A New Owner, A New Vision
Enter Laurence W. Lane, advertising director of the Des Moines--based Meredith Publications, owner of the widely read Better Homes and Gardens, Successful Farming, and two other magazines. With the help of six other Des Moines investors, Lane purchased Sunset from the Field group in September 1928 for $60,000. (Soon thereafter, Charles K. Field went into the radio business, winning fame and fortune as the commentator Cheerio.) Immediately, Lane laid down a new editorial policy. "The magazine,' he said, “will be maintained as a strictly western one, designed to serve western and national advertisers in reaching the substantial homes of the western states. Editorially, a large portion of the magazine will be devoted to the home and outdoor life of the west." 6 Sunset would no longer resemble Harper's and the Atlantic as a writer-driven literary review. And he leaned on President-Elect Hoover's family values plank, excerpted in the first Lane issue, to create Sunset magazine's editorial policy of service to the whole family with attention to men readers. That same issue included a piece entitled "The House a Man Calls Home," suggesting the importance of the man in the home. It would eventually become a staff-written magazine, with no bylines, focusing on the Far West lifestyle--meaning homes, gardens, cuisine, travel, and leisure.
Conventional opinion claims that Laurence W. Lane saved Sunset by changing it. Yes and no. True, Lane drastically altered the nature of the magazine. Paradoxically, however, Lane saved the magazine by channeling values and energies of an earlier era into a precise pattern of highly useful topics. Indeed, it can be claimed that Laurence W. Lane saved Sunset by tightening its focus and keying it to the next Far West, suburban and middle-class, in the making.
A successful magazine publisher (which Laurence W. Lane certainly became) uses his or her magazine to explore a set of personal preoccupations as well as to meet the needs of a market. Lane formulated new editorial policies and recruited as senior editors two talented women from Better Homes and Gardens to help him implement those policies. The two, Miss Genevieve A. Callahan and Miss Lou Richardson, had top editorial responsibility and, together with the counsel of Lane's wife, Ruth Bell Lane, proceeded to fulfill those editorial objectives. These were pioneering roles for women in the magazine industry. At their high point, successful magazines are energized by the dialogue between editor and readership. In assigning stories, the publisher defines the product according to his own vision and what he understands the audience wants. When the vision and the audience's needs coincide, and the other aspects of publishing are in place--good writing, good design, good business practices--the stage is set for success. Good business practices include adequate and responsive circulation, a successful advertising program, and efficient and ever-modernizing production practices. Such figures as William Shawn at The New Yorker, Condé Nast at Vogue and Vanity Fair, and Clay Felker at New York magazine exemplify this process. From this perspective, there could have been no more suitable purchaser of Sunset in 1928 than the 37-year-old Midwesterner, Laurence W. Lane. He had acquired Sunset, after all, as the key instrument and source of energy for his own journey to Far Western identity.
Born in Horton, Kansas, in 1890, Larry Lane grew up in an ethos of self-reliance and Midwestern values. His father died when Larry was a boy, and he and his mother moved to northern Illinois, where they lived with relatives. At the age of 16 the young man had gone to work as part-time salesman at a hardware supply company to support himself through school. After moving to Iowa with his mother, he attended Drake University and worked summers with the Meredith Publishing Company. He also found time to court Ruth Bell, daughter of the university president, whom he married upon graduation at the somewhat advanced age of 27. Shortly thereafter, Lane entered the Army, achieved the rank of first lieutenant, and served throughout the First World War.
Even with these sketchy details, a portrait emerges as if from a novel by Booth Tarkington: an ambitious Midwestern lad, forced into self-reliance by the early death of his father, eager for education and upward mobility, earns a college degree, marries his college sweetheart, earns an officer's commission in the Army. Of equal importance, he discovers his lifetime work, magazines, initially on a part-time basis, and then after the war as a full-time employee of Meredith Publishing Company, where he quickly rises up the ladder--personnel, research, and sales--to become advertising director for all Meredith publications. Successful Farming was a practically oriented, can-do magazine, equally aimed at the Midwestern farming husband and wife. After the war, Meredith purchased a defunct Seattle magazine, Better Homes, Fruits, & Gardens, which it re-designed, and, under Larry Lane's direction, brought back into circulation and renamed as Better Homes and Gardens.
