Archive for the ‘From the Vault’ Category

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Life After The White House: A Revealing Article From A Century Ago

January 16, 2021

Magazines then and magazine now: they still play an important role in informing, entertaining, and educating their audiences. From my vault, The Mentor magazine, March 1921, an article revealing what the presidents of the United States did after leaving office. The article covers presidents Washington to Taft. I wonder who will take the task to cover life after The White House since 1921 until today… Enjoy the article:

The Mentor magazine, March 1921

AFTER THE WHITE HOUSE — WHAT?

What shall we do with our ex-presidents? This question comes up regularly in the United States following presidential elections. History shows that some of the ablest national leaders have left the White House impoverished by their devotion to public affairs. From time to time efforts have been made to provide the retiring executive with a pension or some other form of income. These plans, however, have never passed the stage of discussion.

Five of our 27 presidents have died in office. The average life of the rest, after quitting the presidential chair, was 13 years. Two only held office after leaving the White House – John Quincy Adams and Andrew Johnson; the former became a senator from Massachusetts, the latter a senator from Tennessee nine years after ending his term as president. John Tyler became a member of the Confederate Congress, but died before it convened. 

Grover Cleveland was the only president to return to the White House after retirement. Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, and Roosevelt sought to and failed.

Martin Van Buren lived the longest of any ex-president – 31 years. John Adams and James Madison lived 25 and 27 years respectively. 

John Adams lived long enough to see his son, John Quincy Adams, elected to the highest office; the son had been in office 15 months when his father died, July 4, 1826 at 90 years of age. Thomas Jefferson died the same day; he had been president 17 years before. 

Benjamin Harrison’s grandfather, “Tippecanoe” Harrison, died in 1841, one month after he was inaugurated. 

Misfortune seemed to follow General Grant from the moment he stepped out of office – financial losses, illness and death. 

Following is a record of ex-presidents:

Washington served as commander-in-chief of the army in 1797. 

Adams practiced law at Quincy, Mass.

Jefferson refused a third term and devoted the remainder of his life to educational work.

Madison became a gentleman farmer and was a delegate to a constitutional conference.

Monroe became a regent of the University of Virginia, but suffered great financial distress and was enabled to die in peace only after Congress had voted him a gift.

John Quincy Adams served in the House of Representatives after being President.

Andrew Jackson lived in retirement. 

Martin Van Buren failed in his effort for re-nomination in 1848 four years after ending his term.

Polk retired to his home at Nashville, Tenn. Taylor died in office. Fillmore failed to win re-nomination in 1856 and retired. Pierce retired after failing to win re-nomination. Buchanan retired. Lincoln was assassinated in office. Johnson completed his term in 1869 and was elected senator in 1875. Hayes occupied himself with educational work until his death. Garfield was assassinated in office. Arthur failed to win re-nomination and retired. Cleveland practiced law in New York City; was reelected in 1892, and lectured at Princeton University after completing his second term. Harrison practiced law, wrote and served as a commissioner in the Venezuela boundary dispute settlement. McKinley was assassinated in office. Roosevelt hunted in Africa, wrote, traveled, explored and participated in public affairs until his death. Taft became a member of the faculty at Yale University

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The Saturday Evening Post At 200: Yes, It Is Still Being Published And Still Celebrating America’s Past, Present, and Future – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Steven Slon, Editorial Director and Associate Publisher & Jeff Nilsson, Director Of Archives…

December 2, 2020

“There has been so much talk about digital replacing print completely, but in fact delving into a print publication with its design, all the multiple levels of interest that you have in a magazine, it’s not like anything else. And there is plenty of evidence that people are returning to print in great numbers. And I think that point can be shown in America.” Steven Slon… 

“There are many things that The Post got wrong historically. They had some very unenlightened views on women and immigrants, but as far as Black people, they really have a long history of being a little bit more aware than the average publication,  going back to the 1800s when it was a solid abolitionist newspaper and was very much pushing for the civil rights of Black Americans and the end of slavery.” Jeff Nilsson…

The Saturday Evening Post Then August 8, 1862
The Saturday Evening Post Now November/December 2020

In 2021 The Saturday Evening Post will celebrate 200 years of chronicling American history in the making. From Napoleon to Lincoln to The Civil Rights Movement, the magazine has been a staple and a part of our American culture for generations. 

With the upcoming celebratory milestone, I spoke recently to Steven Slon, editorial director and associate publisher & Jeff Nilsson, director of The Post’s archives and we talked about what some have called the most significant of the early magazines. Its rich history and still-strong future gave us quite a lot to discuss and the conversation was as fascinating as the magazine itself.

So, I hope that you enjoy this Mr. Magazine™ interview with Steve and Jeff as we take a look back, a present glimpse, and a glance into the future of The Saturday Evening Post.

The Jan. 1, 1921 cover

But first the sound-bites: 

On The Saturday Evening Post’s claim that it was founded in 1721 by Benjamin Franklin when it was really launched in 1821 (Steven Slon): The market people for The Saturday Evening Post in the mid-twentieth century were very clever by today’s standards. You could call it alternate facts or you could call it just a little creative bending of the story, but in effect we do feel that The Post owes a debt to Benjamin Franklin in that his Poor Richard’s Almanack in a way provided a template for the concept that became the model for The Saturday Evening Post. It’s like a popular publication for the whole family, safe for all members of the family to read, interesting to diverse interests and senses of humor and so on. 

On what role The Saturday Evening Post plays in today’s marketplace (Steven Slon): We’re continuing the tradition of a magazine for the whole family, not bifurcated into now-interest groups, not following the trend toward verticality. We are a magazine that  you immerse yourself in. And you’ll find some stories about trends, some about politics, some news-based, some personal interest stuff, some self-care; our health reporting is almost in the Rodale tradition, which has been my background, the you-can-do-it, here’s-how-to-do-it. So we cut a wide range of subjects and our readers just really enjoy immersing themselves in the magazine, sort of like a warm bath, you can just relax and you find interesting material.

On whether he feels The Saturday Evening Post is swimming against the current in today’s magazine publishing world (Steven Slon): We are swimming against the current and we’re proud to do it because we feel this is where a really good magazine is. It’s like the personality of a human, there’s an arrangement of interests, people aren’t just tennis players or skiers or cycling enthusiasts, or just interested in politics or just interested in cooking. We have recipes, we have sports, we talk about gambling in the next issue.

