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Men’s Lifestyle Magazines 1953… The Magazines And I, A Serialized Book. Chapter Five, Part One

September 18, 2020

Chapter Five, Part One

Men’s Lifestyle Magazines … is the fifth chapter from the serialized book I am writing on the magazines of 1953, specifically March 1953, the month I was born.  This is chapter five, part one.  Feel free to back track for chapters one, two, and three in previous blogs.  Enjoy.

In 1951, Hugh Hefner landed a job as a copywriter at Esquire; this was two years before he launched Playboy. The first issue of Playboy was launched in December 1953. It was 44 pages and had a 50 cent cover price. Esquire was being published at that time for the same cover price, but was over large-size 280 pages. When Hef started Playboy,  many believe he used Esquire as a planogram of what a men’s magazine should be, because in 1953 Esquire also had nudity, including a centerfold that they called “Esquire’s Lady Fair,” and was first launched in the March 1953 issue. So, in actuality, there wasn’t anything too original in Playboy when it first hit newsstands.

Now, while this chapter is certainly not just about Hef and two of the most influential men’s magazines around in 1950s, namely Esquire and Playboy, it is about the development of American men’s magazines during that timeframe. It’s about true adventure, grit, masculinity, bodybuilding, virility and ultimately, the journalistic foundation for today’s sophisticated men’s titles. It’s all about what made a man a man in 1953 (according to the content gurus of that era), and it’s about the challenges many titles faced when trying to change some of those cultural constrictions of masculinity of that decade.

The men’s magazines of 1953 were both cutting edge and deliberately predictable. There were the familiar culprits, such as the Great Outdoors, the beautiful women, and the adventure stories, but there were also magazines like Gentry,founded by William C. Segal; it was a forward-thinking, eclectic style bible, where readers would be as likely to read an article on the manufacturing of Scottish tweed as one on the architecture of the American ranch house.

So without further ado, let’s take a look…

ARGOSY

Argosy magazine began as a pulp title way back in 1882. In fact, it is credited with being the first American pulp magazine. It actually began as a children’s weekly story–paper entitled The Golden Argosy. Right before the Second World War, the magazine was considered one of the Big Four pulp magazines, along with Blue Book, Adventure and Short Stories. In December 1888 the title was changed to The Argosy.

In 1920, the magazine merged with publisher Frank Munsey’s The All-Story Magazine, resulting in a new title, Argosy All-Story Weekly. By November 1941 the magazine had switched to a biweekly publication, then became monthly in 1942.

In 1943, the magazine switched from pulp to slick paper and took a step back from its all-fiction content, expanding the idea that Argosy was becoming more and more a “men’s magazine.” Soon it became associated with the men’s adventure genre of that time. While not particularly successful, Argosy began running a new true crime column, “Court of Last Resort” in the late 1940s and 1950s and saw a substantial boost in sales.  The final issue of the original magazine was published in November 1978.

The March 1953 issue of Argosy with the tagline “The Complete Man’s Magazine” has a cover image that would have been many men’s dream getaway: pipe in-mouth, fishing pole in hand, a lone gentleman standing knee-deep in the crystal clear waters of some mountain lake, complete with waterfall behind him. This issue featured four fiction pieces, several articles, and the all-important “Court of Last Resort” offering. The departments were all about the male psyche: “Men’s Books,” “Hunting and Fishing,” “Records for Men,” and many others.

Harry Steeger was the publisher and his commentary in the beginning of the issue was entitled: “Great Hunting – Rocky Mountain Style.” The advertisements in the magazine matched the overall outdoorsy feel: ammunition, fishing lures, and the smooth taste of a good whiskey. It was definitely a magazine that exuded a certain kind of testosterone.

BLUEBOOK

Women’s service journalism  had Redbook, the men of March 1953 had Bluebook. Bluebook ran 70 years under many different titles and in fact was a brother to The Red Book Magazine and The Green Book Magazine. It was published from 1905 to 1975. At first, the magazine was aimed at both male and female readers, but eventually the title became a men’s adventure magazine, publishing purportedly true stories. The magazine was named “King of the Pulps” in the 1930s and some notables in the industry have said that between the 1910s and the 1950s Blue Book achieved and sustained a level of excellence reached by few other magazines.

The March 1953 issue had a gentleman who appeared to be dressed for the desert on the cover with a very ominous look alive in his eyes. He had a cigarette poised to hit his lips and held a shiny-barreled gun of some kind in his hand and was staring menacingly off to the side. Be he a good guy or a bad guy, he was certainly an illustration that grabbed attention.

The content was filled with short stories, articles such as “How To Make a Million Dollars” and even excerpts from adventure novels. Bluebook’s tagline in March 1953 was “Adventure In Fact And Fiction.” Maybe it was up to the reader to decide one from the other.

CLIMAX

Climax was a men’s high adventure magazine that was published by Macfadden Publications, which was owned by Pulp and physical fitness pioneer Bernarr Macfadden. The magazine also featured some of the best cover illustration art ever made. War stories – both fiction and non-fiction – were a common feature in men’s adventure magazines, as were advice and expose stories and news features specifically geared for veterans and active duty serviceman.

The March 1953 issue of Climax was its premier issue, Vol. 1, No. 1. The cover was an illustration of a mercenary type, complete with drapes of bullets banded across his chest and a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. The cover lines were stories such as “Chain Gang for the Klan!,” “I Hitchhiked Around the World,” and “Time Check for Control.” The magazine’s content had fiction, crime, war, a department called “For the G.I.,” and other articles and shorter fiction following the same wildly machismo-type stories.

Climax added another facet of “True Adventure” and hardcore action to the men’s magazines of March 1953. And the genre welcomed it.

COUNTRY GENTLEMAN

The Country Gentleman was an American agricultural magazine founded in 1852 in Albany, New York, by Luther Tucker. Tucker also started Genesee Farmer in 1831, which merged with The Cultivator, and was then merged into The Country Gentleman. When the magazine was sold in 1911 to Curtis Publishing, the title began to focus on the business side of farming, which was mostly ignored by the agricultural magazines of the time.

By 1955, The Country Gentleman was the second most popular agricultural magazine in the U.S., with a circulation of 2,870,380. The same year it was purchased by, and merged into, Farm Journal, an agricultural magazine with a slightly larger circulation.

The March 1953 issue was filled with everything a farmer of that era needed to know. The cover was alive with black cows all-in-a-row, farmers considering those bovine, and a red brick barn in the background. Inside were the magazine’s regular features, such as “Country Gentleman Salutes,” “Letters,” “Today,” and other topics of interest.

There were general articles: “Better Stick With Those Beef Cows,” “Triple Your Pasture Yields,” and “Cheap Way To Banish Mud Roads,” among others, one story of fiction and many other items of interest.  Weed control was broached and the advertisements were endemic to the content: tractors, lawn mowers, and cigarettes. We all know it was healthier to smoke in the ‘50s, at least according to the ads.

The Country Gentleman was a magazine that did its job. It handled the everyday life of the agricultural farmer and offered him advice, solutions, and education about new farm implements or anything that was innovative at that time for the land.

To be continued…

 

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The Magazines And I. Women’s Service Journalism Magazines. Chapter Four, Part Three.

September 11, 2020

Chapter Four, Part Three

Women’s Service Journalism Magazines … is the fourth chapter from the book I am writing on the magazines of 1953, specifically March 1953, the month I was born.  This is chapter four, part three.  Feel free to back track for chapters one, two, and three in previous blogs.  Enjoy.

OTHER WOMEN’S SERVICE MAGAZINES OF MARCH 1953

The Seven Sisters weren’t the only women’s magazines out there in March 1953 serving the women of the nation. There were titles such as Everywoman’s and Today’s Woman; The American Magazine and Better Living; Cosmopolitan and Mademoiselle; and Woman’s Home Companion. Let’s look at these great titles individually.

BETTER LIVING

In 1951, McCall Corporation began publishing Better Living magazine. The 100-page monthly magazine sold for five cents, and was distributed through stores that were members of the Super Market Institute. It ceased publication in 1956. The magazine was filled with recipes, tips on child care, fashion and beauty and many other topics of interest for women.

