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There Is Nothing New Under The “Creative Innovation” Sun…

January 11, 2017

First of a Series of Mr. Magazine™ Musings About Classic Creative Innovation…

multum-in-parvoJust when you thought the 21st century was the ultimate time for creative innovation in the world of magazines and magazine media, up rears the head of the 20th century again (and even part of the 19th) to prove you wrong. What’s the phrase adapted from the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible: There’s nothing new under the sun? That would be absolutely true, especially when it comes to creative innovation in magazines. And leave it to Mr. Magazine™ to be the one to inform you of this, seeing as how recently I have been dipping deeply into my Classic Magazine Vault.

For example, when it comes to small and convenient, there was a magazine that was published in 1894 called “Multum in Parvo,” which of course in Latin means a great deal of something in a very small space. And in this case it would be a great deal of entertaining short stories in what was self-described at the time as “the smallest magazine in the world.” It was sold by subscription and single copy. And it is very, very small, (Mr. Magazine™ of course has it on hand), and for 1894, very innovative. Today, you might call it the flash drive of the 19th century. It is exquisite.

people-today220dare215bold217Then there are the men’s magazines that were a prominent and key part of the 1940s and 1950s, such as “Bold,” “People Today,” and “Dare.” These were the magazines that slid conveniently into a man’s shirt pocket for his viewing and reading pleasure when he was out and about, either at work or other activities away from his home or desk. And while by today’s standards, what with the Internet and mobile, this bit of carrying around your passion might sound tame and mediocre, for the ‘40s and ‘50s this idea was quite creative and demonstrative of the type of innovations that could come from productively inventive minds.

esquire201true198And aside from those examples of modification and mutation, there were the oversized coffee table magazines (sound familiar?) such as “Ken” from 1938 and “Flair” from 1950, and the boxed publications, such as “Esquire’s” 1959 Christmas Jubilee issue and “True The Man’s Magazine’s” 1961 Silver Anniversary issue. As Esquire began in 1933 and True The Men’s Magazine in 1937, the latter had a tendency to follow in the footsteps of its senior compatriot. But imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I suppose.

leslies200newsweek202And when it came to service journalism and patriotism for our men and women of the armed forces, magazine weeklies in the 1940s such as Newsweek and TIME provided such a significant and important boost to our military personnel’s morale by providing issues with timely and interesting stories for absolutely free. And during the First World War, Leslie’s and many other titles provided a “notice to reader” stamp on their covers that allowed readers to place a one cent postal stamp onto the designated notice when they were finished reading the magazine and it would be sent to military personnel overseas for them to also enjoy. What an unbelievably innovative idea! Brilliant!

liberty204And another service feature that by today’s standards would probably seem ludicrous to most, but in fact, was quite the bomb in days gone by was the 1920s “Liberty” magazine, which offered readers exact minutes and seconds when it came to how long it took to read individual articles. Saving time didn’t just start with the digital natives, you see.

pic199Arguing with the quality, creativity, and yes, innovation of the titles from yesteryear would be a complete waste of time. The pioneers of magazines were not only some of the most creative people who ever lived, but also visionaries in their own right. And I would be terribly remiss if I didn’t mention one of the most beautiful and innovative covers that I have ever seen in my many, many years of tracking and loving magazines. It’s a magazine from 1939 that was published every other Tuesday by Street & Smith. The magazine was called “PIC” and was actually three magazines in one that covered different areas of the entertainment world, Hollywood, Broadway and Sports. So, for example, one section was “Hollywood Pic;” one section was “Broadway Pic;” and one section was “Sport Pic,” just simply a well-done, original magazine that showed creativity at its best.

st-nicholas203Another lovely magazine for children that encouraged curious minds to flip through its pages and enjoy magical stories and actual illustrations that were not produced digitally was St. Nicholas magazine that was founded by Scribner’s in 1873 and ceased publication in 1940. Mr. Magazine™ has the beautiful December 1920 issue and it’s writing is superb. Over the years everyone from Louisa May Alcott to Mark Twain enjoyed being published in this amazing title. The magazine is proof positive that children do in fact love to read and always have, it’s just today they have more options than ever before, which isn’t a bad thing at all. However, it is a fact that the innovations of technology are not the entire reason children are inspired to read; it’s much more about the craft of good storytelling.

The point I’m making is that while those of us today who live and breathe as if we were the only creative, innovative, cutting-edge, and ingenious people to have ever touched ink on paper or (in our case in the 21st century), stared at pixels on a screen, are a bit narcissistic when you look back through the years that magazines have been around. Creative innovation didn’t happen simply because the world of digital came into being. Creative innovation hit the scene when the first magazine drew its infant breath. Digital may have motivated print to recheck and reinvent itself, but it never, ever coined the phrase “creative innovation.” That credit, my friends, goes to the human being…

And from almost the very beginning there have been human beings and their original ideas – that’s nothing new…

Until the next Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

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