Practical by temperament, formed in the school of hard knocks, yet not hardened by the process, managing to move himself solidly into the corporate upper-middle class by dint of his own efforts, socially connected to his local milieu through a happy and advantageous marriage, Laurence W. Lane had absorbed unto himself the best of the Midwest experience. He might have remained, in fact, in Iowa for a long, happy, and fulfilled lifetime, except for the fact that he fell completely, totally, in love with the Far West. With almost paradigmatic clarity, it happened during a visit to Yosemite National Park.
As advertising director, Lane traveled extensively throughout the country setting up sales offices, dealing with major clients, exploring new possibilities for advertising and circulation growth. Already, as advertising director for the hugely successful national publication Better Homes and Gardens, Lane had become sensitive to just how important regional matters were to his readership. What grew in Massachusetts, and when, was an entirely different matter to what grew in Illinois, and when, or Salt Lake City, Tacoma, Palo Alto, or Pasadena. Likewise was the question of home design and improvement dependent upon regional variation. Of all the regions he was visiting, Lane decided, the Far West--its terrain and climate, its flora and fauna, the special challenges and opportunities of its settings--was the most distinctive; and nowhere was this more true than in California, where Ruth's retired parents had settled, in Los Angeles. At one point in the early 1920s, Lane's boss Ed Meredith invited him to come along on a ride through the great San Joaquin Valley in the private car of the president of the Southern Pacific Railroad. Meredith--secretary of agriculture in the Wilson administration--was especially interested in the agricultural vitality of the Great Valley. Near Fresno the luxurious private car was transferred to a spur track leading to the El Portal terminal outside the Yosemite Valley. The party then transferred to a motorized open bus for the final stage of the journey to that place which had been symbolizing in the American imagination the special possibilities of the Far West ever since the 1860s. Thus within a few hours Lane had experienced the maritime setting and urban sophistication of San Francisco, the vast expanse of the irrigated San Joaquin Valley, the Sierra Nevada foothills, then the mountains themselves, and finally the great Yosemite Valley. "The dramatic transition from sea coast to broad valley to high mountains in only a few hours' travel," his son Laurence William Lane, Jr., later remembered, "made a lasting impression on Dad and convinced him that travel and recreation would increasingly play a significant role in the lives of Western families as one of the viable differences from the rest of the country." 7
Because Larry Lane tended to see life in terms of magazines, he was soon seeing his growing interest in the Far West from this perspective as well. Already, he had been keeping his eye on the embattled Sunset, then up for sale. With the help of six other Des Moines investors, he acquired the company in September 1928. Within a month, he had moved to San Francisco to take over his new venture.
Definitive Rededication to a Fourfold Path
When Larry Lane stepped off the ferryboat at the foot of Market Street, a brass band was playing and a parade was passing by. It was, however, the annual Columbus Day celebration by the city's Italian community and not a welcoming demonstration for an Iowa publisher determined to become a citizen of the Far West. But the band might have been celebrating Lane's arrival as well, for a process was being set in motion that would eventually present the Far West with its most successful magazine and book publisher, from whom millions would learn how best to live in this still-new region, where the Lanes would now be rearing their two young sons, Laurence W. (Bill) Lane, Jr., and Melvin Bell Lane.
In buying Sunset, Larry Lane inherited the Progressive traditions of the magazine, its good will and reputation, and its flair for graphics and typography. Sunset had long since excelled, for example, in color. The April 1914 issue, for example (in which Riley E. Scott's pioneering article on air power also appeared), presented colored photographs of the Panama Pacific International Exposition under construction; an orange-sailed felucca sailing off Mt. Tamalpais on San Francisco Bay; Shoshone Falls on the Snake River; a buckboard rider in an idyllic Idaho countryside; a girl in a blossoming orchard in Washington; a steamer entering the Port of Columbia; motorists enjoying scenic Lake Tahoe; and Mrs. Phoebe Apperson Hearst's Hacienda del Pozo de Verona near Pleasanton, its white walls and red-tiled roof gleaming in the sun, its entrance pathway ablaze in blooming flowers. The covers of Sunset were likewise polychromatic and engaging. Many of them--produced by such noted artists as Maynard Dixon, Ed Borein, Maurice Logan, and Will James--were works of art. Covers by Maynard Dixon before and after the Lane acquisition, many of them depicting Native Americans in the Southwest, are especially notable. Taken cumulatively, Sunset covers from the first four decades of the century yield some of the finest iconography and image-making dealing with Western life. Across scores of covers was achieved an almost utopian presentation of the landscape, people, and pleasures of the Far West.
