter of Native Americans, moreover, Sunset from the start and continuing through its 100-year career has presented these nations and peoples with great sympathy. As this bibliography indicates, Sunset paid attention to the diversity of Native American cultures from Alaska to New Mexico. It was the Native Americans of the Southwest, however--the Apache, the Hopi, the Navajo, the vanished Anasazi, their arts and architecture, their customs and rituals--which claimed the bulk of Sunset's attention, in both articles and stunning covers by Maynard Dixon. Sunset exhibited one of the finest collections of vegetable-died Navajo rugs at its Menlo Park headquarters.
An Expanding, Pacific-Oriented World to Explore
Over the years, moreover, Sunset expanded its territory, which is to say, its definition of the Far West. Alaska was on the mind of Sunset from the very first issue, with its reference to the Klondike Gold Rush. Then came editorial coverage of the Southwest and Mexico itself, 171 notable articles from 1898 to 1994. In fact, Southern Pacific had run a line into Mexico. When Sunset first began publication, New Mexico and Arizona were still territories. Writing about Mexico and the Spanish Southwest, including Native American culture, attracted many noted authors to Sunsetin the early years. In California, Sunset returned again and again to the missions as tourist destinations. (Its popular pictorial, California Missions, is still available.) By the late 1960s, Sunsetwas carrying articles on Mexico in nearly every issue. AmongSunset Books' best-sellers were the Travel Guide to Mexico(under various titles and editions dating from 1955) and The Sea of Cortez (1966).
While the focus of these articles remained, in the usual Sunsetfashion, fixed on travel and tourism, a cultural statement was nevertheless being made. Mexico and the United States, Sunsetwas suggesting, were neighbor republics in North America. Through California and the Spanish Southwest, they shared a common heritage and, increasingly, as the Hispanic population in these regions grew, a common people. Thus without preaching, Sunset advanced a notion of United States--Mexican dialogue, not through diplomacy but through tourism and a mutual appreciation of heritage, especially as expressed through crafts, cuisine, and south-of-the-border plants.
The first issue of Sunset announced steamship departures for the Pacific and informed the reader that tickets to Yokohama, Kobe, and Shanghai could be purchased at Southern Pacific's offices. The Asia Pacific Basin had always been linked to the Far West. In fact, the earliest support in the East (and by Congress) for a transcontinental railroad was mainly to encourage trade between the Eastern industrial areas and the Pacific Far East. The acquisition of California and the Spanish Southwest and of the Oregon Territory in the mid- nineteenth century made the United States a Pacific nation. San Francisco and Honolulu were linked from the late nineteenth century onward through travel, trade, and investment. Following the Second World War, Hawaii, the territory and then the state, became Sunset country. Beginning in the 1950s and continuing thereafter, Sunset paid special attention to Japanese gardening, Japanese bathing practices, Japanese interior design, and Japanese cuisine. Staying within its own editorial policy, in other words, Sunset was making its connection with that Japanese-California link which, on the level of architecture, cuisine, and aesthetics (as well as financial investment), was subtly transforming the Californian way of life. It was a process, moreover, under way since the early decades of the century, when Japanese architecture and building practices, absorbed by the Craftsman movement, had had such a dramatic effect on domestic design in the Golden State.
By the late 1960s Sunset publisher Bill Lane was publicly stating: "The magazine never publishes an issue without reporting on one or more Pacific Ocean countries, and the Book Division keeps a dozen books on the area constantly updated."(8) Books such as the Sunset Travel Guide to Australia and the Sunset Travel Guide to New Zealand, both first published in 1964, together with articles on this region in Sunset itself, coaxed forth and further articulated in terms of travel the long-standing connection between the Far West and the South Pacific. The parallels between Australia and New Zealand and the Far West were many, Australia especially. Like the Far West of the United States, Australia was generally an arid to semi-arid region dependent upon irrigation, though it had an even greater scarcity of surface water, lacking winter snows, and far fewer people. Each region had begun its economy in the nineteenth century with cattle raising, followed by agriculture. Each region found itself by the late twentieth century highly urbanized and highly suburbanized, with its populations pursuing a decidedly similar version of the good life. In 1985, President Ronald Reagan named Sunset publisher Bill Lane United States Ambassador to Australia and Nauru.
In 1952 Sunset became a founding member of the Pacific Area Travel Association (PATA, now the Pacific Asia Travel Association), promoting travel and tourism in this region. Indeed,Sunset must be considered a pioneer in alerting Americans to the possibilities of Pacific Basin travel. In 1899, Sunset published "A Trans-Pacific to the “Land of Aloha' and Beyond" by J. Sloat Fassett. After all, Sunset was founded at a time when Teddy Roosevelt and others were trumpeting the new Century of the Pacific. In 1924 the magazine published pioneering articles on travel to Australia and New Zealand. In 1927 it introduced its readership to the even more exotic locale of Fiji, and after World War II, Sunset helped a boom in tourism in Hawaii. Both the magazine and Sunset Books pioneered in introducing Americans to travel in the Pacific, including exotic locales off the beaten path of most tourists. Several Sunset Book titles further drew attention to Pacific island destinations.
Such interest in Hawaii and the South Pacific was part of Sunset's ongoing commitment since the very beginning to travel as one of the most engaging forms of leisure activity. Sunset, after all, had been founded in May of 1898 as a vehicle to promote travel to the West--and the Del Monte Hotel in Monterey!--via the Southern Pacific Railroad. Such travel by the upper classes was not a new phenomenon. As time went on, however, Sunset opened and supported the possibility that the middle classes might also make travel an important part of their leisure program. Once again, Sunset was echoing a Progressive ideal, in this case, the belief that the good life, including travel, should be available to as many people as possible.
