Have you gotten your hands on an old copy of the Burr McIntosh Monthly yet? There were just 86 issues of this odd sized little magazine issued between 1903-1910, but every one I've seen is a treasure, packed with quality photographs of the days biggest stars from the world of theatre, opera, politics, heck, even Hall of Famer Iron Joe McGinnity appeared on a plate in the October 1903 issue. I've sold the single plate featuring Mark Twain in the December 1906 issue for more than I've paid for the entire issue...multiple times!
The man responsible for this publication, Burr McIntosh himself, displayed his talents across several fields of the arts in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, having debuted on stage in 1885, and then soon thereafter taking up photography. McIntosh went beyond the scope of the usual amateur hobbyist by taking photos of the Spanish-American War while on assignment as a correspondent for Leslie's Weekly. He retired from the stage as the century turned and began publication of the magazine bearing his name in 1903. The image displayed at the top right not only appeared in issues of Burr McIntosh Monthly, but is credited to Burr McIntosh himself. This Billie Burke print is featured from the March 1908 issue.
The Burr McIntosh Monthly didn't stop with famous people, you'll find both photographs and artistic interpretations of landscapes, seascapes, children, and more. The bulk of the pages will be in black and white, though some are color tinted; most pages will be on a slick paper, though some are on a quality rice paper, others on a double-weight paper, some of the photos are tipped in, and usually the frontispiece will be preserved with a covering of tissue paper.
The Burr McIntosh Monthly was published with an innocent enough concept, which would have occurred naturally soon enough; they expected readers to take the issue apart and display their favorite images. Thus, complete issues are rare and due to the nature of the binding--by string--not discovered without a little work! Pages aren't numbered, though there is a contents page. You can often spot an incomplete issue from scraps of paper left in the gutter when people carelessly tore pages from the issue. But to confirm the issue is complete you'll have to go through each page and match it up with the contents listing. Even then, I've sometimes noticed slight discrepancies, such as the appearance of an uncatalogued page! It's easy enough to prove an issue incomplete, but not as simple to claim that it is absolutely complete.
Burr McIntosh Monthly encouraged this practice by offering a line of attractive framing and decorative supplies to help display their unconventionally sized portraits. An original ad for those supplies appears on this page.
By the way, while the stunning photographs were the main draw of the Burr McIntosh Monthly, the magazine did also include text articles and was something the higher classes could sit down with to catch up on the latest happenings from the cultured world.
Returning to Burr McIntosh, the man, I've put together a timeline of his accomplishments immediately below. This also includes notes on the history of the Burr McIntosh Monthly. You'll notice that after the Burr McIntosh Monthly concluded publication McIntosh not only returned to theatre but also did some film acting, including an appearance in D.W. Griffith's classic melodrama, Way Down East.
- 1862 - August 21 - Born in Wellsville, Ohio
- 1883 - Burr McIntosh enters Princeton
- 1884 - Graduated from Lafayette College where he was member of Sigma Chi fraternity
- 1885 - August 31, Burr McIntosh makes professional theatre debut in Bartley Campbell's "Paquita" at the 14th Street Theatre in New York
- 1895 - On Broadway in the part of Taffy in "Trilby" at the Garden Theatre
- 1898 - Photojournalist for Frank Leslie's Weekly working in Cuba covering the siege of Santiago
- 1899 - The Little I Saw of Cuba by Burr McIntosh published. 173 page book, 5-3/4" X 8"
- 1900 - Exhibits portraits of actresses at Veerhoff Galleries in Washington, DC
- 1901 - Leave the Broadway stage
- 1903 - First of 86 issues of Burr McIntosh Monthly dated April
- 1905 - Returns to the stage to once again play Taffy in the revival of "Trilby" at the New Amsterdam Theatre (24 performances).
- 1907 - August, Burr McIntosh Monthly changes size from 6-1/4" X 12" to 7-1/4" X 12-1/4"
- 1910 - January, Burr McIntosh Monthly changes size from 7-1/4" X 12-1/4" to 7" X 10". Switch in emphasis from photographs to text
- 1910 - Last of 86 issues of Burr McIntosh Monthly dated May
- 1914 - First Broadway appearance since 1905 in "Cordelia Blossom" which runs for 14 performances at the Gaiety Theatre
- 1914 - Stars in first film, "In Mizzoura" directed by Lawrence B. McGill
- 1915 - Produces and stars in the film "Colonel Carter of Cartersville"
- 1920 - Most famous film appearance as Squire Bartlett in "Way Down East"
- 1923 - Final Broadway appearance as General Scott in "Robert E. Lee" which ran for 15 performances at the Ritz Theatre
- 1934 - Final film appearance in a bit role in "The Richest Girl in the World" directed by William A. Seiter
- 1942 - April 28, Burr McIntosh dies from a heart attack in Hollywood, California
I personally prefer to leave intact copies of Burr McIntosh Monthly alone, confirming their complete state and copying each issue's contents for sales listings today and my magawiki site sometime in the future. At the same time, I'm more than happy to come upon incomplete or damaged issues which I will carefully disbound in order to offer the single plates for sale. I typically sell complete issues for $50 and up (depending upon the actual contents), while I can fetch $6-$12 for single page plates from an issue...each issue containing over 20 such pages. You might imagine what state I prefer to find issues of Burr McIntosh Monthly in!
This article has been moved from Immortal Ephemera where it was originally published November 2008 — and then moved back from the now defunct BurrMcIntosh.com, where it was posted from August 2011 through August 2015.