Quick: The Innovative Magazine That Fleur Cowles, Of Flair’s Fame, Left Behind. From The Mr. Magazine™ Vault… Part 1.

December 9, 2021
Quick magazine Vol. 1, No. 6, June 27, 1949. From Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni’s collection.

If you mention Fleur Cowles’ name, Flair magazine will immediately come to mind.  The artsy, short lived (Feb. 1950 to Jan. 1951), and probably ahead of its time magazine, that Ms. Cowles edited and became famous for, is still the talk of the town when people refer to her journalistic history. In an interview in Vanity Fair magazine, she refers to a hardbound set of the original Flair magazine as her obit. She is quoted saying, “people ask me, if you could read your obit, what would it say? My answer is that I would like it to be about Flair.”

However, there was no mention in the entire in-depth interview with Ms. Cowles about another magazine she launched before Flair.  The magazine that she left behind (although some believed she was the brainchild behind it) was a newsweekly that was modeled in size after the mini devotional magazines published in that era like Daily Word (since 1924), The Upper Room (since 1934) and Our Daily Bread (since 1938), and set the stage for what so to be called “pocket” mass distributed magazines.  

Flair magazine Vol. 1, No. 1, Feb. 1950. From Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni’s collection.

She and her third husband Gardner (Mike) Cowles launched Quick magazine in 1949. It was a weekly that dealt with people, pictures, and predictions. The magazine was 4 X 6 in size, small enough to fit in a man’s shirt pocket or a woman’s purse.  Ms. Cowles was the associate editor of the magazine and her husband was the editor, the same roles they had at the more famous Cowles publication LookQuick’s concept was to give its readers “all the news and inside information you need to be well informed; its predictions will tell you of events to come. Carry it in your pocket or your purse – and read it wherever you are.”

The first few issues of the magazine, starting with the May 23, 1949 issue, were tested locally in New York City. The gradual national launch started with Vol. 1, Number 6 in June of 1949. It continued to grow until it reached national circulation with its July 18, 1949 issue. This is why the magazine celebrated its first anniversary with the the July 17, 1950 issue.

Quick magazine Vol. 1, No.9 , July 18, 1949. From Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni’s collection.

The editors of Quick wrote in the first anniversary issue, “Just one year ago this week we launched Quick across the nation. At the time, we didn’t know how you would accept it.  But the growth has been strong, rapid and continuous – greater than anybody had dared to hope for.  We started that week, a year ago, with about 290,000 copies.  Now, Quick is selling nearly 900,000 every week.”

Quick magazine Vol. 3, No. 3, July 17, 1950. From Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni’s collection.

They go on to describe the content of Quick, “Each issue of Quick contains 11,000 words, giving the most significant aspects of the biggest and latest news in 27 fields of current interest.  There are about 100 photographs in each issue – the best news and feature photographs available in the world.”

As for the idea behind the launch of Quick, the editors go on to say, “Quick gives you a short, clear, easy-to-read summary of the week’s news – just what you need to keep you informed.  We want to make Quick your most useful magazine by so editing it that you will absorb the news you need in the shortest possible time.  We know your time is valuable.”  Sounds like the Mr. Magazine’s™ tagline, “more information in less time and less space.”

But alas, like the famous song says, “only the good die young,” Quick died shortly before it celebrated its fourth anniversary.  The last issue of Quick under Cowles was published on June 1, 1953.  Editor Gardner Cowles wrote addressing the readers of Quick, “This is the last issue of Quick.  Despite the fact that 1,300,000 people have been buying and enjoying this unique news magazine, publishing costs continued to exceed revenues.”

Quick magazine Vol. 8, No. 22, June 1, 1953. From Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni’s collection.

He added, “A good many advertisers found that Quick, used ingeniously, produced good results.  Too many other advertisers felt that the small page-size was too much of a handicap.  Without a substantial volume of advertising Quick could not continue as a quality news magazine. So we decided to merge Quick with Look, and thus preserve many of the news weekly ‘s most popular features.  These will be in Look, beginning with June 30 issue – on sale June 16.”

Look magazine Vol. 17, No. 13, June 30, 1953. (To give you an idea of the difference in size between Quick and Look magazines, I shot a picture of Quick on top of Look for illustration purposes). From Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni’s collection.

However, in its four years span, Quick magazine was innovative on many fronts in content, advertising, marketing and sponsorships. In future blogs I will address those innovations one at a time, and later will write about the return of Quick under another famous publishing figure from that era.

So stay tuned, there is much more to be written about Quick magazine… 

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