Indeed, travel (even without counting closely related articles listed under national parks and outdoor recreation) constitutes the second largest category in the magazine across 100 years, some 1,388 notable articles, ranging from day trips to expeditions to Bora Bora and the Greek islands. Cumulatively, these travel articles reflect the rising prosperity of the nation and the expanding opportunities middle-class Americans were experiencing in the twentieth century. This was especially true in the West, where incomes were higher, and there was a greater propensity for year-round travel. Across the years, Sunset has advised its readers on how to travel by train, mule, horse, touring car, skis, snowshoes, houseboat, Ford Tri-motor, jet liner, cruise ships, and recreational vehicle to places worth seeing throughout the Far West, Mexico, Central America, Latin America, Europe, the South Pacific, the Far East--even Disneyland. In article after article, Sunset advised its readers on how best to enjoy the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, ski across the Truckee River in Nevada, see the aspens turn to gold along the Coronado Trail in Arizona, retrace the mining trails and bask in the midnight sun of Alaska, explore the jungles of the Yucatan, walk the beaches of Waikiki, or range through the Hawaiian back country by bicycle, picnic in Sonoma, view the Pacific from a promontory in Big Sur, search out new restaurants in Tokyo, shop for handicrafts in Mexico City, or just spend a day sampling the delights of Phoenix, Tucson, Reno, Denver, Boise, San Diego, Pasadena, Los Angeles, Fresno, San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland, Portland, Seattle, or Vancouver. In 1952 Sunset introduced its readers to the San Juan Islands. Who else but Sunset would advise its readers, as the magazine did in 1988, to explore Sawtooth, Idaho? But then again, in 1960, at the height of the Cold War, Sunset had even suggested a trip behind the Iron Curtain! Whether in the West or abroad, Sunset coined the term "Discovery Trip" to highlight hitherto-undiscovered travel destinations. Sunset championed what is now known as ecotourism long before the term became fashionable, with features on out-of-the-way wildlife and wilderness areas, emphasizing stewardship of the natural environment.
The rise of tourism as a lead element in the Western economy can be documented and placed in context through numerous Sunsetarticles across a century. Sunset pioneered travel to Alaska as well as to Hawaii and in so doing helped these territories along the road to statehood. It recommended travel to the affiliated Commonwealth of Puerto Rico as well, suggesting the summer off-season, and in so doing was perhaps encouraging the evolution of yet another American state. Sunset was among the first to discover Santa Fe as a stylish tourist destination, with early recognition of its now-famous outdoor opera and music seasons, and a source of new imagery for the Western lifestyle. In time, Santa Fe became a resort of international repute, as did Colorado, another Sunset favorite. (As an adolescent Larry Lane had first spent time on a relative's Colorado ranch during a tuberculosis scare, which fortunately turned out to be a false alarm.) Sunset also pioneered interest in Baja, California, showing a continuing fascination with that then-unsettled region, especially the Sea of Cortez, as demonstrated by its book on the region. Mexico remained a longtime Sunset favorite, and the magazine pioneered in promoting travel to Central America, a tradition honored today, as in the October 1997 "Colors of Oaxaca." Although Sunset ran a number of articles on travel to China in the 1920s, this option naturally diminished with the protracted wars in that nation through 1949, followed by the establishment of an initially tourist-hostile government. In its early years, Sunset promoted travel to Japan, then recently opened to the West, and it resumed its Japanese interest after the Second World War. Other destinations appearing occasionally in Sunsetincluded Spain, the Canary Islands, Argentina, France, and Great Britain. In such articles, Sunset reflected the ability of middle-class Americans, especially from the advent of jet travel in the 1960s, to visit locales once reserved for the affluent.
On the other hand, Sunset never lost touch in its travel articles with an emphasis upon nature and a family-oriented enjoyment of the outdoors as opposed to typical travel-guide emphasis on archeology or historical monuments. Beginning in the 1950s, in fact, there emerged an emphasis upon accessible, family-oriented vacations in the many travel articles published in the magazine and in such books as Sunset Western Travel Adventures (1979) and Sunset Western Campsites (first published in 1955). (Many destinations were mentioned in articles of less than one page, and while their impact was often immediate and strong, these shorter pieces could not be listed in this bibliography.)
The travel emphasis of Sunset also implied a continuing interest in transportation. All in all, Sunset published more than 174 notable articles on transportation in the Far West: on horseback and burro, by coach or skiff, or deep-water yacht (such as Jack London's Snark, described by Allan Dunn for Sunset in 1907 as it embarked for the South Seas), or bi-plane and Ford Tri-motor, foreshadowing the rise of airline travel in the Far West, to the touring automobile and the Sunset Limited train. Obviously, a railroad-founded magazine promoted the railroad as the primary means of tourist travel, including photographs of the beautiful Southern Pacific and Santa Fe Railroad stations throughout the Far West. Yet very soon, Sunset found itself introducing its readers to the wonders and delights of the touring automobile. A long article in the February 1907 issue, "Motoring in the West," is in and of itself an important document in the history of motor travel in America, then as now a more popular form of travel in the West because of the variety of destinations, proximity to scenic or rugged terrain (hence the regional preference for four-wheel-drive vehicles), and climate favorable to the open touring vehicle and its successor, the convertible. The cumulative pages of Sunset contained a near-complete inventory of automobiles through the twentieth century, including that cherished leisure-oriented suburban vehicle, the station wagon. When small foreign cars became all the rage in the late 1950s, Sunset was on hand with an article in 1959 on how best to camp with such a vehicle. Almost from the start, Sunset promoted the building and maintenance of high quality roads and highways. As the age of the automobile began to show some of its limitations, especially in the area of commuter travel, Sunset turned its attention to the problem of over-crowded freeways with an article in May 1988 on van-pooling. It also ran an article advising its readers to try travel on the newly built BART system.
A New Frontier: Leisure and the Western Middle Class
Through these many travel articles one can glimpse what is perhaps the single greatest benefit (other than home ownership) coming to the middle classes of the Far West in the twentieth century, especially the second half--leisure. In nineteenth-century America, significant leisure was in the main the prerogative of the more affluent classes. Increasingly, however, in the twentieth century more and more middle-class Americans had more and more time--weekends, national holidays, paid vacations--in which to travel or otherwise to enjoy recreational activities. Here was time for family life, for sport and other forms of recreation, for the cultivation of the inner landscape through enjoyable hobbies, for time to enjoy the sheer goodness of life. And no region had opportunities for using that time comparable to the West. Here again was a Progressive ideal: a belief in balance between work and leisure, money-making and soul-making activities. Hence arises another major category in this Sunset bibliography, recreation and leisure, 568 notable entries in all, covering every conceivable kind of activity. Taken together with travel, this allied category brings to over 2,000 the notable leisure-oriented articles published by the magazine.
Fly-fishing on Lake Tahoe, yachting on San Francisco Bay, duck hunting in the Delta country, tennis in Santa Cruz, golfing at Del Monte, and like activities in other areas served by the Southern Pacific: Initially, Sunset tended to emphasize upper-end, upper-class sorts of pursuits. As the century progressed, however, these activities--especially after the Lane family took over the magazine--became much more middle-class in their orientation; indeed, in the more than 500 notable articles dealing with recreation and leisure is evident a process through which the good life was being democratized. (For example, the once-elite subject of playing polo becomes in 1986, in an article entitled "Fast Polo and Relaxed Picnicking," an entirely accessible spectator sport for a family outing.) In general, one follows a path of development in Sunset in which leisure activities become more and more available to a broader and broader audience, though one which stays within Sunset's primary public of Western home-owning families.
