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Love And Romance: The Magazines And I. Chapter 9, Part 2.

July 5, 2021

Love and Romance Magazines … is the 9th chapter from the serialized book I am writing on the magazines of 1953, specifically March 1953, the month I was born.  This is chapter nine, part two.  Feel free to back track for chapters one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, and eight in previous blogs.  Enjoy.

PERSONAL ROMANCES

Published by Ideal Publishing Corp., a very lucrative smaller publisher that loved pulp magazines, Personal Romancesactually began as Personal Adventure, which in turn had begun as Personal Adventure Stories. Publisher William Cotton made it a slick replica of another one of his titles Movie Life. The magazine was somewhat thin for a Love Confessions pulp, but it served the purpose with tantalizing stories of love, lust and mayhem.

The March 1953 issue promised us stories on Girls Who Are Too Easy and I Got Her In Trouble. There was even a homemaking section that taught us how to make a perfect spaghetti dinner. And the ads were plentiful. In short, it did what any good pulp romance should do: it got women reading the stories. 

RANCH ROMANCES

Ranch Romances was the last of the original pulps. It was really the most successful titles of the western romance pulp magazines, with a 47-year run and 860 issues published between 1924 and 1971. Fanny Ellsworth edited the title for half its existence and it had three different publishers from 1929 to 1953. Warner Publications took over Ranch Romances in late 1933. It shrank to a 7-by-10, trimmed-edge format in its final decade, but never became a digest.

The March 1953 issue had stories, novels, serials and regular departments, such as Trail Dust and Out of the Chutes. It was a love story magazine with a western backdrop that women (and dare I say, men too) loved to read. 

RANGELAND ROMANCES

Another Popular Publications title, Rangeland Romances was its first and longest running title in the western romance pulp genre. It was their main title, even though they launched many others. And it was very successful.

The March 1953 issue had stories like Two Queens for a Gambler and Little Texas Rebel. It was light on advertisements and heavy on western love and commitment, with over 100 pages of content. 

REAL ROMANCES

Real Romances was a Hillman Periodicals publication and the first of the company’s dive into “love pulps.” In fact, Alex Hillman was one of the biggest and longest lasting publishers in the field. By calling this title “Real,” Hillman followed the same path that he had with Real

Detective and Real Story and seemed to lay down the gauntlet to other pulp publishers that his magazines were the real deal, so to speak.

The March 1953 issue featured three complete full length novels: Love Is Not Enough, Invitation To Sin, and Man-Huntress. From the titles of the novels, I’m sure you’re seeing a pattern here for love pulp magazines, but if it ain’t broke, you shouldn’t fix it, and these magazines were definitely not broken. Monthly sales were through the roof and women all across America were scooping them off the stands, especially in March 1953. 

YOUNG ROMANCE

Young Romance was launched in fall 1947 and was told from a first-person perspective. The romantic comic book series was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby for the Crestwood Publications imprint, Prize Comics and is considered the first romance comic. It ran for 124 consecutive issues and then 84 more after Crestwood stopped producing comics and DC Comics took it over. It was an instantaneous hit after the first publication, and within the first two years Crestwood was capitalizing on its success by churning out companion titles.

The March 1953 issue was number 55 in the series and featured the Afraid To Go Home, Heartless, and Tell It To The Judge segments. It was artful and creative and had very few ads, just page after page of comic book story with enough romance to fill any young woman’s heart. 

Up next: Chapter 10 Men’s Adventure Magazines… coming soon.

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Love And Romance: The Magazines And I. Chapter 9, Part 1.

June 27, 2021

Love and Romance Magazines … is the 9th chapter from the serialized book I am writing on the magazines of 1953, specifically March 1953, the month I was born.  This is chapter nine, part one.  Feel free to back track for chapters one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, and eight in previous blogs.  Enjoy.

Pulp fiction was more than a movie starring John Travolta. It was a breed of magazines that crashed like an inexpensive swell through a variety of categories in the 20th century. From science fiction to adventure to romance, pulp magazines were a force to be reckoned with during the 1940s and 1950s.  

In this chapter, we examine the romance genre of pulp magazines. The inexplicable covers that promised desire, tears, and love, all rolled up into one issue. These titles were the successors of dime novels and short fiction of the 19th century. 

The term “pulp” came from the cheap wood pulp paper that the magazines were printed from. Often they had ragged and untrimmed edges and were in direct contrast to the higher-quality, glossy-type magazines of the same eras.  

But the heartbeat of pulp romance magazines were the many respected writers who wrote for them during their heyday. The most successful of the pulps could sell up to one million copies per issue and were very affordable reads during times of economic hardships, such as during the Great Depression. 

Romance in its many forms was indeed a pulp magazine staple. Pulp publishers were constantly trying to reinvent the wheel by specializing and grafting different genres and types of romantic fiction for their inventory. From the Western Romance to the Modern Romances, love was definitely in the air of pulp.

Let’s take a look at some “pulp” love from March 1953, shall we?

FIFTEEN LOVE STORIES

Popular Publications, the publisher of Fifteen Love Stories, was one of the largest publishers of pulp magazines, having 42 different titles in its repertoire at one point. The company was founded by Henry “Harry” Steeger during the Great Depression. Steeger was a smart businessman and knew that the times called for a bit of escapism and there was money to be made, so he began pumping out pulp fiction fast and furiously. Fifteen Love Stories was one of those moneymakers. 

The March 1953 magazine was filled with just that, novels and short stories on love, with tips on romance and cosmetic cues from some experts. It was non-stop love escapism, fringed with designs on romance and other Cupid-related topics. 

LOVE BOOK MAGAZINE

Love Book Magazine was another Popular Publications title and continued the pulp love trend admirably. It had love stories and features that brought women into the world of romance in a special way, showing them that when love was involved, anything was possible.

The March 1953 issue had seven complete love stories along with feature departments such as Beau Catcher and Pen Pals. It was page after page of content that had very little advertisements and a whole lot of love.

MODERN ROMANCES

Published by Dell, which was one of the largest publishers of magazines, including pulp magazines, Modern Romanceswas a long running true love magazine featuring short stories of love, passion, lust, divorce, and betrayal, usually all in one issue. The magazine was targeted toward “good girls” (don’t shoot the messenger, it was a different time) and showcased stories on how to get a man and keep him.

The March 1953 issue had a cover line that read: Ether Party – A girl’s first step to ruin. (I can only imagine) and I Blackmailed For Love. The magazine was over 100 pages and chocked full of stories such as those, along with ads galore. The tagline below the title on the table of contents page read: Every Family Begins With Romance. 

And it’s hard to argue with that.

MY STORY

Love stories at their best, My Story was a Dell Publication that offered book length novels and short stories, along with articles that offered women advice on marriage, virtue, and her husband’s finances. It was published annually and had more of a high-quality appeal than the other pulp magazines.

The March 1953 edition had plenty of love stories, along with six complete book length novels. The young woman on the cover had a fresh appealing demeanor next to cover lines such as Cocktail Wife and Strange Wedding Night. The incongruity cannot be ignored.  

To be continued…

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True, Detective, And Confessions Magazines: The Magazines And I. Chapter 8, Part 3.

June 21, 2021

True, Detective, and Confessions Magazines … is the 8th chapter from the serialized book I am writing on the magazines of 1953, specifically March 1953, the month I was born.  This is chapter eight, part three.  Feel free to back track for chapters one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven in previous blogs.  Enjoy.

TRUE CASES OF WOMEN IN CRIME

Maybe we’re all a little bit obsessed with “true crime” stories. Just look at TV shows like 48 Hours or Dateline NBC. People have watched and kept them on the air for years. But when it comes to “true” crime magazines, especially of the March 1953 era, there was one for every taste. True Cases Of Women In Crime was published by a company called Special Magazines Inc. The March 1953 issue had the illustrated cover of a very voluptuous redhead behind bars, smoking a cigarette and being questioned by police. 

