The Saturday Evening Post, once America's most popular magazine and lately a nostalgic bimonthly found in Midwestern doctors' offices, is scheduling a return from exile in Indiana to offices near its old headquarters on Washington Square - along with its 191-year archive and, maybe, its $70 million art collection.
The Post is back with a new design, new fiction, and reporting. "We'll be Vanity Fair meets Smithsonian," says the Post's new editor, Steve Slon, who cofounded Men's Health magazine for Emmaus, Pa.-based Rodale Press and was editor of AARP's 40 million-circulation member magazine before joining Post publisher Joan SerVaas.
"The magazine in the last 30 years was relying on nostalgia, tradition, the good old days. We'll still have that, with the old Norman Rockwell paintings. But we're relegating that to a small part," Slon told me. "Mainly we will be analyzing the trends of the day."
The January-February issue includes "Jailhouse Blues," by Philadelphia-based writer Todd Pitock, a piece that traces the nation's development as the "superpower of incarceration." Ex-Newsweek health writer Sharon Begley adds a piece on placebos. The cover is a celebrity profile on Shirley MacLaine.
Slon will raid the Post archive, which includes short works by F. Scott Fitzgerald and John O'Hara (editors rejected that racy Ernest Hemingway). Plus, new fiction: the Post's first Great American Fiction Contest drew 250 entries. The winner, Lucy Jane Bledsoe's piece, "Wolf," will be celebrated next month at a Post comeback party at Michael's in New York.
The old Post occupied what is now the Curtis Center high-rise on Independence Square and a sprawling printing complex at Curtis Park near Darby.
The new Post is negotiating for a suite in the Public Ledger Building, next to the Curtis Center. (Cyrus H.K. Curtis also owned the Public Ledger newspaper.) It's "just a toehold, until we get established here," Slon says. "I'm looking for a managing editor. We'll have a reporter and a couple of web editors."
If all goes well, the business staff will follow.
The SerVaas family, which bought the Post after a 1969 shutdown, inherited more than the magazine's management.
"We have art, including half a dozen Rockwell originals, and 60 or 70 paintings," said Slon, who estimated the worth of the art at $70 million. "It's been a traveling collection. We'd like to create a gallery. The family cares very deeply.
"The archive, back to 1821, is in their offices. They would consider donating it to a Philadelphia-based institution. They feel strongly it belongs in Philadelphia."
Berwyn medical publisher John Elduff resurrected onetime Post rival Collier's as a glossy waiting-room bimonthly last year.
Meridian Bank, a $422 million-asset, three-branch lender based in Paoli, defied the economy and grew rapidly in the last year, adding loans and deposits and nearly 100 new hires, almost doubling its staff.
Meridian boosted mortgage lending and expanded its payment-card processing arm, serving both retail merchants and independent sales organizations (ISOs) that handle credit-card sales for online retailers.
But since October, Meridian has been laboring under a 21-page FDIC consent order that sets tough, expensive conditions for servicing ISOs, which the government says are extra vulnerable to fraud. The government wants Meridian to "scrutinize our customers' customers, and not just our customers," Christopher Annas, Meridian's founder, chairman, and CEO, told me.
So Meridian is dropping its ISO clients. Annas said Meridian is "well on the way to meeting" other FDIC conditions, and added two compliance people. That's "not cheap, but it's the new reality" under the Dodd-Frank bank-reform bill of 2010.