Archive for the ‘The Magazines And I Book’ Category

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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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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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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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The Year Was 1953. The Magazines And I. Chapter Two. Part One

July 13, 2020

Chapter Two, Part One

The Year Was 1953…

Change Was the Only Constant

The year was 1953 and it was indeed a pivotal year in history. And while it was certainly a pivotal time for Mr. Magazine™, after all it was the year of his birth – as far as the world goes, the importance of 1953 had more to do with all of the changes that were taking place around the globe, rather than Mr. Magazine’s™ first breath.

In the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower became the 34th president and in the United Kingdom, Queen Elizabeth II assumed her crown on June 2 following the death of her father, King George VI the previous year, making her one of the youngest queens in history. In the Soviet Union, after over 30 years of ruling with an iron fist, Joseph Stalin died, initiating major changes for that country as well. The Korean War would end that year, and everyone from the East to the West, would witness constant change.

The Societal Mirror Image of Magazines & Their Impact

In the midst of all of these transitions, magazines were reflecting the times perfectly and succinctly. The emergence of a much more dominant type of magazine hit the market in 1953. Two titles that were very important and became a large part of the American magazine scene were TV Guide (April 1953) and Playboy (December 1953). The impact of those magazines was apparent: TV Guide reached a circulation of 18 million, and Playboy 7.4 million.

Niche Has Always Been the Name of The Game                 

However, while those two titles were game changers in the marketplace, taking a look at the many different categories and niche titles that were out there in 1953 is very important and essential, because contrary to popular belief, specialization in magazines started decades before most think it did. With the birth of cable TV in the 1980s, many think niche magazines didn’t actually become prevalent until that decade, due to the many options that cable gave audiences. To combat that choice power the customer suddenly had, publishers realized they could offer the same type of power for readers, so magazines of every genre and subject began to hit newsstands. But that had already happened at least three decades before, maybe even from their inception.

But looking at the magazines of 1953, and specifically from March of that year (the month that Mr. Magazine™ was born) you can see magazines ranging in content from the pure men’s adventure  magazines to the women’s service magazines, to the more specialized titles for gun enthusiasts, motorcyclists, or woodsmen. If there was a topic of interest that people had, there was a magazine on the market for it, even in 1953.

Categories Galore                            

On today’s newsstands, there seems to be a surplus of niche or special interest magazines. Everything from raising chickens in urban settings to the psychological wellbeing of your dog. But special interest titles are far from a new idea. In 1953, there were as many, if not more, special interest magazines in the marketplace as there are today, in the 21stcentury. Titles such as American Woodsman, Modern Airplane News, American Cinematographer, and the list goes on and on. The significant point about this is magazines have known no boundaries when it comes to topics of interest for decades, whatever the reader wants is what you’ll find staring back at you from newsstands, be that a niche genre of information or your more traditional categories of knowledge.

Speaking of traditional categories in 1953, there were women’s service magazines, men’s service magazines, political titles… categories that included science, music, entertainment, both movies and television, children’s magazines, sports magazines, pets, regional titles, every imaginable category that we have today was represented then, along with all of the special interest topics. In fact there were magazines from A (Action) to Z (Zane Grey’s Western) and every thing in between.

Yesterday’s content is as relevant now as it was then simply because it’s still being created today in its current form. The style and the actual information may be different, but the umbrella it sits under is exactly the same. Serving the audience, be it male or female; entertaining children, either through vintage cartoon characters or the latest video games; magazines that bring you the information and fun that you want, whether in yesteryear or the present, cannot be replicated. The words from 1953 are still attainable due to the forever technology of print, and that will be something that people generations from now will be very grateful for, because print will never go away as long as there are human beings around to create it.

Today’s magazine and magazine media industry would be served well if a priority for them consisted of learning from the past. How can you know where you’re going if you don’t understand where you’ve been? This is a question I have long posed.

