Success Magazine failed for the first time on this day (December 29) in 1911. The 12-year-old magazine, founded by inspirational writer Orison Swett Marden, declared that its December issue would be the last.
Frank Crowninshield, editor of Vanity Fair magazine from 1913 until it was merged into Vogue during the Great Depression, died on this day (December 28) in 1947. He was 75. In her memoir "Always in Vogue," Edna Woolman Chase described how the famously gentlemanly Crownshield would reject material: "Crowny rarely saw face to face a contributor whose work he didn't want; his heart was too tender. Instead he dictated charming little notes flattering the writer on the perception and sensitivity of his piece, his wit and freshness of phrasing, and suggested he send it to the Ladies' Home Journal."
Cosmopolitan editor Ray Long, probably the best-paid editor of his era, made news on this day (December 27) in 1930, when it was revealed that he had bought "The Shy Model," a well-known painting by the late Swedish artist Anders Zorn. Long committed suicide in 1935; the painting is now in the Finnish National Gallery.
Good, if sad, piece in the local Journal News today about the last Reader's Digest employees vacating the company's famous headquarters in Chappaqua, N.Y. (informally referred to as Pleasantville, the magazine's former home and longtime mailing address). Among those quoted is onetime top editor Ed Thompson.
It occurs to me, as one of many people who passed through Pleasantville, that there's probably a good book, or at least business-school case study, to be written about the Digest's seemingly endless decline, taking up where earlier books like John Heidenry's "Theirs Was the Kingdom" (1993) and Peter Canning's "America Dreamers" (1996) left off.
O. Henry, one the most famous magazine bylines of the early 20th century, first appeared over a short story in McClure’s magazine called “Whistling Dick’s Christmas Stocking.” As readers would eventually learn, “Henry” was actually William Sydney Porter, a convicted embezzler doing time at the Federal pen in Columbus, Ohio, and sending out stories under a variety of pseudonyms. With the 1898 McClure’s sale, O. Henry became the one that stuck. Porter went on to write other Christmas tales, including his most famous, “The Gift of the Magi.” Incidentally, Porter was briefly the editor and owner of a weekly humor publication called The Rolling Stone.
The character played by Barbara Stanwyck in the movie "Christmas in Connecticut" (1945) is said to have been loosely based on Gladys Taber, a well-known columnist for Ladies' Home Journal and Family Circle from the 1930s through the 1960s. In the movie, Stanwyck's character works for a magazine called Smart Housekeeping.
Harper's Weekly published cartooonist Thomas Nast's first cover drawing of Santa Claus in its January 3, 1863 issue. In it, the jolly old elf is seen bestowing gifts on Union troops, while dressed in what appears to be the stars and stripes. Nast is credited with creating the familiar image of Santa Claus that lives on to this day.
Starting in 1939, the eccentric but hugely successful magazine entrepreneur Bernarr Macfadden (Liberty, True Story, Physical Culture, and many others) proposed the creation of what he called "America's Night of Light." In newspaper guest editorials and full-page ads, he urged that "we light every lamp in America on Christmas Eve as America's answer to the blackout just beginning abroad." Macfadden continued to push the idea in 1940 but seems to have dropped it the following Christmas, when the December 7 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought the U.S. officially into the war as well.
The short story that would become the ubiquitous 1946 Christmas movie "It's a Wonderful Life" made its first magazine appearance in the December 1944 issue of Reader's Scope, a short-lived title that positioned itself as a liberal alternative to the Reader's Digest.