The March 1953 cover was of two adorable kittens staring into the camera lovingly. The magazine served its audience that month with articles such as breakfast pep-ups, better homework from your child and short stories that offered engaging fiction, as well as tips on what to do before you buy a house.

COSMOPOLITAN

Cosmopolitan is of course still being published today. The magazine began as The Cosmopolitan and was first published in March 1886. It began as a family magazine and was later transitioned into a literary title, only to become a women’s magazine in 1965 when the infamous Helen Gurley Brown became its editor in chief. Today, the magazine is known for its sexually explicit cover lines and bikini-clad cover models.

The March 1953 issue’s cover was a bit more sedate in style. Then Broadway actress Vanessa Brown graced the cover in a red velvet dress and very extravagant jewels, complete with formal elbow-length white gloves. The cover lines then were also more placid, such as “Queen Elizabeth’s Man,” “Are Modern Mothers Misled,” and “A World-Famous Art Collection.”

The masthead of the March 1953 issue had John J. O’Connell as editor and service articles like “What’s New In Medicine” and “The Cosmopolitan Look.” The magazine has certainly evolved with the times, but the vintage issue from March 1953 shows a definite class and style that stands out greatly.

EVERYWOMAN’S

With the tagline: The Woman’s Guide to Better Living, Everywoman’s was a monthly magazine published by Everywoman’s Magazine, Inc. starting in the 1940s. The magazine was eventually absorbed by Family Circle in 1958, which then published it as Everywoman’s Family Circle through 1962 before reverting to its original name.

The March 1953 issue had an endearing cover of a baby glancing out at you with one blue eye, the other being covered up by his arm. Inside the covers was articles on food, fashion, homemaking and of course, the wonderful fiction the era was known for. Regular features were also prevalent, from “Everywoman’s Woman” to “Where’s That Pot of Gold.”

MADEMOISELLE

Mademoiselle was first published in 1935 by the New York publisher Street & Smith. It was eventually acquired by Condé Nast Publications. Mademoiselle was known as a fashion magazine and for publishing short stories by famous authors like Truman Capote and William Faulkner, among many others. The August 1961 “college issue” of Mademoiselle included a photo of UCLA senior class president Willette Murphy, who did not realize she was making history as the first African American model to appear in a mainstream fashion magazine.

In the 1960s, the magazine focused on making itself more aimed at the “smart young woman.” The magazine ceased publication in November 2001.

The March 1953 issue had a very smartly-dressed model for her era on the cover standing in front of a typewriter. The dress she is wearing is a box-pleated shirtdress, tailored and simply cut. It’s a very arresting cover. The articles inside are quite hefty on fashion and health and beauty. But there is fiction, jobs and futures, and a section known as the “College Board.”

THE AMERICAN MAGAZINE

The American Magazine was a periodical that was founded in June 1906. The magazine’s original title was Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly and actually began publication in 1876. It was renamed Leslie’s Monthly Magazine in 1904, and then was renamed again as Leslie’s Magazine in 1905. It became The American Magazine in June 1906 when journalists Ray Stannard Baker, Lincoln Steffens and Ida M. Tarbell left McClure’s to help create it. The magazine focused on human interest stories, social issues and fiction. It folded in 1956.

The March 1953 issue was chocked full of women’s interest stories, such as “Should You Marry Your Soldier – Or Wait?” and “The Matchmaker.” The cover is hilarious as a seemingly naked man sits in the tub beneath dripping nylons and other female unmentionables, all entirely drawn in cartoon fashion, of course. There’s romance stories, novels, and articles that inspire and inform. A great magazine, gone but not forgotten.

TODAY’S WOMAN

Today’s Woman, with the tagline “For Young Wives,” was published by Fawcett Publications and became only one of many in the company’s hoard of successful titles. Fawcett published magazines such as Family Circle, Hollywood, Motion Picture, Movie Story, and many, many others.

The magazine provided helpful information for young wives when it came to their children, their homes and according to one article in the March 1953 issue, their very own worth: “Your Cash Value As A Wife.” That month’s cover was of a lovely two-story red painted home with a manicured lawn and the cover line “A Real Fun Story,” with a top cover line that read “Boy or Girl? How Your Doctor Can Tell Before Birth.” No sonograms in those days.

WOMAN’S HOME COMPANION

Woman’s Home Companion was published from 1873 to 1957. The magazine became highly successful and had a circulation of more than four million during the 1930s and 1940s. The magazine went through editor and editorial changes over the years, giving into some influence of the muckraking journalism of the times, but pushing toward becoming more of a general interest magazine. Eventually, there was coverage of art and music, architecture, books in addition to the regular departments dealing with fashion and the home. The Woman’s Home Companion came to an end January 1957, shortly after the first 1957 issues were distributed, owned then by Crowell-Collier Publishing, the same people who published Collier’s.

The March 1953 issue had a very bright-eyed model with a stylish-for-the-times hairdo above the cover line: “Try Our New Hairdos.” The other cover lines were a mixture of celebrity: “Gracie Allen’s Own Gay Story, Inside Me” and “Can Love Survive Mixed Religion in Marriage?”

The content went from fashion to home service. And the fiction was aimed at women and romance. The  magazine was oversized and definitely made its presence known.

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Women’s service magazines were and still are an important part of magazine publishing and always will be. They provide relevant and useful information that never goes out of style.

Next up, in Chapter Five, we’ll be looking at the men’s magazines of March 1953. Some may surprise you!

 

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Anxiety Empire – A New British Title That Shines A Light On Mental Health As Sometimes Only A Magazine Can…

September 8, 2020

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

Magazines  have always been reflectors of society. Their role as mediator and advocate for important issues of the day is evident by many of the tried and true brands that have been around for decades and by many of  the new titles that are being brought into the world today. Such as a new British title called Anxiety Empire.

Anxiety Empire was birthed into existence using Kickstarter to raise the funds needed to publish the magazine, and in unheard approach to a business model is offered to the public free of charge, although there is no advertising in the magazine to foot the bill. It explores mental health as not just an individual issue, but as an issue of society and how we live our lives, and thus believes that the magazine should be available to its audience free of charge.

The founder, creative director and editor in chief, Zoë Hough, writes in the inaugural edition of the new print magazine:

“When I started the Instagram account @anxietyempire in late 2017, I did so because – after working in a job which felt pretty damaging to my own mental health – I felt there was a need for more discussion around mental health in the workplace. But work is of course only one system of society which has a big impact on our mental health, and I found myself wanting to explore these systems in depth, which is how the idea for this print magazine came about; to look at macro systems of society and explore the impact they have on the mental health of us as individuals.”

Anxiety Empire is more of a project for its creator and was made free to the public – because the powers-that-be at the magazine believe that mental health resources should be accessible for all. As Hough added in the introduction to the first issue: “We all have mental health.”

Indeed.

The inaugural issue examines the world of media and its effect on mental health. Issue 02 will explore the ways in which the education system impacts our mental health. Exploring the many facets of society in regards to the impact each macro system has on our psyches and emotional reactions  is an avenue well worth exploring.

Anxiety Empire  truly offers what a magazine does best: informs, educates and inspires. This new magazine is something that will provide all of those things to people about a subject that has been taboo for generations, but is finally beginning to come to light using reason, education and compassion. Anxiety Empire deserves a special mention as it strives to provide a connection that sometimes only a magazine can: a deep, personal curiosity and caring that brings people together.  And remember if it is not ink on paper it is not a magazine.

And in today’s uncertain world that is something worth noting.

Until next time,

Mr. Magazine™

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The Magazines And I: Women’s Service Journalism Magazines. Chapter Four, Part Two.

September 4, 2020

Chapter fFour, Part Two

Women’s Service Journalism Magazines … is the fourth chapter from the book I am writing on the magazines of 1953, specifically March 1953, the month I was born.  This is chapter four, part two.  Feel free to back track for chapters one, two, and three in previous blogs.  Enjoy.