The Power of a Magazine Introduction

Magazines continued to play that reflective role in society, mirroring all of the changes that were taking place. Whether it was by introducing special issues or covers for notables like President Eisenhower, Queen Elizabeth II, or introducing celebrities and their families, such as the up and coming Marilyn Monroe and Lucille Ball and her husband, Desi Arnaz, nothing could or can compare to the effect magazines had and still have on our perception of the world. Magazines interpret, inform and entertain.

To be continued…

 

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The Magazines And I… Memoirs Of A Magazine Junkie. Chapter One, Part Three…

July 2, 2020

My Family Roots

Yep, that’s me at two and a half years of age.

There were five children in my family, my older sister, my three brothers and I. My eldest brother, who was three years older than me, died in 1999 of multiple sclerosis. He was the pride of the family and carried my grandfather’s name – Khalil, like Kahlil Gibran, but spelled correctly. He was the first one in our entire family to have a Ph.D. – it was in English Literature and from the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom. My sister and my two younger brothers are still in Lebanon. I am the poor, misunderstood middle child and maybe that explains my tendencies to be different from what my family deems “normal.” My wife, Marie, is also the middle child. Possibly the reason we understand each other so very well.

My father was Presbyterian and my mother was Greek Orthodox. They moved from the village called Hakour 20 miles to the north of the big city of Tripoli so my dad could find work. My grandfather was the mouhtar of the village, and we had olive groves and an olive mill to make olive oil. When my parents married, my mom was 14 and my dad was 20. It took my mom five years until she had her first child. It was always looked upon as wrong if you didn’t have a child. My dad was the only son, and he had six sisters. My mom had no brothers. So I had no uncles – just aunts.

Dad found work at the Iraqi Petroleum Company, which was owned by the British. He worked in shifts, and whenever there was a holiday they paid him double. When I was born in 1953, Tripoli was the second largest city in Lebanon. Tripoli comes from the word Tri-po-lis, which goes back to Greek or Roman days, and means the tri-city. The city flooded in 1955 when the river, Abu Ali, overflowed. For some reason, I can remember my dad carrying me on his shoulders and walking in the mud. I was only two, but I recall that he was wearing rubber boots and the mud was high. We lived on the first floor, of the apartment building nd the entire floor was filled with mud.

Our family of seven lived in a two-bedroom apartment. Mom and Dad had a room and the rest of us shared a room. Being Presbyterian, we kids were sent to a Presbyterian school started by American missionaries. From the first day that you start school at age three, you learned to speak, read, and write Arabic and English at the American school or Arabic and French at the French school. If you were Presbyterian, you went to the American school.

We had two American schools: the boys’ school and the girls’ school, run by Presbyterian missionaries. It wasn’t until 1958 that the missionaries gave the schools to the Presbyterian Senate in Lebanon and Syria to be run by locals. The American boys’ school was a good walk away on a hilltop, and the girls’ school was closer to our house, so that’s where I went, the girl’s school, until the third grade.

They were actually called Tripoli Boys School (TBS) and Tripoli Girls School (TGS), but everybody referred to them as American Schools. Today they are combined and called Tripoli Evangelical School (TES). After third grade, the boys and girls went to separate schools. That was the environment that I grew up in.

Words of Wisdom

My grandfather Khalil.

My dad Afif.

From an early age, my dad used to give me what he thought the principles of life were that any employed man should live by: comb your hair, keep your clothes clean and shine your shoes. Simple as that. Before school, he’d shine our shoes. Or if he was busy, he’d get somebody to do it for him. He was so adamant about this, and neither he nor my mom even had a high school education. They did their best to study English on their own because most of his employers were British. Because of this, my parents recognized the importance of education early on, and invested in private schools.

