Books are a forest and it’s hard to see the trees, except the tall ones or the old ones. But when you enter the forest, it’s the new growth that emits the sunlight....

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Prized surprises in magazine collecting

Once in a while I become acquainted with a forgotten author or publication that I want to collect – especially after my stock of it sells.  Woman’s World magazine, published in Chicago until the late 1930s, is one of those. It was “The Magazine of the Middle West” in the 1920s and then “The Magazine of the Country.”   What jumped out were the art deco covers.  This one is an art deco Mary Tyler Moore, throwing her cap in Chicago, I guess.

The magazine featured short fiction for women, their television shows of the time.  Deco fashion patterns and even in the Midwest, articles questioning the role of women, were desirable features for collecting.  

As I list magazines, I’m often drawn to articles.   An example in Woman’s World began with “Probably one thousand times a year the postman brings me a letter asking if I can help some woman out of the drab, gray commonplace of domestic unhappiness.”  Below is the photo that accompanied the article.  Across from it were four featured women with the heading “Women Who Are Doing Things.”

During the Depression, the magazine shrunk.  There weren’t so many pages of fashion for the social set.  The magazine kept their crafts, recipes, gardening, and homemaking articles.  It was defunct by 1940.

What really sold this magazine on eBay were their children’s pages.  My first lot of these magazines featured a children’s author and photographer whose name I didn’t remember – Harry Whittier Frees.   His photographs of clothed pets at Pussyway Park and Catnip School captured me.

Doing a little research, I realized I had probably seen a book of his in my childhood, maybe his Four Kittens.  I hadn’t come across any of his books during my years of book collecting and I wish I had!  They are certainly collectible.

As a child, I had quite a preference for photography in children’s books.  The Lonely Doll and the story series about regional children, Madeline Brandeis’s, fascinated me.  I’ve wondered why this book art wasn’t continued much. 

Then I obtained an earlier lot of Woman’s World.  To my delight, the children’s author-artist featured in their 1920s issues was Johnny Gruelle, the creator of Raggedy Ann.  His stories “The Invisible Pig”, “The Whirling Jinny”, and “The Whangdoodles” apparently weren’t done in book form or the books are extremely rare.  I couldn’t find them as books.    I guess the previous owner of the magazines hadn’t recognized the name of Raggedy Ann’s author – a lucky buy.  

That often happens with magazines.  Once I bought a Judge magazines from a book dealer I knew.  He had so much stock that he didn’t know about the Seuss cartoons in one of the issues.   Doctor Seuss, under that name, began with hilarious political cartoons.  

With so many memorable books being published digitally, I try to keep up my vintage magazine stock.  And because I have enjoyed listing them so much.  It’s a nice surprise when you find a major author’s short story or you come across controversial articles.  Few adult magazines maintained a children’s page so charming as that of Woman’s World.

Recently I was surprised, going through some 1890 issues of The Quiver:  An Illustrated Magazine for Sunday and General Reading.   The magazines have lovely Victorian illustrations however most of the articles and fiction are religious.  Yet at the back, most issues advertised ladies’ girdles and underthings, illustrated in the full-figure fashion.  I can’t imagine a religion-oriented magazine doing that today.

While writing this, I was watching my bid for 1871 Home and Hearth magazine issues.  Most have a farm animal on the cover.  The magazine was advertised for its farm orientation. However, I discovered that this magazine was first edited by Harriet Beecher Stowe.  I couldn’t believe it was the same magazine but it was, I found when I looked up an image of its banner.   Stowe handed the editing over to someone else in the early 1870s but she contributed afterwards with articles about slavery and other writings.  I can’t wait to explore these issues.  I got it for the lowest bid and they’re in the mail!

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