Winter sports, for example, especially skiing, can be traced as they are being enjoyed by more and more Far Westerners. While fly-fishing remains a pursuit of the few, the swimming pool, once a prerogative of the more privileged, became a rather common backyard amenity. The Sunset book on swimming pools became a best-seller. Hence, the spate of articles from the 1950s onward suggesting ways of enjoying one's backyard, one's swimming pool, one's poolside barbecue, perhaps enjoyed with a spa and followed by a sauna, both early championed by the magazine. Golf, another prerogative of the affluent in the early years, becomes a municipal event with the rise of city-owned golf courses in the Far West. Outdoor life--camping, back-packing, hiking, pack trips with horses, river rafting--which once seemed the prerogative of the elite Sierra Club in the early years of the century (professional people, capable of mounting expensive expeditions into the Sierra Nevada) increasingly became an affordable family-oriented affair in state and federal lands that were far more abundant and available to more people. Every now and then (a 1975 article on hot air ballooning, for example) Sunset reverted to the once privileged and the exotic, and also as a travel opportunity for all reader families to enjoy as spectators. In the main, however, its activities--family sailing, bird watching, gathering driftwood on the beach, observing sea otters, arranging a chuck wagon party for teenagers, making and flying kites, hunting for exotic rocks, bicycling, skiing, snowshoeing, kayaking, rafting on the Klamath River--were within the financial reach of mid-America, but again, with greater interest and participation in the West, and particularly on the part of Sunsetreaders. In 1970, Sunset introduced its readers to the pleasures of playing boccie ball on the lawn. In 1975, serving the physical fitness craze, it introduced its readers to the PAR course. In fact, Sunset had installed its own PAR course at its headquarters; magazine employees served as models for an article in their own backyard, the Laboratory of Western Living.
Increasing Environmental Awareness and Activism
Travel and many of the leisure activities promoted by Sunset, moreover, were linked to conservationism. "Through travel in the West," Bill Lane pointed out in May 1969, "we also believe that people gain interest and courage to fight ugliness by appreciating beauty in both their homes and travels." (9) Both Bill and Mel had been reared in an instinctively conservationist environment, shaped by both the love of their parents for the outdoors and the pervasive conservationism of the Sunset ethos. Long before the term ecology surfaced in American discourse, Sunset had been advancing in both the pre-Lane and Lane eras a conservation ethos that was at the very center of the pre--World War I Progressive ideal. With the enthusiastic support of Bill and Mel Lane and their editors, Sunset magazine, books, and films advanced a steady, if occasionally subtle, program of conservation advocacy. The "Lane boys," as they were sometimes referred to, became active in conservation activities when they felt their efforts coincided with their own interests and those of the Lane publications. The magazine, for example, was among the first to see the possibilities of transforming the Presidio of San Francisco into one of the most distinctive national parks in the nation, a designation that has been achieved and is now being implemented. Two such activities that set a national precedent were the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission and the California Coastal Commission, on both of which Mel Lane served as the first chairman.
In all these efforts, Yosemite National Park has remained for three generations of Lanes and Sunset staff both the reality and the symbol of all that great national parks have to offer. On a trip to Yosemite in the early 1920s, Larry Lane made the decision to leave Iowa and become a citizen of the Far West; and in later years the Yosemite, which Bill and Mel Lane first saw as boys on their first summer vacation trip with their parents, remained for each of them--and later their families--a beloved place throughout a lifetime.
As Wallace Stegner and others have pointed out, the big question west of the 100th meridian is water, water, water. Both directly and indirectly, Sunset has been constantly addressing the water problem; indeed, like the Stanford campus nearby, the Cliff May--designed Sunset headquarters in Menlo Park, to which the company moved in 1951, favors the dry look. Beginning in the 1930s, use of water became more home-oriented. Water conservation has more recently been a frequent theme in Sunsetgardening articles. On a more macroscale, Sunset has addressed itself since its earliest years (e.g., "Phoenix, Born of Water," by J.O. Dunbar, August 1904) to the continuing question of water in the West, which is to say, the future of the West itself; for water constitutes the fundamental resource and environmental premise of Sunset country.
It is not, however, the only question. Among other causes, Sunsethas realistically aligned itself behind the cause of solar heating, especially in the home. It first addresses solar power as early as April 1903, with "Sunshine as Power" to pump water for irrigation, by Arthur Inkersley. The February 1979 issue (celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first Lane Sunset), featuring a cover-story article on a Colorado home of country singer John Denver, focused on solar heating. It also included an analysis of how the Native American pueblo cultures of the Spanish Southwest practiced this art. The articles in this issue--giving illustrated examples of solar-heated homes in New Mexico and Colorado and, in the usual Sunset fashion, providing extensive guidance for readers wishing to avail themselves of this nonpolluting, non-resource-consuming energy source--built upon the more ambitious treatment of the Sunset Homeowner's Guide to Solar Heating, published in 1978. In 1980, Pacific Gas & Electric cooperated with Sunset editors to build a demonstration of solar technology at Sunset's headquarters for public viewing. Solar heating had an international dimension as well, for Swedish architect and solar heating expert Varis Bokalders and Swedish journalist Barbro Larsson were brought aboard as consultants. (While importing such expertise from Sweden was unusual, the practice of engaging outside experts has long been a routine editorial practice.)
A Distinct Identity for the Western Home
The focus of these solar heating articles, in both book and magazine, was upon the home. So many of the categories in this bibliography--gardening, landscaping, architecture and home design, home improvement, workshop projects and crafts, and food preparation--directly serve the Sunset ideal of the home as balanced, rational, aesthetic, promotive of family life and personal development. It was the desire for a home and land of one's own, it must be remembered, which so powerfully motivated Far Western migration in the nineteenth century. Then, the goal was largely rural and agricultural, a 160-acre land grant and the chance to build a farmhouse and barn. Later, while remaining agricultural, that ideal transmogrified itself into urban and suburban circumstances: a family-owned house with a backyard in a decent neighborhood. In the highly suburbanized Far West, such ambitions took on the intensity of a crusade. A home of one's own and a flourishing family life became the popular image of what the Far West, beginning with California, most dramatically offered and thus was and is the natural focus of Sunset's editorial coverage and advertising--even though by no means all readers own their own home but find the spectrum of ideas stimulating and useful: They may be planning a home (or getaway home) or hoping to buy one, already using food and travel ideas, or enjoying container gardening. The ideal of a well-kept and aesthetic home for the Western family went hand in hand with a concern for the broader community and social responsibility. As Bill Lane would put it in 1969: "The family that maintains and improves its home, shares it with friends, goes traveling together, and pursues constructive hobbies, is relating in a very positive way to the social and natural environment of its community and country. Any responsible minister, psychiatrist, or probation officer can document that statement with very strong statistics." (10) Among the Progressives and even more so in Sunset, the focus was suburban over urban (though Sunset did run occasional articles on downtown or midtown multiple dwellings, which receive recognition via Sunset's Western Home Awards program, cosponsored with the American Institute of Architects). Sunset early began coverage of cluster dwelling development within the suburban milieu, thereby preserving open space in the planning process. For the suburban ideal, so redolent with Jeffersonian implications, expressed an America that was neither a landed patriciate nor an urban proletariat but was, rather, a flourishing middle ground, especially in the West, where suburban growth has been particularly pronounced.