Names carry heavy meaning with them in middle eastern culture. All children carry their father’s first name as their middle name. First born sons have the privilege of naming their own first born sons after their fathers. So after my brother was diagnosed with MS and before his death in 1999, he gave me his blessing and his privilege of naming any son that I might have after my dad, “Afif” (Afif is the French spelling that we Americanized to Afeef, the English spelling for easier pronunciation), because he would never have the opportunity to do so. Sometime after that, when my wife was pregnant with my son, I was on the phone with my father and he asked me when he was going to have his “Afeef.” Until that point, we had not truly considered calling our son Afeef. After that, we knew we had to honor my brother’s memory and my father’s wishes and give him a namesake. When my son, Afeef, was born, Dad said he could die in peace.

That’s why a name is so important – it’s a commitment, a culmination of all things past and present that make up a deeper meaning for all who hear it. Some people have asked me why I would call my son a difficult name like Afeef in America. People don’t understand the importance of that name. My dad’s name was Afif, which means pure, and my mom’s name is Afifi, which is exactly the same thing, just feminine. They were not related, just pure coincidence. In Arab culture, often times people can distinguish what religion you are based on your name. All of the names of the children in my family were genuine Arabic names, not named after any particular saint or prophet. My grandfather used to say all the time that people should know your religion by deeds, not by what you tell them, not by what they call you. Myth has it, or what I heard growing up, that if you are Presbyterian and you appear in court, you don’t have to swear on the Bible because Presbyterians don’t swear. Only one percent of Lebanon is Presbyterian.

The True Beginning

In the ninth grade, I started calling and harassing editors and complaining to them. That was about the time I started creating my own small magazines. Because at that age, we would visit my grandparent’s village in the summer where there were no magazines. I felt like I had magazine asthma without my ink on paper. I started making my own as an idea to kill time. I would borrow my grandfather’s transistor radio and all day I would sit down and create my own little daily. I’d use candles from my grandmother’s house, rubbing the candles on paper and then rubbing the paper back on old newspapers to get pictures. I’m not sure how I knew to do that, how I knew that images could be lifted in that way, but I did. And I was ecstatic.

That was when I discovered the concept of what I now believe in wholeheartedly. It’s what I preach, teach and consult about: the audience of one.

In those early publications of mine, I was the editor, designer, reporter, and the publisher. At the end of the day, I’d sit down and read my own creations. This whole concept of one theory was both an epiphany and also unbelievable to me. I made my magazines for me, to my specifications. Those may have been some of the first niche productions. At that point in time, without really realizing it, I had targeted an audience: myself.

The First Byline

But the breakthrough in my childhood magazine career happened when I had the opportunity to visit Beirut in 1969 and tour some actual magazine publications. I met the publisher of a magazine called Happy Homes, and I told him how much I loved the magazine. On the day I left Beirut, his wife called me and asked if I wanted to be the correspondent from the north for the magazine. I said absolutely.

My first assignments consisted of sending actual reports from our area of the country back to Beirut. It wasn’t long until I was doing “News from the North” with my byline. I would include items like “so and so died or so and so got married.” I actually still have a copy of that. My cousin sent me a copy because I wrote a piece about her when she was christened and included her picture. The combination of doing my own writing and starting to buy every issue I could get my hands on changed my approach to things in junior high and later in high school. At that time the number of titles flooding the marketplace continued to grow, names like Superman, Tarzan, Batman, and even an Egyptian magazine called Magic Carpet, with the title characters Mickey and Samir.

Even having a magazine with my name it continuously didn’t satisfy me. I wanted all magazines in general. During that time period, I was very involved with my church. It was not an option for us growing up. If it was Sunday, that meant Sunday school and church. I remember spending my Sunday allowance, which my dad gave me 50 cents, one quarter for Sunday school and one for a piece of cake from the pastry store next to the church. One time, on my way to church, I lost one of the quarters. It was a big debate. Did I lose the Sunday school quarter or the pastry quarter? I made up my mind. God can see everything. That was his quarter and he knew where it was. My parents didn’t seem to agree. I don’t think my parents ever really understood my magazine obsession. Their dream was for me to either go to seminary because I was so involved with the church and become a preacher, or become a dentist- both noble professions in their eyes.