Steven Slon

On why Beurt SerVaas thought the magazine was worth saving in the 1960s (Steven Slon): To begin with Beurt SerVaas, who ultimately purchased the magazine, was an international businessman with many operations around the world. He had factories in Poland, for example. And he was known as a turnaround guy. He was brought in to help with the breakup of The Saturday Evening Post when it went bankrupt. 

On what the 200-year-old legacy of The Saturday Evening Post means in today’s world (Steven Slon): I think solid reporting, fairness, balance, just quality. Certainly we consider our 200-year-old history as being a part of American history. One of the things that we feel strongly about is the magazine in the 1920s, under George Horace Lorimer’s leadership, was part of the effort to make the United States feel like a truly united country.

Jeff Nilsson

On how The Saturday Evening Post has coped over the years with each facet of new media, from radio to the Internet (Jeff Nilsson): Starting in the 1920s radio was considered a novelty but certainly no challenge to print publications. And motion pictures were also really considered off the chart. They really weren’t going to be any threat to established media. By the late 1920s, they were reporting on radio broadcasting and the business with a bit more respect, but still the numbers were so high in the 1920s that they weren’t worried. But as sound came to motion pictures, it started to bite into the entertainment dollars of the United States.

On the future of The Saturday Evening Post as it enters its third century (Steven Slon): The future is we’re certainly growing our website, we’re 50 percent more traffic year over year. In the last two years, it’s just been going up exponentially. The challenge that we face is the lack of awareness that the publication is out there. We’re not on the newsstand right now because the cost of that is prohibitive. We don’t have a ton of financial backing to do that kind of thing. So, we have to be conservative in our business plans. Our readership is somewhat closed, we have 250,000 paid subscribers; our actual market share is bigger in the sense that over one million people read the magazine based on third party analysis of the pass-along rate.

On getting the word out that the magazine isn’t dead (Steven Slon): We have a story to tell and that is that we have an extraordinarily good magazine. For the price of a couple of ham sandwiches, you get a year’s subscription, $15. It’s a magazine that you can immerse yourself in. We have one of the highest rates of read-through. I was talking to our salespeople recently. When they’re tabbing the magazine they talk about the fact that people don’t read just one article, they immerse themselves, they read from cover-to-cover. A much higher rate than other magazines.

On getting the word out that the magazine isn’t dead (Jeff Nilsson): I wanted to add something, and you mentioned this earlier; when The Post really started taking off it tried to reach a national audience in the 1800s, but particularly in the 1900s. And Curtis believed that there was an American taste. There was an average American that was interested in certain things and instead of breaking up the readership like McClure’s did or Harper’s or Atlantic which pitched itself to various sections of New England, he pitched it to the country.  

On whether The Saturday Evening Post would be considered a history of American taste or just a general interest magazine reflecting today’s marketplace (Steven Slon): I think certainly it’s a history of pop cultural America and also a more serious part of American history. We created a regular column that Jeff writes called The Post Perspective and we feel we have this unique ability to show let’s say that a trend of today has antecedents in history.

On what’s in store for the celebration year of 2021 (Steven Slon): The big issue will be the July/August issue because that’s the actual anniversary, but in each issue we’re going to have a selection on a theme. The first batch for the January issue will be a selection of some of the earliest stories and earliest reporting from the 19th century. So, reporting on the death of Napoleon, for example. On the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, we covered that. 

On why magazines of today are so different from the magazines of yesteryear (Steven Slon): There are some that are maintaining a style, culture and a tradition that dates back to their origins, such as The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, even The Smithsonian, which covers a range of subject matter with a historical slant. We’re going against the trend toward verticality because we can’t. It’s that simple. We couldn’t even begin to be a vertical, we have so many different strands of interest that we’d have to completely restart the magazine with a different theme.

On how he thinks The Post handled diversity and people of color (Steven Slon): I’d say that we were similar to the historically other mainstream magazines in that I don’t think there was adequate representation of minorities. I would dispute the claim that some people make that The Post prohibited coverage of minorities. That is not true, I believe.

On how he thinks The Post handled diversity and people of color (Jeff Nilsson): I’d like to also add that there are many things that The Post got wrong historically. They had some very unenlightened views on women and immigrants, but as far as Black people, they really have a long history of being a little bit more aware than the average publication,  going back to the 1800s when it was a solid abolitionist newspaper and was very much pushing for the civil rights of Black Americans and the end of slavery.

The Saturday Evening Post September 29, 1821

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Steven Slon, editorial director and associate publisher & Jeff Nilsson, director of archives, The Saturday Evening Post.

Samir Husni: In 1821 The Saturday Evening Post was launched and it became the most important magazine in American history, according to many historians. Yet, some were confused when The Saturday Evening Post added the tagline “Founded in 1721 by Benjamin Franklin” before even Benjamin Franklin started his own magazine in 1741. Can you tell me about that story?

Steven Slon: The market people for The Saturday Evening Post in the mid-twentieth century were very clever by today’s standards. You could call it alternate facts or you could call it just a little creative bending of the story, but in effect we do feel that The Post owes a debt to Benjamin Franklin in that his Poor Richard’s Almanack in a way provided a template for the concept that became the model for The Saturday Evening Post. It’s like a popular publication for the whole family, safe for all members of the family to read, interesting to diverse interests and senses of humor and so on.

Now there’s a bit of a real connection in the sense that the founders of The Saturday Evening Post in 1821 were modeling on some of the work of Benjamin Franklin. And they also published it, printed it in the same printing shop in Philadelphia that Benjamin Franklin had used so that they could claim a little, let’s say paternity. (Laughs)

The Saturday Evening Post May 3, 1862

Samir Husni: But in 1821 Benjamin Franklin was dead. 

Steven Slon: And his publications, The Pennsylvania Gazette, whatever, had been gone for 15 to 20 years. The real start of the magazine, granted it owes a debt to the kind of thinking and the style and tone of Poor Richard’s Almanack and The Pennsylvania Gazette, the magazine was founded in 1821, the real publication. And it really had no direct link. We’re now counting it the real way and we feel that 200 years is a pretty long history. And it makes us the oldest magazine in America.

Samir Husni: And of course, the folks at the Old Farmer’s Almanac will say that they’re 225 years old, but the difference is they are an annual and you’re a periodical publication. 

Steven Slon: Yes. 

Samir Husni: What role is The Saturday Evening Post playing today? You have a 200-year-old history, but how is that past relevant in today’s marketplace?