Larry Lane retained, indeed enhanced, this graphic tradition. Appropriately for a magazine celebrating beauty, Sunset would always itself be a beautiful instance of print, graphics, and photography. When it came to the editorial policy, however, Lane rejected the existing identity of general review and declared that henceforth Sunset would concern itself with four major fields: home, gardening, travel, and cooking. Each article, moreover, had to be useful to the reader. It had to teach a reader how to do something--prepare a certain dish, plant a certain tree, repair a window pane, make Halloween costumes for children. In contrast to Better Homes and Gardens and other home service magazines, the new Sunset suggested where a reader might travel and what sights could be visited there. Larry Lane was bringing to Sunset, in some measure, the practical orientation that had made Successful Farming and Better Homes and Gardens so successful.
Was Larry Lane transforming Sunset into a women's magazine? Not really. In his "Mission Statement" published in the January 1929 issue, Lane specifically noted that he would be publishing a magazine for both men and women. Many of the articles--how, for example, to build a brick backyard barbecue, how to weatherproof an attic--would more than likely interest and instruct male readers. On the other hand, given the emphasis upon food and upon food preparation in the home as being largely women's work in that era, Lane was making the magazine more relevant to women. A more subtle analysis, however, might see that, as in so many other aspects of the Progressive tradition so evident in the pre-Lane publication, the new orientation of Sunset was being coaxed from its previous identity. Women, first of all, held an equal place among Sunset readers and subscribers. Women, that is to say, formed at least half the audience for Sunset's general interest articles. And then there was the question of articles expressly about women. Between 1902 and 1937, Sunset published over 100 notable articles about women and many more articles for women. These articles dealt with a variety of topics, some of them--such as Gladys Johnson's 1926 article on "Divorce and the American Home"--rather daring for their era, in contrast to those after 1928, such as Genevieve A. Callahan's "It Takes Two to Make a Home" in 1935.
In any event, Sunset ran articles on how to run a house without servants, how to get by on a secretary's salary, how to combine motherhood and a career, how to learn to fly fish, or run a ranch on one's own, or travel solo across the continent, or, in one instance, run a small regional railroad. In 1912, Sunset ran an article by the noted feminist Louise Bryant, companion of John Reed. Another contributor was the second Mrs. Woodrow Wilson, whom many consider to have been the de facto president of the United States during the last 18 months of her husband's second term.
Larry Lane, in short, was bringing to the fore a previously implicit aspect of the Sunset identity. Since women were primarily responsible for the home in that era, and since Sunset was concerned with the home as one of its four major editorial policy directions, Sunset was becoming in part a magazine appealing to women. It was not, however, becoming a women's magazine; for so many of the other articles--travel articles, for example--were gender neutral, while other articles were male-oriented. In time, Sunset would run an increasing number of articles oriented toward children and child care. By that time Sunset had very much become a family magazine.
But first Larry Lane had to get Sunset through the Depression. One of his techniques was a pioneering use of department store charge accounts to pay for subscriptions. That way, Sunset enjoyed a convenience akin to the credit card long before the invention of that credit device and a pre-existent screening process. Customers, moreover, enjoyed the convenience of being able to order Sunset through their department store. Launched in 1932, regional editions--one for the Pacific Northwest, one for Northern and Central California, one for Southern California, and, later, one for the Desert Southwest--also helped Sunset weather the economic crisis; for these regional editions not only opened Sunset to more focused articles, they would also later bring in local businesses as advertisers. In time, Sunset would carry more regional advertisements than any other magazine.
Sunset helped its readers cope with the Depression through its selection of how-to-do-it articles and by keeping the prices of the magazine and growing book list low. As a business, Sunset was struggling along with everyone else, negotiating a deferred payment plan for paper with Crown Zellerbach. (Not until 1938 did Sunset experience an operating profit,10 years after Lane bought the magazine.) But within the pages of the magazine there unfolded a panoramic pageant of gardening, architecture, regional cuisine, patio dining, golf, tennis, horseback riding, and other leisure pursuits, which represented, in its own way, a cunning strategy for economic success. Sunset fought the Depression by holding before the middle classes opportunities to enjoy life even in dire times. At the very depth of the Depression, 1933, Sunset had more than 200,000 subscribers, home owners in the main, who were paying a mere dollar a year for their subscription.
