How Ideas Can Still Make You Millions

By Gerhard Gschwandtner

Cyrus H. K. Curtis, the founder of Curtis Publishing Company, started a little newspaper when he was 13 years old. He bought a hand press for $3 and called his four-page paper Young America. After he built up his circulation to 100 copies a week, a fire destroyed his entire operation.

Seven years later, in 1870, he became an advertising salesman for a small paper in Boston. He was a good salesman and one day the owner offered to sell him the publication for $250. But Curtis refused. He knew that the chances for the business to grow were slim. “All right, then,” said the owner, “you can have it for nothing.” Curtis took it and for the next five years he wished he hadn’t. He finally gave up the publication and went to Philadelphia where he got married.

It was his wife Louisa who led him to his first major success. He had started another paper, The Tribune & Farmer, and one day his wife called his attention to the so-called “Woman’s Page.”

“Who wrote that?” she asked.

“I did,” replied Curtis.

“It’s utterly ridiculous,” she said.

“Well,” snapped Curtis, “perhaps it is. Would you write a page for me?” She did. Her page at once became the best part of the paper. Her idea was so successful that the “Woman’s Page” turned into several pages until they renamed the publication the Ladies’ Home Journal.

As soon as the publication produced enough profits, Curtis bought a little weekly publication called the Saturday Evening Post.

Cyrus Curtis built up the circulation of both magazines to well over two million subscribers each. The Saturday Evening Post became the embodiment of the term “Americana,” and Curtis ultimately bought and developed an entire string of publications which made him the most successful publisher in the world.