Topic: Today

Inside Yankee: Looking Back, Looking Ahead

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Yankee Editor Mel Allen

Yankee Editor Mel Allen

I came to Yankee 31 years ago this October, and even then the magazine was so ingrained in the life and culture of the region that it was hard at times to know whether New England was shaping Yankee or whether the magazine was somehow defining how people saw New England–probably a bit of both. I was here for Yankee‘s 50th anniversary, and I know that this one, the 75th, will be the last big one for me. Someone else will write this page when Yankee‘s 100th anniversary rolls around, and the magazine then will come to readers through devices we can’t even imagine today. What I do know is that the reason Robb Sagendorph began Yankee in 1935–with one typewriter, and a Franklin stove beside his desk–won’t change, no matter how many anniversaries we celebrate.

He knew that in a country undergoing profound societal change, people would be hungry for and drawn to place, and that no place in America possessed such a sense of tradition and continuity–a place with an identity so strong that no matter where you were, if you said “I’m a New Englander,” people would have a sense of who you were. That was what he wanted to capture: in words and photographs, the feel and mood and character of this special place, so connected to the nation’s roots that in a sense every American belonged to it, or wanted to. Or needed to.

Today, new magazines are launched to appeal to a market, and to the advertisers who want to reach that market. Sagendorph was after something bigger. He saw a way of life he loved fighting to hang on. He saw values under fire. He saw the idiosyncratic Yankee in danger of becoming everyman. So he created something unique: a magazine that held the voices of a region within its bound pages. And as New England changed and evolved, so too did the magazine; the voices may be different today, but they still come from the same place.

And here’s what won’t change by the time someone writes an introduction to the 100th anniversary issue. People will yearn for solitude, for sunrise over water and the haunting howl of a wild creature; they’ll want to raise a family where kids belong not to some sprawling stretch of asphalt but to neighborhoods with roots. And in 2035, New England will still be the most distinct, most compact region in the country, with a sense of history that surrounds you every time you stroll past the homes of people who lived when the nation was still raw. This issue is our roadmap to the fun and pride we feel about belonging to New England. Enjoy the trip.


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