LADIES’ HOME JOURNAL

Ladies’ Home Journal was first published on February 16, 1883 as The Ladies’ Home Journal. The magazine’s publisher, Cyrus H.K. Curtis, developed the magazine from a popular supplement that was originally started in the magazine Tribune and Farmer. The supplement was at that time called Women at Home and Curtis’s wife, Louisa Knapp Curtis wrote it. Once it became an independent magazine itself, Louisa became editor for the first six years of its existence. The title was The Ladies Home Journal and Practical Housekeeper, but the last three words were eliminated in 1886. It reached a circulation of more than one million copies by 1903, and became the first magazine to do so.

Curtis publishing sold the magazine to Downe Communications in 1968 and eventually Meredith Corporation bought it from its “then” owner Family Media, as it was sold two more times after the Curtis family sold it. When it began to lose circulation in the late 20th century, Meredith announced it would no longer be a monthly, so it became a quarterly “special interest” title available only on newsstands. Its last issue was published in 2016.

The March 1953 title, with the tagline “The Magazine Women Believe In,” was an oversized morsel of entertaining fiction stories and special features that consisted of: “Before One God; The Old Bible and the New; Youth Accepts Responsibility; along with many more. The cover was of a beautiful baby that wore pastels in contrast to the striped blanket in leaned against.

MCCALL’S

McCall’s Magazine was first created as a small format title that was originally called The Queen in 1873. By 1897, the magazine was retitled McCall’s Magazine – The Queen of Fashion, and then eventually shortened to McCall’s. As one of the Seven Sisters, McCall’s grew into a large format glossy title that boasted a column by Eleanor Roosevelt from June 1949 until her death in November 1962, among many other notable authors.

For years, the Betsy McCall paper doll was printed in most issues of the magazine and became so popular that the regular feature was eventually made into a vinyl, 14” doll that children could hold and play with. Magazines are good at creating iconic figures.

The March 1953 cover featured a beautiful model wearing the latest in Easter hats, with an entire article about Easter frocks and their accessories. McCall’s brought women a view of what the women of the day were wearing when it came to holiday attire. The meat of the content inside the magazine was filled with short stories and serious articles, along with whimsical, fun things like “How Much Does Your Husband Annoy you?”  McCall’s was a member of the Seven Sisters proudly, also serving women with household tips and recipes.

REDBOOK

In May 1903, The Red Book Illustrated was first published by a firm of Chicago retail merchants. The name was quickly changed to The Red Book Magazine. The McCall Corporation bought the title in the summer of 1929 and it became known as simply Redbook. In 1937, circulation hit one million and the magazine had amazing success until the late 1940s when television began to rise and the magazine began to lose touch with its demographic.

Longtime editor, Edwin Balmer, was replaced during that time and Wade Hampton Nichols, who had edited various movie magazines, took over and decided to focus on young adults between the ages of 18 and 34. By 1950, circulation reached two million and the cover price was upped to 35 cents.

Despite the early success of Redbook, as the years went by the audience changed and so did the magazine’s editors. By the 1980s,  the covers became more celebrity-oriented and the content based on more fitness, exercise and nutrition. Its last owner, Hearst Corporation, ceased publication of Redbook in 2018.

The March 1953 cover was also celebrity-oriented, however, with the inimitable Marilyn Monroe on its cover. The issue celebrated Redbook’s 14th Annual Movie Award and displayed Monroe on March’s cover as the best young box-office personality.

Other content included a book-length novel called “Triangle of Chance” by Joseph Laurence Marx, short stories and many articles and features, such as “How To Bring Up Parents,” “Are Mother’s Necessary,” and many others. The departments in Redbook were fan favorites; from “Picture of the Month” to “Fashions” and “Television,” Redbook served its audience from every angle.

WOMAN’S DAY

Woman’s Day is one of the Seven Sisters that’s still being published today. The magazine was started in 1931 by The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (better known as A&P – the grocery chain); the current publisher is Hearst Corporation. The U.S. edition was originally a free in-store menu/recipe planner which gave customers incentive to buy more by giving them meal ideas within its pages. A&P expanded Woman’s Day in 1937, featuring articles on childcare, crafts, food preparation and cooking, home decoration, needlework and health.

Sold exclusively in A&P stores, Woman’s Day had a circulation of 3,000,000 by 1944. The magazine had reached 4,000,000 by the time A&P sold the magazine to Fawcett Publications in 1958. By 1965, Woman’s Day had climbed to a circulation of 6,500,000. In 1988, Woman’s Day was acquired by Hachette Filipacchi Media. Hearst Magazines bought the Hachette magazines in the US in 2011.

The March 1953 cover had a very photogenic child, complete with Easter bonnet on its cover, smiling naturally into the photographer’s lens.  And for a magazine that is strictly sold on the newsstands, it is good to note that the cover of  Woman’s Day had no cover lines (a must these days for newsstand titles) what so ever. Stories inside included fiction and articles on needlework, home workshop projects, fashion, food and regular monthly features, such as “News and Gossip,” and “The How To Section.”

While the Woman’s Day of today and yesterday have a few things in common, such as a Bible verse, great recipes and home projects, the 21st century is very present with stories on virtual games you can play and TikTok dances used to spread joy. But as it did in yesteryears, Woman’s Day is still serving its readers with relevant information and inspiring stories.

To be continued…

 

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The Magazines And I: Women’s Service Journalism Magazines. Chapter Four, Part One.

August 28, 2020

Chapter fFour, Part One

Women’s Service Journalism Magazines … is the fourth chapter from the book I am writing on the magazines of 1953, specifically March 1953, the month I was born.  This is chapter four, part one.  Feel free to back track for chapters one, two, and three in previous blogs.  Enjoy.

Service journalism is just that. It “serves” consumers with many things, such as advice, how-to projects, tips on home, fashion, food and travel, gardening, and all sorts of other necessary items.

Women’s service journalism is what one might think: services directed at women. In 1953 that focused mainly on married women who were maintaining home and hearth, dealing with children, decorating and gardening. We begin this chapter with the group of magazines that were dedicated to all of the women out there who either belonged to that category or wanted to: The Seven Sisters.

THE SEVEN SISTERS

The Seven Sisters were a group of titles that were traditionally aimed at married women who were homemakers with husbands and children, rather than single and workingwomen. The name is derived from the Greek myth of the “seven sisters,” also known as the Pleiades. These magazines were a major force in 20th century American magazine publishing, but today only three of the titles are still published as physical magazines:

Another sister, McCall’s, ceased publication in 2002 after an ill-fated attempt to rebrand itself under the name Rosie by teaming up with talk-show host Rosie O’Donnell.  Ladies’ Home Journal ceased monthly publication in April 2014. Publisher Meredith Corporation stated it would be “transitioning Ladies’ Home Journal to a special interest publication.” The last issue was in 2016.

Hearst transitioned Redbook to a digital-only property in 2017. Meredith announced Family Circle would publish its last issue in December 2019.

After a wave of consolidation and mergers, two companies now own the three remaining sisters: Meredith Corporation publishes Better Homes and Gardens and Hearst Corporation publishes Good Housekeeping and Woman’s Day. While their circulation has slipped a little from their figures in the 1960s and 1970s, they are among the highest circulation magazines in the United States.

The Seven Sisters were much more than a “group” of women’s service magazines, however. They were the connection that women needed throughout the decades for fashion, home décor, cooking, gardening, great stories, and just that feeling of camaraderie that the titles provided. They were a membership into a circle of friends nationwide that brought women together and gave them inspiration and hope.

THE SEVEN SISTERS

BETTER HOMES and GARDENS

Better Homes and Gardens is one of the Seven Sisters that is still being published today. It has a circulation of 7.6 million and is the largest non-membership paid magazine circulation in the United States. Better Homes and Gardens focuses on interests regarding homes, cooking, gardening, crafts, healthy living, decorating, and entertaining. The Meredith Corporation publishes the magazine 12 times per year. Edwin Meredith, who had previously been the United States Secretary of Agriculture under Woodrow Wilson, founded it in 1922. The original name was Fruit, Garden and Home from 1922 to 1924. The name was changed in 1925 to Better Homes and Gardens.

