was founded in 1887 as a hunting and fishing magazine
Magazines, periodicals, glossies or serials are publications, generally published on a regular schedule, containing a variety of articles. They are generally financed by advertising, by a purchase price, by pre-paid magazine subscriptions, or all three...
by Claude King and is the oldest continuous outdoor publication in North America. The first issue, in January 1888, was eight pages long and printed on newspaper stock, published in Denver, Colorado
The City and County of Denver is the capital and the most populous city of the U.S. state of Colorado. Denver is a consolidated city-county, located in the South Platte River Valley on the western edge of the High Plains just east of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains...
. Together with Outdoor Life
Outdoor Life is an outdoors magazine about hunting, fishing, survival and camping. It is a sister magazine of Field & Stream. Together with Sports Afield, they are considered the Big Three of American outdoor publishing. Outdoor Life launched in Denver, Colorado in January 1898. Founder and...
and Field & Stream
Field & Stream is a magazine featuring hunting, fishing, and other outdoor activities in the United States. Together with Sports Afield and Outdoor Life, it is considered one of the Big Three of American outdoor publishing....
it is one of the Big Three in American outdoor magazines.
Journal for gentlemen
The “Journal for Gentlemen” promised, in King’s words, “To be devoted to hunting, fishing, rifle and trap shooting, the breeding of thorough-bred dogs, cycling and kindred sports…” The subscription price was $1.50 per year, with single copies selling for 15 cents.
A few years later, King expounded on his philosophy: “Sports Afield
— has an ambition above that of simply entertaining and amusing the public; it wants to help propagate the true spirit of gentle sportsmanship, to encourage indulgence in outdoor recreations and to assist in the dissemination of knowledge regarding natural history, photography, firearms, and kindred subjects.”
Before the decade was out, Sports Afield
had expanded and moved its operations to Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...
. The magazine grew, with some issues running 96 pages. It soon became not only a voice of the West, but a spokesman for hunters, fishermen, campers, and shooters across the USA. By 1927, when King stepped down as editor and turned the reins over to Joe Godfrey, Sports Afield
was in full stride. Zane Grey
Zane Grey was an American author best known for his popular adventure novels and stories that presented an idealized image of the Old West. Riders of the Purple Sage was his bestselling book. In addition to the success of his printed works, they later had second lives and continuing influence...
started writing for the magazine, as did Jimmy Robinson, beginning a 60-year association with the publication. In 1930, Ivan B. Romig and his associates took over Sports Afield
, combined it with a smaller publication — Trails of the Northwoods — and moved the offices to Minneapolis. A string of editors worked the helm of Sports Afield
, which struggled during the Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...
years to stay afloat. It did, and by 1934 the magazine was in the black.
was and early advocate of the wise use of the earth’s resources, trying to make the public aware of environmental concerns. Its credo: “We believe in sane conservation, we oppose pollution, and stand for the enforcement of our game laws.” In the 1930s: Gordon MacQuarrie
Gordon MacQuarrie was an American writer and journalist. Born in Superior, Wisconsin, he is best known for his short stories involving hunting and fishing, and for his semi-fictional organization known as The Old Duck Hunters' Association, Inc. He died unexpectedly in Milwaukee, Wisconsin of a...
and Archibald Rutledge
Archibald Hamilton Rutledge was an American poet and educator, the first South Carolina poet laureate from 1934 to 1973. He wrote over 50 books and many poems, usually about his hunting and life experiences in South Carolina.-Biography:...
joined as writers and the circulation rose to 250,000. In 1945 Ted Kesting, an associate editor of Country Gentleman magazine, was hired as editorial director and brought from Philadelphia to Minneapolis. His assignment was to expand and modernize Sports Afield
. At 26 years of age, he was the youngest editor of a major national publication in the USA.
Kesting soon signed up more writers. One he brought on board was angling editor Jason Lucas, whose writings about bass fishing became very popular. Another was mystery writer Erle Stanley Gardner
Erle Stanley Gardner was an American lawyer and author of detective stories, best known for the Perry Mason series, he also published under the pseudonyms A.A. Fair, Kyle Corning, Charles M. Green, Carleton Kendrake, Charles J...
