The Dial Timeline

1840-1844 – The Dial, published in Boston and Concord, is launched as the principal journal of the Transcendentalists. Bronson Alcott proposes the title to suggest a sundial. It is edited by Margaret Fuller and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

1860 – The Dial is revived in Cincinnati as a monthly review. Edited by Moncure D. Conway, it is the first relaunch of the original magazine; it closes after a year.

1880-1913 – The Dial appears in another incarnation in Chicago, as a monthly political and literary review under the auspices of Francis F. Browne. Browne edits the magazine for over three decades, establishing The Dial as a leading publication. 

1913-1916 – Death of Francis F. Browne. His family, unable to effectively manage the magazine, sells it to Martyn Johnson in 1916. The editorial staff includes luminaries such as Randolph Bourne, John Dewey, Thorstein Veblen and Harold Stearn. Johnson transforms it into a political journal, with little literary and art content.

1917-1918 – James Sibley Watson, Jr. and Scofield Thayer contribute reviews to The Dial. 

1918 – In April, Thayer purchases $600.00 worth of stock to help the financially needy journal. Thayer spends several weeks, from May to June, in Chicago at The Dial offices and by June, is working as a Contributing Editor at $30 a week. In July, the magazine moves its headquarters to New York in the heart of Greenwich Village at 152 West 13th Street, where it would remain through its closure in 1929. In October, Thayer becomes Associate Editor and Secretary-Treasurer of The Dial. Thayer resigns in December, incensed over Johnson’s editorial policies. Thayer, nonetheless, honors his agreement to invest another $10,000 to help keep the magazine running.

1919 – By the fall, Johnson is unable to meet notes for $10,000 worth of stock; in November, Watson and Thayer step in and purchase the failing Dial.

1920 – The Dial is relaunched as an arts and literary review. It is the first magazine to integrate literary contributions with artwork. The inaugural issue appears in January with Scofield Thayer listed as Editor and James Sibley Watson, Jr. as President. Thayer almost single-handedly ushers in the modern era, publishing the “best” work of all the Modernist literati in the U.S. and Europe, notably T.S. Eliot, E.E. Cummings, William Butler Yeats and Ezra Pound — many for the first time.  And he introduces little-known artists such as Brancusi, Cezanne, Chagall, Delauney, Matisse, Picasso and Schiele through the pages of The Dial.

1920-1923 – Gilbert Seldes serves as Associate and Managing Editor.

1921 – The Dial Award is launched, establishing a model for honoring the work of writers that has since been adopted by most major literary awards. The June 1921 issue announces the creation of the Dial Award, $2,000 to be presented to one of its contributors, acknowledging his/her "service to letters" in hopes of providing the artist with "leisure through which at least one artist may serve God (or go to the Devil) according to his own lights." At the time, the $2,000 award would allow a generous lifestyle for a year. Sherwood Anderson receives the first award.

1922 – Color appears in The Dial with a reproduction of Franz Marc’s Horses in the September frontispiece. Color plates were printed in Berlin, first by Herwarth Walden and later by Julius Meier-Graefe, and tipped in at the printers in the U.S.  T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land is published in November and in January he receives The Dial Award. 

1923 – Dial literary critic Van Wyck Brooks receives The Dial Award. Thayer launches the "Dial dinners". Inspired by the European "salons", these weekday dinners were hosted by Thayer in the top-floor dining room at the Dial offices for magazine contributors and staff. 

1924 – Publication of the folio Living Art, the best of modern art, compiled by Scofield Thayer. The extensive and cutting-edge Dial Collection is exhibited at the Montross Gallery in New York, the Worcester Art Museum, and the Hillyer Art Gallery at Smith College. Marianne Moore receives The Dial Award.

1924-1925 – Alyse Gregory serves as Managing Editor.

1925-1926 – Thayer's last Comment (editorial) appears in May 1925. He resigns from his active duties as Editor in June 1926. Appointment of Marianne Moore as Acting Editor. Thayer will continue to contribute poems on occasion, and will financially support the magazine until it closes.