In its architectural articles, as in the case of its travel and leisure articles, Sunset had a tendency in its early years to focus on the upper end of the economic spectrum, such as Porter Garnett's "Stately Homes of California" series in 1913--1914, describing the great estates of the San Francisco Peninsula, or Mira Maclay's description of James Duval Phelan's Villa Montalvo farther south, near Saratoga. Here were homes in the grand style, true, but available only to an affluent elite.
Fortunately, such an emphasis did not remain long in force. Almost simultaneously Charles Francis Saunders was describing "bungalow life" in 1913. When the Spanish Revival came in the 1920s, Sunset was there to cover it; indeed, it would not be difficult to piece together examples from nearly every phase of domestic architectural development in California and the Far West from Sunset articles and illustrations. (Even the condominium would receive some consideration in 1952.) In 1956, Sunset inaugurated, in conjunction with the Western chapters of the American Institute of Architects, its Western Home Awards program with a panel of noted professionals serving as jury. Interestingly, the suggestion that Sunset partner with AIA in this program came from Time Inc., which had earlier cosponsored similar award programs. Many of the homes recognized by Sunset went on to win national awards, and a number of architects recognized in the program achieved regional or national reputations. This program also brought landscape architects and interior designers as judges and was the first to include remodeling and recreational homes as separate categories. This biennial awards program continues to thrive under SunsetPublishing Corporation.
If the truth be told, Sunset was not much concerned with historicity in Spanish or other Revival styles. Its persistent preference, rather, if one is to judge from homes and architects recognized, was for homes in a simple, straightforward manner, devoid of historical fussiness, a style that can be generically described as California Ranch. Cliff May, for instance, worked in this idiom, although his homes did possess a strong Spanish or Mexican ambiance, as did other popular designers and architects featured in Sunset. This ambiance came, however, not from historical detail but from the emphasis on roof line, wall, mass, and volume in dialogue with, but not slavishly repeating, the best elements in the Southwestern and Southern Californian adobe. The concept of a home ranged across the entire space between property lines, encompassing both interior and exterior in a single living space. Thus, fences and landscaping for privacy became important concerns and prompted several Sunset books. Ditto patios and decks, as witnessed, among numerous examples, by 1993's "Best Owner-built Deck."
Sunset also paid attention to the second home, a growing phenomenon in the Far West. Sunset began to cover second homes in 1920, then often called "vacation cabins," and Lane published a book on the topic in 1932. Through its coverage of second, or recreational, homes, Sunset is credited with launching the A-frame design and the hillside or waterfront deck, which again extended living space into the outdoors.
Home Improvement and Remodeling: A Continuous Stream of Practical Solutions
Homes, whether primary or secondary, not only have to be designed and built (and Sunset ran a number of articles on building materials and techniques), they also have to be adapted and improved over the years, often by adding additions or remodeling. For Sunset, fixing up one's home constituted a near-ritual. Here, after all, is a celebration of both the home as the locus of family togetherness and as one's individual responsibility for maintaining the house, while often inspiring community pride and engagement through a virtual contagion of visible improvement. And besides: Home improvement is both fun and practical, particularly in adding value to the owner. All in all, this bibliography lists 780 notable entries in the home improvement category. In the early Lane years of the Depression, the emphasis was upon such basic but still new items as electrical wiring, refrigerators, and water heaters. (It is not coincidental that these were years when advertisement was less abundant. Later, as advertising volume grew, expansion of editorial content followed.)
From the start, Sunset is interested in roofing design and materials and in the development of unused space. When new construction products such as plywood come on line, Sunset responds with suggestions. Sunset sees glass as a positive construction material that both delineates space and enables visual possession of the outdoors. In the 1950s Sunset began to introduce its readers to the advantages of sliding glass doors and the skylight: another case of allowing the light of the Far West to stream into the home.
Sunset, however, remains more than slightly suspicious of air conditioning, which closes off the home and consumes vast amounts of electricity. Sunset tries to emphasize as much as possible, rather, designs and materials facilitating natural ventilation, along with landscaping for shade. On the other hand, Sunset embraced early the microwave oven, prototype models of which were tested in Sunset kitchens. These became especially popular in the West with its higher incomes and more active lifestyle, and in turn, furthered the use of frozen foods, which were consumed proportionately more than in other regions. The computer, too, which made its appearance in the May 1988 90th Anniversary issue, was enthusiastically welcomed, as were many technological advances which improved the safety, utility, and comfort of the home. Just a few blocks away from Sunsetheadquarters, Silicon Valley was in the process of taking the Far West and the world into cyberspace and bringing cyberspace into the Far Western home. Sunset practiced what it preached, too; its own production was one of the earliest magazines to be automated with the Atex computer system for editing and composition. To the Sunset way of thinking, high technology and conservationism (in such forms as efficient programmable heating/cooling and sprinkler systems) went hand in hand. Sunsetpublications had a high penetration among high-tech research and technical professionals, who, with their families, were often home owners in traditional Sunset areas.
Sunset also made many valuable suggestions on how to integrate the storage, display, and use of books into the home, as both a source of knowledge and adornment. Some Sunset housing suggestions, the decorative use of stained glass, for example, were very much part of an era, in this case the revival of the 1970s; but in general, home improvement articles tended not to be overly faddish. There are a number of realistic suggestions as well--burglar alarms and security systems, for example--reflecting the more noir aspects of contemporary life.
