The story of the American Bee Journal, its origin, and Samuel Wagner, the first editor, must be closely associated with the Rev. L.L. Langstroth. In 1851, Langstroth had invented his movable-frame hive. In September 1851, a few weeks after a call on Langstroth, the Rev. Dr. Joseph Frederick Berg, pastor of a church in Philadelphia, visited Wagner and told him about this extraordinary beekeeper and his movable-frame hive and his beekeeping methods. They agreed that Wagner should go and see for himself, but it was not until August 1852, almost a year later, that he was able to do so.
After visiting Langstroth’s apiary and seeing his hive, Wagner made a decision at a sacrifice to himself. He had corresponded with Dzierzon, discoverer of parthenogenesis, proponent of a practical system of beekeeping and author of a book entitled Rational Beekeeping. He had received permission to translate the book into English to be published for the improvement of American beekeeping. Wagner had made the translation, but it was never published. Recognizing the Langstroth movable frame hive as superior, he decided to encourage Langstroth to write a book instead; for his part, he would place all his store of information at Langstroth’s service.
Langstroth quickly prepared the copy for the first edition of his book with the assistance of his wife, and Langstroth on the Hive and the HoneyBee, A Bee-Keeper’s Manual appeared in May of 1853.
Inasmuch as there were already two bee journals published in Germany, Langstroth made this prediction: “There is now a prospect that a Bee Journal will before long be established in this country. Such a publication has long been needed. Properly conducted, it will have a most powerful influence in disseminating information, awakening enthusiasm, and guarding the public against the miserable impositions to which it has so long been subjected.”
Wagner established the American Bee Journal and its first issue appeared in January 1861, and from the start he had Langstroth as a contributor as well as an advisor. But after one year of publication, the Civil War resulted in the suspension of its publication until July 1866, when it was resumed.To quote from Pellett’s History of American Beekeeping, “The history of the American Bee Journal has been the history of the rise of beekeeping, and the one is inseparably linked to that of the other. Before this first copy of the first bee magazine in the English language appeared, there were few of the implements now in common use among beekeepers. Conventions of beemen had not been held, a practical smoker had not yet been invented, queen excluders were unknown, comb foundation was still to be perfected, the extractor had not come into use, nor had commercial queen rearing been suggested.
The early volumes of the Journal contain the names of many men of worldwide reputation in the beekeeping world. From the start, Langstroth was a contributor, but to mention a few of the others we would include Henry Alley, Adam Grimm, Moses Quinby, Elisha Gallup, Charles Dadant, Baron von Berlepsch and Dzierzon. Charles Dadant made his first contributions in November 1867, introducing himself as a newcomer from France. From then until his death in 1902, his name frequently appears as a writer in its pages.
For a long time, much space was devoted to the discussion of patent hives, and hundreds of different kinds received attention. In one year, 1869, more than 60 patents were recorded on hives and appliances, which gives one an understanding of the public interest in beekeeping at that time. Charles Dadant’s defense of the Langstroth patented beehive, which appeared in the Journal, had an important place in the final judgment which awarded credit to the frail minister who profited little from his effort.
In the 1870’s, a number of other bee publications were started, some of which continued publication for a time. Most made their beginnings after that of Wagner in 1872. The American Bee Journal was continued by Wagner’s son with the assistance of Langstroth, who may have done most of the editorial work until January, 1873, when the Rev. W. F. Clarke became editor and owner. When Samuel Wagner resumed publication of the Journal after the Civil War, it was published in Washington, D.C., but when Clarke assumed its management, he moved the Journal to Chicago, Illinois.
Clarke’s connection with the Journal was short – in July of 1874, Thomas G. Newman purchased the American Bee Journal. Thomas G. Newman continued as editor and publisher until April 1892, when George W. York joined the staff and the masthead of that issue lists Newman as editor and York as assistant editor. The announcement of the sale of the Journal to George W. York appears in the June 1897 issue and the masthead reads: “Published weekly by George W. York & Co.”
York continued editing and publishing the American Bee Journal as a weekly. In the May 1912 issue, is published a letter, dated April 1, 1912 and signed by George W. York, that announced he had sold the American Bee Journal and his business to C.P. Dadant, Hamilton, Illinois. The masthead reads: “C.P. Dadant, Editor; Dr. C.C. Miller, Associate Editor.” Thus the American Bee Journal was moved to Hamilton where it has been published ever since. In 1916 C.P. Dadant hired Frank C. Pellett as staff correspondent. Pellett later was to be designated field editor, associate editor and editor.
M.G. Dadant, returning from college at the University of Illinois, joined the staff of the Journal in October 1918, and his name appears in that issue as business manager. A title he was to hold until the death of his father, C.P. Dadant. About the same time, G.H. Cale, Sr., was employed to take care of the Dadant apiaries, and his name first appears in the October 1928 issue of the Journal as an associate editor, and later he became designated editor on the death of C.P. Dadant in 1938.
During the 1940s through the 1960s, Journal editors and associate editors included M.G. Dadant, Frank C. Pellett, J.C. Dadant, Roy A. Grout and Adelaide Fraser. In 1965, Vern Sisson came on board, first as an assistant editor and later as editor during the early 1970s. Others assisting with the Journal during the early 1970s included Dale Maki and Jim Sheetz. Bill Carlile, long-time columnist and Dadant beekeeper, also assisted in editorship duties during the 1970s. In 1974, Joe Graham was hired as editor until his retirement in 2017. Kirsten Traynor became editor in September 2017 until mid November of 2018. Eugene Makovec began as editor of the Journal in November 2018 until this present day.
C.P. Dadant had earlier written, “I want the American Bee Journal to be the finest publication about bees and beekeeping in the world.” We, the editors who are continuing its publication, have this as our goal and guiding light.