1925 – E.E. Cummings, whose first post-college publication was in The Dial, receives The Dial Award. The Harvard Advocate pays tribute to The Dial in April by choosing Thayer's magazine as the subject of its annual parody issue.

1926 – On receiving The Dial Award, William Carlos Williams, the Pulitzer prize-winning poet recalled that the “Award was an epoch making event for me, it put me on my feet.”

1927-1929 – Marianne Moore is listed on the masthead as Editor, and Scofield Thayer, as Advisor.

1927 – Ezra Pound, contributor and Paris correspondent, receives The Dial Award.

1928 – Kenneth Burke, long-time contributor, is the last writer to receive The Dial Award.

1929 – Final issue of The Dial (July). The raison d’etre of The Dial, to promote Modernism, was a success. The Museum of Modern Art was founded that same year. Modernism had become mainstream. 






Selected Contributors to The Dial:

Conrad Aiken

Sherwood Anderson

Louis Aragon

Alexander Archipenko

Dr. Albert C. Barnes

Djuna Barnes

Max Beerbohm

Stephen Vincent Benet

Pierre Bonnard

Randolph Bourne

Constantin Brancusi

Georges Braque

Van Wyck Brooks

Ivan Bunin

Kenneth Burke

Joseph Campbell

Paul Cezanne

Marc Chagall

Giorgio de Chirico

Jean Cocteau

Padraic Colum

Joseph Conrad

Ananda Coomaraswamy

Malcolm Cowley

Hart Crane

Thomas Jewell Craven

E.E. Cummings

Adolf Dehn

Charles Demuth

Robert Delauney

Andre Derain

John Dos Passos

Fyodor Dostoevsky

T.S. Eliot

Ford Maddox Ford

E.M. Forster

Anatole France

Demetrius Galanis

Paul Gauguin

Kahlil Gibran

Maxim Gorki

Thomas Hardy

Marsden Hartley

Oswald Herzog

Hermann Hesse

Winslow Homer

James Joyce

Oskar Kokoschka

Stanley Kunitz

Yasuo Kuniyoshi

Gaston Lachaise

Marie Laurencin

D.H. Lawrence

Henri Le Fauconnier

Sinclair Lewis

Max Liebermann

Vachel Lindsay

Jacques Lipchitz

Archibald MacLeish

Aristide Maillol

Thomas Mann

Katherine Mansfield

Franz Marc

Henri Matisse

Henry McBride

Julius Meier-Graefe

H.L. Mencken

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Amadeo Modigliani

Edvard Munch

Lewis Mumford

Elie Nadelman

Georgia O’Keeffe

Liam O’Flaherty

Jose Ortega y Gasset

Jules Pascin

Pablo Picasso

Luigi Pirandello

Ezra Pound

Marcel Proust

Odilon Redon

Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Rainer Maria Rilke

Edward Arlington Robinson

Auguste Rodin

Romain Rolland

Henri Rousseau

Bertrand Russell

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Carl Sandburg

George Santayana

John Singer Sargent

Egon Schiele

Arthur Schnitzler

Georges Seurat

Paul Signac

Gertrude Stein

Leo Stein

Joseph Stella

Wallace Stevens

Louis Untermeyer

Hendrik Willem Van Loon

Hugo von Hofmannsthal

Maurice de Vlaminck

Edouard Vuillard

Max Weber

William Carlos Williams

Edmund Wilson

Virginia Woolf

William Butler Yeats

Ossip Zadkine

Marguerite Zorach

William Zorach

Stefan Zweig

The Dial


In 1920, Scofield Thayer and James Sibley Watson, Jr., refashioned The Dial as an arts and literary magazine. Theirs was the third major incarnation of the magazine which traced its roots to 1840 when it was launched by Margaret Fuller and Ralph Waldo Emerson as the principal journal of the Transcendentalists.

