From Assisting Shut-Ins to Sisterly Guidance, Mail-Order Publications

From Assisting Shut-Ins to Sisterly Guidance, Mail-Order Publications

“Little skip Fannie Allison Troutsmans writes that she actually is lonesome and want to hear from Comfort readers,” the line starts. “She says she actually is the youngest of ten kids of who four just you live, and adds that her earliest sibling, a conductor regarding the Southern Railroad, ended up being killed by way of a train at Spartanburg, S.C.”

The appeal to readers that are fellow at the opening of this July 1907 “Comfort Sisters’ Corner,” a basic of Comfort Magazine. The columnist includes skip Fannie’s very own words, plus a address in North Carolina where “sisters” could address letters. In identical pages, one girl asked for souvenir post cards and letters, while another requested “seeds of the most extremely popular variety… or any traditional flowers, such as for example our grandmothers liked.”

The line went for numerous pages, brief paragraphs in tiny font sandwiched among the list of advertisements that are numerous. Comfort, most likely, wasn’t merely a woman’s log; it had been a mail-order magazine whoever primary function was to bring customer tradition to rural America by marketing kitchen appliances, clothes, medications as well as other products. The publisher that is original William Gannett, really developed Comfort in an effort to promote their neurological tonic to women. Yet because is apparent in columns like “Comfort Sisters’ Corner,” those quasi-catalogues included a side that is surprising: interaction between ladies that otherwise might have been impossible.

When you look at the decades after the Civil War, rapidly advancing publishing press technology plus a growing postal delivery system permitted how many magazines into the U.S. to explode. Whereas just 700 publications existed in 1865 (including Harper’s Weekly, Confederate Veteran and Southern Historical Society Papers), they numbered significantly more than 3,000 by 1885, and much more than 4,400 by 1890. Those figures, and also the blood supply of magazines, proceeded to increase once the united states of america Postal Service began tinkering with Rural Free Delivery into the 1890s, bringing mail straight to the 65 per cent of this populace whom lived in rural areas instead of making the mail at drop-off points. (It wasn’t until 1920 that the census discovered more folks surviving in metropolitan areas—towns with increased than 2,500 inhabitants—than in rural areas.)

On the list of mail-order that is first to surface in the post-Civil War years ended up being E.C. Allen’s People’s Literary Companion, printed in Augusta, Maine and distributed all over nation beginning in 1869. Compliment of Allen’s pioneering work with Maine, Augusta became a hub for posting, with 17 games printed into the city, reaching a maximum blood supply of over 3 million. Not merely had been the publications written primarily for ladies, they certainly were frequently produced by women also: regarding the 1,309 individuals employed in the publishing industry statewide in 1900, ladies accounted for 615, just below 50 %. It had been also reported that Allen himself, the “Mail Order King,” required the opinion of feminine clerks whenever he decided a photo for circulation inside the mags, writes Robert Lovett into the Bulletin regarding the continuing business Historical Society.

“Comfort Sisters’ Corner” was a basic of Comfort Magazine. (Digital Library @ Villanova University)

However the mags moving away from Augusta, with names like Thrifty Farmer, United states girl, Golden Moments and Comfort, were usually low priced, shoddily printed rags supposed to turn women that are rural families into customers. Publishers would send them at no cost to subscribers that are one-time print adverts with regards to their publications various other mags, and provide incentives for enrolling brand new customers, which permitted the amount of readers to cultivate rapidly—whether or perhaps not the publications had been really being look over. In comparison to mass blood blood circulation women’s journals like Ladies’ Home Journal and Delineator, writers among these mail-order mags cared less about readers renewing their subscriptions than about having circulation that is huge with which to entice advertisers. And even though Good Housekeeping and journals enjoy it certainly crammed adverts on as numerous pages as you can, those magazines also hewed more closely to an editorial objective of supplying visitors with housekeeping advice, substantive fiction and poetry, and columns on fashion.

