1919: A Pivotal Year For Magazines… A Mr. Magazine™ Musing…

October 16, 2019

Mr. Magazine™ was relaxing in his vault recently when it dawned on him that the magazines of 1919 were looking back at him from all around the massive room. The faces of a century ago seemed to be channeling his psyche pointedly, beseeching him to tell their story. He stared back at them, turning slowly in a circle, absorbing their loud but silent pleas completely. And then he wrote this…

 The Year Was 1919

Reflecting the times has always been something that magazines do well; 100 years ago and today. The covers told the stories vividly. From Teddy Roosevelt on the cover of “The New Success,” to an editorial his son, Theodore Jr., wrote in “Our Boys” magazine, 1919 served as a year to remember in magazine history.

Highlights Of The Times

 In 1919, the first World War (or the Great War, as it was called back then) had just ended and the country was trying to absorb the effects, financially and emotionally. Woodrow Wilson was the leader of the free world and his dream of a League of Nations becomes a reality after the League Covenant is adopted at the Paris Peace Conference.

Also in 1919, a group of 19 magazine publishers from across the entire magazine publishing scene, from consumer to trade and farm publications, came together to form the National Association of Periodical Publishers, Inc., which later became MPA – The Association of Magazine Media.

The Role Of The Magazine

The role magazines played as experience makers was and still is remarkable. “Harper’s Bazaar,” for example, had its Christmas, 1919 edition, in which the magazine offered an invitation to its new and enlarged offices in the heart of fashionable Paris:

We cordially invite all Americans visiting on either pleasure or business to make these new Harper’s Bazar offices their Paris headquarters. Particularly do we wish to point out the advantages of consulting with our resident representatives there before embarking on shopping expeditions in fashion’s capital.  

In short, Harper’s Bazar was offering American newcomers to the city of Paris a verbal guide to the shops and couturiers of the city, advising Americans where to find what they wanted, how to get there, and even how much they should pay. A total experience with one of their favorite magazines, indeed.

When Magazines Ruled The Land

A century ago magazines ruled the land. From the mass general interest titles like “The Saturday Evening Post” and “The National Geographic Magazine” to the more specialized and niche publications such as “The Farm Journal” and “Field and Stream,” 100 hundred years ago the scepter of information and entertainment belonged to magazines.

And when it comes to specialty titles, niche magazines do not just belong to the 21st century. In 1919, there were singular topics covered on a regular basis in magazines: “Successful Farming,” “The American Legion Weekly,” “Photo-Era,” and the list goes on and on. So, being a niche magazine is not a new idea, it’s just a good idea that continues today.

Looking Good For Your Age

When something or someone lives to see 100 years or more, they know what the word longevity means. Magazines that have such a long heritage are indeed something very special. Today there are more than 50 print magazines that have flourished for more than 100 years.

From “Harper’s Bazaar” to “Scientific American,” “Good Housekeeping,” to “The Nation,” these legacy titles have become generational favorites over the years and each one of them are as relevant, informational and entertaining today as they were during the eras of their infancy. Magazines reflect our society no matter the year on the calendar. They always have and they always will.

When The Presses Stopped

Wanting higher wages and better hours in their work week, local unions in New York City made their demands clear in 1919 to their international unions, closing every magazine printing establishment in New York City by striking. The end result was magazines that were late being delivered and in some cases, not being delivered at all, such as with the November issue of Harper’s Bazar:

Harper’s Bazar, December, 1919

 In not publishing a November number, Harper’s Bazar skipped an issue for the first time in fifty-one years. This unprecedented occurrence was a result of the stand taken by New York Publishers in their controversy with the radical local printers who went on strike in defiance of the orders of their international unions. Even at the sacrifice of one of our most important issues of the year, Harper’s Bazar believed it necessary to stand together with all other New York Publishers in resisting the tyrannical demands of certain irresponsible leaders who were disowned by their own international unions and the American Federation of Labor. Subscribers will receive, instead of their November issues, one more number after the date on which their subscriptions would ordinarily expire.

And read the ad from the Periodical Publisher’s Association of America that appeared in the November issue of The National Geographic Magazine:

The Reason Why Magazines Published In New York City Will Be Late

Differences between certain local unions and their international unions have closed every magazine printing establishment in New York City. Some of the local unions have retained their membership in their international union, while the pressmen, feeders, and paper handlers have seceded and struck. These local unions demand a 32½ to 44- hour week and an increase of $14 per week, with double and triple pay for overtime, to take effect immediately. The international unions contend that the men should return to work and the entire matter be left to arbitration.

The publishers of the magazines meanwhile must suspend publication until the unions fight out their differences. This means “Collier’s Weekly,” “McClure’s,” “Pictorial Review,” “Cosmopolitan,” “Hearst’s Magazine,” “Harper’s Bazar,” “Good Housekeeping,” “Harper’s Magazine,” “Metropolitan,” “Scribner’s Magazine,” “Century,” “Munsey’s,” “Popular,” “Delineator,” “Everybody’s Magazine,” “McCall’s,” “Popular Science Monthly,” “Vogue,”  “Vanity Fair,” “Motion Picture Magazine,”, and 152 others, as well as many of the largest trade papers in the country, will not appear on time as usual.

Some of the publishers are making plans to remove their plants from New York to other places, and many Western cities are bidding vigorously to induce these publishers to consider their particular localities. Three very large publications have already completed plans for permanent removal, and their printing machinery and paper supply are now being shipped to Chicago.

The millions of readers of the publications affected by the strike are requested to be patient and to refrain from writing the publishers concerning delays in receipt of magazines. It will be only a question of a short time until the presses will again be running.

(Signed): Periodical Publisher’s Association of America.

NEW YORK CITY, October 10, 1919

The times were difficult, but magazines stayed strong.

Audience First

Putting the reader first was always important to magazines, even in 1919  and remains the mantra today. A magazine that was the backbone of what is now the Meredith Corporation, “Successful Farming” proudly stated it was for: the busy, practical working farmers of America whose interests determine its policy. The magazine published in the interest of the reader. And you can’t argue with that statement. If you don’t take care of your readers, your publication will not know success. It was true in 1919 and it’s still true today. Without your audience, what do you have? A nice book of information that no one is interested in.

Mr. Magazine™ Reflects…

Suffice it to say that 100 years have passed since 1919. Many things have changed; many things. However, some things haven’t. Information, entertainment, niche brands, and the most exquisite experiences can all still be found in magazines. That is a fact that has not, and will not ever change. Magazines and Mr. Magazine™ himself, if I may be so bold as to toot my own horn, are staunch advocates for the print experience. Both of us love to inform, entertain and create inimitable happenings in people’s lives that no pixels can recreate. Seeing us both in the flesh is quite the experience. And you know what they say… if it’s true, it ain’t bragging.

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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