Larry Lane also fought the Depression through the bold device of launching Sunset Books, although this enterprise remained on a relatively small scale until after World War II. In time, however, under the direction of his son Mel as publisher, Sunset Books became an impressive publishing force. Since 1933, more than 900 titles and revisions have been issued.
Between 1934 and 1951 Sunset operated out of a slender, tower-like, seven-story building at 576 Sacramento Street in San Francisco. Gradually, the magazine was evolving. After 1936, photographs tended to replace original art on the cover. Yet artistic standards were not relaxed. Photographers of the stature of Ansel Adams and Imogen Cunningham were commissioned for Sunset covers. By the late 1930s, Sunset was reflecting the editorial character that persists to this day. Sunset made its first operating profit in the decade in 1938, thanks, in part, to Ruth, who remained close to the editorial process and personally tested many Sunset recipes and gardening ideas. Keeping with a family tradition, the Lane sons sold Sunset and several other magazines door to door. That year, everyone on the staff received an unexpected but welcome $500 bonus.
Period of Rapid Growth
During the Second World War, Larry Lane's sons, Bill and Mel, Stanford graduates, served as Navy officers. A major problem in these years was paper. Yet the War Ration Board allowed Sunset extra paper for its Sunset Vegetable Garden Book (1943), which promoted Victory Gardens. In the face of wartime staffing shortages, Ruth Bell Lane became managing editor in 1944 as an additional contribution to the magazine. Returning from the service in 1946, the Lane brothers began an intense apprenticeship in every aspect of the publishing business. Their youth and energy would be very much needed. In the decades ahead the Far West, California and Arizona especially, would add millions of new residents, brought there by a booming economy and the desire for a better life free of Eastern winters and offering new job opportunities. Now more than ever, the classic work of a magazine--to provide information and guidance, to serve as a useful form of reference, to suggest and instruct--became the renewed Sunset mission and challenge. And as the West grew in population, competition for readers and advertisers became fierce, but Sunset thrived.
Literally millions of new homes would be built; whole cities and suburbs created, almost overnight. Millions of Americans who were born and raised elsewhere would now be seeking to transform themselves into Far Westerners. What kinds of homes should they build? What foods should they prepare? What trees, shrubs, and flowers should they plant in their new environment? Where should they go on family vacations? Sunset began to answer these questions in its own way, and by 1947, circulation, which had remained in the 200,000s during the war, increased by 100,000, and reached 400,000 in 1948 as more and more neophyte Far Westerners, together with longtime residents, were finding Sunset truly, as it described itself, The Magazine of Western Living. For many years, the rate of Sunset circulation grew even faster than that of the population.
In 1946, Sunset published its first large-format, hardcover Sunset book, Western Ranch Houses, written by Sunset editors with Cliff May and illustrated with May-designed houses. Ten years before, Sunset editors had discovered this San Diego home designer and began publishing his homes in the magazine. No single Sunset book before or since has had such a profound effect on the architectural environment of the Far West as it was being so rapidly actualized.
In 1951, Cliff May designed new headquarters for Sunset on the former Timothy Hopkins property in Menlo Park on the edge of San Francisquito Creek, originally part of a land grant made to Don Jose Arguello, governor of Spanish California, in 1815. The renowned landscape architect Thomas Church laid out the gardens. Working with the magazine's garden editors, Church created a garden with distinct areas representing the major climate zones of the West: Northern California, Central California, the Southwest Desert and Southern California, and the Northwest. He also helped establish a Test Garden for use by the editors. All this was centered around a 1.2-acre lawn, planted in colonial bent grass of the Astoria strain. At one end of the lawn stood the Old Man, a magnificent coast live oak hundreds of years in age. All in all, more than 300 kinds of shrubs, trees, vines, ground covers, annuals, and perennials were growing--and blooming!--in the garden at any given time. Eventually, after 1977, this entire garden would be irrigated from a well dug on the property.
Cliff May and Thomas Church: Each designer was a master in expressing an enchanted, almost dreamlike ambiance for gracious living in the West. (Thomas Church, after all, had invented the deck, first recognized in Sunset, perhaps the Far West's most notable contribution to domestic architecture after the Spanish-inspired patio.) In its headquarters, then, Sunset was making in architecture and landscaping an idealized presentation of the values for which it stood. Here at last was room and facilities not only for the editorial process but for what the magazine was soon calling a Laboratory of Western Living, including extensive kitchens and barbecue area where recipes could be tested. Not surprisingly, the Sunset headquarters itself became an object of tourist interest and soon averaged some 75,000 visitors a year.
