Marketed specifically to women, each issue contained poetry, articles, recipes, sheet music for the piano, dress patterns, illustrated fashion styles, and other engravings. At $3 per year, a subscription to Godey’s was expensive. Despite this, Godey’s was the most popular journal of its time.
The magazine is best known for the hand-tinted fashion plate that appeared at the start of each issue, which provide a record of the progression of women’s dress. Publisher Louis Godey boasted that in 1859, it cost $105,200 to produce the Lady’s Book, with the coloring of the fashion-plates costing $8,000.
Although it was a “Lady’s Book”, it was not a particularly feminist publication. There were special issues that included only work done by women, and beginning in 1852 a regular “Employment for Women” section made its debut – but in general, Godey disliked political or controversial topics in his magazine and stayed away from any potential conflict.
So much so that when the Civil War split the nation in half, Godey explicitly forbade the magazine from taking any position on the issue of slavery and so the issues of Godey’s Lady Book published in the runup to the Civil War and even during the Civil war make absolutely no acknowledgement of the Civil War at all.
In 1845 Godey’s Lady Book became the first copyrighted publication in America. Louis Godey was widely criticized for this move, with other editors accusing him of taking a “narrowly selfish course”.