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EPADEL:A Semisesquicentennial History, 1926-2000

Section 1.2 The Monthly

There were several short-lived attempts to establish mathematical journals throughout the \(19\)th century, including the Mathematical Correspondent and three different periodicals called The Analyst. The first to find a permanent niche on American soil was the American Journal of Mathematics, founded at Johns Hopkins University in 1878 by J. J. Sylvester and William Story. Six years later a second such journal was initiated by Ormond Stone at the University of Virginia, the Annals of Mathematics.
Of particular relevance was the launching in 1858 by John Runkle of a journal he called the Mathematical Monthly. Although it ceased publication with the onset of the Civil War in 1861, it was reestablished in 1894 as the American Mathematical Monthly. Initially the Monthly’s masthead read, “founded in 1894 by Benjamin F. Finkel, [and] published by him until 1913. From 1913 to 1916 it was owned and published by representatives of fourteen Universities and Colleges in the Middle West.” Because the founding of the MAA 1  is intimately intertwined with the history of its official journal, we must relate a few facts about the journal’s founder, including two close ties to the Philadelphia area.
  • Benjamin Franklin Finkel (1865-1947) earned a B. S. degree from Ohio Northern in 1888 and then taught high school mathematics. He managed to stay professionally active by contributing to the problem departments in several publications, including the Saturday Evening Post. In 1895 Finkel was appointed professor of mathematics and physics at Drury College in Missouri, where in 1894 he began to publish the American Mathematical Monthly in order to improve instruction in high school mathematics. His first action in publishing the Monthly was to secure the editorial assistance of a high school teacher, John Colaw, who had received a bachelors degree (\(1882\)) and a masters degree (\(1892\)) from Dickinson College.
    Colaw’s background at Dickinson provides one link between the Philadelphia area and the founding of the MAA 2 . Another involves Finkel himself. He left his position at Drury College for two periods of study, the second at the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned an A. M. degree in \(1904\) and a Ph.D. in \(1906\text{.}\) By the time Finkel returned to Drury College in the fall of \(1906\text{,}\) it had become apparent that college and university instructors demonstrated much more interest in the journal than its intended audience of high school teachers.
The NYMS created the Bulletin in \(1891\text{.}\) The AMS 3  created the Transactions nine years later. That is the customary order in which these entities are related, with societies establishing journals. Not so with the MAA 4 , however. The Monthly actually spawned the MAA 5 , not the other way around, and so this section of the MAA 6  can lay claim to playing a decisive role in founding the national organization it would become a part of in \(1926\text{.}\)