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Founding members of The Atlantic

Updated: Jun 8, 2023

The Atlantic, one of the most respected and influential publications in American journalism, owes its origins to a group of visionary thinkers and writers who sought to establish a platform for intellectual discourse and thought-provoking journalism. Founded in 1857, The Atlantic emerged as a trailblazing publication that challenged prevailing norms, fostered intellectual curiosity, and provided a space for insightful commentary on a wide range of topics. This article explores the founding members of The Atlantic, highlighting their contributions, beliefs, and the enduring impact of their intellectual legacy.


Ralph Waldo Emerson: The Philosopher of Transcendentalism


Ralph Waldo Emerson, a renowned philosopher, poet, and essayist, played a pivotal role in the establishment of The Atlantic. As one of the leading figures of the transcendentalist movement, Emerson believed in the inherent goodness of humanity, the importance of self-reliance, and the pursuit of truth. His influential essay, "The American Scholar," inspired a generation of thinkers and set the intellectual tone for The Atlantic.


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: The Celebrated Poet


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a celebrated poet and academic, was another key founding member of The Atlantic. Known for his lyrical verse and his ability to capture the essence of American life and history, Longfellow brought a poetic sensibility to the magazine. His role as a respected literary figure and his commitment to intellectual exploration made him an invaluable contributor to The Atlantic's early success.


Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.: The Multifaceted Intellect


Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., a physician, writer, and esteemed essayist, added a unique perspective to The Atlantic. Known for his wit and sharp intellect, Holmes brought a scientific and medical viewpoint to the publication. His essays covered a wide range of subjects, from medicine and philosophy to literature and social issues, enriching the intellectual diversity of The Atlantic's content.


James Russell Lowell: The Literary Critic and Abolitionist


James Russell Lowell, a prominent poet, essayist, and ardent abolitionist, played a crucial role in shaping the direction and purpose of The Atlantic. Lowell's literary criticism and political activism brought a passionate voice to the magazine. His commitment to social justice and the abolitionist cause aligned with The Atlantic's mission to engage with pressing issues of the time.


Moses Dresser Phillips: The Business Mind


Moses Dresser Phillips, a publisher and businessman, provided the necessary financial and logistical support to establish The Atlantic. With his expertise in the publishing industry, Phillips ensured the magazine's viability and sustainability. His business acumen helped transform The Atlantic into a reputable publication that could reach a broad readership.


Intellectual Legacy and Lasting Impact


The collective efforts of these founding members laid the foundation for The Atlantic's intellectual legacy. Through their writings and editorial vision, they created a publication that valued intellectual curiosity, critical thinking, and rigorous journalism. The Atlantic became a platform for important discussions on politics, culture, literature, and social issues, fostering intellectual exploration and engaging readers with insightful commentary.


The intellectual legacy of the founding members lives on in the continued commitment of The Atlantic to thought-provoking journalism and informed analysis. The publication's emphasis on diverse perspectives, in-depth reporting, and nuanced commentary upholds the values set forth by its visionary founders, ensuring its relevance and influence in a rapidly changing media landscape.



The founding members of The Atlantic, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., James Russell Lowell, and Moses Dresser Phillips, were instrumental in establishing a publication that championed intellectual thought and insightful journalism. Their contributions laid the groundwork for a publication that continues to shape public discourse, challenge prevailing narratives, and inspire readers with its commitment to intellectual curiosity and rigorous analysis. The enduring legacy of these visionary thinkers serves as a testament to the power of ideas and the enduring impact of their intellectual pursuits through The Atlantic.




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