Inside the magazine is a disclaimer that reads: The illustrations on the following pages of this magazine were all specially posed by professional models, and it goes on to list the page numbers. The magazine is filled with ads and stories such as “She was fair, she was French, she was deadly.” This magazine is one among many that took the idea of “true crime” and possibly exploited it a bit.

TRUE CONFESSIONS

Beginning in 1922, True Confessions was a Fawcett Publication targeted at young women. During the 1930s, the magazine climbed to a circulation of two million with a readership of females between the ages of 20 and 35. With True Confessions, Fawcett was in direct competition with Bernarr MacFadden who had such titles as True Story and True Romance in his repertoire of titles, and Hillman Periodicals that had Real Story and Real Confessions. These “true” confession magazines soon felt a bit of a slump by 1949 due to the new comic book trend that hit.

The March 1953 issue of True Confessions had the cover story line of “Rendezvous With Shame – A Story For Every Wife Who Feels Love-Starved.” The magazine had special features and a section on “Your Home,” with articles such as Adventures in Food and If Father’s Been Away. It was a magazine that supplied fantasy and adventure for women in the 1950s .

TRUE CRIME DETECTIVE

True Crime Detective magazine was a digest-sized magazine that was published quarterly by Casebook Publications, a division of Mercury Publications which published The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. The magazine never made it to a monthly frequency and was not one of the most popular of its time, due (according to its publishers) to the lack of diversity in the crimes the magazine presented. Most were murders with no recognition given to lesser crimes. That being said, the magazine folded after one year in publication. 

The spring 1953 issue had stories such as The Truth About Lizzie Borden and Death and the Farmer’s Daughter, with a few others thrown in. There were no ads (save one for the magazine itself) and no pictures. The magazine didn’t exactly follow the blueprint of the other “True Crime” magazines and definitely paid the ultimate price. 

TRUE DETECTIVE

Another MacFadden title, True Detective (formerly True Detective Mysteries) was a true crime magazine that was published from 1924 to 1995. During its heyday, it sparked many copycats and was an extremely popular read with fans. It started out focusing on mystery fiction, but also mixed it up a little with some non-fiction crime stories. The non-fiction became so important to the magazine, gradually the fiction was phased out and it became True Detective, and the one that all imitators were held up to. 

The April 1953 issue had a cover story called Beauty and the Corpse – She Inspired Me To Violent Passion and Violent Death. And with a tagline that read: The Authentic Magazine of Crime Detection, the other stories in that issue were just as dramatic-sounding: Redhead and the Torture Slayer and Manhattan Gun Battle to name a few. These magazines were definitely a bit campy, but an integral part of publishing history nonetheless.

TRUE STORY

Born in 1919, True Story was the first of the confessions magazines and carried the subtitle  Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction. It was a prominent title in Bernarr Macfadden’s publishing empire of Physical Culture, True DetectiveTrue RomancesDream WorldTrue Ghost StoriesPhotoplay and the tabloid New York GraphicTrue Story had a circulation of two million by the time 1929 rolled around, with most of the stories sent in by readers, purported to be true, only to be rewritten by staffers at the company. Eventually however, submissions by professional freelancers were being used or issues were completely staff-written. 

By the 1950s, the magazine was focusing on a younger female audience with stories reflecting teenaged girls and their choices in life. The March 1953 issue had a young lady on the cover, smiling, with cover lines above her head that read: Jail Bait – Story of a Teen Temptress, I Was Wedding Ring Crazy, and Are You Satisfied With Your Husband – Vital Facts About Ideal Marriage. The magazine was filled with ads of all kinds, from hair color to Q-Tips, it was clear MacFadden didn’t discriminate. With over 140 pages, the magazine was a dream-come-true for anyone starving for wild love stories and a serious shopping passion. It was possibly ahead of its time.

After a dose of “truth” magazine style, next up, we take a look at romance and love in the magazines of March 1953. It was a totally different ballgame then as you will soon see…

So, get ready for Chapter Nine – Romance and Love in March 1953.

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True, Detective, And Confessions Magazines: The Magazines And I. Chapter 8, Part 2.

June 17, 2021

True, Detective, and Confessions Magazines … is the 8th chapter from the serialized book I am writing on the magazines of 1953, specifically March 1953, the month I was born.  This is chapter eight, part two.  Feel free to back track for chapters one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven in previous blogs.  Enjoy.

FRONT PAGE DETECTIVE

In 1921, George T. Delacorte, Jr., founded the Dell Publishing Company with the intent of entertaining readers dissatisfied with the genteel publications of the time. Known more for puzzle magazines, and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen’s Mystery MagazineAsimov’s Science Fiction, and Analog Science Fiction and FactFront Page Detective was still in the mystery genre, but had more of a “true crime” feel and look.

The March 1953 issue offered up a very beautiful redhead on the cover with the line: Necklace of Death for Rosamond. With ads galore and stories as murderously sensational, the magazine fit right in with the crime drama sections of newsstands.

HEADQUARTERS DETECTIVE

Published by Hillman Periodicals, who were also known for their true confession and true crime magazines, and for the long-running general-interest magazine Pageant, Headquarters Detective was another “true” crime title. Competing with MacFadden and Fawcett, Hillman put out titles such as true confessions magazines (Real Story, Real ConfessionsReal Romances) and crime magazines (Crime DetectiveReal DetectiveCrime Confessions).

The April 1953 issue had cover lines such as Honeymoon of Horror and My Girl’s Being Murdered and offered 16 extra pages, with a very voluptuous blonde woman on the cover. A photograph made to look like an illustration, of course, the 1953 cover was striking, while the cover lines were definitely alluring. 

INSIDE DETECTIVE

Another Dell publication, Inside Detective fell into step with Front Page Detective and the other “true crime” titles on the market. 

The March 1953 issue proclaimed: She Was A Kiss and Tell Killer and had a young woman with a glass of alcohol sitting at her elbow on the cover. The magazine had professional models within the pages, yet had the same sense of “true crime” style throughout.

MANHUNT

Launched in January 1953 as a monthly digest, it played briefly (from March 1957 to May 1958) with a larger format to enhance newsstand sales. However, that wasn’t successful, and it soon went back to its digest size and shortened its frequency to bimonthly. The magazine ran for almost 15 years and brought on a succession of reprints, from the U.K. to Australia.

The March 1953 issue had a fantastic cover with a wide-eyed woman, fear plain in her gaze, and a man’s hand heading for her throat, with no cover lines, but a list of magnificent authors. From Mickey Spillane to Craig Rice and stating every story new, the issue may have been digest-sized, but it was chocked full of great content, including a serial by Mickey Spillane called “Everybody’s Watching Me.”

MASTER DETECTIVE

Master Detective was one of Bernarr MacFadden’s publications and was a sister title to MacFadden’s highly successful True Detective. These titles appealed to the same working class audience as its pulp fiction competitors, and became very popular with audiences. The March 1953 cover of Master Detective has a wide-eyed woman with flaming red hair above a cover line that reads “Beautiful, But Deadly. She had a way with men, a gun to back it up.” Apparently, women were deadly creatures in March 1953. In the world of true crime magazines anyway.

The magazine itself is filled with stories about women with evil intent and the men they intended to bestow that evil upon. True? Possibly. Within the genre, True Detective was regarded as the standard bearer of quality and reliability. Maybe its sister Master Detective followed suit.

STARTLING DETECTIVE

Startling Detective is another Fawcett Publication and makes a play for real life mystery stories by using actual photographs as its illustrations. The March 1953 issue contains 10 true features including Two Telegrams From A Corpse and Fickle Fiancée and Murder. And of course, all the stories lend well to illustration. The actual photographs coupled with the very good illustrations make this magazine a definite standout. 