As marketing analysts Ernest Elmo Calkins and Ralph Holden had written of Ladies’ Home Journal and Comfort, the 2 different publications represented “extreme kinds of magazines and their respective constituencies; the main one, the type that is highest of a marketing medium… reaching well-educated, well-to-do, smart US females; one other, poorly printed… and reaching an uneducated and credulous class whose readers purchase only the essential cheap things, but more and more them do purchase, so the room is really worth exactly what it costs the advertisers.”

Mary Ellen Zuckerman, a teacher of advertising during the State University of brand new York, Geneseo and composer of a brief history of Popular Women’s publications in the usa, 1792-1995, acknowledges that both kinds of magazines added to your flooding of customer products reaching markets that are rural. But, she states, “In a way that is funny the mail-order publications were very nearly more truthful about their purpose. You knew once you started using it it was likely to be filled up with a complete lot of marketing.”

just take a book like Comfort. It had been one of the primary publications to achieve a blood supply of over one million, billing just 15 cents for the yearlong registration for monthly editions for the mag. As librarian Clara Carter Weber writes, “Comfort was at business to offer anything you could think about, from sheet music, parlor organs, and peanuts, to an ‘oil portraiture’ of Admiral Dewey and a ‘Magical Sponge,’ the ‘wonder regarding the twentieth century.’” Peruse all pages and posts of old editions of Comfort and you’ll find adverts providing a pocket that is free for all those prepared to offer bluing dye for washing, and “Duby’s Ozark Herbs” to dye gray hairs without coloring the head, and low priced fur scarves and muffs, and medical remedies like Dr. Coffee’s 80-page attention guide to cure all attention diseases.

But surrounding those adverts had been brief tales and recurring columns, like “Talks with Girls” and “Poultry Farming for ladies.” Actually, Zuckerman claims, the magazines that are mail-order additionally types of interaction.

Comfort’s main function would be to bring customer tradition to rural America by marketing kitchen appliances, clothes, medications as well as other items. (Digital Library @ Villanova University)

“If you think of the life associated with the ladies on these farms, most of the day in and day trip these were separated. Reading these magazines had been a communication lifeline in means,” Zuckerman claims. For us right now to comprehend, because we’re therefore inundated with methods for communicating.“If you can compose in and discover one thing you had written in publications, and view other females currently talking about things of great interest or concern for you, it supplied a tremendously strong connection that’s hard”

Just look at the phone, devised by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876. During the change regarding the century, just ten percent of most households also had phone solutions. For females residing on farms definately not anybody however their family unit members, mail-order publications offered a getaway from day to day life, as well as ways to produce a connection that is tangible other lonely females. In addition to “Comfort Sisters’ Corner,” another regular function of this mag ended up being demands from “Shut-Ins”—women too ill or old to leave their homes, whom depended in the charity of neighbors as well as other visitors for success. “I intend to keep in mind the shut-in whenever i will,” writes Edna Peterson of Biggsville, Illinois when you look at the July 1907 version.

But despite having the interaction they offered women that are rural mail-order publications weren’t destined for durability. Many ceased publication after 1907, if the Post Office needed listings of paid members for publications requesting a reduced mailing price. Both of which lasted until 1940 among the mail-order magazines that survived the culling were Woman’s World and Comfort.

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“I think they outlived their function,” Zuckerman suggests. “As roadways improved and folks had better transport, they certainly were in a position to access bigger towns and urban centers to complete their shopping, so they really didn’t need certainly to count on mail order. It’s ironic because now we’ve circled right straight back with Amazon. Everyone desires to do shopping from your home and not venture out.”

As transport technology changed, so too did communications. By 1948, the usa had 30 million telephones that are connected and reaching out to friends from afar ended up being growing easier, even yet in rural areas. Catalogs like Sears and Montgomery Ward became the way that is new make domestic acquisitions. But also for a brief duration, mail-order publications had played an important role for rural females: making them feel less alone to their farms and homesteads, and empowering them to talk about their experiences with other people.