The March 1953 issue of Better Homes and Gardens is chocked full of the latest garden news, how-to projects for the handyman, articles about well-groomed windows and pulling a room together and many other home projects. BH&G was and still is a service journalism title that provides today’s woman (married or otherwise) a variety of hints and tips about their home atmosphere.

FAMILY CIRCLE

Family Circle was published monthly first, then 17 times a year, every three weeks, then back to 10 times a year until it folded.  It was the magazine that focused on home and women’s topics, published from 1932 through the end of 2019. Originally distributed only at supermarkets with no subscriptions, it was included as one of the “Seven Sisters,” a group of seven traditional “women’s service” magazines centered on household issues.

The March 1953 issue had a blend of great fiction for women when they needed a break from their everyday lives, to awesome articles on fashion and needlework, your children and you, and all around the home. The cover was an adorable picture of a cocker spaniel with an inside feature of more color photos of the breed with an option to order the photos. It was a magazine in March 1953 that proclaimed on its cover: Serving more than 4,000,000 families.

GOOD HOUSEKEEPING

Good Housekeeping is another one of the Seven Sisters that is still alive and going strong today. Hearst Corporation owns the title and the circulation reaches around four million readers, which includes the unique Walmart edition the company launched in 2018.

The March 1953 issue had fiction, stories that lifted and inspired; articles and features that served the interests of women for that era, such as “Will it Make Your Hair Curl?” and “The Point Count Wins at Bridge” and many other topics that captured the hearts of women across the country.

There were sections on needlework and sewing; beauty; fashion; medicine and health; food; appliances and home care. There was even a children’s center and automobile article. The magazine of March 1953 was a mix of the times and topics of interest for then, and a really good balance of helpful tips and ideas.

To be continued…

 

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Bella Magazine’s CEO & Editor In Chief, Vanessa Coppes, To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “Print Is Important Because Print Makes Something Permanent.” The Mr. Magazine™ Interview…

August 11, 2020

Publishing During A Pandemic 38

“It’s [Print] what our readers want from us. A magazine is a response to human behavior. Our reader is a reader that either walks into a bookstore or orders the publication online, which is what we’ve done over the past few months because of the pandemic.” Vanessa Coppes…

“Print is like nothing else. It’s like a great book. It’s literally nestling on a couch with a cup of coffee or some hot cocoa and your magazine. It’s learning about different people and places. Right now everything is aspirational; we’re not getting on planes for a while, but at least on the pages of Bella you can look through beautiful images of different parts of the country and the world and still stay connected to people, places and things.” Vanessa Coppes…

Vanessa Coppes is a social entrepreneur, an author, blogger, and now CEO and editor in chief of Bella Magazine. With the new tagline “Life Is Bella!” Vanessa is bringing more compassion, empathy and social relevance to the brand’s content. Bella Magazine is a national subscription- and newsstand-based lifestyle publication offering a curated guide to fashion, beauty, health, philanthropy, arts and culture, cuisine, celebrities, and entertainment. Unfortunately, with the pandemic, the newsstand distribution has been somewhat curtailed with Barnes & Noble unable to receive any new orders.

But with the same passion as her brand, that didn’t stop Vanessa. I spoke with Vanessa recently and we talked about how the magazine is being offered online and now has an apparel line associated with it, which has brought in any entirely new infusion of revenue and interest. With the monumental movement “Black Lives Matter” and the pandemic engulfing the world in a new normal that no one was even remotely ready for, Vanessa has taken the content of Bella to a new level, turning each themed issue into its own unique experience and bringing thoughtful stories to life within the magazine’s pages.

And now the 38th Mr. Magazine™ interview in the series of Publishing During A Pandemic with Vanessa Coppes, CEO and editor in chief, Bella Magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On why she acquired Bella instead of starting her own brand from scratch: I have always loved telling stories and that creative process of connecting with a person. Maybe get them to share their story in a way that can help and support someone else in something that they may be going through. I had been working with the previous owners since its inception. We were friends and had connected. And when they decided to sell, I don’t even know what triggered, it was like a kneejerk reaction to jump on the opportunity because I have always been a very creative person and I just felt that maybe this was my time to tell these stories from my perspective. And hopefully help other people see the world as I see it, but not just as I see it, but as my team sees it.

On whether the combination of the pandemic and other milestone events that have happened since she took over Bella have hindered or helped her elevate the brand’s content: By nature, I am a very spiritual person. I operate from a place of spirituality and integrity; I pray a lot; I meditate; I practice yoga three times per week. So I come from that world of energy. And everything that goes into each issue is literally prayed about; it’s thought out; it’s meant to be intentional. So to your point, I knew in my gut that a lot had to change for this magazine to stay relevant.

On any challenges she has faced along the way during her magazine journey: The challenges are there when you see them as “challenges,” because my team has quite frankly learned to navigate, especially now during this pandemic and this racial divide that we’re in; we work from our hearts. We operate out of love and compassion. We want to tell stories of people who are doing amazing things, not just here, but in the world. And the support that we’ve received has been great, I have literally cried. I haven’t had to furlough or let go of anyone on my team. That’s a true testament of commitment on one part from each of them, but also love for what they do.

On why she thinks print is important to the Bella brand today: It’s what our readers want from us. A magazine is a response to human behavior. Our reader is a reader that either walks into a bookstore or orders the publication online, which is what we’ve done over the past few months because of the pandemic. Our distribution has changed a little bit; Barnes & Noble completely stopped receiving new orders, which was our distribution outlet.

On anything she’d like to add: One thing that people ask me is what’s in the future. We are, as I’m sure everyone is, taking it one day at a time with regards to the world and the times we’re living in. We’re super-proud and excited for the future, because regardless of what’s happening, we’re still here. People are still buying the publication, subscribing to it; we’re signing on new brand partners. It still has its place. And I think it’s because of those minor changes that we’ve made, content-wise.

On what keeps her up at night: The fate of our future because I am a hopeless optimist. I really do believe in compassion and empathy. I always pray that we all be a little kinder and a little more gracious to each other, because if we find ourselves in a difficult situation we would want to be afforded that same courtesy. Not to say I’m perfect, I’m far from it, but I think that we are all in need of a little bit more love and compassion and understanding from each other so that we can get ourselves out of this mess.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Vanessa Coppes, CEO and editor in chief, Bella Magazine.

Samir Husni: Why did you acquire Bella instead of starting your brand own from scratch and what’s your concept of Bella today?

Vanessa Coppes: I have always loved telling stories and that creative process of connecting with a person. Maybe get them to share their story in a way that can help and support someone else in something that they may be going through. I had been working with the previous owners since its inception. We were friends and had connected.

I remember receiving the first issue of Bella almost 10 years ago and I just loved it. You had trends, fashion and beauty, but there was always substance. And as a person of substance that I like to believe I am, I connected with the content. And so I definitely wanted to be involved. I had been writing since I was a young girl, and I actually came up with my column that I wrote for Bella almost seven years ago.

And when they decided to sell, I don’t even know what triggered, it was like a kneejerk reaction to jump on the opportunity because I have always been a very creative person and I just felt that maybe this was my time to tell these stories from my perspective. And hopefully help other people see the world as I see it, but not just as I see it, but as my team sees it.

I have a very diverse team and I don’t say that to peg myself into the trends of diversity and inclusion, I just really have a very diverse team. People from different cultures, different backgrounds, and it’s such a beautiful thing to have all of these creative people come together. Because at the end of the day each issue tells a story in itself and everything is connected one to the other. And I try not to disrupt anyone’s creative process, because as a creative person I know that always kills the process itself. Everybody is free to share their ideas and share their concepts and based on the theme of the issue, what comes out of it is truly phenomenal.

I think the biggest compliment that I’ve received, especially over the past year, is just how the magazine has elevated how the content has been elevated to really be reflective, not just of the team, but also of the times that we’re living in. I always felt like that was missing a little bit. There are so many fashion/beauty publications and when we decided to be in the space of lifestyle, I asked what does the Bella lifestyle actually look like? And it’s really trying to live a beautiful life from the inside and outside. The reality is not everyone looks the same. The world that we live in isn’t a reflection of size two models and blonde women. It’s an array of beautiful people who come in different shapes and sizes. So, let’s be reflective of that.

