Beau: The Man’s Magazine Of The 1920s… Defining Upscale Audiences While Fighting Censorship… A Mr. Magazine™ Blast From The Past

August 28, 2019

Beau addresses itself to those who live well, dine well, dress well, play well, read well, work well, sleep well and die well. It is distinctly a magazine for moderns, for epicureans, for sophisticates. It is written with masculine vigor and strength; for, though Beau professes itself the friend of the ladies, it regrets the almost exclusive attention paid by magazine editors to the feminine taste. So Beau declares itself a magazine dedicated to the male point of view, though willing, even anxious to welcome the ladies as readers. (Beau, Volume One, Number One, October 1926)

The more I dig into the old magazines, the more I discover personalities and magazine makers that somehow during my studies of publishing history, and my professors’ teachings, were either marginalized or were not mentioned enough, in terms of the role they played in the American magazine industry.

One such person I’m discovering is Samuel Roth, who published at least five different magazines during his tenure from the 1920s all the way to the 1950s, including Two Worlds Monthly and one that really caught my attention, which he referred to as the man’s magazine, Beau. (See Mr. Roth’s concept for the magazine above). Beau was a magazine that, almost like all of his other titles, was very high-priced, almost 50 cents per issue. His reason for that was because he didn’t want his magazines to be bought by common folks. In fact, he would have preferred his magazines to be sold only to doctors, lawyers, and other upper-echelon professionals.

As he mentioned in one of his editorials, after his February 1927 issue was banned from distribution in New York City, his man’s magazine was devoted to the comforts and luxuries of living.  His argument for that line of thinking was that he didn’t want common people to get “cheap thrills” from his magazine; it was for the sophisticated only. That he wasn’t appealing to the baser natures of mankind, but rather the more educated and elite of society.

What follows are some quotes that he wrote in an editorial from March 1927 after the February issue of Beau from that same year was banned from distribution in New York City, and the fascinating description of what the magazine was all about:

“Two Worlds Monthly and Beau are written and published for the sophisticated only, that neither by lewd pictures or lewd contents do we make appeal to the baser passions of mankind.”

 “Two Worlds Monthly was quite alright, he said (he being, John Sumner, secretary of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice), and we could go ahead distributing it immediately, but Beau, ah, that was a different story. It was absolutely unthinkable to let Beau go out on the harmless newsstands dripping with nudes, which any little boy may purchase for fifteen cents. No, said Mr. Sumner, he did not approve Beau and if I dared to issue it of my own accord he would unfailingly prosecute me.”

 Here is a small excerpt from that March 1927 editorial:

Here, cried my friends, is your opportunity for plenty of publicity – publicity that will create a vast demand for your magazines. But strange as it may seem, I did not follow their advice, I did not take the matter into court with Mr. Sumner. Such publicity, I felt, would bring many readers to Two Worlds Monthly and Beau, but not the sort of readers I want. Such publicity would bring me readers who look to magazines for filth whereas all we have to offer is wit, beauty, and gaiety. It would be taking an unfair advantage of the poor dubs.

But I want the readers of Beau to judge between myself and Mr. Sumner. Mr. Sumner characterizes as filth the famous suppressed Franklin letter To The Academy of Brussels,and the Paul Morand story Finding Your Woman in Paris, whereas I regard them as exquisite satirical compositions calculated to enrich the life of every man or woman capable of reading them.

What is more, I think the suppressed number of Beau probably the most beautiful copy of any magazine ever printed in America.

Samuel Roth

I physically own the particular copy of Beauthat caused this bit of controversy. Ironically, there is no nudity, such as Sumner speaks of with the description: “dripping with nudes.”  But Samuel Roth is definitely a gentleman from that past that made his mark known in the word of magazines, and nudity in his other titles was prevalent.

We’ll discover more about Mr. Roth in the future as I delve more into his past and the magazines he published.

Until the next time…

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