Saving magazines for a century? Or even fifty years? Why would people do this? What was so engaging about these periodicals that they lived in the bottom of a cupboard or drawer for that length of time?
Some of these magazines stay with a family for three or four generations. I’m a third generation owner myself. While visiting my husband’s 94 year old grandmother on my honeymoon, we uncovered a stack of needlework magazines from the 1930s. She sent them home with me. I’ve taken care of them lovingly ever since. In not too many years they will reach their centennial anniversary. Maybe I’ll bake them a cake.
Learning New Skills
Actually, people held onto their magazines for several different reasons. They were considered valuable. Women’s magazines often contained step by step cooking instructions for new cooks. Divided into twelve to fourteen months (or even longer), each article told how to create a specific type of food. If you used those magazines to learn how to cook, or even to refresh your memory, you aren’t going to throw out the “breads” issue.
Experiencing the Best Authors and Illustrators
They also contained some of the best writers of the day. Edna Ferber, Mary Roberts Rhinehart, Kathleen Norris, Temple Bailey, and Faith Baldwin filled the pages. These authors, and more like them, kept women reading and subscribing for more. Usually the stories focused on relationships, but sometimes readers found a mystery or humor. Some of the stories focused on a social problem. And many times subscribers read through a new serialized novel by a famous author before its publication. Each issue published a few chapters of the novel until it was complete. The magazines with the best stories tended to be kept by their owners. Scroll through one of those magazines, Woman’s Home Companion.
Some magazines published new or famous art prints that could be removed and framed for the home. Others specialized in current or new popular artists. (Norman Rockwell, for instance, illustrated for The Saturday Evening Post for years.) Almost all these illustrations used charcoal, pencil, or ink drawings printed in black and white. They were still eye-catching and well done. Some magazines placed a color seasonal print on the cover every month to catch readers’ eyes. Others used the cover to highlight a project inside.
Reading for New Recipes
As the seasons turned, home managers turned to the pages of last year’s periodicals looking for useful, seasonal recipes. All cooking in the 1920s and 30s was seasonal cooking, unless the cook could obtain food in a can, or personally canned it herself the year before. Although many periodicals preached meal planning, the monthly menu calendar proved a welcome sight to many a weary cook. Sometimes published recipes were family favorites. Others combined familiar ingredients in new ways. During the Colonial revival of the 1920s, some periodicals published colonial-style recipes that used cornmeal as an ingredient.
Providing Patterns for Crafting
Some readers saved magazines for the needlework patterns. For example, filet crochet reached its heyday during the 1920s and 30s. Needleworkers who enjoyed that type of crochet work kept their magazines so they had ready access to patterns that all too soon dipped into obscurity. If someone liked to tat lace, the magazines provided a goldmine of patterns. Each issue of a needlework periodical until the 1940s or beyond featured one or more tatting patterns to keep those shuttles moving. My favorite tatting pattern of all time dates from 1919. Without saving magazines for a century, I never would have met this pattern.
Often, the magazines stayed around to be brought out every now and then in a fit of nostalgia. “Do you remember when…” can be a great story starter. A comment about an article sparks a family story. In addition, there is something precious about keeping Grandma’s magazines that she loved enough to treasure for fifty years. Paging through them brings up memories of Grandma’s baked bean recipe – with no barbecue sauce, thank you. Only savory beans for Grandma. Looking at the needlework patterns brings to mind the room dividers she embroidered in brown and green. (Wonder what ever happened to those?) Memories become as mellow as the pages that turn when we look through the old magazines that stay in the family generation after generation. There’s something to saving magazines for a century. Especially if they’re good ones.