I even changed the tagline this year to be reflective of that. It’s “Life is Bella!” because life is beautiful when you decide to look at it from that lens.

Samir Husni: Since you took over the magazine, you’ve had to deal with the pandemic first and foremost, then along came the milestone movement of Black Lives Matter; do you think the gods are working with you or against you to elevate the content of Bella?

Vanessa Coppes: By nature, I am a very spiritual person. I operate from a place of spirituality and integrity; I pray a lot; I meditate; I practice yoga three times per week. So I come from that world of energy. And everything that goes into each issue is literally prayed about; it’s thought out; it’s meant to be intentional. So to your point, I knew in my gut that a lot had to change for this magazine to stay relevant.

I don’t want to say a lot in the sense of the covers themselves had to change, it was more the stories that we were focusing our attention on, so that they could be more reflective of the reality of the world that we are living in. In the beginning, one of our popular issues had always been the “Hollywood Issue,” which was the Jan./Feb. issue and things revolved around awards season. And I like the awards; I like the fashion, but that’s not really what I wanted to focus the content on, because it’s like the running joke, when we’re writing about beauty and fashion, it isn’t brain surgery. It’s fluff to a certain extent.

People that wanted to pick up the publication, especially after I took it over, were people that wanted to read about women who were building businesses, or the person in another country who was helping to feed the hungry; it was more human interest stories, fashion-conscious companies that were sourcing ethically or organically. Things again, made of substance. It all goes back to substance.

Again, I’ve always listened to the universe, have always been opened to receiving and allowing for this to take the form that it’s intended to take. My team, for the most part, operates from that same space. Again, the stories that we were telling were just reflective of what we were feeling and what was happening around us.

I also felt that it would be completely unethical on our part to not take a stand and to not be another voice to add to the movement of Black Lives Matter, with me myself being a person of color. I think I would have been denying part of my identity had I not done that.

The magazine has never been self-serving. We have weekly meetings editorially to dig through the topics that people really want to know about. What is of interest to our readers; what do people want to explore; what should we be expanding on? And that’s really want we’re focused on.

Quite honestly, the response has been truly a blessing, because as you know and everyone knows, magazines have completely shut down and have had to lay off a ton of workers. This whole working from home concept isn’t new to my team, because we’ve been doing it for years. So, we just adapted. Today I’m home because there’s no power in my office, which is 10 minutes from my house, but I go to my office because I have smaller children and I need the peace. (Laughs) But this isn’t new to the team.

No one really wants to know about the latest lipstick right now. However, we do want to know how people are cooking, how they’re working out from home, how they’re keeping their sanity. What are a few things that I can do to brighten up my mood, because it felt like Ground Hog Day every day for a while. We felt like we were living the same thing over and over.

I’m not going to lie, once the pandemic hit it was very difficult. We lost clients and I looked at my husband and asked him what did we get ourselves into with this? But I think that the way we adapted and responded to the crises was the true blessing. We found other ways to keep money coming in, which was we created an apparel line with the brand. Who knew that people wanted a T-shirt with the Bella logo on it? I knew, because I had been saying it for years. We put that plan into action and attached the philanthropic work that we’ve always done. I always like to think of myself as a social entrepreneur, where yes, we need to make money, but how is this impacting our helping another group of people.

So, we attached the apparel line to several causes and people got behind it. And honestly, that’s a reflection of the work that we’re doing to this day. I’ll sit somedays and say, we’re here. People clearly still want to read this. We’re producing and working content every single day. It has honestly been a blessing. So, yes, the gods have been working with us. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: The magazine industry is still, for the most part, lily-white. You’re one of the few people of color who actually own and produce a magazine that I know. Has it been a walk in a rose garden for you or have there been challenges along the way?

Vanessa Coppes: Here’s what I have found to be true from the moment I took over. Ultimately, the person at the top is the one that makes the decisions. We know this from other companies and businesses; it always comes from the top. And that is a responsibility that I don’t take lightly. Meaning I am the one who ultimately decides who’s going to be on the cover; who’s going to be featured; who’s going to be in the book. I have to say kudos to my team, who are all very opinionated and will speak up and speak out.

We did a really big campaign for Pride, which was something that hadn’t been done in the publication itself in past years, however I made it a point myself because I have team members who are a part of the LGBTQ community. And again, I felt it would be unethical for me to not hold space for them. I even told my team members that I wanted it to feel like their birthday every day that month, because I wanted them to feel celebrated for who they are.

That kind of compassion and humility has been what has driven me as a person and as editor in chief of this publication. I’m always the one to ask how something will impact our readers; what is the ultimate goal that we want to reach? What is it we’re trying to relay and what story are we trying to tell?

With the content we’re publishing, I always say that I want my nieces who are 11, 12 and 16, when they pick up this publication, I want them to be able to see themselves in the stories. And that’s very important, because I remember being 12 or 16 and wanting to starve myself because I couldn’t fit into what I saw in the publications.

But to your point, the challenges are there when you see them as “challenges,” because my team has quite frankly learned to navigate, especially now during this pandemic and this racial divide that we’re in; we work from our hearts. We operate out of love and compassion. We want to tell stories of people who are doing amazing things, not just here, but in the world. And the support that we’ve received has been great, I have literally cried. I haven’t had to furlough or let go of anyone on my team. That’s a true testament of commitment on one part from each of them, but also love for what they do.

These stories have to be told, because we also have responsibilities to our clients who are still onboard. But everyone has worked as a team and has vocalized. When an issue arises, my team are the first to state their opinions. So, it’s only a challenge if you view it as a challenge. We’ve been very adamant about trying to do the right thing at all times.

Samir Husni: While you’ve seen some magazines fold or decrease their frequencies, you continue to publish during the pandemic, every other month, a bimonthly frequency. Why do you think print is important to the Bella brand today?

Vanessa Coppes: It’s what our readers want from us. A magazine is a response to human behavior. Our reader is a reader that either walks into a bookstore or orders the publication online, which is what we’ve done over the past few months because of the pandemic. Our distribution has changed a little bit; Barnes & Noble completely stopped receiving new orders, which was our distribution outlet.

Print is important because print makes something permanent. And the acknowledgement that you receive from seeing your stories on a printed page is something that’s quite literally indescribable. It’s like getting to the top of the mountain. Before all of this, my first article in print I literally cried. It became real to me. It just felt like I had gotten to a part of where I wanted to go.

We have readers who have collected every copy of the magazine because each one is just very unique, especially this year. We’ve elevated even the paper that we print on, the quality has increased tremendously. I felt like since our distribution was not the same, our prices have gone up, people are willing to pay for it, therefore we have to give them something that they will continue to want to pay for. And I get texts and emails from people who tell me that each issue is better than the last. It’s really quite beautiful. And we’re very proud of that.

Print is like nothing else. It’s like a great book. It’s literally nestling on a couch with a cup of coffee or some hot cocoa and your magazine. It’s learning about different people and places. Right now everything is aspirational; we’re not getting on planes for a while, but at least on the pages of Bella you can look through beautiful images of different parts of the country and the world and still stay connected to people, places and things.

Samir Husni: Is there anything you’d like to add?

Vanessa Coppes: One thing that people ask me is what’s in the future. We are, as I’m sure everyone is, taking it one day at a time with regards to the world and the times we’re living in. We’re super-proud and excited for the future, because regardless of what’s happening, we’re still here. People are still buying the publication, subscribing to it; we’re signing on new brand partners. It still has its place. And I think it’s because of those minor changes that we’ve made, content-wise.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Vanessa Coppes: The fate of our future because I am a hopeless optimist. I really do believe in compassion and empathy. I always pray that we all be a little kinder and a little more gracious to each other, because if we find ourselves in a difficult situation we would want to be afforded that same courtesy. Not to say I’m perfect, I’m far from it, but I think that we are all in need of a little bit more love and compassion and understanding from each other so that we can get ourselves out of this mess.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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The Roaring Weeklies. The Magazines And I. Chapter Three, Part Two

August 9, 2020

Chapter Three, Part Two

The Roaring Weeklies… is the third chapter from the book I am writing on the magazines of 1953, specifically March 1953, the month I was born.  This is chapter three, part two.  Feel free to back track for chapters one and two in previous blogs.  Enjoy.