Math Meets Magazines

In 2018 I went back to Tripoli to visit my high school which is now renovated and used as a public school. TBS merged with TGS to form Tripoli Evangelical
School for Boys and
Girls and is located outside the city limits of Tripoli.

Tripoli Boys School, better known as the American School. An archive picture from TBS Facebook page.

In Lebanon, once you reach the tenth grade, you declare an education concentration: science or literary. And if you are going to dental school, you have to go with science and take classes like physics, geometry and calculus. If you want to study languages, you do literary.

It was a struggle. I had to listen to my dad. I went with the scientific orientation. I’d be sitting in the geometry class, which I was never good at because I never had any patience to sit down and find the area of a triangle or a circle; I’d find myself sitting in class relating the triangles and circles to magazines. What would I create? My entire notebook had more magazine covers than any geometry problems.

I was an average student in high school, but that fascination was always with me. It led me to daydream a lot about this business. Triangles and circles became magazines. And of course, I discovered how this business worked. I learned about wholesalers, distribution, which day they would go on sale, etc. I worked my way from the newsstand sellers to the wholesalers. I tracked the line backwards from how the magazine came to the consumer.

It was at that time that I became acquainted with the wholesale distribution house in Tripoli, which was owned by a family called Jarrous. And because the man had told me to start coming at night so that I could see the magazines before anyone else, I became a fixture there. The distribution house was in an alley near the old center of Tripoli. I remember the first time before he offered me the see-before-anyone opportunity, I would stand sheepishly by the door because I didn’t want them to scream at me. The magazines were unloaded and people from newsstands came to collect them. One day I got the guts to go in and ask the guy if I could take a look. A few days later, I talked to him and he began to explain how distribution worked. It was so fascinating to me that he’d let me see magazines before they were on the newsstands. It was on one of those days when Mr. Jarrous asked me if I wanted to come the night before and he’d let me take whatever magazines I wanted so I wouldn’t be late for school. I would have magazines in my hand before anybody else in the entire city. I don’t think I slept that night.

All the while I stayed on the scientific course I had set for myself. I loved algebra and loved statistics, but I hated geometry. When I took the national test, the math exam was all on geometry. I flunked it badly. But when things were tough, I fell back on my hobby, when things were dark, I’d start dreaming, and when things were light, I kept on going.

The Success of Failure

Since that time, I have thought about one defining fact in my life, if I hadn’t flunked that year, my whole academic career would have ended one year earlier. My life would have been tragically different. I would have graduated before the Civil War in Lebanon began. I wouldn’t have met my wife and I wouldn’t have had a job at the newspaper. So many things would have been different. But there is a reason for everything, I truly believe.

When I was repeating that year, my youth director came to me one day and said, “Samir what have you decided you want to do?” I said that I didn’t know – my parents wanted me to go to seminary or dental school. He looked me in the eye and said he knew it wasn’t his place to disagree with my parents, but, “If you do anything in your life besides journalism, you are disregarding the gift that God has given you.  You don’t have to be a preacher to tell people about God and his love. You don’t have to be a dentist and spend the whole day looking in people’s mouths. God has given you this gift called journalism, and that’s what you need to do.” That year I passed the exam because it was mainly algebra and statistics, and I told my parents that I was going to journalism school.

I had built up these expectations that they were going to be angry. But amazingly, they were resigned to the fact that this was going to be my chosen path. I realized that this was it. What I had been dreaming of the last decade from age 10 to 19 was about to become a reality. I was going to journalism school.  And they said okay. So in 1978, I packed up my life and my wife, and I traveled to the United States of America to pursue that dream where my moniker Mr. Magazine™ was born in May of 1986.

And now, I have the opportunity to share that dream with the entire world and reflect on life in magazines during the month and year in which I was born: March 1953. Please join me in viewing a snapshot of American magazine history that neither Google nor internet search engine can provide.  Those memories are alive and well on these pages.

Chapter Two coming soon… The Year Was 1953

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