Sunset served as a leader in the development of the American kitchen after the Second World War from a hidden workplace, peopled by either servants or an isolated woman, to an active positive space where the family, not just the cooking mother, came together. Its kitchen books were among its best-sellers.Sunset was an early popularizer of how-to-do -it solutions, such as open kitchens with adjoining family room, island counter spaces, built-in appliances, glassed-in herb or kitchen gardens. Sunset also paid close attention to the bathroom, which like the kitchen was being rapidly developed in the second half of the twentieth century, another trend initiated in the West and first reported by Sunset. Among other innovations, Sunset introduced its readers to the Finnish sauna and the Japanese hot tub, in the forefront of national trends. In the case of its articles dealing with the renovation of older homes, with respect for their architectural integrity, Sunset showed a strong preservationist commitment.
Coming outdoors, Sunset returned again and again to the enclosed patio as a distinctively Far Western form of indoor/outdoor space. Closely allied to the patio, and also an indoor/outdoor construction, was another Sunset favorite, the deck. Then there was the poolside, which was also in the mind of Sunset a form of outdoor living space connected to the house itself, far more popular in the West because of extended swimming seasons.
The Suburban Freeholder's Domain: Intensifying One's Plot of Land as Living Space
In a tradition that went as far back as Thomas Jefferson, who built a serpentine wall at Monticello, Sunset made many valuable suggestions as to how brick, stone, and Mexican-inspired adobe walls might protect and enhance the garden. Here again is another major category in this bibliography, gardening, 1,170 notable entries in all. As metaphor and ideal, the garden offered one of the most powerful images associated with the Far West in the nineteenth century. As the theory of Manifest Destiny suggested, it was the destiny of the American people to settle the Far West and make the desert bloom: as agriculture, of course (as ardently promulgated by the Southern Pacific), but also as horticulture and landscape architecture and parks, such as those set aside by San Francisco in 1855 (Golden Gate Park) and San Diego in 1870 (Balboa Park). The search for the Garden of the West was central to the epic of Western settlement and migration: made all the more challenging by the fact that a significant percentage of the Far Western environment was arid or semi-arid. To seek the Garden of the West, then--whether as agriculture or horticulture--was to seek to redeem the land, to make the desert bloom, with all that such biblical imagery implied. Planting the West was nothing less than a search for redemption itself. With the addition of Alaska and Hawaii to the Far West, moreover, two very dramatic and contrasting environments were added to this garden quest.
In time, especially after 1928, Sunset increasingly concerned itself with the domestic garden as well. As with cooking, Ruth Lane, a keen gardener before and after she came West, played a key role as a participating consultant to the garden editors. As far as garden theory is concerned, Sunset would seem to have preferred over the years the informal, slightly romantic garden, although it did publish a number of articles dealing with large formal gardens as well. With so much of the Far West being semi-arid, even desert, Sunset paid extensive attention--beginning in 1930 with such articles as "Gardening in the Land of Little Rain"--to water conservation-oriented techniques, encouraging its readers not to waste water, but to garden with nature rather than against it.
Sunset also advocated a 12-month cycle of planting, as only possible in the Far West, as evident in another 1930 article, "A Year-Round Garden Calendar," by the great landscapist John McLaren, superintendent of Golden Gate Park. Numerous articles suggested how Sunset readers, both men and women, might take their autumn plants into winter, their winter plants into spring, their spring plants into summer, and their summer plants back into autumn, and thus to achieve a rich and varied garden year. With gardening especially, Sunset's regional editions reflected local soil, weather, and other regional differences. In numerous articles, Sunset helped its readers carry on a civilized warfare against garden pests, including the omnipresent deer and the medfly, which made its debut in 1981. Sunset also encouraged the development of gardening as a family ritual, publishing articles which encouraged parents to introduce children to gardening as early as possible and thus make of it a lifetime avocation. Paying attention to the placement, care, and cultivation of the more standard trees--maple, birch, ash--Sunset, beginning in 1965, also assisted the more exotic palm in making a triumphant comeback. Within 25 years, in fact, transplanted palm trees would be commanding fantastic prices. Often symbolic of stately landscaping as seen today with Palm Drive at Stanford University, planned by Frederick Law Olmsted for the original campus, the Southern Pacific promoted commercial development of date palm growing in the California desert, following the development of irrigation. Sunset also gave advice on the growing of fruit trees--apple, fig, pear, cherry, even the banana tree ("Bananas in Your Garden?" August 1996)--as part of the garden environment. In 1959 Sunset introduced its readers to the Japanese bonsai.
The edibility of garden fruit underscored another dimension of Sunset's garden advice, the vegetable garden--carrots, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, sweet potatoes--which had provided such a main staple of the Home Front through the Victory Garden movement in the Second World War. In 1982, in far more peaceful and profitable times, Sunset encouraged its readers to grow their own endive (and thereby save themselves $6 a pound for this gourmet product at their local market) as well as fresh herbs, again more widely used in the West.
In its attention to flowers, Sunset encouraged its readers to merge native blooms (the poppy, the sunflower, lupine) with the unpretentious imported (the honeysuckle, the pansy, the geranium), the delicate imported (the hibiscus, the daffodil, the peony, the crocus, the petunia, jasmine, dahlia, and orchid), together with such luxuriant standbys as the begonia, the camellia, the lily, the magnolia, and the fuchsia. And then there was always the rhododendron and the chrysanthemum, flourishing so magnificently in the admixed sunshine and fog of the coastal regions, blooming across the year in a riot of Impressionist hue; and rich red poinsettias for Christmas, and every now and then an exotic, such as a 1930 article on the night-blooming Cereus which opens its flower between twilight and sunset, then vanishes into blossomless secrecy for another cycle. Above all, there was the rose, a variety of which, the SunsetCelebration, was introduced and named in honor of Sunset during this Centennial Year (just as the Sunset Jubilee was introduced during the magazine's 75th anniversary).
From the 1970s onward, Sunset was especially eager to integrate indoors and outdoors through flowering plants. Take shrubs, ferns, and flowers back into the home from the garden, Sunseturged its readers. Line the deck with bold earthen pots big enough to support plants that would link the indoor and outdoor environments. Create hanging gardens in the kitchen or suspend window gardens off the kitchen or the bedroom. Adorn living rooms with ficus. Live, in short, as completely as possible in the garden of the Far West, an essential component of an even larger ideal, the home. Sunset's headquarters exemplified this integration of outdoors and indoors for its hundreds of thousands of visitors.