The Heavy-Duty Political Weeklies

The biggies when it came to news and political coverage in 1953 were: Time, Life, Newsweek, and U.S. News & World Report. Time and Life were published by the same company, Time Inc, and were the two dominant titles in that era. The focus of those weeklies was a mix of politics, society, religion and news, with many similarities between the two.

The particular conversations in news and politics that could be overheard on the world’s stage in March 1953 centered around the death of Joseph Stalin and the changes that were taking place in the Soviet Union and what was happening with the Red Army and the Cold War. The evil that even Stalin’s name conjured up and what his death meant to the Soviet people came alive on the pages of weeklies such as Life.

The importance of these weeklies was known from Buckingham Palace to the White House. The editorial pages of these magazines held more than the words of the editors, often publishing or republishing announcements from presidents, such as in the March 2, 1953 issue of Life when former President Harry S. Truman’s memoirs were about to be written. Life believed in the makers of history, as they called the former president. And as a believer and publisher of history in the making, the magazine reprinted the Associated Press bulletin where Truman had written that he had selected Life to “handle all rights in the memoirs.” The magazine’s importance was established.

And Truman wasn’t the only notable leader that Life had published. There was Winston Churchill, Omar Bradley, the Duke of Windsor, and the list goes on. Between the excellent writing and the inimitable photography, Life magazine was one of the most esteemed publications in the country at that time.

In fact, Life was known for its excellent, and often poignant photography. For example, if you look at the March 16, 1953 issue of the magazine, right after Stalin died, the coverage of this world event was incredible. Joseph Stalin and Georgy Malenkov graced the cover of that issue and the entire story was put together from 50,000 photos that the staff had collected. The result was a picture-rich article that amazed.

Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News & World Report also had coverage of world events, such as Stalin’s death, but it was a softer, less epic visual experience. While in March 1953, Time focused on Korea, Stalin and Russia throughout that month, Newsweek focused on classical musicians, Edward R. Murrow and Speaker of the House Joe Martin, so it had more of a lighter approach when it came to coverage of the information. In fact, Newsweek featured Edward R. Murrow on one of its covers, talking about how presenting the news on television is very different from radio. Television was becoming big news in 1953.

Also in that era, Look magazine and Cowles Media decided to publish a newsweekly too, a pocket-sized magazine that covered everything. If newsweeklies were the Internet of 1953, Quick magazine, was the iPhone of 1953. From 1949 to 1953, the pocket-sized publication was jam-packed with information from one end of the spectrum to another. There was art, sex, business, crime, education and entertainment. People were encouraged to carry it in their pockets or their purses so they could access the information on-the-go. The magazine provided what would be called today the “Tweets” of the news, tidbits of information about everything. The name itself reflected the tone of the magazine: Quick.

Quick enabled pop culture to fit easily into purses and pockets. The covers were spot-on for the times. From the real-life Rocky Marciano and a story on why some boxers don’t box anymore, to actress Piper Laurie and a collection of Easter Bonnet portraits, Quick magazine was the social media of 1953. The  posts – snippets of information, comments and pictures were all there on their own little platform. Just whip the magazine out of your pocket and you had Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in one convenient package.

 The High-Brow Literary Weeklies

Saturday Review and The New Yorker fit into this category, with The New Yorker magazine’s founding editor Harold Ross once famously describing his publication (founded in 1925) as being, “not for the little old lady in Dubuque.” Distinguished by their obvious literary prominence, both magazines were reviews of many things. From movies to books, the theatre to museums, these two magazines had their fingers on the pulse of American culture in 1953 from a literary point of view.

The New Yorker had its own iconic covers, becoming an entity unto themselves, with their smart and timely illustrations depicting political satire, the images of the city itself, and many other environmental and social issues of the times.

At that time in the magazine’s history, the front of the magazine was devoted to “The Goings On About Town,” which as you can imagine, was filled with all the fun and exciting things New York City had to offer, from Broadway to art sales offering everything from lithographs and etchings by Pissarro to the showing of paintings and drawings at the Whitney Museum.

As you moved farther inward through the magazine, The New Yorker presented “The Talk Of The Town,” of course, not without first passing some of the most savvy and smart advertisements ever created. “Talk Of The Town” was a place where announcements of varying topics could be discussed, often ones that were on the edge of being dubious, such as the March 21, 1953 issue where a bus company in Yonkers was making plans to install radios in its buses. The problem with that was many thought it was a way for the bus company to raise revenue by selling the attention of all the passengers with only the consent of some, according to The New Yorker’s “The Talk Of The Town.”  Of course, The New Yorker couldn’t stand behind that and let it be known, yet again proving the importance and influence of these weekly magazines.

Saturday Review was very widely read by music and theatre critics and others who thrived on literary journals. The magazine shared the “Good News” in the front of the book, by utilizing that space to talk about many things such as in the March 7, 1953 issue where they wrote about “proof that Americans spend their time in places other than sport stadiums,” as apparently the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City had exceeded the two million mark in visitors for the previous year.

The literary weeklies were more than hoity-toity titles that carried themselves around town with an upturned nose. They were important magazines that people in 1953 relied on to give them honest and factual information about the topics they covered.

News, Television & Weekly Magazines

Not only was 1953 a time when audiences could not get enough information about what was going on in the world they lived in, but it was also a time when weekly magazines actually provided the best coverage of those stories.

While television networks such as CBS and NBC were airing 15 minute newscasts and many stations only did five minutes total of local news right before 5:00 p.m. (TV Guide, Washington-Baltimore area, March 27-April 2), the weekly magazines were filling their pages with informative and relevant information.

But the television magazines were gaining steam, there were TV Guides, TV Forecasts, TV Digests and TV Guides & Forecasts for every part of the country, showcasing this new medium. And the television magazines began predicting things that interested readers, such as who would win that year’s Academy Award.

While Time, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, and Life dealt with foreign affairs and political topics, TV Guide became the escape vehicle for readers who wanted to travel away from facts and the actual news of the day, to the fun and frolic the celebrities were having. And the TV weeklies began reflecting that.

 TV Guide and other television titles of March 1953 took note of people’s fascination with the prominent actors and other celebrities on the screen of the new medium known as television. In fact, so much so, that the magazines’ covers were suddenly flooded with their images.

From the March 13-19, 1953 issue of TV Guide, which featured Janette Davis from Arthur Godfrey and His Friends, a highly popular variety show from that era, to “TV’s Lady-Killers” TV Guide cover from March 27-April 2, 1953, featuring Charlton Heston, John Newland, John Forsythe and John Baragrey, celebrities were the content of choice when it came to the covers of these magazines. Jackie Gleason, Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, George Burns and his wife Gracie, were just a few of the other famous folk who appeared on covers of the TV weeklies.

Needless to say, when the Academy Awards were first televised on March 19, 1953, the television magazines were thrilled to feature all the stars and their stories.

Your Weekly Magazine Inside A Newspaper

Supplements in newspapers had a rich history by the time 1953 came along. From inserts inside Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World in the late 1800s, to Women’s Home Journal and Sunday American Magazine, which later became The American Weekly, inside William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal,  these magazine-formatted publications became another resource for information.

The American Weekly was a successor to the Sunday magazine and the artwork was created by some of the best artists of that time, such as Lee Conrey and Howard Chandler Christy. There were great stories and, as in the February 22, 1953 issue of the magazine, which had the magazine’s first annual Auto Section, some of the most colorful and inviting illustrations and ads that you could find anywhere.

Parade was another insert that really became an entity all on its own. The Sunday newspaper magazine was founded in 1941 and was originally a supplement for its creator’s own newspaper, the Chicago Sun. But over the years the insert with the humble beginnings is now nationwide and still retains a circulation of 18 million. Renowned authors such as Ernest Hemingway (who sent in reports from the Far East), Ben Hecht (author of “the Front Page”), Dr. Carl Sagan (who provided his first report on Nuclear Winter), James Thurber, Herman Wouk, Norman Mailer, John Cheever and Alex Haley, among many others, have been published between its covers.