Steven Slon: We’re continuing the tradition of a magazine for the whole family, not bifurcated into now-interest groups, not following the trend toward verticality. We are a magazine that  you immerse yourself in. And you’ll find some stories about trends, some about politics, some news-based, some personal interest stuff, some self-care; our health reporting is almost in the Rodale tradition, which has been my background, the you-can-do-it, here’s-how-to-do-it. So we cut a wide range of subjects and our readers just really enjoy immersing themselves in the magazine, sort of like a warm bath, you can just relax and you find interesting material.

We’re also in the tradition of, from the earliest platforms that were released in the early part of, certainly the 20th century, the idea that we want to be known for unbiased reporting, we don’t take sides. For example, in the recent, current election we’re not taking sides, we’re sending issues that relate to some of the big trends in the country, such as America’s divide and what can be done about it. We’re not saying that we support one candidate over the other. In addition, we’re a nonprofit, so we’re a 501(c)(3), we’re not really committed to advocate politically.

The Saturday Evening Post August 27, 1898

Samir Husni: As you look at the status of magazine publishing, and as you look at the extreme niche that we’re moving into, it seems many are calling print a luxury item now and believe you have to sell it with a cover price of $10 or $15 or even more, how does it feel to be swimming against the current? You have a magazine like The Saturday Evening Post, still with a cover price of $5.99 and still printing a quarter million copies or more every other month, do you feel you’re swimming against the current? And what do you hear from your audience?

Steven Slon: We are swimming against the current and we’re proud to do it because we feel this is where a really good magazine is. It’s like the personality of a human, there’s an arrangement of interests, people aren’t just tennis players or skiers or cycling enthusiasts, or just interested in politics or just interested in cooking. We have recipes, we have sports, we talk about gambling in the next issue. 

Our readers like it. Granted, we’re swimming against the tide, but we hear from our readers that they’re very satisfied. Our renewal rates are historically high for magazines.  And we’re happy. As an editor, certainly I’m happy to be producing a magazine where you get to talk about lots of different things. I have a short attention span, I want to hear about this and a little bit of that, and I think our readers do too.

Samir Husni: The Saturday Evening Post has died and come back several times over these 200 years of existence. And really, the major salvation for the magazine came in the 1960s when all three biggies, Life, Look and The Saturday Evening Post were facing their demise, but someone came to the rescue and bought The Post along with its archives. Can you talk a little bit about why Beurt SerVaas thought it was worth saving?

Steven Slon: To begin with Beurt SerVaas, who ultimately purchased the magazine, was an international businessman with many operations around the world. He had factories in Poland, for example. And he was known as a turnaround guy. He was brought in to help with the breakup of The Saturday Evening Post when it went bankrupt. 

The Saturday Evening Post December 30, 1899

The story of why it went into bankruptcy is rather involved, but I’ll just briefly say that in the early 1960s The Post actually hit its highest circulation numbers, it was over six million. And in some regards, it became top-heavy, and it was very expensive to produce that many copies. And when small details go wrong, the whole thing began to collapse. They started buying timberland to control the paper and the value of the land went down and then they tried cutting circulation, limiting it to the higher income zip codes. And that turned off a lot of readers because it’s a magazine for average folks, it was never a New Yorker, a high-brow magazine, it was a magazine for middle-grounders, regular people. There was an author in The Post who found out after receiving his check for his article that they were taking him off their subscription list. Sorry. (Laughs) 

In any case, Beurt SerVaas was brought in to help break up The Saturday Evening Post. And in doing so, he saw value, not so much in The Post, but in the children’s magazines, Jack and Jill and Child Life. And at the time these were circulated through schools and were very profitable. And he thought that would be of some value to him, so he wanted to preserve that. So in the process he shipped all of the equipment and materials, what was left of The Post, out to Indianapolis. 

But in doing so there were several Rockwell canvasses lying around the office. In those days, they were considered to have no value, even Rockwell didn’t value them. He had gotten paid for them and in some cases he gave them away like to the local Boy Scouts for an auction. One of his canvasses went at auction for 50 cents in the ‘50s or ‘60s. And he called SerVaas and said that he’d like to come down and pick up his paintings. 

So, he came down in his old station wagon, drove down by himself and threw his paintings in the back, just tossed them in. Rockwell told SerVaas that he was glad he was taking over the company and hoped he could revive the publication. SerVaas told him sure, he could maybe do that, but he said it sort of noncommittally. 

Then later, Norman Rockwell was on The Today Show and he was asked about what was going to happen to The Saturday Evening Post, because as you and I know this was such a big publication, it was as if a network TV station had gone out of business. Rockwell then said that he’d met the new owner of the company and that he was going to relaunch The Saturday Evening Post. He mentioned that they were in Indianapolis and they received bushels of mail from people across the country wanting to know when they could get the magazine. 

So Beurt SerVaas said to his wife Cory, I guess we’re launching this magazine. (Laughs) And you’re going to be the editor. So, his wife Cory, who was an M.D. and not someone in the publishing business became the facto editor of the magazine and it went on from there. And it was very heavily focused on health reporting in those years, but otherwise they kept a lot of the traditions alive. 

The Saturday Evening Post May 30, 1916 (First Norman Rockwell cover)

Samir Husni: You have a rich archive with 200 years of magazines, and the last time I visited The Post they were digitizing everything. What do you think the legacy of The Saturday Evening Post is today?

Steven Slon: I think solid reporting, fairness, balance, just quality. Certainly we consider our 200-year-old history as being a part of American history. One of the things that we feel strongly about is the magazine in the 1920s, under George Horace Lorimer’s leadership, was part of the effort to make the United States feel like a truly united country. 

At the turn of the century, America was not in any sense a “United” States. There were pockets of immigration all over, people speaking different languages, there were different cultures. And remember travel was difficult at the time, for the average person they may not have gone 20 miles from home, you traveled by horse and buggy, cars were just a new concept that very few people had. So, The Post gave this picture of America, partly through its covers, its portraits, its illustrations, a picture of America that people could relate to and say yes, that’s who we are, especially when you look at Rockwell and the sense of unity, the sense of children playing, the sense of adults working the commuter life in later years, were brought to life by The Post and it was a shared experience that helped create a part of that feeling of being united. 

We have this incredible archive in which we have completed our digitization and relaunched our website about a year ago with full access to all but a few issues of the magazine, all the way back to 1821. You need to be a subscriber to get full access, but if you go online a lot of the time we surface selections from our past, flipbooks, and tell a story about a particular story that ran and allow people to read it. But subscribers can go to any edition of the magazine and read through it at any time. So, all of this great history is there for the reader to have and it’s an American treasure. 

The Saturday Evening Post July 5, 1919

Samir Husni: With its history, you have a magazine that has witnessed the birth of radio, television, the Internet and digital. Do you have a sense of how the magazine coped with all of this new media, how it adjusted?