In June 1952, the Territory of Hawaii became part of the editorial and circulation domain of Sunset, which took over the circulation of Hawaii Farm and Home, a magazine published by the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. The magazine now had editorial offices in Menlo Park, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Honolulu. In March 1952, the names of Bill and Mel Lane appeared on the Sunset masthead for the first time, Bill as advertising manager, Mel as business manager, with both involving far broader operating responsibilities than these titles imply. In fact, they were running the company, though under the watchful eye of their father. Adding Hawaii to the Sunset coverage was their first major policy decision. Now ensued a decade-plus of astonishing growth. As advertising manager, Bill Lane brought out back-to-back record-size 336-page issues in April and May 1956. Circulation topped 700,000 by 1957, more than 800,000 by 1965, in spite of the rapid growth of television and regional editions of national magazines. In 1957, the magazine began a series on the major cities of the Far West which began with San Francisco in November 1957 and ended with Salt Lake City in April 1965. In 1959, while Larry Lane remained chairman of the board, Bill Lane became publisher of Sunset magazine, and Mel Lane assumed the direction of Sunset Books. It was a new and continuously expanding era. In 1967 alone Sunset Books sold an astonishing 1.5 million copies.
On February 20,1967, just short of his 77th birthday, Larry Lane passed away. Modified and updated, but steadily adhered to, the editorial direction and business policies he had established nearly 40 years earlier had guided the enterprise into an era of unprecedented success. Lane's fourfold editorial policy of 1928--building, gardening, travel, and cooking--had brought discipline to a magazine that had lost its way. It did not, however, cut off variety within each category. Surveying the articles in this bibliography, in fact, one can see at once how Larry Lane's makeover of the magazine has been kept consistent across 70 years, but also how certain aspects of the previous Sunset identity, travel and recreation, for example, found congenial re-expression in the Lane editorial policy.
Heralding a New West
Sunset had begun as a vehicle to promote the West as place, for both settlement and travel. That orientation continued more vigorously than ever, following Larry Lane's editorial credo that it should be a magazine for the West, not about the West. This bibliography reveals an almost heroic inventory of the geography, flora, and fauna of the Far West. Even poison oak received its own article in 1960! And as early as 1930, the threat to the California live oak received attention. In each instance, following the Sunset editorial program, articles not only described the Far West but brought readers to it, as visitors or as settlers in a most engaged and practical, how-to-do-it way. Sunset was interested in scenery for its own sake, true; but the magazine was also concerned with the human equation: in bringing scenery, flora, and fauna together with people in an atmosphere of respectful enjoyment. Whether coming as tourists from one region of the West to another, or staying close to home (where the regional editions emphasized localized information), Sunset readers were encouraged to learn to live with nature, side by side, and absorb nature's gifts in a respectful, caring manner. This orientation toward the human equation no doubt accounts for the large number of notable articles, 408, devoted to landscaping and landscape architecture, which is to say, the human art form of working with nature to bring forth even further beauty.
When it came to landscapes, moreover, Sunset was no snob. Respecting wilderness, Sunset did not insist that only wilderness represents nature in its truest form. Sunset was interested in the irrigated landscapes of the California Central Valley and Arizona, as well as in the dry deserts of the Southwest, the wilds of the Snake River, or the glacial regions of Alaska. In each instance, whether wilderness preserve or urban park, Sunset was concerned with proper stewardship, use, and enjoyment: a direct continuity of its progressive heritage. Hence, Sunset's continuing interest in national parks, places of natural beauty set specifically aside for human enjoyment. Two important national parks, in fact, Redwood National Park in Del Norte County on the Northern California coast and the North Cascades National Park in Western Washington at the Canadian border, partially owe their creation in 1968 to the advocacy of Sunset editors and readers. Hence also Sunset's interest in urban parks. Golden Gate Park in San Francisco received frequent coverage, as did parks in other Western cities. Sunset played a major role in the establishment of the American River Parkway running through Sacramento. In its May 1973 75th Anniversary edition, Sunset ran a long article encouraging its readers to enjoy Griffith Park in Los Angeles. In November 1989 Sunset published a pioneering article outlining not only how visitors could enjoy the Presidio of San Francisco, but also its possible future as a public park, together with a rare signed editorial by Bill Lane entitled "Sunset and the Environment: Working With You to Help Conserve and Improve the West."