Cultivation of the Home Life: Crafts, Holidays, Food
Likewise did household crafts and food preparation serve this domestic ideal. Articles on crafts began appearing in Sunsetincreasingly from the 1930s and reached 265 notable entries by 1997. Like gardening and recipes, the vast majority of these projects--pack and ship a gift of Western fruit, build a tree house for kids with a safe exit rope, build a bird house, construct a Japanese folding bed, build your own outdoor picnic table--were home improvement and other family-oriented projects fitting into the overall Sunset philosophy of the home as domestic ideal and showing care for the quality and rhythms of daily life. Here again, these projects often appealed as much to readers who did not own their own homes as to home owners. The sheer variety of these projects is astonishing. Some of them involve simple skills; others, more advanced knowledge of carpentry or other skills. As in the case of gardening and food preparation, crafts suggestions were keyed to the cycle of seasons. For Halloween, for example, make costumes for children out of paper bags.
The Christmas holidays represent an especially intense season for crafts (make Christmas Magi for the windows, make homemade Christmas cards and tree ornaments); indeed, all things considered, Christmas is the favorite Sunset season, at least in terms of the predominance of Christmas-oriented crafts and menu suggestions. In its Christmas recipe proposals, Sunset adhered to tradition (bake Christmas breads) but at the same time offered over the years an intriguing number of variations on the traditional Christmas dinner. Not, however, that Sunset ever forgot the turkey! But Sunset often added a Western twist, for example, by barbecuing the holiday bird. It would seem, in fact, if one were to judge from the turkey-related items in this bibliography, that Sunset was making a special cause of this low-fat, low-calorie, high-protein bird: just another example of the nutritional and health awareness which pervades the 1,391 notable food, holiday, and entertaining suggestions in this bibliography.
In the case of its treatment of food themes, moreover, in both the magazine and in its many cookbooks, Sunset adhered to its usual philosophy of balance and practicality, the cycle of seasons, and family values. Many Sunset recipes originated as suggestions from readers. All recipes are thoroughly tested in the Sunsetkitchens at the Menlo Park headquarters by a trained staff of food editors with employee and outside panels of chefs, restaurateurs, food writers, and selected members of the public, with the likes of Julia Child and Duncan Hines among the guest experts.
What is the Sunset philosophy of food? Like so many other aspects of Sunset, it is keyed to the range and variety of the Far West, the cycle of seasons, family life, and that persistent elegant simplicity that was ever part of the Sunset aesthetic. The formula was set by editor Genevieve Callahan, with the help of Ruth Lane, upon the publication of the first "Sunset Kitchen Cabinet" feature in the first Lane issue. Most explicitly with the later addition of the "Chefs of the West" monthly feature, Sunsetenergetically brought men into the kitchen or barbecue area. Long before the rise of Martha Stewart, Sunset was sustaining a continuing dialogue, at once intimate and practical, with its readers as to how food preparation might help them celebrate their lives, enjoy their region, reinforce their family life, along with sharing with friends, and experience the pleasures of good taste.
Each season has its special foods and recipes--summer, winter, fall, spring, the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Passover, Easter--and in recommending such seasonal recipes, Sunset was once again, as it did in encouraging its readers to plant a 12-month garden, helping its readers make life a little better, a little more caring, a little more enhanced. What kind of dishes might be served on long summer evenings, spent outdoors on the lawn? What kind of food could be served on long wintry evenings spent by the fire? What kind of foods would be fun to be served in the autumn, with football in the air, or in the spring, when the infinite variety of Far Western agriculture made itself most noticeable at the local grocery store or supermarket? Wine, for Sunset's food editors, was both a cooking ingredient and a beverage to serve for all seasons. Sunset built on the vineyard heritage of the Spanish missions, promoted wine regions throughout the Far West, and backed its editorial emphasis with an advertising policy that declined ads for all alcoholic beverages except wine. (Beer ads, like tobacco ads, were discontinued early in the Second World War years.)
For Sunset, cooking could so often be a unifying family ritual; hence, Sunset recommended that families cook together whenever possible, that teenagers be taught how to cook, and, by implication but powerful nevertheless, that a family "team effort" was part of a rewarding family life. Hence, Sunset paid attention to family vacation time as well as the rest of the year, with recipes for campfire cooking on outdoor treks or simple summer dishes to be enjoyed in mountain cabins or cottages by the sea. There is a near-infinity of suggestions for how best to prepare a picnic: family picnics in the main, but also picnics for couples, together with suggestions for an elaborate picnic buffet while tailgating before a football game.
In discussing the philosophy of the Sunset recipe and cookbook program, editors emphasized the variety of fruits, vegetables, and dairy products in Sunset country. Certainly, Sunset played no small role in helping to revolutionize American cuisine--such a meat-and-potatoes affair in the nineteenth century--by repeated recipes emphasizing garden vegetables and seasoning. Sunset also helped make such new, even exotic vegetables as the asparagus, the artichoke, the eggplant, and the avocado (actually a fruit) assimiliable to the Western, and eventually American, palate. In the case of the asparagus, a luxury vegetable was made middle-class. In the case of the avocado and the eggplant, even disrespected foods (in earlier times the avocado was used as animal feed) were upgraded in their status. If one were to judge by the number of recipes, one might say that Sunset practically re-invented the salad--or at the least brought the salad to the fore as a meal in itself as well as a side dish--with novel combinations of vegetables, fruits, seafood, cheeses, and wine dressings. Once again, the emphasis was upon the intrinsic healthfulness of salads as a main-course dish and the seemingly infinite variations of which salads were capable. Sunset's early cookbooks were unique and promoted to the book trade for covering foods "from artichoke to zucchini," neither easily available nationally outside the West at the time.
What was true of vegetables was equally true of fruits, another bountiful product of the Garden of the West. Obviously, Sunsetpaid attention to such known fruits as the apple, the orange, the pear, the plum, and the cherry; and when such new fruits as the mango, papaya, kiwi, and, most recently, pluot were introduced, Sunset came forward with suggestions-- for instance, not only serving papaya fresh, but also baked. It also brought its readers to a better understanding of two other genres, berries and melons, made possible by the eclectic vitality and year-round growing season of Far Western agriculture. While the strawberry was reasonably known in the Sunset market, the raspberry began its career as a more exotic introduction, and the blueberry seemed very much a Yankee import. As far as melons were concerned, Americans knew the watermelon, and Far Westerners knew the cantaloupe; but Sunset helped them appreciate even more exotic varieties of this genre--the Crenshaw, the Persian, the casaba, the honeydew--imported from the Middle East and now flourishing in the Far West amidst comparable warmer climate and soil conditions. (Thirsty crops such as melons generally benefited from Western large-scale irrigation systems, as reported by Sunsetthroughout the century.)