In the March 15, 1953 issue, Parade (this particular copy from The Wichita Sunday Eagle) the Norman Rockwell ads, combined with helpful tips and delicious-looking recipes, show just why this entertaining, yet informative magazine is still around.

Grafic Magazine, an insert in the Chicago Sunday Tribune, was much like its Parade counterpart, published on Sunday and highlighting home tips and entertainment features.These great additions to Sunday newspapers is a tradition that carries on even in the 21st century.

Getting News & Entertainment In “Weekly Time”

Today we experience real time. A family faces down a giant black bear and we watch the fingernail-biting moments while they unfold. But in 1953 that wasn’t an option. Instead, the people got their news a little less instantaneously. With TV newscasts so brief, they may as well not have happened, the American public relied strictly on print. Ink on paper was the internet of the 1950s and a technology that couldn’t be beaten.

So when those daily newspapers and weekly magazines came calling, people couldn’t wait to answer their front doors. Craving information and missing the bells and whistles and notifications of today, they relished these weekly visits from the magazine friends that they loved and trusted.

The Roaring Weeklies

When we look at the roaring weeklies of 1953, we see why they could be called the Internet of 1953, because each magazine gave you a little bit of everything. If you subscribed to Life, not only did someone get 144 pages of great photography, great writing, great stories, but also great advertising with very skillful marketing. People discovered the latest automobile, the latest fashion, the latest everything. It was all there between the pages. People could read about religion, sports, modern living, fashion, science… just a composite of topics. So, the magazines were the Google of the 1953 Internet, with any topic one could imagine available.

Weeklies To The Right, Please…And The Left

Mr. Magazine™  explored his vault extensively to bring you this chapter on the great weeklies of 1953. Looking to the right and to the left, he walked the halls and rooms and searched out the precise magazines talked about here. The experience was most satisfying. While there were lesser-known weeklies alive in 1953, the ones elaborated about in Chapter Three were the major players of that year.

And Next…

The Vault is endless and the doors many. Let us check out the next room… look, it’s the Women’s Magazine sanctuary. Come in and Mr. Magazine™ will introduce you to the Seven Sisters and many of their friends, cousins, and relatives…

To be continued…

 

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The Roaring Weeklies. The Magazines And I. Chapter Three. Part One.

August 6, 2020

Chapter Three, Part One

The Roaring Weeklies… is the third chapter from the book I am writing on the magazines of 1953, specifically March 1953, the month I was born.  This is chapter three, part one.  Feel free to back track for chapters one and two in previous blogs.  Enjoy.

The Ink On Paper Internet

In 1953, magazines played two essential roles in  the world of media: the distribution of information and the marketing of products and goods. In fact, they were the leading national media that collected information for people in the east, west, north and south and distributed it accordingly. They were basically the Internet of the era. And weekly magazines brought that aggregated content to readers on a more regular basis than the monthlies, be it politics, entertainment or any number of other topics of interest, weekly magazines were the go-to source for current information quick.

And just as we want instantaneous information today, the people of 1953 wanted it as well. Their instantaneous sources were the weekly magazines. While the need and desire of weekly titles has dissipated today, due entirely to the Internet, in 1953 the urgency for current content was palpable. And while television was on the rise and promised to give the weekly magazines a run for their money, the time wasn’t ripe yet for screens; the time still belonged to ink on paper.

Television’s Infancy

The year 1953 had some significant television moments, but as far as news broadcasts and news programs, that really wasn’t the case. On March 19, 1953, the 25th Academy Awards were broadcast by NBC, becoming the first Academy Awards ceremony to be televised. However, many people awaited their favorite weekly magazine to get all the juicy details about the stars’ fashion choices and the behind-the-scenes gossip.

Then on April 3 of that year, TV Guide was published for the first time in the United States, with 10 editions and a circulation of 1,562,000. But as television was just finding its footing, weekly magazines still delivered more information about niche subjects than the infant TV Guide did.

In 1953, television stations only provided local news programs one to two times each evening for 15 minutes and usually these programs aired as supplements to network-supplied evening news, before their primetime programming. So, where today we can get the story of a family facing down an angry bear in real time, in 1953 news was not so plentiful. The weekly magazine could put that story vividly in your hand to read, complete with powerful images.

Weekly magazines were without a doubt the ink on paper internet of the 1953. And by covering such diverse topics, they connected people in a way that newspapers and TV couldn’t: they put the stories of the week in the same hands of the farmer in Iowa and the celebrity in Hollywood.  They delivered captivating storytelling and hardcore news to one and all on a weekly basis.

The Time of the Season

The 1950s were a time of affluence in America as the United States became an economic leader on the global stage and the morality of the country became one that everyone admired. But underneath that shiny facade, things were changing as shifting gender roles challenged that picturesque image of dad smoking his pipe in his easy chair while mom brought him his slippers. The Feminist Movement was just around the corner. As was the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War.

And weekly magazines were coming into their own, educating and liberating people with new ideas and information that opened their minds to unique and larger possibilities.

Taking a Peek at the Internet of 1953

What information did people seek after in 1953? What stories held them captivated and what weekly magazines had them addicted? The weeklies of that era can be divided into three categories:

The Feel-Good weeklies led by The Saturday Evening Post and Collier’s.

The Heavy-Duty political weeklies led by Time, Life and Newsweek.

The High-Brow literary weeklies led by The New Yorker and Saturday Review.

These magazines were the heavy hitters of their time. And they proved it every week. As a sidebar, four of these seven titles are still being published today.

If you entered an American home in March 1953, chances are you would have probably found people who subscribed to some or all of these magazines. But what were these people getting? What was the conversations centered around?

The Feel-Good Weeklies

The Saturday Evening Post and Collier’s were two heavy hitters in 1953 that made the audience feel good. They showcased life in Postwar America with a positive and upbeat tenor, providing  stories of hope and goodwill. People who subscribed to these magazines were interested in being uplifted and refreshed.

The Saturday Evening Post’s covers mirrored those simpler times: sandlot baseball, kids watching black and white westerns, jungle gyms and little girls playing mommy. Some of the illustrators for The Post, people such as Norman Rockwell and George Hughes, were sticklers for details and accuracy when it came to their renditions of the covers, setting a precedent for collecting among fans of the magazine.

Collier’s also had illustrated covers and was known for the prolific talent that contributed to the entire magazine. Short fiction was one of Collier’s most prominent features and the illustrations that accompanied the stories were phenomenal. In both Collier’s and The Saturday Evening Post, the cover lines were kept away from the drawings so that cover collectors weren’t disappointed.

In Collier’s March 14, 1953 issue, space exploration was prominent in the magazine. The cover depicts how the crew of a fast-moving rocket ship might handle an alert situation in space, such as being prepared for any emergency that might crop up. Of course, this was before the first manned aircraft rocketed toward the great unknown, but people were already getting ready for that exciting day. And Collier’s content was anticipating it. While people were still talking about how to avoid nuclear war with Russia, space was the fascinating topic no one could ignore. And the race between countries, like America and Russia, to get there first was a watercooler moment waiting to happen.

The Saturday Evening Post and Collier’s depicted the American Dream with content and illustrations that were total Americana in print. Even when the magazines were covering something much darker, they did it with a positive spin. If it was war, the magazines brought in experts on how good could come out of bad; there was always light in the dark.

To be continued…

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The Year Was 1953. The Magazines And I. Chapter Two, Part Three.

July 30, 2020

The Political Front

In the March 16, 1953 issue of Life magazine the cover had Joseph Stalin and Georgy Malenkov, who briefly succeeded Stalin after his death, super-imposed side-by-side in a very striking image. The writer of the cover story was the British author Edward Crankshaw, who was and is known for his writings about Soviet affairs.