To be continued…

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HGTV Magazine Celebrates Its 10th Birthday With Color, Excitement & Special Fun – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Vicki Wellington, Senior Vice President, Group Publishing Director & Chief Revenue Officer, & Sara Peterson, Editor in Chief, HGTV Magazine…

June 14, 2021

“There is a digital research company called Kantar Millward Brown and we do a lot of convergent partnerships with our partners HGTV and we obviously do a lot of research to see how a campaign does and whenever print was added into the mix, everything went up. Likelihood to buy went up; preference for the brand went up. It happens so often that I literally said to the director who was running this digital research company, I keep noticing that print keeps raising the numbers. And he said that was always true. And I’ve always felt this way, but it continues to be proven by the research. Print adds a lot to the formula.” Vicki Wellington…

“I sometimes take the magazine home and look at it in home-lighting because I know that’s how people are going to look at it, not in an office setting with calibrated fluorescent lights. They’re going to probably have a 60-watt bulb in their lamp. So I ask myself, can you see the type? Can you read it okay? Things like that are fun for me when making the magazine. So, print matters because it makes the experience of seeing a story special.” Sara Peterson…

HGTV Magazine will be celebrating its 10th birthday this year in October. But the magazine is taking a celebratory stance in every issue, according to its Chief Revenue Officer Vicki Wellington. It’s doing so by celebrating phenomenal subscription sales, renewals and newsstand numbers, and by, according to Editor in Chief Sara Peterson, providing the value of insider advice from trusted experts, as well as the enjoyment of taking a look inside real people’s homes with its “decorating truths” and upbeat, friendly content. Even during a pandemic, HGTV Magazine seeks to bring light-hearted and useful content to its loyal readers. And for that colorful continuity, I’m sure we’re all very thankful.

I spoke with Vicki and Sara recently about the 10th birthday and all their celebratory plans for this powerhouse brand. And about the special issue that will showcase why the magazine’s longevity was never in question. It’s a fun interview with two people who have a mutual respect and camaraderie that shines through in their conversation. A conversation that covers the earlier, darker days of the pandemic, yet shows the hope and determination of people who never gave up on their mission: to provide service journalism as heartily and enjoyably as possible, without forgetting what the entire world was going through and showing that compassion accordingly.

So, please enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Vicki Wellington, Senior Vice President, Group Publishing Director & Chief Revenue Officer, and Sara Peterson, Editor in Chief, HGTV Magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On how HGTV Magazine is doing during the changes the pandemic brought (Sara Peterson): We’ve always been “change is good” type of people, so we’re good at adapting and keeping on going; it’s so nice to look back on the year of the pandemic, to look back instead of just being in the midst of it. Whenever things are challenging or tough, either in your personal life or in the world in general, I always like to focus on the work and the great distraction and fun of making a magazine. That didn’t change.

On whether the business side of selling is easy to do virtually (Vicki Wellington): It is totally different. But I will say this, one thing that’s positive is now our meetings are super-tight and condensed. So, where we might have had an hour with an advertiser or a client, now it’s much less time but it’s great because we focus in on what we want to talk about. So remarkably, it’s really been fine. We’ve gotten clients on the phone; everybody is open for meetings. I’m amazed with all that’s gone on, HGTV Magazine is having a great year.

On HGTV Magazine being one of the few magazines that did not cut its print frequency during the pandemic (Vicki Wellington): And still has a nice variety of advertisers. Fifty percent are “home” advertisers, but fifty percent are still other things. We get a lot of food, a lot of business and finance. If you’re on Zoom constantly, you love when the magazine arrives and you get to sit back, relax and enjoy it. And in this case, really do something with it. Shop from it and create a new world for yourself inside. And I think business has reflected that as hard as it’s been.

On creating “fun” during the dark days of the pandemic (Sara Peterson): Well, you have fun momentum. You are this brand and I have a lot of adjectives that I can substitute for fun: positive outlook, upbeat, friendly, colorful; that attitude and personality. And the conversational copy that we have in the magazine. I think those are ways that we deliver “fun.”

On Vicki Wellington being the chief revenue officer for both HGTV Magazine and the Food Network Magazine (Vicki Wellington): Yes, I’m a lucky girl, Samir. Who’s luckier than me? I mean, Food Network and HGTV are gigantic global brands. It’s awesome and I love it. And I haven’t been here with Sara for the whole 10 years, I came in about a year and a half ago. So she and her team deserve the credit much more than I do. I’m actually the pandemic publisher for HGTV Magazine. I’m just very lucky to be here.

On the plans for celebrating the magazine’s 10th birthday (Sara Peterson): This was a lot of planning. You can imagine. All the thinking about how you’re going to make this issue special. You only get one 10th birthday to do. I’ve always loved the fact that in magazines, you always get another issue, so you always have another take to do that story you wanted or another cover idea, but the feeling of having a birthday issue, the 10th birthday, and we did have a fifth birthday issue, but 10 is bigger. So the pressure was on, but also the opportunities were there. How were we going to celebrate ourselves and all we’ve done. but also still deliver new ideas and new content in the magazine, not just do a look-back?

On the role print plays in this digital age (Vicki Wellington): People want less time on the computer and we can prove it. Right now our subscriptions are up. They’re purchased digitally, but they’re print subscriptions. Just as an example, our renewals are up. HGTV Magazine happens to have one of the highest renewal rates in the company. And that’s between $30 and $45, so that’s a lot of money as you know for a magazine subscription.

On anything either of them would like to add (Vicki Wellington): Just that HGTV Magazine is having a very strong year. I think the product continues to serve a purpose, part of a major power brand. It’s nice to have such a powerful brand that’s so well-recognized and loved. And it’s safe; it’s not about the pandemic; it’s not about politics. And I think advertising has backed all that up in every category. All my vital signs are good. Subscriptions are good; newsstand is good; renewals are good; advertising is good. Those are all the positives.

On what keeps them up at night (Vicki Wellington): After going through a pandemic, you know what, I don’t worry as much. It really put things into perspective. What am I worrying about? Once we’ve gotten through this crazy time and we don’t have to worry about just going out of our houses or going out without gloves. So honestly for me, I don’t worry about a lot because we’ve lived through this crazy time. The minor things at this point would be just doing a good job and getting my work done.

On what keeps them up at night (Sara Peterson): I find myself thinking how much better I’m sleeping lately. There were times in 2020 where many nights I was wide awake between 2:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. I would think about people I missed, work, things I needed to do, was my Amazon order going to arrive on time. Did I get the groceries delivered or should I go there? Should I buy more masks and which masks, that sort of stuff. And having that tone down a little, the anxiety level, that hopefully we’ve all lowered some anxiety, sleeping better and also knowing there’s a plan now for the immediate future, has helped.

And now the lightly edited Mr. Magazine™ interview with Vicki Wellington, Senior Vice President, Group Publishing Director & Chief Revenue Officer, and Sara Peterson, Editor in Chief, HGTV Magazine. 

Samir Husni: Change is the only constant in the magazine media business, and with everything that has happened within the last year, between the pandemic and the unrest the country has seen, change has been paramount. So, with those changes, how are things going at HGTV Magazine?

Sara Peterson: We’ve always been “change is good” type of people, so we’re good at adapting and keeping on going; it’s so nice to look back on the year of the pandemic, to look back instead of just being in the midst of it. Whenever things are challenging or tough, either in your personal life or in the world in general, I always like to focus on the work and the great distraction and fun of making a magazine. That didn’t change. 

We still had readers that expected a magazine on the newsstand, in the mailbox, and that was like a comfort; it’s always a comfort, but especially in times of enormous change and unknowns. And that’s a constant. We know how many pages we had to fill; every issue we had to plan the stories as usual; we still had to do photo shoots and write stories and do layouts. I found myself especially thankful to have that work that I love and the people who I really enjoy working with to do those things that we know how to do and that we’ve been doing for 10 years now. 

