Looking Backward Takes History, Looking Forward Makes History…

October 5, 2022

Magazines: United We Stand; Television, Internet, And Social Media: Divided We Sit. Part Two

Lessons from the past for today’s magazine editors and publishers… “Whoever has ears, let them hear.” Matthew 13:9

October 1942, 80 years ago, Harper’s Bazaar was celebrating its 75th anniversary.  On page 32 of that issue there was an ad for Hearst Magazines, publisher of Harper’s Bazaar and seven other magazines back then.  The ad read: 

“Looking backward takes history

For three-quarters of a century, Harper’s Bazaar has brilliantly chronicled, year-by-year, step-by-step, the expanding life of a great nation, the more or less intimate details of burgeoning frontiers in many fields of thought and expression. In similar capacities these seven other magazines of the Hearst Group have reflected in their turning pages, the living history of a people – what they saw and wanted and liked, what they ate and wore and did for a living, what they reasoned and argued about and cared for deeply – as no single historian will ever be able to write it down.  These magazines are an integral portion of the past in the country. No complete picture of that past can really be obtained without consulting them. For they are history.”

“Looking forward makes history

These gratifying records of years of continuous publication and esteemed public service are rooted primarily in the determination and the capacity of these magazines to set the pace. They have made and continue to make history because they accept the challenge of the future – accept it and forecast it and help to shape it. Longevity in magazines is no happen-so, but the carefully considered and earnestly dedicated efforts of their publishers to give them a useful and valiant purpose to contribute workable material to the lives of their readers, to make them an instrument for good in the hands of the people they seek to serve.” Harper’s Bazaar, October 1942, Page 32.

And all what I can add to the above ad is a quote from the Good Book, “Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

In the first part of this blog I wrote (if you read part one of this blog, you can skip down to Cosmopolitanmagazine, October 1942):

“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.

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…”

In addition to the aforementioned ad from Harper’s Bazaar above, here is the second set of examples starting in alphabetical order and based on the magazines that I own:

Cosmopolitan, October 1942

In an article by Ralph Barton Perry on page six of the October 1942 issue, he writes, “AN ARMY sergeant remarked after hearing a friend of mine explain where Hitler got his ideas, “That Machiavelli certainly was no cream puff.” He was beginning to see that something was fundamentally wrong with the present state of the world.  As long as two years ago a New Hampshire farmer of my acquaintance, who had been reading the newspapers, said, “Well, I suppose that sooner or later we’ve got to lick that man Hitler; and the sooner we get at it the better.  I’ll be seeing you on the other side.”

“Mr. Average American doesn’t regard war as a picnic or a great adventure: he can think of lots of things he’d rather be doing. But once he is convinced that there’s a job to be done, he’ll do it and he’ll see it through…”

“So when I am asked what sort of world we want, and I try to speak for other Americans as well as for myself, I say that we want a safe world, and a free world, and a just world. We want safety, freedom and justice; we want them for others, as well as for ourselves and we have come to see that we cannot have them for ourselves unless we share them with others in a common world,  All who would live in such a world must fight for it together along the hard road that ascends through the valley of war to the heights of victory.”

As for the ads, the “United We Stand” could easily be seen in the majority of the ads including this one for Pullman (The Greyhound of the 1940s)… The ad reads:

“There’s room for both…IF !

AS THINGS NOW STAND, there are enough Pullman cars to meet all requirements for troop transportation without seriously affecting civilian passenger service IF… civilian travelers cooperate in making capacity use of cars!

Therefore, you help your own cause by following these simple suggestions whenever you make an overnight trip:

  1. Make reservations as early as possible.
  2. Cancel reservations promptly if your plans change.
  3. Ask your ticket salesman on which days Pullmans are least crowded and try to travel on those days.
  4. Take as little luggage as you can.

And you get the “sleep going” that is so important when you have to “keep going” at all-out wartime pace.”

On final note, every ad page in the magazine had a sentence in the folio of the ad-page, “Keep informed – read Magazine Advertising!”

