A Sense Of Purpose

New Mexico Magazine has come a long way since its humble beginning in July 1923 as the New Mexico Highway Journal. Its pages traditionally bring New Mexico into the hearts of people longing for this glorious state for some reason or another, but mostly because they are away.

In-state residents also rejoice in the pages of the magazine, discovering threshholds to new and exciting places they never imagined existed in their own backyard.

The magazine reliably serves as an avenue for discovery, tapping into that same adventurous spirit that has inspired and driven a long line of diverse explorers throughout the state's vast history.

New Mexico Magazine, now well into its eighth decade, has gone through many cosmetic changes throughout the years as evidenced in the brief sampling of covers on this page. There is a marked progression of improvement and we hope to continue this trend well into this 21st century and beyond. Who knows, maybe someday a transplanted New Mexican anxiously will await the next copy of New Mexico Magazine from a dwelling on the moon.

A Sounding Board is Born

Back in the 1920s, the state Highway Department was one of New Mexico's largest and fastest growing agencies. The state comprised 121,666 square miles of raw, undeveloped, yet strikingly beautiful terrain. It was the department's job to make the nation's 47th state accessible by automobile, another up-and-coming phenomenon of the time.

Much was happening. Just 40 years before the railroad first laid its tracks across portions of the state, opening a new, exotic land to Eastern travelers, businessmen and tourists. The state became much more accessible in the 1920s with state-of-the-art thoroughfares wide enough for two passing automobiles with a buggy to boot.

Highway and road projects abounded and the situation prompted then state engineer, James A. French, and his assistant G.D. "Buck" Macy to devise a way to keep department employees informed of the many new road developments happening throughout the state.

The two brainstormed and, hence, the New Mexico Highway Journal was born. French quickly handed the idea over to Macy for execution. Macy, in turn, appointed Ray W. Bennett, a highway department draftsman, to take over as editor.

Bennett took the job reluctantly and Macy later wrote that the new editor complained he saw "nothing romantic about being appointed editor of a publication that existed in name only."

Macy admitted he only helped a little in raising $100 to pay the cost of printing the first issue in July 1923, an issue Bennett produced almost entirely by himself.

Bennett must have thought he was all alone. There were only 300 copies printed of the inaugural issue and he postponed the August and September issues in favor of other priorities. But according to Macy, that first magazine made such a splash with department employees that they encouraged Bennett, helping him produce a second issue in October.

The New Mexico Highway Journal steadily increased in popularity and the first tourism-oriented story (about Acoma Pueblo) appeared in the second printing. Getting out a magazine became easier and easier, Bennett later said, with an increasing number of talented writers, photographers and artists contributing their work for minimal pay.

The first covers of the Highway Journal were designed by Sam Samson and later B.C. Broome and Tom Barker. In 1928, a general policy was enacted to broaden the focus of the Journal from serving as a departmental sounding board to becoming a general interest magazine about the state.

The expanded magazine meant more pages, higher expenses and a stretched budget. The problem of financing the magazine eventually solved itself but the first few years were financially shaky.

Ironically, a businessman called the Highway Journal office one day in the 1920s and asked if he could place a paid, full-page advertisement. Later, the practice of selling ads caught on and many more companies, mostly road equipment manufacturers, announced their wares through the Highway Journal's pages.

Highway Journal Paves Way For Magazine

Although things were looking better financially, state officials decided to save money by consolidating the New Mexico Highway Journal and The Conservationist, an outdoor-oriented magazine produced by the state Game and Fish Department.

In July 1931 the first issue of New Mexico was published, a sharper-looking publication that included stories about highway projects, outdoor activities and tourist attractions. Financing for the publication came from advertising sales and the fees paid by both departments.

New Mexico Magazine eventually became self-sufficient, relying on advertising, subscriptions and by-product sales to defray the cost of salaries, printing articles, photography and other related publishing expenses.

This has been the case throughout most of the magazine's existence except for a brief 10-year period between 1959 and 1969, when a handful of businessmen convinced officials that the state should finance the operation and eliminate advertising from New Mexico Magazine's pages.

Budgetary problems prompted officials in 1969 to resume advertising sales, and today, unlike most other state agencies, the magazine is essentially self-funded. Today, the magazine receives numerous letters from readers who like the high-quality advertisements that appear. They write that the ads give them a glimpse of the special products and services that only a distinct state like New Mexico can offer.

Beginning to Fly

After the merger of the Highway Journal and Conservationist, Harry E. Shuart, a Santa Fe newspaperman, was appointed editor by former Gov. Arthur Seligman. Bennett, however, continued to edit and contribute stories from the road department side of the new publication.

Macy, who became the state engineer, credited Bennett with getting the magazine started and commented in a 1934 article that the "success of 'New Mexico' is greatly due to the efforts of Ray Bennett in putting over the Highway Journal, for had there been no Highway Journal, there would probably have been no 'New Mexico.'"

Shuart hit the ground running, quickly developing a focus for the infant periodical to "present in words and pictures the story of New Mexico and its wonders" and "to tell the story of New Mexico in all its facets of interest."