Vicki Wellington: And I’m shocked, as I think the world is, that everyone acclimated so quickly. I was one of the last people out of the Hearst Tower. I was packing up my stuff and I found myself thinking, how was all of this going to work? And remarkably, everyone did great. It really is amazing what people are capable of doing and learning and troubleshooting; every one of us had all kinds of IT issues.

Sara Peterson: I had not heard of Zoom; I had never done Zoom. 

Vicki Wellington: It’s just amazing. And I’m impressed, to be honest, not only with our team, but with the entire company and the entire country and world. I think we’ve discovered this whole other avenue, the silver lining to the insanity of it all. The ability of people to adjust and adapt because you have to immediately.

Sara Peterson: And it was overnight. Literally, one day we were in the office, another day we were told not to come in. And we didn’t know for how long, but it was literally overnight that we all started working from home. From watching the news and the cases that were popping up, I had the thought in early March that everyone should have a laptop. 

Before the pandemic, we didn’t all have laptops. We really collaborated and worked in the office, routing physical paper copies of stories. Sure, we emailed and we had Slack, and we used those tools in the office sometimes, but not anything to the extent of physically sharing and routing in the office. So it was a real shift to virtual work.

Samir Husni: When it comes to the business side, the selling part, was it easy to do that virtually?

Vicki Wellington: It is totally different. But I will say this, one thing that’s positive is now our meetings are super-tight and condensed. So, where we might have had an hour with an advertiser or a client, now it’s much less time but it’s great because we focus in on what we want to talk about. So remarkably, it’s really been fine. We’ve gotten clients on the phone; everybody is open for meetings. I’m amazed with all that’s gone on, HGTV Magazine is having a great year. 

You know it’s a birthday year, and of course we’ll talk about that, but we’re up. I don’t know if you’ve seen our most recent issue, which I love, the July/August issue; I just love it. Every issue Sara does I love. 

Sara Peterson: Oh, thank you, Vicki. I don’t know if you felt this, but because the whole world was in this together, no one could look ahead that far during this time and that made it kind of easier, because we were all trying to figure it out together. If you’re the only one changing, it can be more difficult. There were moments in the beginning where we would ask ourselves how we wanted to do this, but we adapted very well.

Vicki Wellington: And when all our screens were blank and no one had their cameras on, we put the rule in that our staff show their faces, that’s how we roll. But so many people not on staff had a blank screen, so you’re presenting to clients and you’re excited, but it’s difficult speaking to a blank screen. 

But think about what went on this year. Again, this brand, HGTV was also a silver lining, the perfect brand to help the country during this. We played a part and to be a piece of such a big, fun, exciting brand that’s all about the home where everybody is living, what an advantage from my side, the business side, because that’s what was hot and happening. We saw the advantage of that, our subscriptions are way up, everybody has been into their homes, and who does home better than us?

We happened to have been lucky and coincidentally had research out in the field; we worked with a company called MarketCast and had this national research study being done while we were home. So we knew people painted and made things, did things they never did before and they took their money and created rooms for themselves and took on projects and were successful at them. So what an advantage to be at HGTV Magazine during this crazy year. 

Sara Peterson: We delivered what we always had, but in an even bigger way because we were doing more. So cleaning, decorating, DIY gardening; all of it, inside and out, but we were also changing rooms into offices, making them dual-functioning. That’s how we touched on the times. We’re all more intimately acquainted with our homes now than we ever were before. 

Samir Husni: During the pandemic, HGTV is one of the few magazines that did not cut its print frequency and is still doing very well. Still has the same number of pages.

Vicki Wellington: And still has a nice variety of advertisers. Fifty percent are “home” advertisers, but fifty percent are still other things. We get a lot of food, a lot of business and finance. If you’re on Zoom constantly, you love when the magazine arrives and you get to sit back, relax and enjoy it. And in this case, really do something with it. Shop from it and create a new world for yourself inside. And I think business has reflected that as hard as it’s been. 

Sara Peterson: I’m not sure if it was a silver lining, but it was definitely an advantage being HGTV Magazine. I’ve always thought of us as being the magazine that works the hardest at being really relatable, real and authentic about your home. And featuring real people in their homes has always been a thing of ours. In the house tours and the decorating stories, there’s a lot of people in the photos in the magazine; we always photograph the homeowner with their home. And that makes it feel more relatable and real when you see kids and dogs and maybe the cereal and milk is still left out on the counter in the kitchen, these are things you can relate to in real life. 

Samir Husni: Sara, I interviewed you when the magazine was first launched 10 years ago and you talked a lot about how much fun HGTV Magazine was going to be. Tell me, how can you create “fun” during a time when fun was not exactly a word people were using?

Sara Peterson: Yes, in an un-fun time. Well, you have fun momentum. You are this brand and I have a lot of adjectives that I can substitute for fun: positive outlook, upbeat, friendly, colorful; that attitude and personality. And the conversational copy that we have in the magazine. I think those are ways that we deliver “fun.” 

Maybe we weren’t having parties, but we were still picking out beautiful flowers to look at in our yards and in our homes; we were picking out paint colors and trying different DIY projects that hadn’t been tried before. Making things, but also food and entertaining ways to distract ourselves. We couldn’t go out, so we had to do stuff at home. So that’s how we delivered the fun.

We did have this long-running column from the first issue called “How Bad Is It.” Answers, conundrums and scratch-your-head questions about home life across the board. Things like how bad is it to leave the laundry in overnight, to leave it in the washing machine, just questions you might have about your household things. 

But I had seen different magazines talking about how bad is it in terms of the pandemic, with the numbers and all. And I wasn’t worried about how we were going to deliver cheerful, upbeat, fun ideas, but would it seem like we were ignoring some really bad stuff, if we had a column called “How Bad Is It,” and it was about how bad is it to have a conversation with your dog. Was that too superficial or too shallow, that it seemed to be ignoring the big worry?

So we tweaked the design and we had less serious questions and I think, if I’m not mistaken, that we skipped it one or two issues. We just didn’t run it. I did see The New York Times often did “how bad is it” with the pandemic numbers, the stats on everything, so I didn’t think it was always appropriate. 

Samir Husni: Vicki, you’re the chief revenue officer for both the Food Network Magazine and for HGTV Magazine.

Vicki Wellington: Yes, I’m a lucky girl, Samir. Who’s luckier than me? I mean, Food Network and HGTV are gigantic global brands. It’s awesome and I love it. And I haven’t been here with Sara for the whole 10 years, I came in about a year and a half ago. So she and her team deserve the credit much more than I do. I’m actually the pandemic publisher for HGTV Magazine. I’m just very lucky to be here. 

Samir Husni: As you get ready to celebrate the magazine’s 10th birthday in October, what are the plans?

Sara Peterson: This was a lot of planning. You can imagine. All the thinking about how you’re going to make this issue special. You only get one 10th birthday to do. I’ve always loved the fact that in magazines, you always get another issue, so you always have another take to do that story you wanted or another cover idea, but the feeling of having a birthday issue, the 10th birthday, and we did have a fifth birthday issue, but 10 is bigger. So the pressure was on, but also the opportunities were there. How were we going to celebrate ourselves and all we’ve done. but also still deliver new ideas and new content in the magazine, not just do a look-back?

The biggest section is called the “Giant Birthday Special” and that is a celebration of our Top 10 decorating truths. Now, we don’t really like decorating rules at HGTV Magazine because so many people are creative in their homes and inventive and express their personalities. So imposing rules on decorating isn’t really our style. But our decorating truths – after going into homes and seeing how people live and decorate for 10 years, you pick up on some patterns. And you pick up on things that have worked well for people and designers in every style of home. Small homes, big homes, cottages, ranch-style homes, brick homes, just every style you can imagine.