Hence also Sunset's continuing interest in cities and especially their suburbs, where much of Sunset's readership had homes. Over the years Sunset has given regular coverage to the older cities of the Far West, especially San Francisco and Los Angeles in their home state. As Northwest cities achieved greater prominence--Portland, Seattle, Tacoma, Boise, Salt Lake City--Sunset was on hand, providing early coverage; indeed, a significant number of articles deal with Portland and Seattle, two cities in which the Garden City ideal seemed especially promising of realization. Sunset introduced its readers to the overnight phenomenon of Phoenix, and later, when the Mountain states were added to Sunset's territory, such cities as Denver and Albuquerque appeared in the pages of the magazine. Nor was Sunset neglectful of smaller cities, for here as well were significant variations of the Far Western dream. When San Jose made its dramatic comeback in the mid-1970s, Sunset announced, "San Jose--Nowheresville in Renaissance."
In covering cities, Sunset also managed to introduce its readership to various ethnic groups in the Far West, new and old: the Chinese of Chinatown, and the Italians of North Beach, San Francisco; the Japanese of Los Angeles; the East Asian Indians and Basques of Central California and Nevada; the Mexican Americans of the Southwest. Sunset approached ethnicity not as part of the problem, but as part of the solution. Each ethnic group was frequently presented in terms of its food, traditions, and celebratory customs, in an effort to capture the poetry of heritage and identity.
In the matter of Native Americans, moreover, Sunset from the start and continuing through its 100-year career has presented these nations and peoples with great sympathy. As this bibliography indicates, Sunset paid attention to the diversity of Native American cultures from Alaska to New Mexico. It was the Native Americans of the Southwest, however--the Apache, the Hopi, the Navajo, the vanished Anasazi, their arts and architecture, their customs and rituals--which claimed the bulk of Sunset's attention, in both articles and stunning covers by Maynard Dixon. Sunset exhibited one of the finest collections of vegetable-died Navajo rugs at its Menlo Park headquarters.
An Expanding, Pacific-Oriented World to Explore
Over the years, moreover, Sunset expanded its territory, which is to say, its definition of the Far West. Alaska was on the mind of Sunset from the very first issue, with its reference to the Klondike Gold Rush. Then came editorial coverage of the Southwest and Mexico itself, 171 notable articles from 1898 to 1994. In fact, Southern Pacific had run a line into Mexico. When Sunset first began publication, New Mexico and Arizona were still territories. Writing about Mexico and the Spanish Southwest, including Native American culture, attracted many noted authors to Sunset in the early years. In California, Sunset returned again and again to the missions as tourist destinations. (Its popular pictorial, California Missions, is still available.) By the late 1960s, Sunset was carrying articles on Mexico in nearly every issue. Among Sunset Books' best-sellers were the Travel Guide to Mexico (under various titles and editions dating from 1955) and The Sea of Cortez (1966).
While the focus of these articles remained, in the usual Sunset fashion, fixed on travel and tourism, a cultural statement was nevertheless being made. Mexico and the United States, Sunset was suggesting, were neighbor republics in North America. Through California and the Spanish Southwest, they shared a common heritage and, increasingly, as the Hispanic population in these regions grew, a common people. Thus without preaching, Sunset advanced a notion of United States--Mexican dialogue, not through diplomacy but through tourism and a mutual appreciation of heritage, especially as expressed through crafts, cuisine, and south-of-the-border plants.
The first issue of Sunset announced steamship departures for the Pacific and informed the reader that tickets to Yokohama, Kobe, and Shanghai could be purchased at Southern Pacific's offices. The Asia Pacific Basin had always been linked to the Far West. In fact, the earliest support in the East (and by Congress) for a transcontinental railroad was mainly to encourage trade between the Eastern industrial areas and the Pacific Far East. The acquisition of California and the Spanish Southwest and of the Oregon Territory in the mid- nineteenth century made the United States a Pacific nation. San Francisco and Honolulu were linked from the late nineteenth century onward through travel, trade, and investment. Following the Second World War, Hawaii, the territory and then the state, became Sunset country. Beginning in the 1950s and continuing thereafter, Sunset paid special attention to Japanese gardening, Japanese bathing practices, Japanese interior design, and Japanese cuisine. Staying within its own editorial policy, in other words, Sunset was making its connection with that Japanese-California link which, on the level of architecture, cuisine, and aesthetics (as well as financial investment), was subtly transforming the Californian way of life. It was a process, moreover, under way since the early decades of the century, when Japanese architecture and building practices, absorbed by the Craftsman movement, had had such a dramatic effect on domestic design in the Golden State.
