“Popular Mechanics” Magazine – 30 Years Worth of Back Issues In The Public Domain

Everybody's heard of "Popular Mechanics" magazine right?

It was (and still is) one of America's greatest magazines devoted to science and technology. And with a tagline like, "WRITTEN SO YOU CAN UNDERSTAND IT" - who can resist?

It was first published January 11, 1902 by H. H. Windsor, and has been owned since 1958 by the Hearst Corporation. Chock full of crazy inventions, fascinating articles, and timeless advertisements, "Popular Mechanics" magazine is a gold mine of content for the Public Domain Treasure Hunter!

Interestingly enough, H.H. Windsor (the original publisher) was really bad at renewing copyrights (yay, us!) and the very first issue ever to be renewed for copyright protection 28 years after publication was the March 1932 issue - leaving roughly 30 years worth of Popular Mechanics issues in the Public Domain!

You can verify this yourself by checking the First Periodicals list at the Online Books Page.

You'll find the following entry...

Popular Mechanics: issues renewed from March 1932 (v. 57 no. 3); see 1960 Jan-Jun

Cool, huh?

Even more cool - Google Books is currently hosting roughly 100 years worth of "Popular Mechanics" magazine back issues in their archives - including the Public Domain issues.

You can browse the back issues online RIGHT HERE.

Just remember, the cut off for Public Domain status is the February 1932 issue - after that, evidence of renewals can be found at both the Catalog of Copyright Entries and Copyright.gov so tread carefully beyond that issue.

With that said, 30 years is a lot of great content!

The Google scans are amazing - page by page scans with nothing left out - even all of the advertisements including the classifieds have been left intact. You can't download the mags in PDF format like you can with most of the public domain books on Google Book Search but you can still dig through each issue and check out the contents.

Also, each mag is text searchable so you can search through the issues by keyword. To search for a keyword across the entire archive, use Google Books Advanced Search as it now includes these mags in the search results - just pop "Popular Mechanics" in the "Title" field.

Here's a few cover samples to give you an idea of what you'll find...

APRIL 1930

MAY 1930



Here's a few quick sample articles. The subjects of these articles go way beyond just science and technology - they cover a very broad range of niche topics & subjects...

FEBRUARY 1932 - "POO-BAH for Winter Thrills"

FEBRUARY 1932 - "Magic For Everybody"

And these back issues of "Popular Mechanics" are a treasure chest of classic direct response advertisements that you can not only learn from - you can swipe them word for word if they pertain to your niche!

Cool thing is it's easy to see whether or not an ad was working by watching how many issues it appeared in - if you see the same ad running over and over again month to month, you know it was a profitable ad (in theory).

FEBRUARY 1932 - Ad for free book, "Music Lessons In Your Own Home"

FEBRUARY 1932 - Ad for two free books, "Rich Rewards in Radio" and "The Principles of Television"

I wonder what would happen these days if you printed out these coupons and mailed them in?

Check out the Google Books "Popular Mechanics" magazine archives RIGHT HERE.

Oh, and the Popular Mechanics company has published many, many interesting books over the years as well - here's one from Project Gutenberg...

The Boy Mechanic: Volume 1 - 700 Things for Boys to Do

Sweet Niblets, that's good stuff!

This once again proves that just because a magazine is big and well-known doesn't mean there's no possibility that issues exist in the Public Domain!

About The Author:

Logan Andrew is an online entrepreneur, information publisher, and author that has been using Public Domain material to create profitable products and businesses since 2001. He is also co-author of "The Public Domain Treasure Hunter's Survival Kit" available here. For more info Logan, click here.

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  1. April says

    Hi Logan,

    I know I should be able to work this out for myself with your flowchart for the UK, but as “Popular Mechanics” is a periodical I’m not sure how it would work from the “has the author been dead for 50/70 years” angle.

    I have done some research on the search engines but can’t seem to find the answer and would be really grateful if you could tell me whether or not these magazines are also PD in the UK up until February 1932.

    Thank you so much for all your help.

  2. Barbara Joyner says

    Could you please tell me or tell me how to find the most popular issues of Popular Mechanics. My dad has tons and wanted to know if any are valuable Thank You

  3. Wanda Hodge says

    I have one of the original illustrations of Ray Quigleys art work. His daughter gave it to me as a gift. As you know he was an illustrator
    for Popular Mechanics. I also have a little golden activity book, Trucks.
    I have a binder of his that is called Bedtime Bible Stories. The binding was sent to him when the book was published, (that was the daughters story). I would to know if they have any value?

  4. says

    This was fascinating. And can any of you Popular Mechanics fans tell me what library or source I can find the December 1922 issue? I am writing about the Amoy Junk, captained by Waard, and would love a high resolution scan of the photo and illustration on page 833, but can’t find the original anywhere. If anyone could send me a scan, hopefully 600 DPI or higher, , I’d really appreciate it (I could pay $10 or $20, and note you as the source in my talks here at Xiamen University –former Amoy).
    Thanks so much.
    Bill Brown Xiamen University


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