We’re taking these Top 10 truths and making little chapters in the magazine section about those Top 10. One chapter in the section is “Add a Pop of Color.” We have always loved adding pops of color, so we’re talking about the ideas that we’ve loved, to mix old and new things. I feel that people do that so well. I’ve always been impressed at how people mix old and new things in their homes to tell their story. Things like inherited pieces or some cool flea market finds and then some new pieces throughout your home too. But that mix is always really interesting for the storytelling. 

We like to really tell the story of the home as well as the decorating ideas that people can replicate. And the mixing of old and new is really a good one too. 

Vicki Wellington: And on the business side, we have a number of things that we’re selling. We’ve got three different levels, silver, gold and platinum, and what’s nice is there’s something special for everybody. Some are native ideas, some are high-impact units. Many will be running in October, but we are celebrating the birthday in every single issue.

Sara Peterson: When Vicki invites me to a client meeting, I always use the word “special,” because it’s true. It is a special issue like no other. And if you want to be in the issue, you’re coming to a party. You’re coming to a birthday party. So, we want to have a celebratory vibe. We’ve been working on native ideas with clients that feel like a celebration. It will feel like a birthday. 

We’re also asking a ton of HGTV stars to wish us a Happy Birthday. Stars who have been in the magazine throughout the years and have had photo shoots and fun times with us. And it’s fun to see their quotes and answers, because some have been with us from the beginning too. The Property Brothers were just launching their show on HGTV when we were launching the magazine. So they go way back. And there are a lot of other stars too. And it’s fun to see them all together. 

Samir Husni: What role does the print magazine play in this digital age? 

Vicki Wellington: People want less time on the computer and we can prove it. Right now our subscriptions are up. They’re purchased digitally, but they’re print subscriptions. Just as an example, our renewals are up. HGTV Magazine happens to have one of the highest renewal rates in the company. And that’s between $30 and $45, so that’s a lot of money as you know for a magazine subscription. 

Sara Peterson: And I’m pretty proud of our newsstand numbers.

Vicki Wellington: Yes, we’ve been in the Top 10 forever. And as an example, talking about young people, our millennial numbers have grown. In the past five years, it’s grown over 30 percent. So, what the numbers tell me is that we have people buying and enjoying reading the magazine. 

And as another example, there is a digital research company called Kantar Millward Brown and we do a lot of convergent partnerships with our partners HGTV and we obviously do a lot of research to see how a campaign does and whenever print was added into the mix, everything went up. Likelihood to buy went up; preference for the brand went up. It happens so often that I literally said to the director who was running this digital research company, I keep noticing that print keeps raising the numbers. And he said that was always true. And I’ve always felt this way, but it continues to be proven by the research. Print adds a lot to the formula.

And from our circulation numbers, which are all strong, we see that people are buying and reading. They’re being pushed to go online. They love the way Sara and her team curate. They go online and it can be so overwhelming. Sara puts out this beautifully orchestrated, curated product for people first, then they go online and do their shopping.

Sara Peterson: If you ask me to talk to students, they all want to be storytellers. We’re all storytellers. And you can do that well a lot of different ways. You can pick your platform. You can have multiple platforms. You can do videos, blogs, digital; you can do a book, a magazine, a newspaper. There does come a time when you want to pick your medium for how you want to tell your story. Once you do that, what is it about that particular medium that is special and unique that can’t be done by others with your story? And what is the experience you want your readers to have with a magazine? 

With me early on, back to college, it was so satisfying to make a product. It is physical. You have this thing that you make. Sometimes I joke about being in the manufacturing business. We have to be aware of things like ink, printing, glue. I can’t tell you how much I know about glue. (Laughs) These things you need to learn about manufacturing your product. There is something so satisfying about having your hands on the thing that you make. 

I sometimes take the magazine home and look at it in home-lighting because I know that’s how people are going to look at it, not in an office setting with calibrated fluorescent lights. They’re going to probably have a 60-watt bulb in their lamp. So I ask myself, can you see the type? Can you read it okay? Things like that are fun for me when making the magazine. So, print matters because it makes the experience of seeing a story special. 

Samir Husni: Is there anything either of you would like to add?

Vicki Wellington: Just that HGTV Magazine is having a very strong year. I think the product continues to serve a purpose, part of a major power brand. It’s nice to have such a powerful brand that’s so well-recognized and loved. And it’s safe; it’s not about the pandemic; it’s not about politics. And I think advertising has backed all that up in every category. All my vital signs are good. Subscriptions are good; newsstand is good; renewals are good; advertising is good. Those are all the positives.

We continue to work with the brand on convergent ideas and that’s an advantage for this product as well. Not everybody can do that in that kind of major way. We’ve got on-air involved, digital involved. 

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

Vicki Wellington: After going through a pandemic, you know what, I don’t worry as much. It really put things into perspective. What am I worrying about? Once we’ve gotten through this crazy time and we don’t have to worry about just going out of our houses or going out without gloves. So honestly for me, I don’t worry about a lot because we’ve all lived through this crazy time. The minor things at this point would be just doing a good job and getting my work done. 

Sara Peterson: I find myself thinking how much better I’m sleeping lately. There were times in 2020 where many nights I was wide awake between 2:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. I would think about people I missed, work, things I needed to do, was my Amazon order going to arrive on time. Did I get the groceries delivered or should I go there? Should I buy more masks and which masks, that sort of stuff. And having that tone down a little, the anxiety level, that hopefully we’ve all lowered some anxiety, sleeping better and also knowing there’s a plan now for the immediate future, has helped. 

We know our summer schedule for work. We know we’re going to phase back to the office starting in September. It’s crucial for magazine editors to have plans; we’re always planning in advance, sometimes a year in advance. And to not have a roadmap is really unnerving. So to have some things on the calendar feels good and I’m sleeping better. 

I will say the birthday issue did keep me up because I was thinking this was an amazing chance, and did I get it right? Did I do everything that I could? I had one shot; it was like my Olympics. I had been training for this for 10 issues and I had one shot. All of the issues are important to me, of course, but this one just felt so special and I wanted to be sure to get it right. So yes, that kept me up. 

Samir Husni: Thank you both. 

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True, Detective, And Confessions Magazines 1953. The Magazines And I: Chapter 8, Part 1

June 10, 2021

True, Detective, and Confessions Magazines … is the 8th chapter from the serialized book I am writing on the magazines of 1953, specifically March 1953, the month I was born.  This is chapter eight, part one.  Feel free to back track for chapters one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven in previous blogs.  Enjoy.

Confession magazines were a staple of March 1953. And “truth” be told (pun intended) they’re still on  newsstands today, just not as plentiful. True Story was the first of the confessions magazine genre, having launched in 1919. With the tagline Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction, the magazine set out to prove just that. 

True Story was published by Bernarr MacFadden, of Physical Culture fame. The magazine was actually MacFadden’s wife’s idea. According to Mary MacFadden’s memoir of she and Bernarr’s life together, Dumbbells and Carrot Sticks, “Broken-hearted women sent [MacFadden’s Physical Culture magazine] letters after they had done two hundred knee bends, twice a day, and thrown away their corsets, only to find that the Greek gods wouldn’t give them a tumble. These are true stories…Let’s get out a magazine to be called True Story, written by its readers in the first person.”

Originally, the magazine was just what it professed: true stories sent in entirely by readers. Mary did confess that clergymen were brought in to censor the stories somewhat and give them a sense of decency according to the times. But as far as fact-checking to make sure the stories were in fact “true,” there was no proof of that. 

