“Do you like illustrated articles?” asked The Western Home Monthly in 1901. The answer was obvious, but drawing attention to illustration reminded prairie and northern readers what a magazine subscription offered that small-town newspapers largely did not. In 1903 editors boasted that WHM was going to be “Amply Illustrated”—special articles in particular, “so that they may be of greater value along the line of instruction”—and that the cover newly printed in two colors and larger format would specifically “give better attention to illustration.” WHM also doubled as a showpiece for parent company Stovel Printing, which offered art services: some WHM illustrations are signed by Stovel Studio. An examination of illustration tells us much about publishers’ and audiences’ values—and about the power of the visual, material object to define identity and to act rhetorically.
There is always some degree of confusion when I tell people that I am getting my PhD in English by writing a dissertation about wordless novels. While I’m used to giving my “elevator pitch” to fellow academics, describing my project to people outside of academia can be more of a challenge: