11/21/02
St. Nicholas League
    by Rita Smith

St. Nicholas was a popular American juvenile periodical that was issued monthly from November 1873 through March 1940. Throughout its history, various departments were established and abolished: The column "Curiosity Shop" for example, focused attention on contemporary affairs and Treasure-Box of Literature reprinted notable works from the past. Towards the end of the October, 1899, issue, a small announcement appeared: In our November number every reader of St. Nicholas will find something of unusual interest. In fact, we shall tell you next month all about a new society or league to be formed by St. Nicholas for its great army of boys and girls. Every reader of the magazine will be entitled to membership in the organization; there are soon to be prize competitions for all, and the League will have a special department of its own in the magazine.

In the November issue, the announcement of the League was made official. It was an organization of the readers of St. Nicholas. The League motto was "Live to learn and learn to live;" the banner was the Stars and Stripes; the league stood "for intellectual advancement and for higher ideals of life," "for intelligent patriotism and for protection of the oppressed, whether human beings, dumb animals, or birds." There were no dues or charges; boys and girls in any neighborhood could form a chapter. And the League established competitions each month in drawing, poetry, photography, stories, essays and puzzles. Each entry had to be verified as original by a teacher, a parent or a guardian. Gold and silver buttons were awarded each month to first and second prize winners for each of the categories of compet- ition as well as a small monetary award. The winning entries, along with some of the others, were published monthly in the League column in the magazine.

The League was run during its first ten years by Albert Bigelow Paine and from its beginning, it was a popular and highly regarded department. It stimulated readers' interest in creative expression and in publishing their work and attracted award winning submissions from many children who later became recognized authors, including, among others, Ring Lardner, Robert Benchley, Rachel Field, Rachel Carson and William Faulkner.

Sources:

Children's Periodicals of the United States, R. Gordon Kelly, ed. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1984, p. 377-388.

"St. Nicholas." New York: The Century Company. October and November, 1899.

Copyright 2002 Rita Smith

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