Saturday Night began its life as Toronto Saturday Night in 1887 under the editorship of E.E. Sheppard. It was initially published weekly in newspaper format, and literally went on sale at 6 PM Saturday. There was a dedicated snobbishness about the magazine as it sought readers among Toronto's high society, but as the desire for circulation and ADVERTISING grew, the snobbishness turned toward a critical and opinionated review of life with a heavy Canadian content.
During the 1920s, most notably when Hector Charlesworth was editor, the message was optimism and conservatism, a faithful reflection of the Canadian mood.
The magazine first became a genuine critical success when B.K. SANDWELL became editor in 1932. Sandwell, who stayed at the helm until 1951, was a man of strong interests, most notably in civil libertarian questions, and he made Saturday Night a force. He found good writers on politics and the arts, gave space to profiles of Canadian leaders in government and the arts and published splendid photographic portraits. By the late 1930s, Saturday Night had built its advertising lineage to the third largest in North America.
Once Sandwell was gone, Saturday Night entered a long decline. Arnold Edinborough was editor for most of the decade after 1958, but it was not until Robert FULFORD became editor in 1968 that Saturday Night began to find its critical niche. Under Fulford's lead, the magazine gave ample space to the arts (notably Fulford's film reviews published under the pseudonym of Marshall Delaney) and presented long and sometimes brilliant political reportage, often by Christina McCall. Over the years, Saturday Night has featured short stories and poetry. It was here that authors such as Dennis LEE and Margaret ATWOOD received their first national exposure.
Over the years, Saturday Night had many interesting contributors and editors, including Robertson DAVIES, Michael IGNATIEFF, Yousuf KARSH, Mordecai RICHLER and Peter GZOWSKI.
There were serious financial problems through the 1970s, resolved in 1979 when the Webster family - led by Norman Webster, later to become editor of The Globe and Mail - bought the magazine and provided its first secure backing since the early 1950s. In 1987 financier Conrad BLACK bought Saturday Night to make it part of his media empire, Hollinger International. Fulford resigned, to be replaced by John FRASER of The Globe and Mail. Kenneth Whyte succeeded Fraser in 1994, followed by Paul Tough in 1998. The life of a general magazine is perilous at best in Canada, but in 1987 Saturday Night celebrated its centenary, the longest surviving magazine in the country. Under Hollinger ownership, the magazine became a weekend supplement to THE NATIONAL POST.
In 2000, Hollinger was sold to CANWEST GLOBAL COMMUNICATIONS. In September 2001, Canwest dropped the 116-year old magazine. MulitVision Publishing purchased the title in 2002 and it re-emerged as a newsstand magazine. It was then purchased by St Joseph Media and ran until November 2005.