By the late 1960s Sunset publisher Bill Lane was publicly stating: "The magazine never publishes an issue without reporting on one or more Pacific Ocean countries, and the Book Division keeps a dozen books on the area constantly updated."8 Books such as the Sunset Travel Guide to Australia and the Sunset Travel Guide to New Zealand, both first published in 1964, together with articles on this region in Sunset itself, coaxed forth and further articulated in terms of travel the long-standing connection between the Far West and the South Pacific. The parallels between Australia and New Zealand and the Far West were many, Australia especially. Like the Far West of the United States, Australia was generally an arid to semi-arid region dependent upon irrigation, though it had an even greater scarcity of surface water, lacking winter snows, and far fewer people. Each region had begun its economy in the nineteenth century with cattle raising, followed by agriculture. Each region found itself by the late twentieth century highly urbanized and highly suburbanized, with its populations pursuing a decidedly similar version of the good life. In 1985, President Ronald Reagan named Sunset publisher Bill Lane United States Ambassador to Australia and Nauru.
In 1952 Sunset became a founding member of the Pacific Area Travel Association (PATA, now the Pacific Asia Travel Association), promoting travel and tourism in this region. Indeed, Sunset must be considered a pioneer in alerting Americans to the possibilities of Pacific Basin travel. In 1899, Sunset published "A Trans-Pacific to the “Land of Aloha' and Beyond" by J. Sloat Fassett. After all, Sunset was founded at a time when Teddy Roosevelt and others were trumpeting the new Century of the Pacific. In 1924 the magazine published pioneering articles on travel to Australia and New Zealand. In 1927 it introduced its readership to the even more exotic locale of Fiji, and after World War II, Sunset helped a boom in tourism in Hawaii. Both the magazine and Sunset Books pioneered in introducing Americans to travel in the Pacific, including exotic locales off the beaten path of most tourists. Several Sunset Book titles further drew attention to Pacific island destinations.
Such interest in Hawaii and the South Pacific was part of Sunset's ongoing commitment since the very beginning to travel as one of the most engaging forms of leisure activity. Sunset, after all, had been founded in May of 1898 as a vehicle to promote travel to the West--and the Del Monte Hotel in Monterey!--via the Southern Pacific Railroad. Such travel by the upper classes was not a new phenomenon. As time went on, however, Sunset opened and supported the possibility that the middle classes might also make travel an important part of their leisure program. Once again, Sunset was echoing a Progressive ideal, in this case, the belief that the good life, including travel, should be available to as many people as possible.
Indeed, travel (even without counting closely related articles listed under national parks and outdoor recreation) constitutes the second largest category in the magazine across 100 years, some 1,388 notable articles, ranging from day trips to expeditions to Bora Bora and the Greek islands. Cumulatively, these travel articles reflect the rising prosperity of the nation and the expanding opportunities middle-class Americans were experiencing in the twentieth century. This was especially true in the West, where incomes were higher, and there was a greater propensity for year-round travel. Across the years, Sunset has advised its readers on how to travel by train, mule, horse, touring car, skis, snowshoes, houseboat, Ford Tri-motor, jet liner, cruise ships, and recreational vehicle to places worth seeing throughout the Far West, Mexico, Central America, Latin America, Europe, the South Pacific, the Far East--even Disneyland. In article after article, Sunset advised its readers on how best to enjoy the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, ski across the Truckee River in Nevada, see the aspens turn to gold along the Coronado Trail in Arizona, retrace the mining trails and bask in the midnight sun of Alaska, explore the jungles of the Yucatan, walk the beaches of Waikiki, or range through the Hawaiian back country by bicycle, picnic in Sonoma, view the Pacific from a promontory in Big Sur, search out new restaurants in Tokyo, shop for handicrafts in Mexico City, or just spend a day sampling the delights of Phoenix, Tucson, Reno, Denver, Boise, San Diego, Pasadena, Los Angeles, Fresno, San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland, Portland, Seattle, or Vancouver. In 1952 Sunset introduced its readers to the San Juan Islands. Who else but Sunset would advise its readers, as the magazine did in 1988, to explore Sawtooth, Idaho? But then again, in 1960, at the height of the Cold War, Sunset had even suggested a trip behind the Iron Curtain! Whether in the West or abroad, Sunset coined the term "Discovery Trip" to highlight hitherto-undiscovered travel destinations. Sunset championed what is now known as ecotourism long before the term became fashionable, with features on out-of-the-way wildlife and wilderness areas, emphasizing stewardship of the natural environment.
