Weird Tales was founded by J.C. Henneberger
in March of 1923
, in his own words, "to give the writer free rein to express his innermost feelings in a manner befitting great literature
." Often lumped together with the other pulp
magazines of the time, Weird Tales differed in it's concentration on stories with a dark
theme, as opposed to the two-fisted
science fiction popular in the day.
Henneberger was a journalist with great admiration for the works of Edgar Allen Poe. He hired Edwin Baird, a successful author hailing from Chicago, as the first editor. Baird was assisted by Farnsworth Wright and Otis Adelbert Kline. Unfortunately it seems that Baird was a better writer than editor and but for a few pieces the early stories were fairly uninspired. The greatest discovery of Baird's editorship was a young author named H.P. Lovecraft. Baird purchased everything Lovecraft submitted, however Henneberger later admitted that Baird did not even like Lovecraft's writing and bought his submissions solely because of orders from Henneberger. In the words of E. Hoffman Price, "Baird was an idea man. Once the idea was going, he swiftly lost interest in it.
Fourteen low quality issues later, Baird was replaced by Farnsworth Wright, and Weird Tales headed into a Golden Age. Until then, Wright had been the magazine's chief reader of manuscripts. Under Wright's leadership, Weird Tales reached a pinnacle of literary quality, introducing the world to the finest macabre wordsmiths.
Weird Tales financial situation however, was still critical. The magazine was beset with money woes throughout it's existence. In 1940 Wright retired and died soon after. He was replaced by Dorothy McIlwraith. While McIlwraith was certainly a capable editor, the budget had been radically slashed since Wright's glory days. Many of the authors discovered by Weird Tales had died or moved on to glossier, better paying magazines. McIlwraith's Weird Tales was a slew of unknown authors and reprints from days gone by. Some of these unknown authors are legends in the field today, including Ray Bradbury and Fritz Leiber.
The magazine died in September, 1954. DNA Publications have relaunched it recently, more information is available at www.dnapublications.com/wt/.