Esquire, July and October 1942

The July 1942 issue of Esquire had not one, not two, but three American flags on the cover. The main flag appeared on the traditional metallic ink section that was a trademark of Esquire’s right hand side of the cover with a list of the contents of that issue on it.  In an editorial on page 6 of this issue, the editors wrote, “WITH this issue we bid goodbye, for the duration to the metallic ink on the front cover.  Appropriately enough it goes out in a blaze of Old Glory, as it frames the flag that is a front cover feature of virtually all the magazines that are on sale the week of July Fourth this year.  Next month, to mark the transition the flag will stay on our cover, but the metallic ink will be gone…”

“At Pearl Harbor… the light of the world flickered dangerously low for a few dark hours.  But ss this is written, to the accompaniment of a broadcast of Gen. MacArthur’s communiqués concerning the results of the first Battle of the Coral Sea, the flame is rising steadily.” 

And in October 1942, Esquire, “The Magazine for Men”, and “the largest selling fifty cents magazine in the world,” continued its United We Stand campaign and Old Glory draped the content on the cover sans the metallic ink.  Old Glory continued to appear on the cover one more issue and it was retired with the December 1942 cover.

As for the advertisers, and there were plenty, they played their role in the United We Stand campaign.  Here is one example from the October issue from the United States Rubber Company. 

“Thanks for the Rubber that Saved his Life!”

“Already in America any one of a million mothers might have written that line.  Planned is an army of six million, many of them destined for overseas.

On every transport there is life-saving equipment for every man… on every plane that flies far over the water there is a rubber boat.  Such essential protection must not be skimped. It is unthinkable…

Precious life will be sacrificed unless each one of us helps. Will you do your part to the utmost limit? Will you take watchful care of your tires and every other rubber product you own so that they will last for the duration of the war?

Field & Stream, July 1942

Field & Stream, like the majority of the magazines, had a painting of the American flag on the cover together with “United We Stand” and “Buy United States War Savings bonds And Stamps.”  What was unlike the rest of the  magazines  was a spread headlined WHAT WE ARE FIGHTING FOR :

“AS long as deep love of country burns I the hearts of our young men, we need not fear the future. The letter which we here publish speaks for itself. We are proud of this letter and proud to print it. It was written by a young student at the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee, to his aunt in Columbia, South Carolina.”

The magazine published the letter  and followed it with,

“We believe that no loyal American citizen can read this boy’s letter without getting a lump in his throat.  Our country may mean spruce and juniper and high mesas, or it may mean palmettos and cypress swamps.  The important thing is that it means something deep and stirring to all of us.  These are the things for which we will fight.”

On the ad front, an ad on page 84 asking readers to Give to the USO.  Under the heading The War isn’t fought in Fox Holes alone

“It’s fought in the mind. It’s fought with a will to win.  It’s fought with a belief in a cause worth dying for.

That will, that belief, is known as morale.

Our enemies have had years of indoctrination. They have been conditioned to believe themselves part of a “new order”… to which the contribution of their lives is small but important. They believe themselves cogs in a vast machine.

Our soldiers do not fight that way – because they do not live that way. They believe in the sanctity of the individual. They must be treated as persons…

Now above all times, to make your dollars count, give to the USO!

Harper’s Bazaar, October 1942

It’s the 75th anniversary issue of the magazine that was launched in 1867.  An ad on pages 16 f and 16 g for the New York Dress Institute sums the state of the magazine during the United We Stand efforts.  The ad reads: 

“A Woman’s Right of Choice”

“IN TEN SHORT MONTHS we have been hurled into a strange new world – a world battling to determine whether freedom of choice shall survive. As a people, we have cheerfully chosen to restrict our freedoms nowthat freedom itself might live.

ENTHUSIASTICALLY, we are investing our savings in the greatest cause I history.  Eagerly, we have entered into various war works.  Willingly, we have chosen to share our riches with those who share our hopes. For ours is a land of plenty in a very empty world.

IN MAKING SUCH A CHOICE, we have deliberately limited the quantity of many times essential to the war effort. This is as it should be. But, there are other goods and many workers which cannot be absorbed into war industries. These industries must be kept earning that they, too, can contribute their share to the war economy in taxes and bonds…”

And the ad concludes, 

“SO BUY YOUR FULL QUOTA OF WAR BONDS – more if you can. Then, erase every doubt that you are being unpatriotic when you choose fashions to keep you lovely.”

To be continued…

Samir “Mr. Magazine™”Husni

Founder and Director

Magazine Media Center

Preserving the Past, Present, and Future of Magazine Media


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