, who became known for his articles defending gun owners and hunters’ rights. By October 1948, Time
Time is an American news magazine. A European edition is published from London. Time Europe covers the Middle East, Africa and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong...
reported that Sports Afield
had become the biggest of all outdoor monthlies. Last week it put to bed a November issue that would go to 800,000 customers, a record for its 61 years. Colorful as a hatband full of flies, it was filled with picture stories and crackling adventure stuff…”
Purchase by Hearst
In 1953, Hearst
Hearst may refer to:People* Amanda Hearst* Garrison Hearst, NFL running back* George Hearst* George Randolph Hearst, Jr.* Hunter Hearst Helmsley, WWE professional wrestler* John Randolph Hearst* Lydia Hearst-Shaw* Michael Hearst* Millicent Hearst...
Magazines tendered an offer to Walter Taylor, the publisher, providing Kesting and his staff came along. The sale was made, and Sports Afield
moved its offices to New York City. Meanwhile, the magazine continued to grow, attracting such writers as Col. Townsend Whelen, Jack Denton Scott, and Russell Annabel. Circulation hit the 1,100,000 mark in 1961. By the late 1960s, Homer Circle, Tom Paugh, and Zack Taylor had joined the ranks. The cover price jumped from 35 to 50 cents a copy.
In 1970, Kesting announced he was stepping down as editor and named Lamar Underwood as his replacement. Under Underwood’s guidance, Gene Hill, Nick Lyons, Vance Bourjaily
Vance Bourjaily was an American writer, novelist, playwright, journalist, and essayist.-Life:Bourjaily was born in Cleveland, Ohio to Monte Ferris Bourjaily, a Lebanese immigrant who was a journalist and later became editor of the United Features Syndicate, and Barbara Webb, an American-born...
, and John Madson all appeared in the periodical’s pages. The Almanac came into existence in 1972 and stayed there until 2006.
When Underwood moved on, he was replaced by saltwater fishing editor Tom Paugh. The Paugh years saw major redesigns, plus a downsizing in circulation as the magazine adjusted to the competitive times. Grits Gresham
Claude Hamilton "Grits" Gresham, Jr. was an internationally-known American sportsman, author, photographer and television personality who hosted ABC's The American Sportsman series from 1966-1979...
, Thomas McIntyre, Ted Kerasote, and Anthony Acerrano all wrote for the magazine, which continued to publish not only adventure stories mixed with how-to-do-it pieces, but to comment on conservation issues as well.
In the late 1990s, the magazine entered the most difficult period in its long history. Hearst executives, shifted the magazine’s focus from hunting and fishing to hiking, mountain biking, camping, and other “non-consumptive” outdoor sports. However, the gambit failed, and in the summer of 2000, Hearst sold the magazine to Robert E. Petersen
Robert Einar "Pete" Petersen was an American publisher and founder of the Petersen Automotive Museum in 1994.Petersen was born in East Los Angeles, California and served in the Army Air Corps in World War II...
, who subsequently moved the magazine’s offices to the Los Angeles area.
In the summer of 2002, the owners of privately held book publisher Safari Press
Safari Press is a book publishing company specializing in books on big-game hunting and sporting firearms and is being run by Dr. Jacque Neufeld, editor in chief, and Ludo J. Wurfbain, publisher. It is privately owned by a small group of shareholders. The company started in May 1984 when it issued...
, purchased the rights to publish the magazine only. They decided to return SA to the original core and focus the magazine on the traveling big-game hunter. Diana Rupp became the new editor. The magazine turned 120 years old with the October 2007 issue. In 2009 the remaining intellectual property rights to the SA name were purchased by the same company that bought the magazine and today SA is one of the few magazines with a very high profile name that owns all rights to its name. Besides publishing SA the parent company is engaged in licensing the SA name for selected goods and services. In the spring of 2010 SA announced a licensing deal with privately held TV production company SCP, based in Dallas, to launch The World of Sports Afield
TV show on The Sportsman Channel
Sportsman Channel is a television speciality channel dedicated to hunting, shooting and fishing programming. It launched in 2003.-History:Sportsman Channel was started in 2003 by C. Michael Cooley and Todd D. Hansen of Muskego, Wisconsin...
to be hosted by Craig Boddington
Craig Boddington is a professional hunter, author and Marine.- Biography :Born in Kansas in 1953, as a teenager, when not involved with hunting and shooting, he spent a lot of time pursuing Boy Scout activities. At 17 years of age he became the youngest person to become Activities Director at his...