It was one of several magazines started by publisher and illustrator Frank Leslie and was continued after his death in 1880 by his widow, the women's suffrage campaigner Miriam Florence Leslie. The name, by then a well-established trademark, remained also after 1902, when it no longer had a connection with the Leslie family. It continued until 1922.
Throughout its decades of existence, the weekly provided illustrations and reports - first with woodcuts and Daguerreotypes, later with more advanced forms of photography - of wars from John Brown's raid at Harpers Ferry and the Civil War until the Spanish-American War and the First World War.
It often took a strongly patriotic stance and frequently featured cover pictures of soldiers and heroic battle stories. It also gave extensive coverage to less martial events such as the Klondike gold rush of 1897, covered by San Francisco journalist John Bonner.
Among the writers publishing their stories in the weekly were H. Irving Hancock, Helen R. Martin, and Ellis Parker Butler. Several notable illustrators worked for the publication, including Albert Berghaus and Norman Rockwell, who created covers for the magazine in its latter years.
Surviving copies of the magazine at present fetch handsome prices as collectors' items and are considered to give a vivid picture of American life during the decades of its publication.