Steven Slon: I can talk about digital because that’s something that we’re involved in right now. It’s a good point, certainly, TV did not hurt The Post in the mid-century because – actually I can’t speak to that, I don’t know why. The publication is a different experience, reading a magazine and watching TV, those are two discrete things. 

I think that digital is hurting the basic news business because we learn things in minutes, in seconds. For example, Biden being declared the winner recently. Everybody was talking about that within seconds of its occurrence. In the early part of our existence, we reported on the death of Napoleon within two or three weeks, and that was fast then. (Laughs) So, it’s hurting that kind of reporting, but our well is featured stories that are timely, sensitive and relevant, but they’re not based on breaking news. As a bimonthly, one can’t be anyway. 

Jeff Nilsson: Starting in the 1920s radio was considered a novelty but certainly no challenge to print publications. And motion pictures were also really considered off the chart. They really weren’t going to be any threat to established media. By the late 1920s, they were reporting on radio broadcasting and the business with a bit more respect, but still the numbers were so high in the 1920s that they weren’t worried. But as sound came to motion pictures, it started to bite into the entertainment dollars of the United States.

And in the 1950s as television started up, they ran several articles to talk about how television was having trouble. It had trouble because the networks weren’t putting any money into television, they thought it would fail. But in the early reporting by The Post, they sort of stood back and considered it to be an unusual, two-headed dog of entertainment. They didn’t really take it seriously until the 1960s. 

The Saturday Evening Post responded to that by sort of giving television a bad edge and they talked about the cultural wasteland, which is what one of the famous critics of the 1960s called television. But by the mid-sixties, they realized that television was here to stay and that we would look stupid if we didn’t start covering television as part of our mix of editorial content. 

So, from that point on they did start taking it seriously, but I think that radio had started the drift away from print and even from what I’ve read the numbers of The Post had started to decline a little before the Second World War. With the Second World War though there was a paper shortage and the magazines were limited as to who could publish and who couldn’t. The Post had all the paper that it needed, though flimsy of stock, but they were able to enjoy a closed market and people were hungry for information during the war. So it boosted us up, but the plateau was not exactly level and it was declining somewhat. Even in the ‘50s when our numbers were still good, we got up to six and a half million in subscriptions in the early ‘60s, but even so they could realize that magazines weren’t growing at the same rate they used to. 

The Saturday Evening Post May 29, 1943

Samir Husni: As the magazine enters its third century, what’s the future for The Saturday Evening Post? 

Steven Slon: The future is we’re certainly growing our website, we’re 50 percent more traffic year over year. In the last two years, it’s just been going up exponentially. The challenge that we face is the lack of awareness that the publication is out there. We’re not on the newsstand right now because the cost of that is prohibitive. We don’t have a ton of financial backing to do that kind of thing. So, we have to be conservative in our business plans. Our readership is somewhat closed, we have 250,000 paid subscribers; our actual market share is bigger in the sense that over one million people read the magazine based on third party analysis of the pass-along rate. 

People read it, but that’s still a small percentage of the population. So, it’s somewhat hermetically sealed. Our readers love us and they enjoy it. It’s hard to get the word out to people beyond that. And we’re hoping in a way with our 200thanniversary we can get the word out. Hey, we’re still here and we’re incredibly vibrant and alive, interesting and diverse. 

Samir Husni: Do you have a story to tell that will shed this idea that the magazine is dead? 

Steven Slon: We have a story to tell and that is that we have an extraordinarily good magazine. For the price of a couple of ham sandwiches, you get a year’s subscription, $15. It’s a magazine that you can immerse yourself in. We have one of the highest rates of read-through. I was talking to our salespeople recently. When they’re tabbing the magazine they talk about the fact that people don’t read just one article, they immerse themselves, they read from cover-to-cover. A much higher rate than other magazines. 

Why is that? As an editor I want to say that it’s about the quality. It’s about good reporting, tight editing, respect for the reader, and again to clarify, we’re not a nostalgia magazine, we’re a magazine that shares its past,  but we’re a magazine about what’s going on today and the trends. I just think it’s a great magazine and I think quality is what makes a magazine sell and grow. And people have to hear about it, of course to do that. 

I can share a story. I was giving a talk about the history of the magazine, showing slides of the new covers and so on that we’re doing, keeping up the tradition of the great art covers of the past. And somebody raised their hand in the audience and asked, you’re completely online, so how do I get the magazine? And I said I’ve just been telling you for an hour that we’re still in print. But people have it in their heads that we’re not, so it’s hard to break through that.

Jeff Nilsson: I wanted to add something, and you mentioned this earlier; when The Post really started taking off it tried to reach a national audience in the 1800s, but particularly in the 1900s. And Curtis believed that there was an American taste. There was an average American that was interested in certain things and instead of breaking up the readership like McClure’s did or Harper’s or Atlantic which pitched itself to various sections of New England, he pitched it to the country. 

If you think about where the magazine is right now, we have at least 100 years, more than a hundred years, that we have really been reaching to American standard tastes. Now in an age of continual change, where there is so much that isn’t recognizable, The Post stands out as something that is more of a standard. This is how Americans have entertained and educated themselves for hundreds of years, and will keep going in that way. But now, in my mind, the phrase keeps coming back now more than ever when people are wondering what is it that defines being American, what is the American experience. We are probably as good a reflection as any magazine if not better. 

Steven Slon: And I’d like to add that there has been so much talk about digital replacing print completely, but in fact delving into a print publication with its design, all the multiple levels of interest that you have in a magazine, it’s not like anything else. And there is plenty of evidence that people are returning to print in great numbers. And I think that point can be shown in America. 

The Saturday Evening Post February 13, 1960

Samir Husni: With this rich history, how are you making use of it and how are you promoting it for a new generation? Is there a chance that The Saturday Evening Post will be considered a history of American taste or is it just a general interest magazine reflecting today’s marketplace?

Steven Slon: I think certainly it’s a history of pop cultural America and also a more serious part of American history. We created a regular column that Jeff writes called The Post Perspective and we feel we have this unique ability to show let’s say that a trend of today has antecedents in history. 

In 2008 to 2010, there was the economic crisis that we were facing and we could talk about the bank crisis of 1907 because we covered it. We did a story that showed the ups and downs of the banking system over the years and showed that these down moments were part of a cyclical trend rather than just a one-off event, which when in real life it appears we’re in the midst of a banking crisis and it seems to be a unique event, but in fact it has a history. 

