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 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.


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.


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. 


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…

One comment

  1. I don’t think these titles were still around 10 years later. I do remember “True Story” and “True Confessions” in the 1960s.

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