The way we were
As American City & County celebrates its 100th year of publication, we check in with Edgar M. Buttenheim, whose family owned the magazine from 1911 until 1974.
Q: How did American City & County begin, and how did your father get involved in the publication?
A: [Arthur Grant] started the magazine [in 1909] idealistically, but with no publishing background whatsoever. My dad knew what he was doing in publishing, and he was able to build it up. The 1930s were very tough because of the Great Depression, but he hung in there, and the magazine hung in there, and gradually things got better in the 1940s and very strong in the 1950s and ’60s.
Q: What were issues the magazine addressed in its early years?
A: There was a great fight to put in water meters so that there could be a charge for water consumed and that would bring in revenue that would help the water department expand and put in more meters. Of course, water meters were fought tooth and nail. The same kind of revolution came along later with the invention of the parking meter. The parking meter was brought out in 1937, and, lo and behold, people loved it and people hated it.
Q: Are there any municipal leaders you remember most from your time with American City & County?
A: [Along with well-known leaders, such as New York urban planner Robert Moses and Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia,] more importantly, you just have thousands of municipal officials working away, in most cases anonymously, trying to make their city tick and be a little bit better and be a little bit more efficient. And that was what our magazine was trying to help them do.