With the introverted, intellectual Watson as President and the brilliant, visionary Thayer as Editor, they produced the magazine “that America needs” and published the “inevitable” work of established writers and artists along with the “impossible”– risqué and daring work so new that it would not otherwise be published. 

The Dial was to be an outlet for what the public at large would only eventually understand and appreciate.

Thayer and Watson, describing their editorial philosophy noted: 

So we thank our critics for the rebuke that ‘you are printing things no other magazine would print’ as well as words of praise that ‘you are bringing into the light work any publication would be proud of.’ THE DIAL hopes always to deserve both comments.

The first year of the Watson/Thayer Dial alone saw the appearance of Sherwood Anderson, Djuna Barnes, Kenneth Burke, William Carlos Williams, Hart Crane, E. E. Cummings, Charles Demuth, Kahlil Gibran, Gaston Lachaise, Amy Lowell, Marianne Moore, Ezra Pound, Odilon Redon, Bertrand Russell, Carl Sandburg, Van Wyck Brooks, and William Butler Yeats.

The list of contributors to The Dial during almost a decade of monthly publication (1920-1929) is a veritable Who’s Who of the foremost writers and artists from the era, whose impact has been lasting. The Dial is noted for many firsts, among them:

  • The Dial was the first literary and arts magazine to integrate literary contributions with artistic renderings. Thayer meticulously selected the art that would accompany text-based pieces.

  • Ezra Pound’s Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, regarded as a Modernist masterpiece about artistic struggle, was first published in the September 1920 issue of The Dial and is considered a turning point in Pound’s career. Later, several selections of his Cantos, the epic poem he never completed, appeared in The Dial even though Thayer thought them “silly”. For example, Canto XXVII was first printed in the January 1928 Dial and was illustrated with Odilon Redon’s The Reader.

  • Georgia O’Keeffe’s Black Spot No. 2 (1919) was featured in the December 1921 issue, the first time her work had ever appeared in print.

  • The Dial was the first magazine to launch a literary honor for its contributors. The Dial Award was announced in 1921 for "service to letters" with a $2,000 prize to provide the winner with "leisure through which at least one artist may serve God (or go to the Devil) according to his own lights." At the time, the $2,000 prize would allow a generous lifestyle for a year. The Dial Award still serves as a model for most of today’s literary awards. Sherwood Anderson received the first. Other honorees: 1922: T.S. Eliot; 1923: Van Wyck Brooks; 1924: Marianne Moore; 1925: E.E. Cummings; 1926: William Carlos Williams; 1927: Ezra Pound and 1928: Kenneth Burke.

  • The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot first appeared in the U.S. in the The Dial, November 1922, with Robert Delaunay’s St. Severin on the opposite page. The first literary criticism of The Waste Land was written by the influential critic Edmund Wilson for the December 1922 issue. Wilson also famously edited two unfinished books by fellow Princeton classmate F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Last Tycoon and The Crack-Up for posthumous publication.

  • Sherwood Anderson’s I’m a Fool, first appeared in the February 1922 issue of The Dial. It later appeared in Anderson's short-story collection Horses and Men, prompting William Faulkner to comment that "...I think, next to Heart of Darkness by Conrad, I'm a Fool, is the best short story I ever read."

  • Among the groundbreaking work The Dial published from European writers was the first edition of Thomas Mann’s tale of obsessive love, Death in Venice, which was published in installments from March through May 1924.

  • E.E. Cummings celebrated the first post-college publication of his poems in the inaugural issue of The Dial in January 1920. Despite Cummings’s affair with Thayer’s wife Elaine, Thayer continued to promote Cummings and he would become one of the magazine’s most frequent contributors, securing his reputation as America’s most innovative poet.

  • When William Butler Yeats won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923, Thayer was pleased to note that the only U.S. journal that had published him was The Dial, as early as November 1920, for The Second Coming.