In fact, MacFadden had become embroiled in a feud with Anthony Comstock, who founded the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice because of his  “Monster Physical Culture Exhibition” showing men and women exercising in leotards. Mr. Comstock had Bernarr arrested for public indecency. The two men despised each other after that — and True Story became an attempt on MacFadden’s part to demonstrate that he too could be a guiding moral compass.

According to studies done, one by sociologist George Gerbner, there were about forty romance/confession magazines on the market by the year 1950, with a circulation of about sixteen million. These titles were sold for the most part in small southern and Midwestern towns with females of course the target audience. These magazines were the entertainment and sustenance for many of these small town women, dealing with taboo issues such as pre-marital sex, illegitimacy, adultery, unemployment, social relations, and crime, with the occasional still photo of each story’s most dramatic moments, a kiss, a temptation, and then horrible realization of what they had done and a vow to make it right.

MacFadden became so enamored of the confession/romance genre that he garnered his own Women’s Group eventually and expanded it to include: True StoryTrue Confessions, True RomanceTrue Experience, Modern Romances, and True Love, and hired writers to keep up with the demand, many male freelancers.

Looking at this genre for March 1953, let’s explore these fascinating magazines that may very well have been one the largest category of the 1950s.

CONFIDENTIAL CONFESSIONS

Confidential Confessions magazine was published under the Periodical House name, but was a part of the Ace Magazines stable. Aaron and Rose Wyn, who had been publishing pulp fiction since 1928, owned Ace Magazines, and were also well known for their comics, which they published between 1940 and 1956. Their romance and confession titles were sensationalistic and spicy, fitting the genre perfectly.

The March 1953 issue had cover lines such as No Chance To Be Good, All-Night Date and Our Marriage Became A Scandal. If a lover of confessions and romance-type magazines couldn’t get into this one, they probably needed to reevaluate the content they liked to read.

CRIME DETECTIVE

Hillman Periodicals was in direct competition with Bernarr MacFadden and Fawcett Publications. With Crime Detectivemagazine they offered up a title that vied for newsstand space admirably. Crime Detective was the longest running of all of Hillman’s “true crime” pulp titles. When it came to the content of the magazine, it was very much like all of the other true crime titles, however the cover was where it differentiated. Each issue featured a cover painting of a woman reacting to an unseen danger. It never varied.

The March 1953 issue offered up a cover line of Who Killed The Redheaded Actress and had a very beautiful woman staring back at you with a question in her brown-eyed gaze. It promised 16 extra pages and didn’t disappoint.

DARING DETECTIVE

A Fawcett Publication, Daring Detective was one among many of the magazines that Wilford Hamilton “Captain Billy” Fawcett had in his stable of titles. From Daring Detective to Dynamic Detective to Cavalier, Fawcett knew how to cater to his readers and put out magazines. 

In the March 1953 issue of Daring Detective, the cover story was Sin Slave – Murder of the Betrayed Redhead and had a very seductive redhead on the cover in minimal attire. Features included: The Kiss-Off, Out of the Deep, and The Trooper Played a Hunch. The magazine was published bimonthly and followed along the lines of the other detective titles of its time. 

DETECTIVE WORLD

Action, adventure and true crime cases, Detective World magazine put it all on the line. The magazine was published bimonthly and could sometimes ask the burning question: What Makes Gangsters Glamorous? as it did in the March 1953 issue. In this issue the magazine promised seven spectacular new crimes and three shocking exposes. Plus inside features that showed the world how the underworld worked. It was a magazine that knew it had plenty of competition and did what it had to do to remain relevant among its more widely-read counterparts. 

To be continued…

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Children And Teen Magazines 1953. The Magazines And I: Chapter 7, Part 3.

May 31, 2021

Children and Teen Magazines … is the 7th chapter from the serialized book I am writing on the magazines of 1953, specifically March 1953, the month I was born.  This is chapter seven, part three.  Feel free to back track for chapters one, two, three, four, five and six in previous blogs.  Enjoy.

OPEN ROAD

A boys’ magazine encouraging the outdoor life, The Open Road for Boys was published from November 1919 to the 1950s. The title changed to Open Road The Young People’s Magazine in 1950. The magazine was quite the motivator for young boys to get out and explore the open road, so to speak, with adventure, sports and outdoor fun prominent features. By 1949, the magazine was published by Holyoke Publishing in Massachusetts.

The March 1953 issue had a basketball ace on the cover, along with stories about hunting lions in Africa and adventure in Alaska. From swapping ideas to the cartoon contest the magazine became noted for, Open Road was a valuable part of the history of young people’s magazines, especially in the 1950s. 

SEVENTEEN

Seventeen was first published in New York City in 1944. Its mission was to provide teenaged girls with impeccable role models and all the information they needed about their own personal growth and development. Hearst Magazines bought the publication in the early 2000s. In November 2018, it was announced that Seventeen’s print editions would be reduced to special stand-alone issues only.

The March 1953 cover was splendidly “springy,” with the cover line “Wake Up, It’s Spring.” It was colorful and featured a young lady resplendent in her best Easter frock, complete with hat and gloves. The articles inside ranged from “What You Wear” to “How You Look and Feel.” There was a section called “Your Mind” for those personal thoughts and feelings; a “Home and Food” section; along with “Having Fun.” Seventeen was and still is a relevant resource for teenaged girls.

STORY PARADE

The advisory board for Story Parade magazine was impeccable. Members from the American Library Association, the U.S. Office of Education, Columbia University, and the list goes on and on, offered their expertise and knowledge on the content of this children’s title. The magazine was issued monthly, except for July and August, and had no advertisements at all, giving it the look and feel of a paperback book. The illustrations were colorful and very complementary to each of the whimsical and educational stories inside.

The March 1953 issue features a cover story about a wonderful little bear named Bruno, “The Awakening of Bruno,” by author Richard Stone. The subsequent stories and poems are just as perfect for holding a young child’s attention, while teaching them something valuable at the same time. The magazine was complete with fun-filled puzzles and games that children could relate to and enjoy.

THE GIRL FRIEND AND THE BOY FRIEND

A magazine for teenaged girls, this title was a predecessor of the dating apps of today. From dating advice to a story titled “Have You Tasted Forbidden Love?” such as the March 1953 issue features, this magazine was certainly focused on the female perspective, but offered “boyfriend” in the title nonetheless. On the March 1953 cover, a young woman with her mouth slightly opened seemed a bit breathless as she pondered the teaser lines for a story called “Love’s Seven Sins” right below her face. It was definitely a romantically-geared publication that could lure itself off the newsstand and right into a teenaged girl’s hands. 

TOM THUMB

Another digest-sized children’s magazine, Tom Thumb’s Magazine for Little Folks was published by Universal Publishing and Distribution. The magazine was  filled with pages children could color and stories that could teach them without seeming to. The magazine was written and edited by child guidance experts, with vocabulary that was carefully controlled and basic. There was a “How and Why” section, along with games and cartoons for loads of fun.

This 1953 issue was filled with 3-D action pictures and had cut-out glasses that children could use to get the full effect of the 3-D. The cover was bright and colorful and touted the magazine as 130 pages of bewitching fun for little folks. 

WEE WISDOM

Wee Wisdom is the name of an American children’s magazine, which was established in 1893 by Myrtle Filmore, one of the two founders of the Unity spiritual teachings. The magazine was published for 98 years, until 1991. The magazine’s philosophy was that children have an inherent nature that is wise and good, and that the purpose of education is to teach them how to shine their light of goodness and wisdom in the world. 

The March 1953 issue had three lively-looking children building kites on its cover, complete with a string-wrapped kitten in the middle of them. The content is filled with puzzles, games, vivid poetry and stories that entertain and educate. The activities inside range from drawing to coloring to stamp collecting. It’s a different time, a different era, but fun for children nonetheless.

