Magazine History & Collector Tips

The American Magazine, June 1928 Magazine Back Issue


The American Magazine debuted in 1906 when Ida Tarbell, Ray Stannard Baker, Lincoln Steffans, Peter Finlay Dunne and a few other editors at McClure’s purchased Leslie’s Monthly Magazine and renamed it The American Magazine. It was published by the Phillips Publishing Company organized by McClure’s partner John S. Phillips, who would sell The American to Joseph Palmer Knapp, majority stockholder of the Crowell Publishing Company in 1911. There will be a page coming in the future detailing the complete history of The American Magazine along with notes on collecting it. Our issue from June 1928 carries Merle Crowell’s name at the top of the masthead as Editor with James C. Derieux as Managing Editor.

The American Magazine June 1928 coverAs I mentioned in the opening I’ve been having a lot of fun reading through this issue of The American. No, I did not read any of the fiction, I have too many books waiting to be read when I can break myself away from research material, but I did read a few of the articles. The personality of The American Magazine as it strikes me is one very similar to the Saturday Evening Post, extremely so in its choice of authors and illustrators of its fiction, a little less so in it’s articles, at least in this issue, where the success story seems to be the favorite subject.

The June 1928 issue of The American Magazine contains 198 pages in between its covers, 85 of which are filled with advertising plus another 8-2/3 pages of a Schools Directory — I’m not sure if this was handled as a special advertising section or if it was provided as a service for readers — and a single page with an in-house ad titled “A Doctrine: in which some Notable Advertisers have discovered profit possibilities,” which, as you may figure, is basically soliciting more advertising with its conclusion: “Therefore, it is obviously an economy for advertisers to use those publications which reach two or more members of the family. By every test, The American is the magazine which does that most effectively.” So taken all together this issue contains just under half advertising, most of it situated in the back of the issue.

Some of the more notable full-page advertisers in this issue are Ivory Soap, Campbell’s Soups, Chrysler, Prince Albert, Bell, Chesterfield Cigarettes, Firestone, Wrigley’s, Camel Cigarettes, Lucky Strikes, General Electric Refrigerators, and a beautiful Coca-Cola advertisement illustrated by Norman Rockwell. After running across that one I put together a new page on CollectingOldMagazines.com titled Norman Rockwell Ads: Collecting Rockwell with a Focus on the Ads He Illustrated.

Albert Payson TerhuneAlbert Payson Terhune vs. Harold Bell Wright: The most interesting article in this issue are the point/counterpoint articles “They Are Hell Bent!” by Albert Payson Terhune and “They Are Not” by Harold Bell Wright. They refers to the Present Generation, or more accurately according to Terhune the Next Generation. What was fascinating about this pair of articles was the way both Terhune and Wright wrote about their current time in such a way that the articles present themselves today as a history of a very exciting period in America.

As you can likely tell by the titles of the articles, Albert Payson Terhune does not care for the excesses of the Next Generationers, while Harold Bell Wright comes to their defense. Terhune begins his article by trying to establish himself as level headed and reasonable about the excesses of young people to some degree. He even writes “I am not a fanatic. I am not a second Mrs. Dry (referring to a woman from the temperance movement in a story he told from his youth). I don’t think I have the energy or the nobility of purpose to be a fanatic. Certainly I have not the desire to be one. …I have no mission or wish to reform the world.” This is kind of a dangerous strategy to take when writing a piece like this, because nothing establishes you as something so much as distancing yourself from it — “I am not a fanatic” usually equals I am a fanatic.

Harold Bell WrightWright on the other hand begins his article by condemning the very group which he is then going to try and prove innocent. He writes “Lest you lose interest at this point, I hasten to say that I believe the worst that is reported about our young people. I doubt if there was ever in the history of our civilization a period when mere children were so experienced in those immoralities which matured men and women are supposed to spend years in learning.” Wright has more or less set up his argument by using the same method as Terhune. While Terhune rants against the Next Generationers after claiming that he is no fanatic, Wright first condemns them before spending the bulk of his article defending young people.

Terhune’s argument is the present generation of youngsters have broken free of their solid backgrounds, “risen above all that, you Next Generationers. Booze, tobacco, petting parties, half-portion skirts–those are part of the price of making a social hit,” he writes. The current generation of young people is so off the that he does not have much optimism of them growing into the responsible and respectable crop of adults that make up Terhune’s own generation. He writes:

“Mrs. Nineteen Forty will be grimly strict and prudish, perhaps. But she will have a less vigorous constitution than if she had not gulped down so much rank bootleg booze and smoked so many cigarettes in 1928.”

