History - The War Years

H.B. Steinbach succeeded Alfred C. Redfield as editor of The Biological Bulletin in 1942, just in time to experience some of the more trying years in the journal's history. Because of the war, the government relied on Lancaster Press to juggle increased printings with their civilian accounts. As a result, Bulletin issues were often delayed and reprints were rarely printed promptly. Paper supplies for non-government purposes were very low, prompting the Bulletin to reduce type size and page margins. These changes, coupled with a significant decrease in submissions, resulted in noticeably smaller volumes throughout the war years.

The war also caused severe problems with the distribution of publications with foreign mailings. Prior to America's direct involvement in the war, dangerous shipping conditions forced Lancaster Press to hold back all foreign subscriptions. Once the U.S. had entered the conflict, mailing resumed, but was seriously restricted licenses were required for all foreign mail. And of course, no mail could be sent to "enemy, enemy controlled, or enemy occupied" areas.

Peace brought additional problems--or compounded old, primarily financial ones--and Steinbach continued his own good-natured "battle" with Lancaster Press. Post-war printing costs skyrocketed, and with every new year came notice of Lancaster's impending price in creases. On December 15, 1947 Steinbach wrote to the president of Lancaster Press:

"I was very interested to receive your latest literary effort (December 2) and will bind it in my files as another elegant example of how one may entreat a horrible subject in a relatively painless fashion. As I have remarked before, your letters, each of which costs the MBL some hundreds of dollars, are masterpieces of exposition with just the right touch ofsympathy that almost makes me feel that it is an honor to be charged more by the Lancaster Press."

Despite his efforts, the price increases (as always seems to be the case) were unavoidable.

When Donald P. Costello assumed the editorship in 1951, the Bulletin was well on its way to recovering from the strains of war. Every year saw the submission of more manuscripts, and by 1955 Costello was receiving almost twice as many papers as were submitted in the mid 1940's. To prevent a backlog of manuscripts--some thing that would have naturally slowed publication--Costello became increasingly selective. In his 1965 annual report to the Corporation, he noted a 59 percent acceptance rate for the year as compared with 61 percent and 84 percent in 1955 and 1945, respectively. The Bulletin's reputation for scientific excellence, rapid publication, and inexpensive page charge policies made the journal quite appealing to many authors.

As authors increased, subscriptions increased as well. The Bulletin's press run more than doubled during Costello's editorship, from 1300 when he began to 3000 upon his retirement in 1969. The Bulletin gradually assumed "a more international role in biological publications, both in the widening of its subscription list and in the accepted contributions" of foreign readers and authors.

Source: Clapp, Pamela L. 1988. "The History of The Biological Bulletin". Biological Bulletin 174 (1): 1-3.