By the time of the consolidation, New Mexico Magazine had grown from the 300 copies of the first July 1923 issue to a circulation of about 4,000 copies that were free for the asking. It wasn't until 1933 that copies were sold at 15 cents apiece and an annual circulation rate of $1 was charged.

Fitzpatrick Era

The magazine steadily grew to a circulation of about 5,000 in 1935 when George M. Fitzpatrick took over the editorial reins. Fitzpatrick, who came from the Albuquerque Tribune, lasted 34 years at the post and mainly is responsible for the modern development of New Mexico Magazine.

The Great Depression had its stranglehold on the nation when Fitzpatrick took over, a condition that made it hard to pay for talented writers, photographers and artists. But an undaunted Fitzpatrick forged on and solicited material from many of the most talented people in New Mexico at the time.

Those who answered Fitzpatrick's call included Kyle Crichton, Eugene Cunningham, Harvey and Erna Fergusson, Stanley Vestal, Conrad Richter, S. Omar Barker and Gerald Cassidy, among others. Soon the literary ball was rolling and other writers began to practically donate work, including Alice Bullock, John Sinclair, Frank Waters, Florence Hawley, Wesley Hurt, Ray Hogan, Ruth Laughlin, Ross Calvin and a long list of others too numerous to name here.

New Mexico Magazine initially was known as The Sunshine State's Recreational and Highway Magazine. This eventually was dropped and "Magazine" was added to the title in the mid-1950s. As circulation and advertising increased, Fitzpatrick began to use more color on the inside pages as well as the cover, a move that improved the look and popularity of the publication. Due to financial restraints the use of color was sporadic at the beginning of Fitzpatrick's tenure, but it became a mainstay in the mid-50s.

Surviving the consequences of the Depression, New Mexico Magazine also endured the sacrifices that came with the advent of World War II. Just as the magazine was experiencing its most dramatic increase in circulation to date, the government placed regulations on paper usage.

As of May 1944, the magazine could no longer accept new subscriptions because of wartime paper restrictions. In the spirit of patriotism, servicemen were given preference when expired subscriptions were not renewed.

The magazine started to build a reputation for quality, becoming global in scope. Max Hood of Las Cruces wrote to the magazine about his unique experience. Hood, who was involved in the Battle of Leyte, said after the fighting, while he was walking along the Philippine beach, he found a New Mexico Magazine washed up on shore. He dried it out carefully, read it from cover to cover, then passed it around to other very interested New Mexican soldiers.

Fitzpatrick also is responsible for the magazine branching out and producing other New Mexico-related publications, a successful venture that still flourishes today. The magazine's early projects included a poem book in 1935, scenic-trip and home planning books in 1940, numerous pictorial books and other endeavors such as The Best from New Mexico Kitchens, perhaps one of the most popular special publications to date.

Besides books, New Mexico Magazine now also offers T-shirts, posters, notecards, state flags, scenic and artist calendars, videos and detailed maps.

The magazine always has served as an avenue for disseminating tourist information. Today, the official New Mexico Vacation Guide, which totals more than a million copies this upcoming year, is created by the magazine as are condensed versions of the guide that are translated into Spanish, German, Italian, French and Japanese.

New Mexico Magazine would not be the same publication today without the influence of George W. Fitzpatrick. His legacy continues to endure.

Richard C. Sandoval, who recently retired after 27 years, remembers Fitzpatrick at the helm when Sandoval first started in the '60s as a graphic artist.

"The man was easygoing, and what went into the magazine basically was him," Sandoval says. "Back then, we didn't have the staff we do today. What made Fitzpatrick successful is that he had good camaraderie with writers and photographers in his time. Basically, they were volunteering their work.

"What he was paying them essentially was a token."

Riding The Wave To Success

The first July 1923 issue of the New Mexico Highway Journal literally was produced by one man at a whopping cost of $100. Only 300 issues were printed, quite a change compared with the 150,000 issues currently printed each month (statistics buffs know that this represents an increase of about 50,000 percent).

Today, the staff of the magazine totals about 20, along with hundreds of talented freelance writers, photographers and illustrators. In the past 70 years the magazine has grown from a $6,700-a-year shoestring outfit into a multimillion-dollar-a-year operation that receives no financial assistance from the state other than a place to set up shop.

With a subscription and newsstand circulation of about 117,000, it is estimated almost half a million readers pick up New Mexico Magazine each month. Hundreds of pages of advertising are sold each year, signifying the success of the magazine and the ever-increasing popularity of New Mexico.

About 70 percent of the total circulation of the magazine goes out of state. There are readers in every state of the Union in addition to 74 countries throughout the world.

The magazine has remained under the jurisdiction of the state throughout its history, but there were attempts to privatize the operation. In 1954 the owners of a magazine named Sun Trails lobbied to merge the publication with the state magazine and operate it as a private enterprise. Instead, New Mexico Magazine took over Sun Trails at the cost of fulfilling about 4,000 of Sun Trails' total subscription list.

A southern New Mexico printer proposed to publish the magazine privately in the '60s, but his effort, according to Fitzpatrick, "died a quiet death" during a state Legislative committee hearing.