Stalin had recently died and Malenkov was preparing to step into the powerful shoes of the deceased leader. Crankshaw had a flair for the dark and conspiratorial atmosphere that surrounded the Kremlin. From the “poisoning doctors” he writes about to the violence and suspicion that encompassed Stalin’s shadow, the author could set the tone and mood of the actual state of affairs in Russia at that time perfectly.

This beautifully done article that mysteriously weaves the historical story of Stalin’s death and life behind the fearful walls of the Kremlin, is a masterpiece typical of the type of authors and stories that Life gave its readers. Stories of substance, images that could take your breath away. As we delve into this fascinating year 1953, we begin to see the importance of magazines throughout that time. There was no Internet and television was just beginning to find its footing to become what it is today, but magazines could take readers on a journey to Russia to get up close and personal with the body of the prone Stalin. Magazines could transport a secretary in Gary, Indiana smackdab into the middle of the Kremlin. It was a magical time for ink on paper.

When Advertising Was King         

Chapter Two, Part Three

During that momentous time, it wasn’t just the content that could be called an influencer, the ads in the magazines were just as important and amazing. With the end of the Korean war and a new president and first lady in the White House, people in 1953 were ready to start spending money and what better way to grab those dollars than advertising in magazines. The time was right and the possibilities unlimited and magazines were the best way to get a product before the eyes of the country.

Lucky Strike cigarettes, where nothing beat better taste, could fill the back cover of a major magazine, tempting people to find out why they had better taste. A full-page ad for Pabst Blue Ribbon beer made people realize how thirsty for yeast and hops they were, and because busy people paused for Coke, Coca-Cola became everyone’s drink of choice, busy or not.

It was an advertiser’s dream come true. The ads worked because there were no taboos, cigarettes and beer were the norm for that era. Health and consequences hadn’t even been thought of yet when it came to smoking and drinking.

But it wasn’t just beer and tobacco products that reigned supreme. There were airline ads, hotel ads, automobile ads, tire ads; you name it. Soon, people were driving new cars, flying everywhere and staying in the best hotels. Advertisements in magazines were raking in money, making publications thrive and educating people about the latest and greatest products and trends.

The Dissemination of Information

Getting magazines in the hand of subscribers has always been vitally important to publishers, and in 1953 that statement was no less true.

Congress legislated postage rates until 1970, keeping magazines and newspapers extremely low, allowing them to travel where they were going very reasonably. In 1953, a first-class postage stamp cost $0.03, but it was only $0.02 to send out a magazine, so getting informational content out to a mass audience was not only cost-efficient, it was necessary.

Magazines For The Readers

Even the United Nations had its own magazine United Nations World that was founded in 1947, redesigned in 1950, and once again went through another revamping in March 1953. The publisher introduced those changes by stating:

United Nations World appears in your home and on your newsstand this month wearing a new dress. As you notice, we have completely redesigned our cover in order to make it modern, distinctive and – we hope – strikingly attractive.

 It is fitting that our “cover girl” for this issue should be Elizabeth II. However, the new design was not created by our artists solely as a setting for beauty and queenly dignity. The format you see will be a permanent one.

 The editors have been experimenting for a long time to find a cover which would reflect the spirit and the contents of UN World. On this page, you will find reproduced a few of the previous covers we have used. We feel that the new design is superior to the others but, of course, we are not unprejudiced. So, since this magazine is published for its readers, we are eager to hear what you think. Will you write and tell us?

 Roger S. Phillips

Publisher

 Reflecting – it appears everyone knows what magazines are excellent at, especially the weeklies of that era… They reflected and ruled the space as the Internet of the 1950s, as we’ll see in chapter three.

Coming soon: Chapter Three

 

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The Year Was 1953… The Magazines And I. Chapter Two, Part Two.

July 28, 2020

Chapter Two, Part Two

The 3-D Movement In Magazines

Magazines have always captured trends and movements as though they had a golden net of what would be important and significant to readers. The 3-D movement was something that became very prominent in the movie industry in the 1950s, so, of course, magazines seized their own part of this lucrative medium, with content such as 3-D movie titles, 3-D comics, and just a variety of 3-D entertainment.

Many 3-D buffs consider the 1950s the “Golden Era” of 3-D, simply because some form of the medium has been around for generations. But in the ‘50s, the art took on a different, more vibrant role with the release of the first color stereoscopic feature. It was an amazing process that the public latched onto and loved. And of course, magazines didn’t waste any time in seeing the unique value of this latest trend. Even today that famous picture from Life magazine, the iconic image of a crowded theater with everyone watching a movie wearing 3-D eyeglasses, is a creative piece that is still shown and of interest to people.

Suddenly, the marketplace was consumed with 3-D magazines: 3-D Movie Magazine, 3-D Dimension, 3-D Pinups and 3-D Screen, even Superman himself appeared in his own 3-D magazine in 1953. Magazine publishers knew a great wave when they saw one, and they could ride it better than anything out there.

In December 1953, Harvey Famous Name Comics put out the first issue of True 3D . On the inside page of the front cover of the magazine, the editors announced their excitement in bringing “the most startling magazine produced in three dimensional illustration by our own exclusive process.” Harvey Comics even had a written statement from two optometrists about the visual benefits of reading the 3-D magazine, which came with its own “magic specs.”

Magazines have truly always been ahead of their time in the way they approach the world around us. And in 1953 in particular, 3-D was a vibrant and lucrative way to entertain readers and moviegoers alike, and magazines embraced this old (movies), but new (3-D) technology.

Magazines: The Internet of The 1950s

From Time to Newsweek, the newsweeklies were flourishing; the general interest titles, such as Life and Look were inimitable in their classy style. All of these magazines from 1953 were so dominant and their content so mesmerizing and the designs so stylish, that one couldn’t help but believe the world of magazines was omnipotent in what it did.

And while television (still referred to as the talking piece of furniture in some ads and articles)  was still in its infancy, magazines were really the Internet of 1953, of the 1950s in general. Magazines connected the entire United States and the world. No matter what your interests were, from fiction to science fiction, true crime to celebrity gossip, magazines covered it, no Google necessary.

The Taboo & The Forbidden

At a time when being gay was not something talked about openly, magazines were still exploring their parameters. Disguised as men’s health or fitness magazines, titles such as Muscle Power and Muscle Man, were, for the most part, gay magazines. The readers were primarily gay men who enjoyed looking at the physiques of other men, but because of the times, publishers gave consumers what they wanted in the form of bodybuilding.

And then in January 1953, the first widely distributed publication for homosexuals in the United States published its first issue. One magazine was born during a time when being openly gay was unheard of. A group from Los Angeles, the Mattachine Society, formed by Communist and labor activist Harry Hay and a group of his friends, was determined to protect and improve the rights of gay men. So, in November 1952 they formed ONE Inc. and began publishing the magazine in the new year.

Being a nonprofit organization, ONE Inc. depended on volunteers for its magazine and asked for different variants, such as circulation and advertising representatives, from each city to which the magazine found its way. The magazine paved the way for the OUTs and The Advocates of today.

One ceased publication in 1967 but lives on today thanks to the University of Southern California, where the ONE Archives Foundation—an institution that researches, curates and collects items of importance to the LGBT world resides just off campus.

The magazine reached many landmarks during its existence, including a United States Supreme Court decision for LGBT rights in the United States with One, Inc. v. Olesen in 1958, which was the first time the Court had ever dealt with a homosexual ruling. The Court reversed a lower court decision that declared One magazine had violated obscenity laws. So, for the first time ever there was constitutional protection for pro-homosexual writing. Magazines have never played around when it comes to standing up for themselves.

And when it came to men’s magazines for the heterosexual male, a woman’s naked body was usually described as art or exposed for health reasons. Magazines such as Health and Efficiency, which was touted as the world’s leading naturist journal, and Sunshine & Health were purported to be totally created for health and wellness reasons, but would have naked women on the cover. That is until Playboy came along in December 1953. Hefner pulled no punches, transforming the idea of looking at naked women as artistic into something erotic.

Of course, times were different in 1953, people had different interests and the world, in general, from politics to the politically correct, was totally distinctive from today. But magazines were there to keep the public informed and entertained, just as they are today.

To be continued…

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