The rise of tourism as a lead element in the Western economy can be documented and placed in context through numerous Sunset articles across a century. Sunset pioneered travel to Alaska as well as to Hawaii and in so doing helped these territories along the road to statehood. It recommended travel to the affiliated Commonwealth of Puerto Rico as well, suggesting the summer off-season, and in so doing was perhaps encouraging the evolution of yet another American state. Sunset was among the first to discover Santa Fe as a stylish tourist destination, with early recognition of its now-famous outdoor opera and music seasons, and a source of new imagery for the Western lifestyle. In time, Santa Fe became a resort of international repute, as did Colorado, another Sunset favorite. (As an adolescent Larry Lane had first spent time on a relative's Colorado ranch during a tuberculosis scare, which fortunately turned out to be a false alarm.) Sunset also pioneered interest in Baja, California, showing a continuing fascination with that then-unsettled region, especially the Sea of Cortez, as demonstrated by its book on the region. Mexico remained a longtime Sunset favorite, and the magazine pioneered in promoting travel to Central America, a tradition honored today, as in the October 1997 "Colors of Oaxaca." Although Sunset ran a number of articles on travel to China in the 1920s, this option naturally diminished with the protracted wars in that nation through 1949, followed by the establishment of an initially tourist-hostile government. In its early years, Sunset promoted travel to Japan, then recently opened to the West, and it resumed its Japanese interest after the Second World War. Other destinations appearing occasionally in Sunset included Spain, the Canary Islands, Argentina, France, and Great Britain. In such articles, Sunset reflected the ability of middle-class Americans, especially from the advent of jet travel in the 1960s, to visit locales once reserved for the affluent.
On the other hand, Sunset never lost touch in its travel articles with an emphasis upon nature and a family-oriented enjoyment of the outdoors as opposed to typical travel-guide emphasis on archeology or historical monuments. Beginning in the 1950s, in fact, there emerged an emphasis upon accessible, family-oriented vacations in the many travel articles published in the magazine and in such books as Sunset Western Travel Adventures (1979) and Sunset Western Campsites (first published in 1955). (Many destinations were mentioned in articles of less than one page, and while their impact was often immediate and strong, these shorter pieces could not be listed in this bibliography.)
The travel emphasis of Sunset also implied a continuing interest in transportation. All in all, Sunset published more than 174 notable articles on transportation in the Far West: on horseback and burro, by coach or skiff, or deep-water yacht (such as Jack London's Snark, described by Allan Dunn for Sunset in 1907 as it embarked for the South Seas), or bi-plane and Ford Tri-motor, foreshadowing the rise of airline travel in the Far West, to the touring automobile and the Sunset Limited train. Obviously, a railroad-founded magazine promoted the railroad as the primary means of tourist travel, including photographs of the beautiful Southern Pacific and Santa Fe Railroad stations throughout the Far West. Yet very soon, Sunset found itself introducing its readers to the wonders and delights of the touring automobile. A long article in the February 1907 issue, "Motoring in the West," is in and of itself an important document in the history of motor travel in America, then as now a more popular form of travel in the West because of the variety of destinations, proximity to scenic or rugged terrain (hence the regional preference for four-wheel-drive vehicles), and climate favorable to the open touring vehicle and its successor, the convertible. The cumulative pages of Sunset contained a near-complete inventory of automobiles through the twentieth century, including that cherished leisure-oriented suburban vehicle, the station wagon. When small foreign cars became all the rage in the late 1950s, Sunset was on hand with an article in 1959 on how best to camp with such a vehicle. Almost from the start, Sunset promoted the building and maintenance of high quality roads and highways. As the age of the automobile began to show some of its limitations, especially in the area of commuter travel, Sunset turned its attention to the problem of over-crowded freeways with an article in May 1988 on van-pooling. It also ran an article advising its readers to try travel on the newly built BART system.