Seventy-five Fat Years

Coming Soon to a Bookstore Near You

One-hundred-and-twenty-five bound volumes of Commonweal sit on our office shelves (1924–1998). The first issue appeared on November 12, 1924, and the 75th anniversary issue will appear on November 19, 1999, all part of the unstinting efforts of editors, writers, and reviewers to make sense of the Catholic and American encounter. Seventy-five years is something to celebrate. And we will.

In fact, we began this past summer when each of those volumes of Commonweal was scrutinized for an anthology. Patrick Jordan, our managing editor, took the lead in coordinating this massive effort. We were each assigned two decades (or more). In all, some hundreds of items were proposed. Then came the hard part. Choosing. Sometimes the discussion was as heated as the one that first ended in publication. Others were shoo-ins. There were favorites, of course, that didn’t make it: G.K. Chesteron on "Religion and Sex," from that very first issue is briefly excerpted across the page. One of my own favorites never had a chance: Michael Williams’s series covering the 1925 Scopes trial in Dayton, Tennessee, did not pass our first principle of selection, continuing relevance. The trial was a landmark case, but today it belongs in the history books. Unlike H.L. Mencken who famously mocked the "rubes," Williams brought a discerning eye to the town, to the defendants, the prosecutors, and the issues. But he did go on. Of course,...

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About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.