Frances Lear, founder of Lear's, a pioneering magazine for older women, died in New York City on this day (September 30) in 1996. Lear spent a reported $25 million of her $100-plus million divorce settlement from TV producer Norman Lear to launch her magazine, which started up in 1988 and survived for six years. She was also widely reported to be the model for the title character in her husband's 1970s sitcom Maude. Her autobiography is "The Second Seduction" (Knopf, 1992).
It was on this day (September 28) in 1950 that the comedy "Season in the Sun" opened on Broadway. Written by the New Yorker drama critic Wolcott Gibbs, it featured a character named Horace William Dodd, modeled unapologetically on Gibbs's editor, Harold Ross, already a legendary character in real life.
When, at one point, another character tells Dodd, "He says you're the greatest editor in America," Dodd replies, "Well, they're a pretty seedy bunch, generally speaking."
The first of 2,751 World War II-era Liberty ships was launched on this day (September 27) in 1941. The inexpensive and rapidly built ships were generally named for famous Americans, including a few magazine editors. Among them:
"Apart from the remuneration is the joy of the work itself. It is the delight of a creator, the sober joy of power. You can hold your first magazine in your hand and turn its ink-moist pages with a touch as tender as a caress to a child. Out of mere floating ideas and sheets of scribbled paper you have caused this real and consistent shape. And more than that, the influence of your work will be felt by thousands, who will laugh over it, perhaps weep over it, and who will see through it the throbbing human heart that is the evidence of the brotherhood of man." — Helen Churchill Candee, in her book "How Women May Earn a Living" (1900).
Gertrude Battles Lane, editor for 30 years of the Woman's Home Companion magazine and one of the highest-paid women in the U.S. in her day, died at home in New York City on this day (September 25) in 1941. The chairman of her magazine's parent company once gave Lane what he apparently intended as the ultimate compliment, calling her "the best man in the business."
Lee Foster Hartman, editor of Harper's magazine at the time, dropped dead at his New York City apartment while playing cards on this day (September 23) in 1941. Bernard De Voto, who wrote for Hartman, reminisced in the magazine's December 1941 issue that, "He required your best; no one ever had his permission to relax into carelessness or to write trivialities. I have known him to send a knotty job back time after time until it was right, not almost right but altogether so." At his death, Hartman was 61.
It was on this day (September 22) in 1974 that Jessica Daves, editor of Vogue from 1952 to 1963, died at her home in New York City. By all accounts, Daves didn't look the part of a Vogue editor. "She was a portly woman with a face that resembled a baked apple, and if she wore custom dresses, they looked like ready-to-wear," the New York TImes quoted a "friend" as saying in its Daves obit.
"Everything about her was unappealing," Grace Mirabella, a later Vogue editor, recalled in her memoir, "In and Out of Vogue." However, Mirabella noted, Daves was "an excellent text editor and had a wide grip of culture, and she worked hard to make Vogue more serious, to prove that a woman's world wasn't just made up of 'frills and clothes,' as she put it." At her death, Daves was 76.
"Every writer should aim to become a well-known author. He should remember that no man springs into literary prominence unless his work is above the ordinary; unless his writing is so good that all the editorial powers on earth bow down to him." — The Editor magazine, 1904.
It was on this day (September 18) in 1906 that the New York Times noted the formation of the People's Lobby, established to "combat the attorneys for 'special interests'" in Washington. The group, which was first announced in Success Magazine, then in a brief muckraking phase, included a number of prominent editors, including Lincoln Steffens of The American Magazine, as well as Mark Twain.