  • Thayer spent 1921-1923 in Vienna as a patient of Sigmund Freud. He continued to edit The Dial from afar via transatlantic cable, calls and letters. While abroad, he sourced writers and artists including Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Oscar Kokoschka and Alexander Archipenko, all of whom likely appeared first in the U.S. on the pages of the magazine.

  • The Dial discovered or “promoted” the most eminent writers of the era and helped bring them to the forefont. The Dial recognized their talent before they went on to receive national and international recognition. Of note:

  • Nine Dial writers went on to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature between 1920 and 1950 (Anatole France, William Butler Yeats, Thomas Mann, Sinclair Lewis, Ivan Bunin, Luigi Pirandello, Hermann Hesse, T.S. Eliot and Bertrand Russell).

  • Two went on to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction between 1921 and 1930 (Sinclair Lewis and Oliver LaFarge).

  • Fifteen went on to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry between 1922 and 1963 (Edwin Arlington Robinson - 3 times, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Amy Lowell, Leonora Speyer, Stephen Vincent Benet – twice, Conrad Aiken, George Dillon, Archibald MacLeish – twice, Robert Hillyer, Mark Van Doren, Carl Sandburg, Marianne Moore, Wallace Steven, Stanley Kunitz, William Carlos Williams).

  • Two went on to receive the Pulitzer Prize for History between 1937 and 1959 (Van Wyck Brooks and Archibald MacLeish).

  • Carl Sandburg received a special Pulitzer Prize in 1919.

  • Three became U.S. Poet Laureates between 1950 and 1976 (Conrad Aiken, William Carlos Williams and Stanley Kunitz).

No other magazine can lay claim to publishing such a pantheon of “greats”.

The Dial published art as well as poetry and essays, with artists ranging from Vincent Van Gogh, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Henri Matisse and Odilon Redon, to Oskar Kokoschka, Constantin Brâncuși and Edvard Munch, as well as Georgia O'Keeffe and Joseph Stella. The magazine also reported on the cultural life of European capitals, and "correspondents" included T. S. Eliot from London, Ezra Pound from Paris, Thomas Mann from Germany, and Hugo von Hofmannsthal from Vienna.

The Dial placed American painters and sculptors on a par with their European counterparts for the first time, promoting the work of artists such as Gaston Lachaise, Charles Demuth, Adolf Dehn, Rockwell Kent and John Marin.

The 1920s was one of the most exciting eras in America’s history. With the end of World War I and Isolationism, came the introduction of sweeping social, political and scientific change. And on the cultural front, Modernism made its debut, with The Dial leading this "movement". 

The Dial is regarded as a landmark in cultural history and a singular achievement in the history of magazine publishing. In the 1920s, magazines were as relevant and as urgent as today’s blogs. General interest publications such as The Saturday Evening Post, Colliers and Life were designed to have mass appeal while others such as Harper’s Magazine, National Geographic Magazine and The Dial had a thematic focus and served as conduits for ideas.

Scofield Thayer was the magazine's Editor-in-Chief from 1920 to 1926, and Watson was President from 1920 until its closure in 1929. Due to Thayer's breakdown, he left The Dial in 1925 and formally resigned in 1926. Marianne Moore, a contributor to The Dial and an advisor, became Managing Editor in 1925, and the magazine's Editor-in-Chief upon Thayer's resignation.

As Scofield Thayer's mental health continued to deteriorate, and he was hospitalized, Watson began to delve into avant garde film, leaving Moore to her own devices as Editor-in-Chief. (Watson produced film classics such as Edgar Allen Poe's The Fall of The House of Usher, 1928.)

When the magazine closed in 1929, the staff was confident that the precedent they set would be carried on by other magazines. And Modernism, the raison d’etre of The Dial, was a success, it was now mainstream. The Museum of Modern Art was founded that same year. And, many of the artists and writers whose work had puzzled and scandalized readers were now firmly established.

The Dial Jan 1920 First Issue.jpg