In our current issue we have a small selection of some of the ads that ran in the 1950s that would be shocking if you saw them today. We actually say on our cover “Censored” 1950s ads. These are ads that portrayed women as domestic tools of the family whose only care and interest for Christmas gifts was to get a new vacuum or a new refrigerator, some tool of the trade. And men were juvenile, and not to mention we have pictures of cowboys and Indians, costumes for kids that were completely cultural appropriation and all that. 

And then of course, cigarette ads. There is this incredibly funny ad, a picture of Santa with a cigarette in his mouth, promoting the T-zone or whatever it was, what a good cigarette.

Samir Husni; And you can do that because you’re no longer on the newsstands. I remember when you did the Kennedy reprint, you could not put it on the newsstands because of the cigarette ads.

Steven Slon: I didn’t check into that, but you’re probably right. But I think because we’re showing it in a historical context, we’re not actually running an ad for cigarettes.  

Jeff Nilsson: You asked about the relevance of historical material. I have to keep reminding myself as a historian, I think this is all interesting. I always say that if you don’t know how you got here, you don’t know where you are. But when I think about the readers of The Post, I think about having visited some friends and they bring out their family album. Nothing is more boring than somebody’s family album. You don’t know any of these people. 

And American history is very much the same way. If you don’t know what’s going on it’s just a number of incoherent stories. Our job is to provide history that people can see a connection to, see how it affected their lives, see how it parallels with what is going on. And if we can’t do that then yes, we are a nostalgia magazine, but we’re making sure that this is relevant, that all the material in the vaults somehow touches on experiences and thoughts that people have today. And that’s our goal and that’s how we’re going to stay relevant.

The Saturday Evening Post August 8, 1964

Samir Husni: Can you see yourself as the bridge that connects yesterday with tomorrow?

Jeff Nilsson: Sure. I’ll take that exactly as it is. I’m going to copy that one. (Laughs) 

Samir Husni: Tell me about 2021, the celebrations. What’s in store? Will you be celebrating the entire year?

Steven Slon: The big issue will be the July/August issue because that’s the actual anniversary, but in each issue we’re going to have a selection on a theme. The first batch for the January issue will be a selection of some of the earliest stories and earliest reporting from the 19th century. So, reporting on the death of Napoleon, for example. On the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, we covered that. 

Jeff Nilsson: Yes, we got that to the newsstand within a week, which was very unusual.

Steven Slon: And then in future issues we’ll celebrate fiction. And I’ll read off a few names. This is the thing that people don’t realize, in the 19th century Edgar Allan Poe, James Fenimore Cooper, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Washington Irving and Mark Twain were all published in the magazine. 

In the 20th century Joseph Conrad, Rudyard Kipling, Jack London, Call of the Wild was first published in The Saturday Evening Post before it was put out as a book, Ring Lardner, Ray Bradbury, Agatha Christie, Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald is a story unto himself, 68 stories published in The Saturday Evening Post over the years. The first story he was paid $400 which in the ‘20s was huge money. By the end of his tenure with The Post, he was being paid $4,000 per story. That was what some people made in a year then. So, a well-paid job. He was able to travel the world, squire Zelda around to their European extravagance, was criticized by other writers like Hemingway for frittering away his talents on short stories when he could have been writing novels, but he was being paid so well he didn’t need to. 

And then of course later, Kurt Vonnegut. And we had great reporting. In the sixties with the “new” journalism. We had the writers associated with the new journalism who wrote for The Post. 

Jeff Nilsson: Tom Wolfe and Joan Didion.

Steven Slon: Yes. Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, that was published in its entirety, it was assigned and published by The Post. Eisenhower’s memoirs was published in The Post, his war memoirs before he became president.

Samir Husni: Why are today’s magazines nothing like what magazines used to be? Unless you disagree with me and then if you could tell me how they are the same.

Steven Slon: There are some that are maintaining a style, culture and a tradition that dates back to their origins, such as The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, even The Smithsonian, which covers a range of subject matter with a historical slant. We’re going against the trend toward verticality because we can’t. It’s that simple. We couldn’t even begin to be a vertical, we have so many different strands of interest that we’d have to completely restart the magazine with a different theme. 

We can do it because we’re a nonprofit, we’re not just chasing the easiest dollar. Certainly with magazines today, many of them are purely a business operation, it’s let’s find interest groups and target them and it’s an easier sell. We’re targeting Americans in the broad sense. We could be a much bigger circulation .

The Saturday Evening Post Sept./October 2020

Samir Husni: We are seeing a huge increase in Black subjects on the covers and inside the pages of American magazines. We’ve seen more in the last 120 days than we have in probably the last 120 years. Any idea how The Saturday Evening Post dealt with diversity? Were minorities and people of color a part of the magazine?

Steven Slon: I’d say that we were similar to the historically other mainstream magazines in that I don’t think there was adequate representation of minorities. I would dispute the claim that some people make that The Post prohibited coverage of minorities. That is not true, I believe. 

I would add that today we are making it a renewed commitment to diversity. We have a big article coming in the next issue about a school that has made an extraordinary drive to increase diversity and support low-income students whoever they are without any concern for their ability to pay. And how they have created extraordinary change in their culture. 

We covered Black Lives Matter in our kids magazines this year. Actually, one of our kids magazines had an article, first-person story about teenaged kids who attended a Black Lives Matter demonstration over the summer and how they were moved by it. So, I think that has to be part of the conversation going forward. 

Jeff Nilsson: I’d like to also add that there are many things that The Post got wrong historically. They had some very unenlightened views on women and immigrants, but as far as Black people, they really have a long history of being a little bit more aware than the average publication,  going back to the 1800s when it was a solid abolitionist newspaper and was very much pushing for the civil rights of Black Americans and the end of slavery. 

In the 1900s they were reporting on how the Black vote was being suppressed in the South. In 1917 they were talking about Black troops and how they had acquitted themselves with such honor that they were showing up the white troops that they were serving alongside of. In the 1940s they were saying that this was their country too and Blacks should be able to serve in combat roles. Starting in the Civil Rights movement we had a number of pieces talking about the Freedom Riders in the South and the young people who were getting involved. We had a piece by Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Steven Slon: There was a cover story on Malcolm X and we also did an in depth story about Jackie Robinson and the behind-the-scenes planning that led to his being placed in the Major Leagues. There was some subterfuge involved and they pretended he was being prepared for a Minor League team when in fact the plan was to put him in a Major League team. 

Samir Husni: Thank you both. 