YOUNG MECHANIC

Young Mechanic magazine was published by Ziff Davis, which was an American publisher founded in 1927 by William Bernard Ziff Sr. and Bernard George Davis as a hobbyist print magazine publisher. Young Mechanic was a magazine that gave young people with mechanical minds an outlet, with stories like “Faster Than Sound,” TV Is Not New,” and “Body Tips For Hot Rodders.” It was a magazine that provided blueprints for things like wastebaskets or diagrams for how to start a car when it won’t. There was a plethora of ideas and creative thinking behind each story and advice article.

The spring 1953 issue featured an illustration of a young man building his own 14-foot boat on its cover, with inside stories such as “Developing and Printing Film,” (remember film) and “How to Solder.” The magazine was a young person with a mechanical brain’s dream.

Up next, the True, Detective, and Confessions magazines of 1953. Stay tuned.

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Children and Teen Magazines Of 1953. The Magazines And I: Chapter 7 Part 2.

May 26, 2021

Children and Teen Magazines … is the 7th chapter from the serialized book I am writing on the magazines of 1953, specifically March 1953, the month I was born.  This is chapter seven, part two.  Feel free to back track for chapters one, two, three, four, five and six in previous blogs.  Enjoy.

CHILDREN’S PLAYMATE

The tagline for Children’s Playmate was “The Favorite Magazine of Boys and Girls” and with stories and poems, puzzles and riddles, pages that belonged to the children themselves, one could definitely see why it might be a favorite among children. From fun contests to things to make and do, this gem of a magazine was published monthly by the A.R. Mueller Publishing and Lithograph Company. 

The March 1953 issue was a spring edition that had a cover illustration featuring a boy and girl on roller skates, their dog, umbrellas and the ever-present March winds. There were stories dedicated to Irish skits, Irish parties and many other great stories and poems. It was a children’s magazine that offered fun activities and much, much more. 

HIGHLIGHTS FOR CHILDREN

Since 1946, Highlights for Children has been creating “Fun With A Purpose” for children of all ages. The very first issue of Highlights sold fewer than 20,000 copies, but 40 years later, Highlights was the most popular children’s magazine in the United States, having close to two million subscribers, with 95 percent of the copies mailed to homes. The magazine accepted no advertising and shied away from single-issue sales, but could be found in most doctors’ and dentists’ offices in the United States.

The March 1953 issue is an extremely “March” issue, with the cover a deep green in color and two inquisitive children staring into a telescope up into the sky. The stories are whimsical, yet have a lesson hidden beneath the magic: “A Bear Scores,” “The Eisenhower Brothers,” and “Knuckle Down,” among many others. There are many “Things To Do,” and great poetry for kids. In usual Highlights style, the March 1953 issue captivates. 

HUMPTY DUMPTY’S

Humpty Dumpty’s Magazine for Little Children has been publishing with the mission to promote the healthy physical, educational, creative, social, and emotional growth of children ages 2 to 6. In March of 1953 Humpty Dumpty the magazine was still an infant, it was issue six of this new magazine published 10 times a year by the same folks who were publishing Parents magazine. Now, the magazine is part of the Children’s Better Health Institute,  the magazine is another extension of the Saturday Evening Post Society.

The March 1953 issue featured stories for beginning readers, several read-aloud stories, along with drawings and illustrations that would bring smiles to adults, never mind the little ones. The cover featured Humpty himself plus a few of his cohorts. The masthead lists Humpty Dumpty as editor in chief. And indeed the magazine reflects the nursery rhyme character’s tenacity, good spirit and fun nature.

On a different note, the magazine offered its readers an explanation about the type of paper and binding it uses. “Humpty Dumpty’s magazine is printed on what is known as “eye-ease” tinted paper. This light green paper is easier on the eyes than white or any other tinted paper.

Out binding, called the Rumflex Binding, is designed to eliminate the use of staples. As a result, the magazine lies flat when opened, and is easier for children to handle.”

JACK AND JILL

Jack and Jill is a bimonthly magazine for children ages 6 to 12 years old that takes its title from the nursery rhyme of the same name. It features stories and educational activities, along with nonfiction, poems, games, comics, recipes, crafts, and more. The magazine has been continuously published for 80 years, and is one of the oldest American magazines for kids.

As part of the Children’s Better Health Institute, which is a division of the Saturday Evening Post Society Inc., Jack and Jill is nonprofit and has a very important mission that it strives to accomplish even today: to promote the healthy physical, educational, creative, social, and emotional growth of children in a creative way that is engaging, stimulating, and entertaining for children ages 6 to 12.

The magazine was launched in 1938 by Curtis Publishing Company and was the first thing that they had added to their portfolio since Country Gentleman in 1911.

The March 1953 issue features an illustration on the cover of a girl jumping rope, while a young boy swings it up and over for her. It would appear one or both of the children’s mother is looking on with a slight smile. To complement the cover of the magazine, the inside features rhymes for jump roping, titled Rope-Jumping Rhymes and Playground Rimbles. It’s a fun and thoughtful thing to include for the children reading the magazine. 

The stories, drawings and pictures are entertaining and educational. It’s a magazine that was a wonderful companion for the children of March 1953 and still is today.

JUNIOR SCHOLASTIC

The Scholastic Corporation was founded in 1920 and has become a top publisher of magazines for children and youth. There are many extensions of Scholastic for children which are attainable through schools, online and retail. Scholastic is an important part of children’s magazines and still very relevant and available today.

Junior Scholastic was and is focused on middle schoolers and offers a wide variety of stories and articles. The entertainment value and the educational facet of the magazine is clear (it is Scholastic, after all) and the March 11, 1953 issue is no exception to the brand’s value. The cover is filled with how people in Vermont work to make maple sugar. It’s filled with more articles explaining interesting and fun things that people from all over the country and the world know how to do. It’s a great magazine and brings back many memories for many people, even today.

MOVIE TEEN

Movie Teen magazine was a bit of  a spinoff of “Teen” magazine only about screen stars. All the teenaged stars and starlets could find themselves on the pages of this magazine. And in turn, all the teenaged girls buying it were enthralled with their favorite actors and actresses, dreaming one day of meeting them or possibly even dating them

The March 1953 issue featured actress Pier Angeli on the cover with articles written by Tab Hunter and Piper Laurie, two screen teens of the 1950s, in the cover lines. From a feature about a young Robert Wagner to a fan club registry for all your favorites, this publication had to be a young girl’s dream-come-true when it came to info on the stars of the small and large screens. 

Up next part three of the Children and Teen magazines of 1953… Stay tuned.

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Children and Teen Magazines Of 1953. The Magazines And I: Chapter 7 Part 1.

May 24, 2021

Children and Teen Magazines … is the 7th chapter from the serialized book I am writing on the magazines of 1953, specifically March 1953, the month I was born.  This is chapter seven, part one.  Feel free to back track for chapters one, two, three, four, five and six in previous blogs.  Enjoy.

Life was very different for children and teens in 1953 than it is for today’s youth. Of course, there was no Internet, no cell phones, no digital devices at all, and television was in its infancy. The effects of World War II could still be felt throughout the nation in some ways. For instance, many goods were still being rationed in the early 1950s. Sugar was rationed until 1953 and meat only came off ration a year later. So the life of a child or teen in 1953 could be viewed as rather difficult by the youth of today; if not difficult, definitely different. But for kids in 1953, it was their golden age. Rock and roll was just around the corner; crusin’ with your best girl/guy, headed for the drive-in in your parents Cadillac was on its way; and most little ones had their favorite toy, and magazines were everywhere. 

With nothing else really to entertain the youth of that era, magazines were certainly a part of their lives. Children had magazines like Highlights for ChildrenJack and Jill,  Child Life and Wee Wisdom, among others, and teens had SeventeenThe Girl Friend and the Boy Friend and Movie Teen, with many more to select from. Magazines were an integral part of young people’s lives, with education and fun activities a major part of each title’s contents. It was a time of fun, yet practicality; education, but also whimsy and interesting stories. 

