Magazines: United We Stand; Television, Internet, And Social Media: Divided We Sit. A Mr. Magazine™ Musing… Part 1.

September 28, 2022

Lessons from the past for today’s magazine editors and publishers…

In 1788, George Washington wrote a letter to Philadelphia publisher Matthew Carey in which he expressed the hope that American magazines would succeed because he considered them “easy vehicles of knowledge” that are “more happily calculated than any other, to preserve the liberty, stimulate the industry and meliorate the morale of an enlightened and free people.” 

John Tebbel, in his book The Magazine In America, commenting on Washington’s letter, noted that magazines were incomparably better purveyors of knowledge than the newspapers of Washington’s time. I agree and would add that magazines are incomparably much better purveyors of knowledge than the internet and social media which, together with television, are becoming the major source of news and information for the people, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center.

Mechanix Illustrated July 1942

80 years ago, in 1942, American  consumer and trade magazines led a campaign titled “United We Stand.” Almost every magazine in the country carried the American flag on its July cover and continued with the slogan “United We Stand” until the end of WWII.  This was a coordinated effort by the collective body of magazine publishers of that time.  Unlike  today’s internet and social media, magazines back then were attempting to unite the country, while social media, the internet and television now are allowing the country to live a “virtual civil war” with no end in sight. 

Some of those magazines from 1942 are still alive and kicking. They are still promoting the good things in life, nurturing the many changes that took and are taking place in the country.  For better or worse, magazines and their brands have contributed to the betterment of the country and its people regardless of the prevailing trends.  They were and are innovators, influencers, and educators at the same time.  This is a far cry from what social media is today or what it will be tomorrow.  Indeed, social media, with all its platforms, could be said to be united under one term, “Divided We Sit.”  The majority of magazines adhered to their roles, both social and financial, with great responsibility, unlike today’s social media that only carries the name “social” without any responsibility. In fact, social media is as unsocial as unsocial can be. 

I truly believe that the war of the 1940s was much less dangerous to our country than the “virtual civil war” we are witnessing today.  The magazines of the 1940s united together to help the country stay united and to help the American public survive and thrive in every aspect of  its lives.  What follows are a few randomly selected examples, from the Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni magazine collection, from 1942 of how magazines and their advertisers supported the war effort and helped keep our country united.  The contents and magazine experiences, both in editorial and advertising, were much more than a slogan (“United We Stand”), but rather a way of life and a call to action. 

May the editors and publishers of today’s magazines look at the history of American magazines and  discover  how magazines served their customers first–both advertisers and readers–and never veered from their mission of  editing and publishing for that intended subscriber or newsstand buyer…

Here is the first set of examples starting in alphabetical order and based on the magazines that I own:

Baseball Magazine, October 1942

Baseball magazine October 1942

An editorial comment in the magazine stated that, “Between the close of the season and the opening of the series there is ample time for a player to write his name two hundred times…”

“Would these souvenir score-cards bring one hundred dollars each? We believe there is no reasonable doubt about it.  World Series patrons are generally of a moneyed class as is evidenced by the present system of selling seats in blocks of three at advanced prices. The cards would be permanent mementos of a gala occasion, not signed by one outstanding player, mind you, but by the entire cast of a championship team.”

“These four hundred cards (two hundred from each league) sold at one hundred dollars each would bring in $40,000.00. What disposition should be made of this goodly sum?…”

“We propose, however, that war bonds by purchased with it. The sum would buy more than $50,000.00 worth of bonds. In whose names should these bonds be listed, the championship clubs, or the players? Of course not. In the name of the Cooperstown Baseball Museum, certainly.”

Although the magazine is ad-free it managed to devote a quarter page for victory and to ‘BUY UNITED STATES SAVINGS BONDS AND STAMPS.’”

Better Homes & Gardens, October 1942

Better Homes & Gardens October 1942

Under the heading “What ‘Home Front’ Means to Us” the editors wrote in the opening editorial: “THE STATUS OF HOME is thus the supreme issue in this titanic upheaval.  The guns and the tanks and the planes are deciding that issue. And thus it is that amid the blackout of barbarism we light again the candle of Liberty, seeing in in the window of the American home where it can be seen from afar. Countless millions are turning strained eyes across land and see to catch that gleam of hope shining into their despair from this Land of the Free. With every tortured breath they pray that we may be wiser and strong as we strive for the victory, and for their sakes as much as our own, we shall not fail.”

And from the ads in the magazine, here is  one example from Simmons, the makers of BEAUTYREST mattresses for their The White Knight mattress that is “made without an ounce of critical war material.” The ad encourages American that, “UNLESS U REALLY NEED a new mattress – or any other merchandise – don’t buy it! Put the money into War Savings Bonds and Stamps, instead. That way, you’ll have the money when the need does arise. In the meantime, your “idle money” will be helping to help the war.”

Children’s Activities, October 1942

Children’s Activities October 1942

Garry C. Myers, Ph.D., the editor-in-chief of Children’s Activities magazine (and four years later the co-founder with his wife Highlights for Children magazine) wrote in The Editor Chats, “We all love our country. We are proud to be Americans. We want to be GOOD Americans! Here in America we enjoy freedom. WE are free to have good schools and good communities to live in. We are free to worship God as we please.”

“Some of us have fathers or brothers or uncles who are soldiers or air pilots or who are serving otherwise in the army, navy, or air force. They are risking their lives to defend this wonderful country of ours and to save for us all that we hold dear.”

“It seems a shame that any child would harm or destroy anything of value when so many men must sacrifice their lives to save these very things from being destroyed by our enemies.”

“We can all do much to help win this war and bring it to a speedy end.  Boy and girls can do their part by trying harder always to do as they know they should do, by being thoughtful of the rights and possessions of others – in short, by being good American citizens.”

And from the ads in the magazine, (unlike Highlights for Children, there were ads in Children’s Activities magazine), an ad for DOLE Hawaiian Pineapple Products contained the following sidebar: “Get your scrap in the scrap NOW! These fighting words call for the cooperation of families to search their homes for metals and junk —  critical materials needed at one for the production of munitions, tanks, airplanes and ships.”

Consumer Reports, August 1942

Consumer Reports October 1942

The magazine that is published by the Consumer Union (CU) and does not carry any adverting ran an editorial on its inside front cover that read: “AN INEFFICIENT BUYER OR A WASTEFUL USER IS A LUXURY THE NATION CANNOT AFFORD… NEW buying problems… new problems in using… and a whole new set of forces affecting eh marketplace have enormously complicated the consumer’s job. As products go off the market, substitute products – or substitute ways for doing what the old products did – call for evaluation. Price and quality changes are altering the character of hundreds of products and simultaneously altering the consumer’s basis of choice. Scarcities must be met with entirely new standards of efficiency on the buyer’s part . CU’S WARTIME JOB is to chart these developments, advise what to do to keep apace of them, help the consumer to get the most out of his earnings while contributing the most to the war effort.  More than any other source available to consumers, the CU publications – weekly monthly and yearly – are doing this job. More than ever before you can’t afford to be without them – and your friends can’t either.

Of note is the August issue cover story was on coffee and offered readers “how to get 20 more cups per pound.”

Comments, reactions, etc. feel free to email me at samir.husni@gmail.com or leave your comments below.


© 2022 By Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, Ph.D. 

Founder and Director, Magazine Media Center, U.S.A.

One comment

  1. Fantastic my dear friend, Samir! Thank you for sharing your blog. It is very informative. Among other issues you raised, I love the comparison you made, magazines vs todays social media. Indeed, I agree it is “social”without responsibilities. This is just one comment from me. Well done!

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