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A Christmas Quiz From A Century Ago…

November 30, 2020

Tomorrow is Dec. 1, 2020. The beginning of the end for 2020. Traveling through the magazine-time-machine back to December 1920… A Christmas Quiz From A Century Ago…
Magazines were the only interactive medium available. Take a look at this December 1920 issue of The Ropeco (pronounced Ro-Peek-O) magazine carried within its pages a Christmas puzzle challenging the young boys (the magazine’s audience) to solve. The Ropeco was a monthly digest-sized magazine published by Rogers Peet Company in New York City “in the interests of their younger friends.”
Below is the magazine cover and the puzzle. It will be fun to see if today’s adults, let alone “our younger friends” can tackle a puzzle like this one. Enjoy and let me know if you figure it out. Enjoy.

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We Give Thanks…

November 25, 2020

From an article in The Modern Priscilla magazine from November 1918. The more things change, the more they stay the same. The country is in the midst of World War One and a pandemic at the same time, yet folks were continuing to give thanks… A great and gentle reminder. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving y’all and remember the cover and the back cover of this magazine is from November 1918.

The first Thanksgiving Day celebrated by our ancestors was a day of rejoicing. The year had been plentiful, granaries were full, deliverance from famine was assured.

            Thanksgiving Day this year means this and more.  All our lives we have taken the good things of our country as a matter of course. Some of the older ones worried a bit at the fast pace we are traveling, at the thoughtlessness of our youth, the wastefulness of our ways.

            Nineteen months ago was came to us.  We found that we had a flag whose honor we must protect, a country that we must preserve, an army that we must feed and clothe, and gallant Allies whom we must maintain.

            The gayest and most careless of our young men were among the first to enlist. We found out that they cared after all.  Some of them have made the supreme sacrifice. We have not forgotten, we shall not forget. To-day, we give thanks for that splendid manhood of America.

            We at home have tried to do the things nearest at hand. Not the least of these has been the problem of food conservation. It has been good for us.  We are thankful that there has been something definite for us to do…

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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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On Service And Hesitation: Words Of Wisdom From A Century Ago…

May 26, 2020

From the Mr. Magazine™ Vault

100 years ago in the June 1, 1920 issue of the Campbell’s Courant, “A Periodical of Cheer Published Monthly by the JOSEPH CAMPBELL COMPANY, Camden, N.J.” published two great pieces, inside its front cover and inside the back cover, that I felt are as appropriate today, if not more than the year they were published.

The inside front cover piece was entitled “Service

Willingness to serve is the very backbone of successful merchandising. Of itself, it breeds success; because it is the living evidence of a smooth running organization equal to the task of meeting requirements or of even anticipating wants.

In reality, it means far more than good organization or routing activity. For back of it lies the impelling thought, the feeling, the sincerity, the unselfishness, based upon the understanding that we are all dependent upon our fellows for every benefit derived in this world.

It is merely the working out of the Golden Rule, the practical application of a great principle which always pays – in dollars and cents, in self-respect and true happiness.

The inside back cover piece was entitled “He Who Hesitates

In order to do anything in this world that is worth doing, we must not stand shivering on the bank, and thinking of the cold, but jump in and scramble through as best we can. It will not do to be perpetually calculating and adjusting nice chances. It did all very well before the Flood, when a man could consult his friends upon an intended enterprise for a hundred and fifty years, and then live to see its success for six or seven centuries afterwards. But at present a man waits, and doubts, and hesitates until one day he finds that he has lost so much time in consulting first cousins and particular friends, that he has no more time left to follow their advice.

Words of wisdom from the past.

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“You’ll be glad tomorrow…you smoked Philip Morris today!” The Cigarettes of 2020…

April 28, 2020

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing

Marc Benioff co-CEO of Salesforce and co-owner of TIME magazine said it best, “Facebook is the new cigarettes. It should be regulated.” And he said that in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing.  I’m really not concerned about the regulated part as much as the cigarettes part, plus I might add all of social media to Mr. Benioff’s comparison:  today’s social media is the cigarettes of the 1950s.

So for those of you who are too young to remember the fifties and all the movies and television programs where all the “cool” people smoked, the ads for cigarettes from that era promised users good health, good digestion, and good flavor.  Cigarettes back then were good for you, so said the manufacturers anyway . You smoke today and you will thank the cigarette manufacturer tomorrow, the ads stated.

In this age of social distancing  that we now find ourselves living in, social media has become our only window to the outside world. So what are we to expect from an audience if we combine the stay at home orders and social media?  Well, before I answer that question, read what researchers have found in 2018.  That was the time our social distancing was an option and not a must.  The Australian website CBHS Health Fund quotes a 2018 study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology. Researchers “found that when people reduced their use of social media to just 30 minutes a day (spread across three platforms), their overall mental wellbeing improved. This study found that feelings of depression and loneliness in particular declined.” Keep in mind that was the time we were staying at least eight hours less outside the home as we are doing today.

Move forward to 2020 and the Neuro-Central website tells us in an article written by Sharon Salt, its senior editor, “Constant updates about coronavirus, especially those concerning confirmed cases and the number of deaths to date, can be extremely overwhelming and feel relentless. Moreover, rumors and speculation can add fuel to anxiety, which is why obtaining good quality information is so important.”

In the midst of this doom and gloom, social media combined with the so-called 24-hour news cycle is leading to more depression and more suicide according to Mike Ragsdale, CEO of 30A company and publisher of the new magazine Beach Happy.

“When I was growing up the news that we were consuming had to be bundled within 22 minutes of time. And if it didn’t make that cut, then you never heard about it. But now we hear about every single awful thing because we’re in a 24/7 news cycle. And not just that, we have pushup notifications and breaking news alerts, so we hear every awful thing that happens.” Ragsdale said.

Since the dawn of cable television late in the 1970s and the introduction of 24-hour channels with no turn off switches, followed in the 1990s and beyond with the explosion of news channels and social media outlets, people have become accustomed to “breaking news.”  Some thought that was the democratization of the media and the making of everyone into a publisher… instead we now have the law of the jungle, with no gatekeepers or editors etc.

Too much information leads to less comprehension and less impact.  It desensitizes the audience in a way that they tune in and tune out and hear exactly what they want to hear.

More than ever, we need to hit the brakes on the dissemination of the shotgun information delivery and get back to the laser targeted news that was delivered in less time with more information that was curated and fact-checked before it was delivered.

Between the delivery, whether from presidential press conferences to comments of the sane and insane alike on social media, we are moving with the speed of a bullet, fast and furious, to destroy the social fabric (some say we already have) of our society and drive a bigger wedge between the people, among themselves and among their authority figures.

