RDA Timeline

RDA Timeline


Our Founder’s Beginnings, Our Company’s Birth and Early Years (1889-1938)

  • 1889: On November 12, Reader’s Digest founder William Roy DeWitt Wallace was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, the fifth of seven children.
  • 1920: Dewitt borrowed $600 from his family and created a sample magazine containing condensations of articles.  He submitted it to publishers across the country, but there was no interest.
  • 1921: After losing his job at the Webb Publishing Company in Minnesota, DeWitt established The Reader’s Digest Association and solicited 1,500 subscriptions at $3 each, which enabled him to make plans to publish his magazine on his own.
  • DeWitt and Lila opened the first Reader’s Digest office under a Greenwich Village speakeasy at No. 1 Minetta Lane in New York City.
  • 1922: In February, Volume 1, No. 1 of Reader’s Digest is published with DeWitt and Lila Wallace on the masthead as editors.  It was sold exclusively through the mail.  In the Fall, the Wallace’s moved to Pleasantville, New York, to public relations executive Pendleton Dudley’s garage and pony shed.
  • 1923: In December, Reader’s Digest offered a special rate of $2.75 for a one-year subscription or $2.50 each for two or more subscriptions.
  • 1925: With subscriptions nearly quintupled, the Wallace’s moved to expanded quarters in Pleasantville.  By buying land that had long been vacant next to Pendleton Dudley’s property, they built a home and office of their own.  DeWitt Wallace hires his first full-time employee, Ralph E. Henderson, as business manager.
  • 1929: Reader’s Digest appears on newsstands for the first time.
  • 1934: In December, Reader’s Digest expanded from 112 to 128 pages.
  • 1935: Circulation of Reader’s Digest surpassed the 1 million mark and reached 1,457,500.
  • 1936: As their operations overflowed available space in Pleasantville, the Wallace’s purchased land in Chappaqua, New York, where they planned to build new headquarters.
  • 1938: The first international edition was published in the United Kingdom.  DeWitt and Lila Acheson Wallace established The Reader’s Digest Foundation.

The 1940s & 1950s

  • 1940: The first foreign-language edition was published in Spanish for distribution in Latin America.
  • 1941: The Reader’s Digest Association bought the Guest House, originally built around 1850, and a large tract of surrounding land next to the corporate headquarters property. The Guest House entertained and housed many distinguished guests.  Dignitaries and celebrities who have visited the Guest House include former U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford, Reverend Billy Graham, actress Loretta Young, former New York Cardinal John O’Connor, former U.S. Congressman Bill Bradley, former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, CBS news anchor Dan Rather, author Alex Haley, Wendy’s fast food restaurant founder Dave Thomas, host of FOX television’s “America’s Most Wanted” series John Walsh, opera singer Beverly Sills, “painter of light” Thomas Kinkade, Dr. Mehmet Oz, authors Mary Higgins Clark, Walter Isaacson and Nicholas Sparks, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Post World War II

  • The first issues of the Australian, Danish, French-Canadian, English-Canadian, Norwegian, French Belgian, German, Italian, Swiss-French, Swiss-German, and South African editions are published.
  • 1955: Reader’s Digest Fund for The Blind (now called Partners for Sight) was established.  The U.S. edition of Reader’s Digest began accepting paid advertising.
  • 1956: Lila Acheson Wallace, Reader’s Digest co-founder, created the Lila Acheson Wallace Fund, a private philanthropic foundation.  The largest private funder of arts and culture in the United States, the Fund invests in programs in the performing, visual, literary and folk arts, adult literacy, and urban parks.
  • 1959: The Reader’s Digest Association began producing recorded music collections in the U.S. – the company’s first non-print product line.

The 1960s

  • In the 1960s, the first Asian-English and Chinese editions of RD magazine were published.
  • 1962: The Reader’s Digest Association began conducting the first direct mail sweepstakes in the U.S.
  • 1963: The Reader’s Digest Association published the first original General Book, Reader’s Digest Great World Atlas, in the United Kingdom.
  • 1965: DeWitt Wallace created the DeWitt Wallace Fund, a private philanthropic foundation.  The Fund invests nationwide in programs designed to help American youth achieve their educational and career aspirations.
  • 1966: DeWitt and Lila Wallace create two additional private foundations: the Lakeview Fund and High Winds Fund.

1970s to 1990

  • 1971: The first issue of U.S. Selecciones, the U.S. Spanish-language edition of Reader’s Digest magazine, was published.
  • 1972: DeWitt and Lila Wallace received the Medal of Freedom, the highest honor that can be bestowed on a civilian by the United States government.
  • 1981: On March 30, DeWitt Wallace, aged 91, died at High Winds, the Wallace’s 105-acre estate in Mount Kisco, New York.
  • 1984: On May 8, Lila Wallace, aged 94, died at her home.  George V. Grune became the chairman and chief executive officer.  In her will, Lila Wallace bequeathed her voting shares into a trust.  The beneficiaries of the trust were the Wallace Funds, who had received many non-voting shares from the Wallace’s during their lifetimes and after Dewitt’s death.
  • 1987: The four private philanthropies created by the founders of The Reader’s Digest Association are combined into two separate foundations and renamed the DeWitt-Reader’s Digest Fund and the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund.
  • The Reader’s Digest Association purchased Family Handyman.
  • 1989 On May 25, The Reader’s Digest Association announced a plan for an initial public offering of nonvoting stock.

