I’ve often wondered: What was Peoria’s first local magazine? Turns out, there’s no simple answer. It depends on your definition of “magazine,” and then there’s the matter of uncovering them. If it’s not online or archived at the local library, a print publication can easily be lost to history, its remaining physical copies gathering dust in attics or buried in the archives of local collectors.
What follows is not a comprehensive history, but a fall down this rabbit hole—and a fascinating walk through time.
Dating to the 1880s, The Peoria Medical Monthly was the earliest local publication I could find. However, scholarly journals are not usually considered “magazines,” which are typically written for the general public.
In the early 20th century, “city magazines” were often marketing vehicles for local business associations, and so it was in Peoria. From 1911 to 1916, The Peorian was published by the Peoria Association of Commerce, now the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce. A century later, its name was revived for a new publication.
By mid-century, many large companies were producing magazines in-house. Examples in the Peoria Public Library’s local history collection include Keynotes, produced by Keystone in the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s, and Hiram Walker’s Spirit, founded in 1943 and published in Peoria for more than a decade before moving operations to Canada.
A promotional guide to the area, Peoria Today touted local amenities, from business to restaurants to the arts. From 1967 to the mid-‘70s, it was published in cooperation with the Peoria Area Chamber; subsequent publishers included Walfred Co. and Tazewell Publishing Company. It was discontinued in the mid-‘80s.
PJS Publications, a Journal Star subsidiary, produced special-interest and trade magazines in Peoria for decades. First published in 1960, Shooting Times focused on firearms and hunting; other publications included Crafts, Rotor and Wing and Sew News. A series of ownership changes in the ‘90s saw most of them exiting Peoria, but Intermedia Outdoors, a national publisher, still maintains a presence at 2 News Plaza.
Potpourri hit the streets in May 1973, and appears to be Peoria’s first independent “city magazine.” Slick and high-end, its glossy pages covered everything from arts and entertainment to business and medicine, with all the plaid-and-polyester trappings of the “Me Decade.” Unfortunately, finance was not the publisher’s forte, and it folded the next year.
In 1984 and 1985, Central Illinois Business Magazine (later Central Illinois Quarterly) saluted small business in the face of a tough economy. Though published in Peoria, it covered a wide—perhaps too wide—territory, including Danville, Springfield, Champaign and Decatur.
Geared for the ‘80s woman, Attitudes and Images debuted in December 1987 with features on fashion, hair styling and the like. With a renowned Beverly Hills stylist and Oprah Winfrey on the first two covers, it seems to have had national aspirations.
A new business magazine launched in 1989, and InterBusiness Issues (iBi) continues its run to this day. Its parent company, Central Illinois Business Publishers, is also responsible for The Peoria Woman (1990-2008), Arts Alive! (1996-2005), Peoria Progress (2002-present) and Art & Society (2006-present). Meanwhile, Marty Wombacher’s People of Peoria (POP) ran from 1990 to 1993—click here for that story.
Dave and Ginny Molleck of Limelight Communications founded Healthy Cells (1999-present), and have since expanded into markets as distant as Phoenix and Tampa. Limelight also publishes 50+ News & Views, a niche publication targeted to people ages 50 and older.
The new millennium brought a surge of short-lived publications, as well as a new city magazine, Peoria Metropolitan, founded in 2000. Colorful and glossy, it featured high-profile contributors like Greg Batton and Renee Charles, and features on familiar Peoria icons, from Hersey Hawkins to Jim Maloof. It lasted a year and a half before merging with city magazines in Springfield and Bloomington-Normal to become Illinois magazine.
From 2006 to 2013, Numéro was known for its bold graphics, creative design and monthly themes. Other prominent local magazines of the last decade include Midwestern Family, a bimonthly focused on family, health and fitness; Dining and Food, highlighting local restaurants and all things food; The Peorian, which first ran in print and remains online at peorian.com; and a string of outdoors magazines (Heartland Outdoors, American Outdoors, Adventure Sports Outdoors). And that’s not to include institutional magazines like Bradley Hilltopics and UICOMP’s Pathways—I’m sure there are others I’m forgetting...
They aren’t easily sustained, but when preserved, magazines are enduring artifacts, capturing fleeting moments and weaving together the rich fabric of a region’s history. To all Peoria publishers—past, present and future—we salute you. a&s
Special thanks to the Peoria Public Library and Special Collections at Bradley University for their research assistance.