Social media and the 24-hour news cycle, while they claim to be keeping us connected, they are  in fact creating the biggest divide ever and the biggest threat to our democracy and freedom of the press.

So to paraphrase the cigarette ads of the 1950s, “You will be glad tomorrow that you hopped on our social media platforms, turned on our 24-hours news channels today.”

But will you, really?

To sum it up, would you please let me know how many people today are thanking the cigarette companies?

I rest my case. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to welcome the stack of magazines that just arrived on my doorsteps via Fed Ex.  Credible and trustworthy journalism awaits. There are good times ahead. Count on it!

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Presidents, Magazines, and the Power of Good Slow Journalism… A Mr. Magazine™ Musing

April 26, 2020

The more I dive into my old magazines collection, the more I discover that there is nothing new under the sun.  Same stories, same characters, similar events, and similar affairs, yet the similarities end there. What is different is the role and power of how magazines covered those issues and events.

Take for example the January 1942 issue of Fortune magazine.  The world is in the midst of World War II and the country is facing dire decisions on both political and economic situations dealing with the war.  Excuse me, if I say, this sounds so eerily familiar! But, let me not digress here, but rather head back to the early 1940s.

In addition to the regular magazine and its monthly coverage, Fortune started a series of round tables that gathered around all kind of experts in their fields and discussed and debated the issues of the days with them and later published them in white papers.

The Ninth Fortune Round Table was held on May 9, 10, 11, 1941 at the Seaview Country Club, Absecon, New Jersey.  The topic “Labor Policy and National Defense.”  The Tenth Fortune Round Table was held on September 5, 6, 7, 1941 at Berkshire County, Massachusetts.  The topic “On Demobilizing The War Economy.”

Those white papers represented the best of what journalism can offer in a calm calculated constructive way in order to help both country and public. The magazine publishers and editors took their responsibility seriously and rather than pontificate they sought answers, they assembled the who’s who from the experts on the issues, asked the right questions, checked the answers and double checked them, then summed up the questions and answers and presented them to the public.

So, back to the January 1942 issue of Fortune magazine.  The lead story of that issue was titled “The Presidency: Its tradition is leadership in freedom. Will Franklin Roosevelt preserve that tradition against the world thrust toward the all-powerful state?”  The lead paragraph of the article stated, “Several years ago, during debate on the Neutrality Act, a delegation of congressional leaders went to the White House to discuss it with President Roosevelt. Afterward it was widely rumored that the President, angered at some phase of the argument over this attempt to hobble him in the conduct of U.S. foreign relations, had blazed out: “I could put this country into war in six weeks, and you know it.”

Again, not to digress, does the aforementioned paragraph sound familiar? Just change the names and the war from World War II to World War C.  But, back to the magazine.

The article on The Presidency went on to reprint a series of cartoons of several important presidents from Washington to Roosevelt, with the following caption at the end, “These are contemporary cartoons of the chief Presidents who, after Washington had endowed the office with his personal prestige, enlarged the powers of the presidency. One and all have been assailed as would-be despots. Sample alarm: “The eyes and hopes of the American people are anxiously turned to Congress… The will of one man alone prevails and governs the republic…The premonitory symptoms of despotism are upon us.” Henry Clay on President Andrew Jackson, December 26, 1833.

Case closed.  We need more magazines like the Fortune of 1942 and less talking heads like we see on TV where everything is breaking news.  Good magazines stop the rat race and the horse race and focus on the issues, in-depth coverage, or what some folks like to call slow-journalism.  Slow journalism is good journalism, race against time and the clock was, is and will never be good journalism.  The old saying in the 24 hours news cycle, “report first, check second” is the beginning of the ills of journalism.

In this faster than fast delivery of news and information, it is about time, time that we have in this “stay at home” order, to rethink the role of magazines and good journalism and deliver some great “slow journalism” to help inform, educate, and serve the “customers who count.”

Magazines that focus on those customers will continue to be the light at the end of the tunnel while other platforms will continue to be the train coming at you.

 

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The Audience Of One: Lessons From The Past On Serving Both Readers And Advertisers Of Magazines… From The Mr. Magazine™ Vault

April 8, 2020

From the Mr. Magazine™ Vault

Taking a brief break from the series Publishing During A Pandemic interviews with magazine and magazine media executives, here is a blast from a century ago, with a very nice soothing cover… Enjoy this latest From the Vault of Mr. Magazine™ and will be back later today with the series of interviews on Publishing During A Pandemic.

Some might think that the idea of specialization and customization of magazines to reach specific audiences is a new one.  Some might even argue that with digital printing it’s easier than ever before  to customize every single copy of a magazine.  But what if I told you, that specialization and customization are probably as old as magazines themselves? 

A century ago, in the April 1920 issue of The Modern Priscilla magazine (1887-1930), the editors wrote the following:

“A SPECIALLY printed edition of PRISCILLA for each subscriber would seem almost the only answer to the many, many letters we receive from our friends who are enthusiasts on special phases of needlework or handicraft, but lukewarm or stone-cold on others. Of course you know as well as we do the impossibility of any such delightful dream; but it is to meet to some extent the demand for a fuller treatment of certain subjects that please a limited audience that the Priscilla Special Service Sheets have recently been made a feature of our magazine.

Magazine space for any one subject is limited, as of course you realize. If, for example, you are not interested in Bobbin Lace, you would not want us to omit one or two pages of your favorite crocheting in order to give enough bobbin lace patterns to suit Mrs. Jones and Mrs. Smith. In order, therefore, that we may maintain the variety of interest which makes the magazine of widespread value, and at the same time give you more information on your particular “hobby,” we are supplementing various articles and subjects by these Service Sheets – which are really magazine pages printed just for you. The minimum charge of two 2-cent stamps which we make for these sheets in no way covers the cost. It is merely a safeguard against wastage of valuable material.”

So the solution to the problem 100 years ago was to develop specially printed pages for the specific needs of the audience, leaving the magazine as general interest as possible, with the additional on-demand sheets being personalized for the niche audiences.

