“Little skip Fannie Allison Troutsmans writes that this woman is lonesome and wish to hear from Comfort visitors,” the column starts. “She claims this woman is the youngest of ten young ones of who four just you live, and adds that her oldest sibling, a conductor in the Southern Railroad, ended up being killed by a train at Spartanburg, S.C.”
The appeal to other visitors appeared at the opening for the July 1907 “Comfort Sisters’ Corner,” a basic of Comfort Magazine. The columnist includes skip Fannie’s own terms, and a target in new york 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 variety that is popular or any conventional plants, such as for instance our grandmothers adored.”
The line went for multiple pages, brief paragraphs in small font sandwiched on the list of many adverts. Comfort, most likely, wasn’t only a woman’s journal; it had been a magazine that is mail-order primary function would be to bring customer tradition to rural America by marketing kitchen appliances, clothes, medications along with other items. The initial publisher, William Gannett, really produced Comfort in an effort to market their neurological tonic to ladies. Yet since is obvious in columns like “Comfort Sisters’ Corner,” those quasi-catalogues was included with a astonishing side effects: interaction between ladies that otherwise might have been impossible.
Within the years after the Civil War, rapidly advancing printing press technology as well as a growing postal delivery community permitted the number of magazines when you look at 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, additionally the blood supply of publications, proceeded to increase whilst the united states of america Postal provider started trying out Rural Free Delivery into the 1890s, bringing mail straight to the 65 per cent associated with populace who lived in rural areas instead of making the mail at drop-off points. (It wasn’t until 1920 that the census discovered more individuals located in metropolitan areas—towns with over 2,500 inhabitants—than in rural areas.)
On the list of mail-order that is first to arise in the post-Civil War years had been E.C. Allen’s People’s Literary Companion, printed in Augusta, Maine and distributed across the nation beginning in 1869. By way of Allen’s pioneering work with Maine, Augusta became a hub for posting, with 17 games printed into the city, reaching a circulation that is maximum of 3 million. Not just were the mags written primarily for ladies, these people were frequently created by women aswell: for the 1,309 individuals doing work in the publishing industry statewide in 1900, females taken into account 615, slightly below 50 %. It had been also reported that Allen himself, the “Mail Order King,” required the opinion of feminine clerks whenever he decided to go with a photo for circulation in the publications, writes Robert Lovett when you look at the Bulletin of this 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, American Woman, Golden Moments and Comfort, had been usually inexpensive, shoddily printed rags meant to turn women that are rural families into customers. Publishers would send them 100% free to one-time members, printing adverts for his or her magazines in other publications, and supply incentives for enrolling brand brand new customers, which permitted how many visitors to cultivate rapidly—whether or perhaps not the publications had been really being look over. When compared with mass blood 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 huge blood circulation lists with which to entice advertisers. Despite the fact that Good Housekeeping and journals want it truly crammed ads on as much 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’ Residence Journal and Comfort, the 2 different publications represented “extreme kinds of magazines and their respective constituencies; usually the one, the type that is highest of a marketing medium… reaching well-educated, well-to-do, intelligent US females; the other, poorly printed… and reaching an uneducated and credulous class whose readers purchase only the absolute most affordable things, but more and more them do purchase, so your area may be worth exactly exactly just what it costs the advertisers.”
Mary Ellen Zuckerman, a teacher of advertising during the State University of the latest York, Geneseo and writer of a brief history of Popular Women’s mags in the us, 1792-1995, acknowledges that both kinds of magazines added towards the flooding of customer products reaching markets that are rural. 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 great deal of marketing.”
just take a book like Comfort. It had been one of the primary publications to achieve a blood circulation of over one million, asking only 15 cents for the subscription that is yearlong month-to-month editions associated with mag. As librarian Clara Carter Weber writes, “Comfort was at business to offer all 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 twentieth century.’” Peruse all pages and posts of old editions of Comfort and you’ll find adverts supplying a pocket that is free for all ready 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 conditions.
But surrounding those ads had been stories that are short recurring columns, like “Talks with Girls” and “Poultry Farming for Females.” Actually, Zuckerman states, the magazines that are mail-order additionally types of interaction.
Comfort’s primary function would be to bring customer tradition to America that is rural by kitchen appliances, clothes, medications as well as other items. (Digital Library @ Villanova University)
Out they were isolated“If you think about the lives of the women on these farms, a lot of the day in and day. Reading these magazines had been a interaction lifeline in a real method,” Zuckerman claims. “If you can compose in and view one thing you published on the net, and discover other females currently talking about things of great interest or concern for you, it offered a rather strong connection that’s hard for people right now to comprehend, because we’re therefore inundated with methods of communicating.”
Just think about the phone, developed by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876. During the change regarding the century, just ten percent of most households also had phone solutions. For females living on farms not even close to anybody however their household members, mail-order publications offered a getaway from everyday life, as well as ways to create a concrete link with other lonely females. In addition to “Comfort Sisters’ Corner,” another feature that is regular of mag had been demands from “Shut-Ins”—women too unwell or old to go out of 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 could,” writes Edna Peterson of Biggsville, Illinois into the 1907 edition july.
But even with the interaction they offered rural ladies, mail-order publications weren’t destined for durability. Numerous ceased publication after 1907, once the Post Office needed listings of compensated members for publications seeking a lowered mailing price. Among the list of mail-order publications that survived the culling had been Woman’s World and Comfort, each of which lasted until 1940.
“I think they outlived their function,” Zuckerman suggests. “As roadways improved and folks had better transport, these were in a position to access bigger towns and towns to complete their shopping, so that they didn’t need certainly to depend on mail order. It’s ironic because now we’ve circled right back with Amazon. Everyone would like to do shopping at home and never head out.”
As transport technology changed, so too did communications. By 1948, the usa had 30 million connected phones, 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 generally share their experiences with other people.