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The Lineage Of Magazines – Lest We Forget Where Magazines Came From: Thinking About The Content Of Magazine Content

January 29, 2017

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

mccalls-cover jan 1951The substance of the content of magazines has always been important. Each letter of each word formed matters. And when you string those letters together to make words, you then begin to create sentences, followed subsequently by paragraphs, followed by…well; you see where I’m going with this.

As the eras have passed, it seems that “substance” has sometimes fallen by the wayside. Vintage words that are weighty and meaningful are often replaced with a group of vowels and consonants that seem flighty and gossamer-thin. Even in the 21st century, content matters, especially in magazines, and especially in this digital age where everything is fast and instantaneous.

For those of you who follow my blog, it’s no secret that I have been digging into my Mr. Magazine™ Classic Vault of vintage magazines. And as most of you know, I have what some would call an “extensive” collection. I happened upon a beautiful hardback compilation of McCall’s recently and was struck by the substance of the content.

mccalls-eleanor345McCall’s Magazine has a rich and lustrous lineage. The magazine began as a small-format called The Queen in 1873, and was renamed McCall’s Magazine—The Queen of Fashion in 1897, later shortened to simply McCall’s. During the 20th century it reveled in an abiding popularity with its readers and is known as one of the “Seven Sisters” group of women’s service magazines.

McCall’s has always been known for its extremely staunch commitment to service in the women’s category. From the Eleanor Roosevelt column entitled “If You Ask Me,” which the former first lady wrote from 1949 until her death in 1962, to the Betsy McCall paper dolls that were printed from 1951 to 1995, and were available in most issues for children to cut out, McCall’s created content that was both service-oriented and engagingly entertaining.

mccalls-cover347The articles featured were often different from the norm, but still considered service as the content believed in its audience, and knew that women were interested in far more than just how to sew and cook, albeit those were valued topics as well. In the 1940s and 1950s, it featured many articles that covered subject matter that was also substantive and varied. For example, the January 1951 cover story written by Doris Fleeson “Washington’s Ten Most Powerful Women,” was written at a time when most women only had power through men and the article stated as much. In fact, the byline in part reads: but the cold fact is that NO woman has power except through a man, quite a compelling and strong sentiment, especially for the era.

mccalls-cover349And then there were the contemplative features that made one think and consider, such as “How Female is Your Husband” written by Don Wharton. These types of articles were cutting edge for the times and comparatively magazines today could learn a few things from the masters who over 50 years ago were creating content that was so bulked with important and vibrant information, the magazine fairly groaned from its verbiage girth. In a good way, of course; that satisfied groan that many of us get when we finally push away from the Thanksgiving table.

So, as we put together the words, sentences, paragraphs and pages of our magazines today, Mr. Magazine™ asks the simple question: “Do you really know the content of your content?”

Until next time…

See you at the newsstands…

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One comment

  1. […] “The substance of the content of magazines has always been important. Each letter of each word formed matters. And when you string those letters together to make words, you then begin to create sentences, followed subsequently by paragraphs, followed by…well; you see where I’m going with this,” muses Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni in his blog. […]



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