In March 1953, children and teens had a rich array of magazines to choose from. Let’s take a look, shall we.

AMERICAN GIRL

From 1917 until 1979 Girl Scouts published a monthly magazine, originally called The Rally (1917–1920) and then The American Girl, with “The” later dropped  (not to be confused with the American Girl Dolls magazine which began publishing in 1992). During one point of its long history, this magazine had the largest circulation of any magazine aimed at teen-aged girls. 

The March 1953 issue of the magazine had a very impeccably dressed young teen, complete with hat and gloves, on its cover, displaying what every American teen girl wanted to look like and wear for Easter 1953. The tagline was “For All Girls” and the content ranged from fiction, nonfiction to fashion and good looks. It was a mixture of recipes, patterns and sharp-dressed young ladies promoting and selling many designer’s clothes. 

BOYS’ LIFE

Boys’ Life is the monthly magazine of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), with its target readers boys between the ages of 6 and 18. The magazine was founded and first-published in 1911 and at that time there were three major competing Scouting organizations: the American Boy Scouts, New England Boy Scouts, and Boy Scouts of America (BSA). 

The content could be geared toward older boys, but not always (hence the tagline: For All Boys) and included special features, adventure stories, Bank Street Classics, entertainment, environmental issues, history, sports, and Codemaster. Pedro was a fictional burro that was created as a mascot for the magazine.

The March 1953 issue’s cover was one of New Englanders, Ohioans and other maple sugar producers, doing what they do best: making maple sugar. The contents of this issue were many special features on scouting, gifts and gimmicks, and discus throwing, so it was a varied and diversely topical magazine. There were articles and photo features, plus many fun stories. And the magazine is still around today for boys of all ages to enjoy. 

CHILD LIFE

Child Life is a children’s magazine begun in 1922. A little something for everyone in this magazine…stories, projects , crafts, puzzles, history , advertisements, the magazine was published monthly (except in July and August) and is notable due to its very vivid stories and poetry. 

The March 1953 cover featured good-old Johnny Appleseed himself  and his colorful story. It’s fun and whimsical, two things children would notice right away. Poetry such as “The Wind is a Witch,” and stories like “Aunt Dorothy’s Mailbox” and “Guessing Games” surely provided endless reading fun and excitement. 

CHILDREN’S ACTIVITIES

Then president, Harry L. Wells writes in the March 1953 issue of the magazine: Children…our greatest asset, our greatest opportunity. Since the conception of Children’s Activities some 20 years before 1953, the Child Training Association, publishers of the magazine, believed that children were our greatest asset, our country’s greatest opportunity. And who could argue with that, even today. 

The magazine featured vivid illustrations, stories, and activities parents could enjoy together with their children. The March 1953 issue had cover work by an eminent photographer, Rie Gaddis, who held a degree in Journalism from the University of Iowa. According to the “About the Cover” segment, the image was a completely new look for the magazine, featuring a brother and sister who were on their way to a vacant lot with their homemade kite ready for flight. 

The magazine was filled with all kinds of activities and stories and poetry that would keep children entertained for hours. It was an educational title, but created in a way that no child would ever suspect that not only were they being mesmerized by tales and fun activities, they were also learning something at the same time. 

CHILDREN’S DIGEST

From Parents’ MagazineChildren’s Digest was a children’s magazine published in the United States from October 1950 to May/June 2009, after which it was merged with Jack and Jill from the same publisher. Parents Magazine Press began publishing the magazine in digest format in its early years (hence the name) until 1980 when it was sold to The Saturday Evening Post Society. 

The original idea was that it would be the Reader’s Digest for children, so it republished stories, comics and other features from magazines across the globe. The 1953 issue had an illustration of Pinocchio and his creator on the cover to accompany the story inside the magazine’s pages. There was also a story about Abraham Lincoln, a how-to on devising one’s own secret code, and a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson. The magazine was filled with amazing stories, colorful comics and everything a child might dream about in the throes of kid-dom. 

Stay tuned for part 2 of the Children and Teen magazines of March 1953 up next….

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Black Magazines Of 1953: The Magazines And I. Chapter Six, Part Two.

May 16, 2021

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

OUR WORLD

Our World magazine was a publication founded by John P. Davis for African Americans and was published from 1946 to 1957. Davis co-founded the National Negro Congress, an organization dedicated to the advancement of African Americans during the Great Depression. Along with Our World magazine, he also published the American Negro Reference Book, covering many aspects of African American life, present and past.

Our World was another title that promoted the excellence of African Americans, their achievements and the successful lives that many led. It covered contemporary topics from Black history to sports and entertainment, with regular articles on health, fashion, politics and social awareness. Its covers featured entertainers such as Lena Horne, Marian Anderson, and Harry Belafonte.

The February 1953 issue featured Isabelle Cooley, the beautiful actress, known for Cleopatra (1963), Real Genius (1985) and Parenthood (1989). Along with Ms. Cooley, there was an article on Joey Adams, L.A.’s top platter-spinner, and Solly Walker, St. John University’s first black basketball player. The magazine was large in size and the cover was splashed with bright colors and vivid images. It was another title that proved how important and notable people of color were and the deeply woven threads of pride and promise they made in the nation’s overall tapestry.

SEPIA

Sepia was a magazine that featured fantastic photojournalism. It was styled a lot like Look, but often compared to Ebony. It focused primarily on achievements of African Americans and was founded in 1946 as Negro Achievements by Horace J. Blackwell, an African American clothing merchant from Fort Worth. Blackwell had already founded The World’s Messenger in 1942, which featured romance-true confession type stories of working-class Blacks.

In 1950, George Levitan, a Jewish-American man born in Michigan, bought the magazines and Good Publishing Company (aka Sepia Publishing). Levitan is the one who changed the name of the magazine to Sepia from Negro Achievements, and The World’s Messenger became Bronze Thrills. He also published Heb and Jive for Black audiences as well. 

According to the magazine’s history, after Levitan’s death in October 1976, Beatrice Pringle, one of the original publisher/editor team with Blackwell, bought Sepia and continued operations through 1982. The magazine still had a strong circulation of around 160,000 in 1983 when Ms. Pringle closed up shop. Many scholars have supposedly had a difficult time researching the magazine, as its records and building were mostly destroyed after it closed.

THE CRISIS

As mentioned earlier, The Crisis was and still is the official magazine of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Founded in 1910 by W. E. B. Du Bois, who was also a founding member of the NAACP, along with Oswald Garrison Villard, J. Max Barber, Charles Edward Russell, Kelly Miller, William Stanley Braithwaite, and Mary Dunlop Maclean created the magazine to show the injustices and danger that racial prejudice generated. The Crisis has been in continuous print since 1910, and is the oldest Black-oriented magazine in the world. But today, The Crisis mostly operates online via social media outlets such as Facebook, Instagram, and through their website.

With a smaller format, The Crisis relied more on content than aesthetics. The March 1953 issue, while not distinctly eye-catching, definitely makes up for its lack of outer resplendence with the articles within its covers. From “Mugo-Son-Of-Gatheru,” a story about the Kenyan writer who left  his home on the Kikuyu Reserve when he was a teenager, to “American-Panamanian Relations,” the articles are on point for the times and substantive. It’s a magazine that shed much light on the plight of people everywhere.

Looking at these great ethnic magazines of March 1953, we see a definite foundation for all of the mainstream titles we have today in the genre. And while many have gone and some have been reborn in different formats, the fact remains that ethnic magazines played a major role in the early history of magazines, especially in March 1953.

Up next, we take a look at the Children magazines of that era. Stay tuned.

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