Not that Sunset lost connection with such old-fashioned standards as the sandwich, the mashed potato, and homemade bread. Over the years, in fact, Sunset showed great respect for the American sandwich, documenting and presenting its variations throughout the Far West; and perhaps only Sunset would have the courage to promote so many variations on the theme of mashed potatoes. In a number of recipes, the classic American hamburger is garnished with elements of haute cuisine. There are dozens of articles on pie-baking and jam-making; and even the prosaic cabbage takes on a certain éclat when submitted to the Sunset recipe treatment. Then there is the case of that ritual of Far Western identity, the barbecue. As might be expected, Sunset has innumerable articles on barbecuing, to include such mildly exotic variations as barbecuing a whole salmon or a whole pig, barbecuing in the Mongolian style, barbecuing on mesquite. Sunset often tested different types of built-in barbecue designs--both indoor and outdoor--as well as portable barbecues. Many articles, along with several books, detailed instructions for building barbecues and other outdoor cooking facilities, such as one of Sunset's most popular how-to-do-it projects: a Mexican adobe baking oven.
Another luxury food brought by Sunset to the broad Western middle-class palate was seafood, following earlier traditions of other coastal areas, such as New England and the Eastern Seaboard and the Gulf states. While San Francisco and Seattle had long since developed as seafood towns, Far Westerners in general did not frequently include seafood in their daily diet, with the exception perhaps of mountain trout fried in a skillet in the summertime or the tuna fish sandwich sent to school in a lunch bag. In the course of many recipe suggestions, Sunset patiently tutored Americans in the Far West in how to prepare and appreciate a food which, if not treated properly, dramatically loses its excellence. Thanks in part to Sunset, salmon, sea bass, sand dabs, abalone, crab, seafood soups, even crayfish and lobster bisque, became part of the Far Western dining vocabulary, and the many regional varieties, such as Dungeness and Alaska crab, Coho salmon, and the Olympic oyster, were recognized and made popular.
While demanding in their own way, Sunset recipes were never needlessly fussy or self-absorbed. Sometimes, as in the case of suggesting something as simple as a few selected spices to be added to ice tea, a Sunset recipe could be breathtakingly brief. One exception would be the years that "Chefs of the West" featured recipes for men only, and when recipes were often lengthy and time consuming. Rather than payment for recipes, published contributors received a chef's hat and apron. In other instances--making apple cider, cooking venison--one felt the re-emergence of an older American frontier. Sunset never threw itself excessively into the nouvelle cuisine movement. It did not have to, and yet some of today's "California Cuisine" has its roots in early Sunset magazines and books such as the 1936 Sunset All-Western Cook Book, largely made up of Sunset magazine recipes submitted by California readers. Its food philosophy already emphasized nutritiousness and simplicity. Yet it did advise its readers on how to roast their own coffee or serve pasta for breakfast, or even prepare special gourmet dishes in the microwave. In the matter of wine, Sunset avoided excessive connoisseurship and snobbery, preferring instead to emphasize the availability of good wines at moderate prices and how they might be served unpretentiously with food. Sunset's popular wine books encouraged readers not only to use wines but to visit wineries throughout the West, as Sunset magazine articles continue to do today. Thus, by refusing to intimidate them, Sunsetbrought its readers forward in their taste for, and knowledge of, wine: another ambition as venerable as the wine program of Thomas Jefferson himself, who believed that Americans would never be truly civilized until they learned to enjoy wine as a daily beverage with simplicity and moderation.
Two foods--sourdough bread and Jack cheese--exercised a special fascination on the Sunset staff as emblems of the Far West. Each commemorative issue, in fact--May 1973 (75th), May 1978 (80th), and May 1988 (90th)--ran articles on sourdough French bread as the bread of the West. The May 1973 issue ran a very scholarly article on the history of sourdough, including a chemical analysis of sourdough starter by Professor George York of UC Davis. Needless to say, sourdough French also received due treatment in the Sunset Cook Book of Breads (in five editions from 1963 to 1994) and continues to be featured in the magazine, as recently as March 1998 ("Our Daily Bread: Easier Than You Think").
The same was true of Jack cheese, another product of the California frontier, in this case, the Monterey County dairy of Scotsman David Jacks, who arrived in California in 1850 and went into the dairy and cheese-making business. As in the case of sourdough French bread, Jack cheese--fresh or dry, or California teleme, a first cousin of Jack, all of it manufactured in five cheese factories, three in the San Francisco Bay Area, two in the Central Valley, which Sunset encouraged its readers to visit--offered late twentieth-century Americans a continuing taste of the California frontier.
By the late twentieth century that frontier had produced an extraordinarily diverse population, whose cuisines found their way into the magazine. Over the years Sunset has shown a total and encompassing respect for the cuisine traditions of the Far West, whether the product of Native America, the Spanish, Mexican, or American frontier, or recent immigration. Mexican food, for example, offered Sunset readers an opportunity to enjoy the dishes of the very civilization which had first explored and organized California and the Spanish Southwest. Enchiladas, tortillas, tamales and tamale pie, tacos, huevos rancheros, the burrito, the chilis and peppers of the Southwest, Mexican salads and vegetables, the blue corn of New Mexico, Mexican food on Christmas Eve, even Mexican fondue and Mexican Lite for weight watchers: The recipes of Sunset do more than justice to the food of Mexico and the Spanish Southwest. Also well represented are the dishes brought to the Far West by Basque sheepherders. As Hawaii loomed on the consciousness of Far Westerners, Polynesian recipes made their appearance. Japanese food proved an especial favorite, and Sunset must be given major credit for introducing the middle classes to sushi. By the 1970s, Sunset, like the Far West itself, then in the beginnings of a global immigration, was reaching out to India, to Indonesia, to Thailand, and to Morocco for food influences. By the mid-1980s, Vietnamese cuisine was showing a strong presence. With time, these influences have recombined with other sources, for example, to produce such exotic crosses as "Bouillabaisse, Hawaii-Style" (May 1997).
Resurgence of Stewardship as Pressures Mount on Western Environment
All this suggested that the Far West had become an international place in both its peoples and its cuisine. One hundred years earlier, Sunset had been founded to serve a smaller and more restricted audience and a sparsely settled region. Now that audience, once almost exclusively Anglo-American, contained the cultures and ethnicities of the planet. Still, the same ambition remained at Sunset: to provide this audience with the information and references it needed to pursue its identity, maintain its quality of life, and exercise proper stewardship over its region. Sunsetbegan as a travel magazine, then exfoliated into a general review in the pre-Lane era. The Lanes had brought focus, and from this focus had come new strength. By the May 1973 75th Anniversary issue, however, Sunset was expanding on its growing concerns with environmental considerations outside the fourfold editorial policy--building, gardening, travel, and cooking--which had served it so well.