The 21st Century: A New Chapter

  • 2002: The Reader’s Digest Association completes its acquisition of Reiman Publications LLC for $760 million.  Reiman is the leading publisher of cooking, gardening, country lifestyle and nostalgia magazines and books in the United States and Canada.
  • The largest, Taste of Home, is the nation’s top-selling food magazine.
  • 2005: The Reader’s Digest Association launches Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine.
  • 2006: The Reader’s Digest Association acquires Allrecipes.com for $66 million.
  • 2007: An investor group led by Ripplewood Holdings L.L.C. completes historic transaction resulting in the acquisition of The Reader’s Digest Association, returning the company to private ownership status after 17 years as a publicly traded company.  Mary G. Berner is named President and CEO.
  • 2008: The Reader’s Digest Association announces the much-anticipated launch of Puzhi, a digest-sized magazine in the People’s Republic of China that promises to “inform, enrich, entertain, and inspire.”  The announcement was made jointly with the Shanghai Press and Publishing Development Company (SPPD).
  • The Canadian edition of Reader’s Digest is named Most Influential Magazine in Canadian Publishing History by Masthead magazine.
  • Taste of Home becomes the #1 food magazine in the United States.  (source: ABC)
  • Reader’s Digest Germany and Switzerland celebrate 60 years in business.
  • Taste of Home Cookbook (2nd edition) debuts at #1 in Bookscan’s cookbook category.
  • 2009: Reader’s Digest magazine wins the ASME National Magazine Award in the category of General Excellence for magazines with circulations above 2 million.
  • The Reader’s Digest Association closes the U.S. edition of Selecciones magazine.
  • The number of single track downloads of Reader’s Digest music content from the iTunes Music Store surpasses the 1 million mark worldwide.
  • Handyman magazine launches in New Zealand.
  • The Reader’s Digest Association enters Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
  • Lenders take ownership of The Reader’s Digest Association away from private-equity firm Ripplewood Holdings.
  • 2010: The Reader’s Digest Association emerges from Chapter 11 under new ownership.
  • The Reader’s Digest Association sells Compass Learning to Marlin Equity Partners.
  • Reader’s Digest launches first iPhone app.
  • The New Castle Historical Society presents Reader’s Digest Association exhibit.
  • Reader’s Digest Children’s Publishing launches first children’s app for How to Train Your Dragon.
  • Reader’s Digest Sweden launches first iPhone app.
  • Word Power launches on iPhone, web and pc download.
  • Reader’s Digest music surpasses 1 million downloads in U.S. iTunes store.
  • 2011: A new Board of Directors is appointed by shareholders and Tom Williams, Chief Financial Officer, replaces Mary G. Berner, as President and CEO.
  • Taste of Home Cookbook hits Bookscan’s top 100 non-fiction list for first time.
  • Best Health becomes first Canadian magazine to feature Quick Response on its cover.
  • TV Paprika magazine becomes #1 magazine in Hungary with largest subscription base.
  • The Reader’s Digest Association employees reach out to more than 100,000 customers on Global Thank a Customer Day.
  • The Reader’s Digest Association acquires Haven Home Media.
  • Reader’s Digest Association Board member Robert E. Guth replaces Tom Williams as President and CEO.
  • Every Day with Rachael Ray is sold to Meredith Corporation.
  • Taste of Home launches mobile app.
  • Reader’s Digest Facebook page surpasses 1 million fans.
  • 2012: The Reader’s Digest Association celebrates its 90th anniversary.
  • Allrecipes.com is sold to Meredith Corporation for $175 million.
  • Weekly Reader is sold to Scholastic Corporation.
  • Best You brand launches in Spanish Speaking Latin America.
  • Lifestyle and Entertainment Direct is sold to Mosaic Media Investment Partners.
  • Reader’s Digest Iberia is licensed to SAPE, a leader in Spain and Portugal in mail order and direct selling.
  • Reader’s Digest launches The Digest Diet.
  • 2013: Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada launches Taste of  Home Canada magazine.
  • RDA reaches agreement with key stakeholders to significantly reduce indebtedness; enters Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
  • RDA finalizes an agreement to license RD France, French Belgium, Finland and Sweden to SAPE, and Poland, Romania and Hungary to Tarsago Media Group.
  • The Reader’s Digest Association emerges from Chapter 11 under new ownership.
  • President and CEO Robert E. Guth is named Chairman of the Board of Directors.
  • RDA finalizes an agreement to license RD Mexico to Ediciones Culturales Internacionales S.A.
  • RDA finalizes an agreement to license RD Argentina and RD Chile to Bellerofon Media S.A.
  • 2014: Reader’s Digest UK is licensed to Regest Ltd.
  • Bonnie Kintzer is named President and CEO of The Reader’s Digest Association.