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

July 13, 2020

Chapter Two, Part One

The Year Was 1953…

Change Was the Only Constant

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

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

The Societal Mirror Image of Magazines & Their Impact

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

Niche Has Always Been the Name of The Game                 

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

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

Categories Galore                            

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

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

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

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

The Power of a Magazine Introduction

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

To be continued…


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