From Assisting Shut-Ins to Sisterly Guidance, Mail-Order Publications
“Little skip Fannie Allison Troutsmans writes that she actually is lonesome and wish to hear from Comfort visitors,” the line starts. “She claims this woman is the youngest of ten kids of who four just you live, and adds that her earliest cousin, a conductor on the Southern Railroad, had been killed by way of a train at Spartanburg, S.C.”
The appeal to readers that are fellow at the opening associated with the July 1907 “Comfort Sisters’ Corner,” a basic of Comfort Magazine. The columnist includes skip Fannie’s words that are own and a target in vermont 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 plants, such as for example our grandmothers liked.”
The line went for numerous pages, brief paragraphs in small font sandwiched among the list of many adverts. Comfort, most likely, wasn’t simply a woman’s log; it absolutely was a magazine that is mail-order main function would be to bring consumer tradition to rural America by marketing kitchen appliances, clothes, medications along with other products. The original publisher, William Gannett, really developed Comfort in order to promote their neurological tonic to women. Yet since is obvious in columns like “Comfort Sisters’ Corner,” those quasi-catalogues included a astonishing side effects: interaction between ladies that otherwise will have been impossible.
When you look at the years after the Civil War, rapidly advancing publishing press technology as well as a growing postal delivery system permitted how many magazines into the U.S. to explode. Whereas only 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 numbers, as well as the blood circulation of magazines, proceeded to increase due to the fact united states of america Postal provider started trying out Rural Free Delivery into the 1890s, bringing mail right to the 65 per cent associated with the populace who lived in rural areas as opposed to leaving the mail at drop-off points. (It wasn’t until 1920 that the census discovered more individuals staying in metropolitan areas—towns with additional than 2,500 inhabitants—than in rural areas.)
Among the list of first mail-order mags to appear in the post-Civil War years ended up being E.C. Allen’s People’s Literary Companion, printed in Augusta, Maine and distributed round the nation beginning in 1869. As a result of Allen’s pioneering work with Maine, Augusta became a hub for posting, with 17 games printed when you look at the city, reaching a maximum blood supply of over 3 million. Not just had been the mags written primarily for females, they certainly were frequently produced by women aswell: associated with 1,309 individuals employed in the publishing industry statewide in 1900, females taken into account 615, slightly below 50 %. It absolutely was also stated that Allen himself, the “Mail Order King,” required the opinion of feminine clerks whenever he selected a photo for distribution in their mags, writes Robert Lovett into the Bulletin associated with the continuing business Historical Society.
“Comfort Sisters’ Corner” was a basic of Comfort Magazine. (Digital Library @ Villanova University)
Nevertheless the mags flowing away from Augusta, with names like Thrifty Farmer, United states girl, Golden Moments and Comfort, had been frequently inexpensive, shoddily printed rags designed to turn rural ladies and families into customers. Publishers would send them 100% free to one-time readers, printing adverts with their publications in other publications, and gives incentives for registering brand brand brand new customers, which permitted how many visitors to grow rapidly—whether or perhaps not the mags were really being look over. In comparison to mass blood circulation women’s journals like Ladies’ Home Journal and Delineator, writers of those mail-order mags cared less about readers renewing their subscriptions than about having huge blood circulation listings with which to entice advertisers. Despite the fact that Good Housekeeping and journals enjoy it truly crammed adverts on as much pages as you are able to, those magazines also hewed more closely to an editorial objective of supplying readers with housekeeping advice, substantive fiction and poetry, and columns on fashion.
As marketing analysts Ernest Elmo Calkins and Ralph Holden wrote of Ladies’ Residence Journal and Comfort, the 2 different publications represented “extreme kinds of magazines and their particular 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 affordable things, but more and more them do purchase, so your room may be worth just just just what it costs the advertisers.”
Mary Ellen Zuckerman, a professor of advertising during the State University of New York, Geneseo and writer of a brief history of Popular Women’s publications in the us, 1792-1995, acknowledges that both kinds of magazines added to your flooding of customer products reaching rural areas. But, she states, “In a way that is funny the mail-order publications were nearly more truthful about their function. You knew once you started using it it was likely to be filled up with a complete lot of marketing.”
Have a book like Comfort. It absolutely was among the first mags to achieve a blood circulation of over one million, recharging just 15 cents for the subscription that is yearlong monthly editions of this mag. As librarian Clara Carter Weber writes, “Comfort was at company to offer whatever you could think about, from sheet music, parlor organs, and peanuts, to an ‘oil portraiture’ of Admiral Dewey and a ‘Magical Sponge,’ the ‘wonder associated with the 20th century.’” Peruse the pages of old editions of Comfort and you’ll find adverts providing a pocket that is free for anyone ready to sell bluing dye for washing, and “Duby’s Ozark Herbs” to dye gray hairs without coloring the head, and inexpensive fur scarves and muffs, and medical remedies like Dr. Coffee’s 80-page attention guide to cure all attention conditions.
But surrounding those advertisements had been stories that are short recurring columns, like “Talks with Girls” and “Poultry Farming for ladies.” Actually, Zuckerman claims, the mail-order publications were also types of interaction.
Comfort’s primary purpose 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 of this ladies on these farms, a lot of the time in and day out these were separated. Reading these magazines ended up being a interaction lifeline in a real method,” Zuckerman claims. For us right now to comprehend, because we’re so inundated with methods of communicating.“If you can compose in and discover one thing you composed in publications, to discover other females currently talking about things of great interest or concern for your requirements, it supplied a rather strong connection that’s difficult”
Just look at the phone, developed by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876. In the change associated with the century, just ten percent of all of the households also had phone solutions. For females residing on farms not even close to anybody however cute latin woman their family unit members, mail-order publications offered a getaway from everyday life, and in addition an approach to create a concrete link with other lonely females. In addition to “Comfort Sisters’ Corner,” another regular function associated with the mag ended up being demands from “Shut-Ins”—women too ill or old to go out of their homes, whom depended in the charity of next-door neighbors as well as other visitors for success. “I intend to consider the shut-in whenever i will,” writes Edna Peterson of Biggsville, Illinois into the 1907 edition july.
But despite having the interaction they offered women that are rural mail-order mags weren’t destined for durability. Numerous ceased publication after 1907, if the Post Office needed listings of compensated readers for magazines requesting a reduced mailing rate. Among the list of mail-order publications that survived the culling had been Woman’s World and Comfort, both of which lasted until 1940.
“I think they outlived their function,” Zuckerman suggests. “As roads improved and folks had better transport, they certainly were in a position to access bigger towns and towns to complete their shopping, so that they didn’t need certainly to count on mail order. It’s ironic because now we’ve circled back with Amazon. Everyone desires to do shopping at home and never head out.”
As transport technology changed, so too did communications. By 1948, the usa had 30 million telephones that are connected and reaching off to friends from afar had been growing easier, even yet in rural areas. Catalogs like Sears and Montgomery Ward became the brand new option to make domestic purchases. However for a brief duration, mail-order publications had played an important role for rural ladies: making them feel less alone on the farms and homesteads, and empowering them to fairly share their experiences with other people.