The iPhones Of The 1950s: Yesterday’s Newsstands Bring You Surprises & A Glimpse Into The Future…

October 3, 2019

A Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

In my research, I discovered a genre of magazines that has technically been ignored. I haven’t seen anything really written about them that give this group of magazines the credit that they deserve. These magazines would have to be described as the “iPhones” of the 1950s. They are the size of a shirt pocket and they were touted as such, “pocket-sized” titles, small enough for men to carry in their shirt pockets or women to carry in their purses. The amazing thing is that even in the 1950s, magazine makers realized that people needed information on-the-go, and if you think about it, these magazines actually blazed the trail for the technology we have today.

In fact, in March 2001, Glamour burst onto newsstands in the U.K. with its own pocket-sized version, promoted as the magazine that “fits into your life and your handbag,” and it was an immediate hit. But long before the 21st century, magazines of this convenient and mobile size were in the marketplace.

I was able to find 53 pocket-sized titles that covered the gamut when it came to topics. From the newsweekly, a magazine called Quick that was launched by Look magazine, and of course, everyone knows that Look magazine was one of the trio that ruled the magazine industry in the 1940s and the 1950s: Life, Look and The Saturday Evening Post. People are more familiar with those three titles during that era than any of the other magazines.

So, Look launched this weekly magazine called Quick, which was a newsweekly that fit into your shirt pocket or purse. When Quick folded, the staff of that magazine took over and launched another magazine called Tempo, then later on Tempo and Quick merged.

These titles were a personification of the entire magazine industry and the pop culture of that era. They did exactly what digital is doing today, making one’s pocket or purse an outlet for information and the news of the moment. And in the 1950s, those magazines provided the same thing.

And the information and news they provided was diverse, from Adonis, the art magazine of the male physique to TV Life, which provided people with the latest TV news, people and pictures, and then just everything in between. Sports, celebrities; even Jet magazine, which many people are familiar with today, was part of that genre, and between Jet and The Negro Review, they served the African American audience well. There was the Pocket Celebrity Scrapbook, which gave complete details about the celebrities of the day, such as Nat King Cole and Marilyn Monroe.

However, these titles didn’t shy away from any topic. There were no taboos, although there were a lot of topics that would be considered today not politically correct. Whether it was homosexuality, sex outside the marriage or sex inside the marriage, stories about the dangers of the birth control pill, stories criticizing baseball and stories praising baseball, tales of the world’s most provocative women and tales about the ideal physique for men.

If you look at the titles from the poster I created of these 53 magazines, you will see the variety of the subject matter. From humor to the most serious of topics, these magazines reflected society in their time. That’s why I’ve always said that magazines are the best reflectors of society, no matter what era one may live in. There is nothing that compares to magazines when it comes to mirroring pop culture in the world we live in.


So, enjoy a glimpse of these great covers from the 1950s and keep on reading magazines, for you never know what you might encounter along the way.

Until the next time…

Mr. Magazine™ will see you at the newsstands, somewhere between today and the portals of the past…

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