"Can the West Grow Wisely and Well?" Sunset asked in its 75th Anniversary issue. Several environmentalists, including Starker Leopold, sought to answer the question. Recognizing the importance of government, Sunset included comments on the future by eight Western governors. Merely to ask this question implied a certain concern for the problems facing Far Western life. Sunset country could no longer be taken for granted. The great big Far West had its own great big problems to face, and Sunset, while not abandoning its nearly half-century identity, could not help but be open to the challenges of the present. Six years later, in the February 1979 issue celebrating 50 years of Lane ownership, Sunset took pride in its role in advocating environmental living, progressive technology, the new agriculture and aquaculture, good nutrition, preservationism, and public parks. By the May 1988 90th Anniversary issue, Sunset had become even more explicit regarding the social and environmental challenges facing the Far West. Hence, the articles on traffic, open space, waste management, urban design, water conservation, and other social and environmental matters in this anniversary issue. Sunset still stood for a better life--for travel and recreation, for building and remodeling, for food and entertainment, for gardening and landscaping, for outdoor living, for workshop and crafts--but it had also aligned itself solidly behind the effort to deal with the awesome challenges facing the region. The November 1994 issue, for example, described "Painting to Save the Land," revealing that "armed with brushes and canvases, Santa Barbara's Oak Group fights to save open spaces." Mel Lane, in a 1988 editorial celebrating the 90th anniversary of Sunset, wrote: "As we look toward our centennial and the beginning of the 21st century, we see more challenges ahead… Sunset editors are already researching solutions to these and other challenges. And as the West continues to change, so will we."
In one sense, however, while this response to challenge was receiving a more explicit acknowledgment, it was nothing new. Reminiscent of the Progressive philosophy earlier in the century, conservation, preservation, and stewardship had long been part of the Sunset program, whether expressly stated in the early era of the general review or reflected in the Lane era through the presentation of better ways of living and later with articles expressing strong concerns for various environmental issues. Over the years, Sunset had its critics, as any strong publishing institution will, such as the Stanford professor, talking to journalist Neil Morgan at a conference at Carmel in 1958, who believed that Sunset "... could spearhead an emerging sense of Western responsibility" and should return to its earlier identity as an intellectual review. The professor told Morgan, "Sunset could be a terrific force for good in the West today." (11) The unnamed Stanford professor was of course wrong on both counts, unaware or forgetting, on the one hand, that Sunset had gone broke as an intellectual review 30 years earlier and, on the other hand, that the formula as enunciated in the first Lane issue was very much a force for good in supporting strong family values. It also would develop a distinguished record of advocacy for the Western environment, addressing regional problems with workable solutions. In fact, Sunset: The Magazine of Western Living had been flourishing for three decades by 1958, not only addressing problems but helping to solve them, and its circulation was in better shape than ever. As background, it is worth noting that the Far West had never in its history supported a general review for any significant length of time. And Sunset's influence for social and environmental improvements has increased greatly over the years.
Why? Because Sunset does not proselytize. Sunset, rather, for most of a century has advanced its message through adherence to context and practical, useful facts. Readers do not feel intimidated by Sunset. On the contrary, they feel supported and encouraged in their desire to make their lives as dignified, as purposeful, and as enjoyable as possible. And besides: At the core of Sunset is message enough. Here is a magazine based upon the fundamental goodness of life and the nurturing and ennobling Far West where the good life can be pursued, but with an added social responsibility to others. As Wallace Stegner stated in a 1978 video interview produced by Sunset Films, "Sunset is both traditional--in that it takes its stance from Western places, architecture, gardens, and food--and progressive in that it knows that in an all-but-experimental society like that of the West, change is going to be a constant. Sunset, on its record, is as competent to deal with change as to reflect the unchanging." (12)
As long ago as ancient Greece, and certainly among the Founding Fathers of the American Republic, this notion--the pursuit of happiness--possessed the force of a fundamental and transforming idea. From this perspective, Sunset is about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness: life in the Far West, liberty to make that life as good as possible, happiness to pursue in a thousand simple ways, alone or with one's family, in the midst of landscapes which in the nineteenth century had beckoned Americans to cross a trackless continent. Sunset now, as the twentieth century turns into the next millennium, beckons the world as well to see in this Far Western region one of the most privileged and promising portions of Planet Earth.
(1) Sunset Western Market Almanac (1989), p. 7. As reported in the Statistical Abstract of the United. States, the 13 Far Western states in 1994 were the sixth largest international economy; see Tables 696 and 1347 (Washington, D.C. : Government Printing Office, 1997).
(2) Some of the magazines cited in this paragraph have ceased publication (e.g., the Overland Monthly. and Scribnerís), while others have changed editorial direction (e.g., The New Yorker and The Saturday Evening Post).
(3) Sunset (May 1898), inside cover advertisement for Hotel Del Monte.
(4) Paul C. Johnson, "Introduction," The Early Sunset Magazine 1898-1928 (1973), p.11.
(5) It was as if social awareness had reached a critical mass around 1900 that set reform activity going as a major, self-sustaining phenomenon of early twentieth-century America. Interpretations of the Progressive Era (1900-1914) differ sharply ranging from conservative, Richard Hofstadterís The Age of Reform: From Bryan to F.D.R. (New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 1959), to liberal, Robert H. Wiebeís The Search For Order, 1877-1920 (New York: Hill and Wang, 1967), to left-wing, Gabriel Kolkoís The Triumph of Conservatism: A Re-interpretation of American History, 1900-1916 ([New York]: Free Press of Glencoe, ). Other works that interpret particular Western aspects of the period are William Deverell and Tom Sitton, eds., California Progressivism Revisited (Berkeley : University of California Press, 1994); Robert Paehlke, Environmentalism and the Future of Progressive Politics (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989); Tom Sitton, John Randolph Haynes: California Progressive (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1992); Robert E. Hennings, James D. Phelan and the Wilson Progressives of California (New York: Garland, 1985); and Hiram Warren Johnson, The Diary Letters of Hiram Johnson, 1917-1945, edited by Robert E. Burke (New York: Garland, 1983).
(6) Des Moines Register, Sept. 15, 1928, p. 11.
(7) Laurence W. Lane, Jr., The Sunset Story (1973), p. 18.
(8) Ibid., p. 27.
(9) Ibid., p. 27.
(10) Ibid., p. 28.
(11) Neil Morgan, Westward Tilt, The American West Today (1963), p. 20.
(12) Looking In on Sunset: With Wallace Stegner (Sunset Video, 1978).