 The editors continued to write:

Eight Service Sheets are now in print. No. 1 is a sheet of beautiful and simple Batik designs. In this connection some of our readers will be glad to know that we are able to supply a limited number of copies of the September, 1919, PRISCILLA, which discusses Batik work at length. These copies can be had for 15 cents each. Special Service Sheet No. 2 gives a group of interesting and usable patterns for Bobbin Lace, with complete directions. Sheet No. 3 is a supplement which gives in full the lengthy instructions for the Venetian crochet pieces shown in the January, 1920, issue of THE PRISCILLA. Sheet No. 4, devoted to Household Linens for the Hope Chest, was planned by Amy Gay for the bride-to-be. It gives quantities, sizes, and discusses the proper marking of linens. Sheet No. 5, Costume Embroideries, offers suggestions for suitable designs for blouses and frocks. Sheet No. 6, Church Laces, gives block patterns for beautiful filet altar-pieces. Sheet No. 7, Baby Embroideries, gives various designs for tracing, which mothers will find helpful in making dainty baby things. Sheet No. 8, Bead Chains, is an answer to the plea for more patterns for the pretty and popular sautoirs. Watch the magazine each month for the announcement of new Special Service Sheets which may include the very things you most desire. Your turn is sure to come.”

As I mentioned in an earlier post, there is nothing new under the sun, not even delivering an individualized copy of a magazine or even just an article…

And talking about The Modern Priscilla, I was amazed to see all the calls to support the advertisers in the magazine in the folio of every editorial page.  Here are some of those marginalia nuggets of supporting the advertisers:

We guarantee the reliability of every advertisement in The Priscilla

Advertising identifies goods of unquestionable value

Read the advertisements before you turn the page

There is a world of interest in reading advertisements

Advertisements help you to live better, dress better, be better

Advertising keeps you posted

When you ask for an advertised article, don’t accept a substitute

Advertising offers money saving opportunities

It is safer to rely on advertised goods than on non-advertised goods

Advertisements are really interesting, read them and see

Things you need are advertised in every issue of The Modern Priscilla

Go shopping with our advertisers. We guarantee you against loss

The more you read advertising the more interesting if becomes

Cultivate the habit of specifying the brand you want to purchase

Advertisements are news. Good news – Timely news – Helpful News

The very thing you most desire may be advertised in this very issue

 

Precious audience first advice from a century ago… happy holidays, stay safe, stay well, and stay inside.  This shall pass too.

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From The Roaring 1920s To The Storming 2020s… A Mr. Magazine™ New Year’s Musing…

December 31, 2019

Welcome to 2020… 

Whether it’s going to be the “Roaring ‘20s” again in the world of magazines and magazine media or the “Storming ’20s”, remains to be seen. But rest assured 2020 will go into the history books as the year of excellent vision, as you can see from my series of conversations with the movers and shakers of the magazine media industry (part 7 appearing Thursday Jan. 2)…

You know, Mr. Magazine™ had to bring this “vision thing” somewhere into the blog.  Now, that the  “2020 vision” pun is out of the way, and while we wait for this New Year to unfold, Mr. Magazine™ deduced that it would be apropos at the very beginning to look back 100 years to see where and what the world of print media was celebrating that first year of what would become the Roaring ‘20s.

Needless to say, Henry Luce, founder of Time Inc. and all of its many magazines, had proclaimed to his readers that the 20th century would be known as the “American Century,” and when he launched TIME Magazine in 1923, it was a manifestation of that 20th century and what was going on at the time.

I decided in this New Year’s musing to reflect back on two titles that were actually published in that first week of 1920, the leading weekly illustrated newspaper at that time, Leslie’s Weekly and from the trade side of the business, Campbell’s Courant, formerly The Optimist.

If we take a peek at these two magazines we will discover a couple of things: one, we will see how that really was the beginning of the “American Century,” by taking a look at what the (then) Secretary of the Interior, Franklin Lane, wrote in the editorial of that issue of Leslie’s Weekly, which you will find below verbatim, and we’ll also take a look at what the powers-that-be at Campbell’s Soup wrote in the introduction of their magazine.

However, everything wasn’t hunky-dory at the beginning of the Roaring ‘20s any more than they are today. But there was a hopefulness in the air after the end of WWI. And it was the end of the famed printer’s strike. And during that time, we must remember that print was the only mass media people had, so it was a very vital part when it came to receiving current information. So, anything that affected print, affected the mass population across the nation.

Leslie’s Weekly was happy to announce that after all the disruptions due to the printer’s strike in New York, that they were moving back to New York City from Chicago where they had been printing now that the strike was over, as you will read in an excerpt found below from the publishers.

And as we approach our own, hopefully, the 2020s will be more roaring than storming. Let us stride bravely into the New Year as our counterparts from yesteryear did, knowing that the industry we all love is strong and resilient. And as Mr. Magazine™ continues his conversations with the great magazine makers of today, we will see that their vision of the future is definitely 2020!

Leslie’s Weekly Jan. 10, 1920

Know America

By Secretary of the Interior Lane

As Edward Everett Hale used to pray, “Teach us to know that we are sons of the living God,” so I would pray also that we might know that we are sons of a living America. To know that is to know that we can solve our difficulties, answer our problems, and go on growing. For a living America is one that is not static, fixed, traditional, but one that is moving, living, growing, and therefore always ready for the day’s work. We have an American way of doing things, not a European way. Because we have an American conscience and an American sense of justice and an American common sense – these are our traditions and they are equal to any task.

Leslie’s Weekly, Jan. 10, 1920

To All Leslie’s Subscribers

The publishers of Leslie’s are pleased to announce that the strike of printers in New York and vicinity has ended in an amicable settlement and that the printing of Leslie’s has been resumed at the Charles Schweinler Press, from which we will receive the same prompt and efficient service that we have enjoyed for many years past

The strike made it necessary to place our work temporarily with a Chicago firm, and we were fortunate in not missing an issue during the strike, but the difficulties of manufacturing the paper more than one thousand miles from the office of publication were so enormous that our issues were unavoidably late in appearing. As it is a physical impossibility to gain the time lost, it has been found necessary to combine the issues of December 13th, 20th and 27th  into one large number; also to combine the issues of January 3rd and 10th, and the issues of January 17th and 24th. We will in this way resume delivery of papers to our subscribers on the regular schedule during the month of January.

To make up to the subscribers the issues missed by the combinations, all subscriptions will be automatically extended for four numbers beyond the normal expiration date. No correspondence on this subject will be necessary, and we would ask all of our subscribers to note carefully this announcement and to refrain from sending us unnecessary complaints at a time when the entire energies of our organization are being devoted to the restoration of the subscription service to its normal high standard.

Campbell’s Courant, Jan. 1920

To you, dear reader, our customer or business associate, in whose interest this publication was conceived and in whose service it has its being – to you, we earnestly and hopefully re-dedicate it. May “The Courant” prove a helpful and cheering friend during the New Year.

 

Until the next time…

See you at the newsstands…

Both today’s and the ones from yesteryear…

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