Harold Bell Wright never wavers from his claim that these kids are the worst generation in history. He instead modifies this extreme view by pointing out that they are also “the best and most promising generation in our history.” Wright explains why this generation has become so bold against established morals:

“The younger generation has nothing against Volstead. Why should they have? They are not confirmed old topers who must have their drink, though they go down into the shadow of death to get it. This rebellion against prohibition is a rebellion of our generation–the generation of the parents of these young people. We oldsters incited this revolt…These youngsters are merely being swept along with our crowd.”

Also: “Immorality? Do these boys and girls make our motion pictures which develop and present in revealing details and frankness nearly every sex situation possible to human beings?”

So Wright lays the blame on his own generation even going so far as to explicitly finger parenting methods of the time as a cause: “I can’t help wondering, too, if the rod wielded so unsparingly by our parents was so potent for righteousness, how does it happen that we are what we are? As I see it, when we oldsters point to our generation as an example of hickory-stick training, we prove conclusively that there was something wrong with that system.” He concludes his point in writing that “these New Generationers are what we, their parents, are making them.”

Terhune raises this same point though his conclusion is the opposite of Wright’s. He recalls that “We were taught to respect and follow the dictates of our elders. Usually we did so. When we didn’t, we were whipped, or sent to bed or otherwise penalized.” He then recalls that this attitude changed around twenty years ago with new thinking such as “Don’t brutalize your child by punishment. Don’t seek to form his character. Let his budding Ego develop along its own heaven-directed lines.” Terhune obviously thinks this is all bunk, but just in case you didn’t pick up on that he further compares the new attitude as being akin to taking away a jockey’s whip and even the jockey to let a race horse run on his own so that “His naturally fine impulses will teach him to win.” Terhune leaves no doubt that he believes in a strict hand.

As to the cause of this malaise, Albert Payson Terhune blames the recent environment: “Just now we are paying the bill for the World War. We are paying it most heavily in the conduct of the Next Generationers.”

So in the end we have an argument of nature vs. nurture set in the Roaring 20’s with misbehaving flappers and lawbreaking drunkards being the the end result. Terhune blames the war, Wright blames his and Terhune’s generation for raising them poorly. Terhune argues spare the rod, spoil the child, Wright says the parents were warped by their upbringing and were left unprepared to raise the child correctly. While Terhune has his points, Wright’s argument makes a lot more sense to us today. Though still I wonder what Albert Payson Terhune would think of our current crop of Next Generationers as well as we who proceeded them? In my mind, both men would likely make similar arguments today, though Terhune would probably tone his down a little!

Also: Plenty of other articles inside this issue, some I read, some I glanced at, others I ignored. Webb Waldron writes about Chase Salmon Osborn, the former Governor of Michigan turned iron-hunter. The article includes a full-page portrait of Osborn from a painting by Robert W. Grafton and a sidebar by Osborn himself titled “My Philosophy of Life” in which he writes:

“My greatest inheritance was poverty. With poverty came gibes and slurs from children who had more. It made me bitter for years. But it stimulated me to do things, for poverty is ambition’s stepladder…I made up my mind to give back whatever I had that I did not need to live upon…Socialism will not cure the pig habit. The way out is for those who take more to consider themselves as trustees for the surplus…It must not be called charity, The name for it is JUSTICE. Add to it human love, and the world is made safe and happy for all mankind.”

Brehm illustrationThis is followed by the first piece of fiction in the issue, “White Birches” by Nelia Gardner White and illustrated by Hanson Booth. Since I didn’t sit down to read any of the stories, I’ll just note the other fiction here as well: “Grindstoned” by Hugh MacNair Kahler and illustrated by Victor C. Anderson which is subtitled “The story of a man who hitched his brother’s wagon to a star, and of the girl they both loved.” Looks to be a western-romance. By the way, Anderson is the same illustrator of the cover of this issue. Next is “The Frame-Up” by Octavus Roy Cohen, a very common author to find in magazine issues of this period, with illustrations by George Brehm (shown at right). This story is about Cohen’s character Jim Hanvey, described as “defender of crooks who want to go straight, (Hanvey) fights fire with fire.” Next is “Dot Tries to Help Poor Mattie Coates” by Fannie Kilbourne with illustrations by T.K. Hanna (shown below), followed finally by “Star Dust” by Howard Brubaker with drawings by R.M. Brinkerhoff. This issue also includes part three of a serial by the noted western author Zane Grey, titled “Sunset Pass” and illustrated by W.H.D. Koerner.

Hanna illustrationNext up, is an article about “Doc Kinkade–The Man Who Put Us Across” written by Commander Richard E. Byrd, U.S.N. There is a photo of R. Harold “Doc” Kinkade under the title and a concise explanation of who he is: “motor wizard of the Wright Aeronautical Corporation, is the man who tuned the engines that carried Lindbergh, Chamberlin, Byrd, and Ruth Elder on their historical flights across the sea.” A somewhat amusing sidebar with this story is titled “It Is a Pleasure To Grant a Favor Such as This” and reads in whole:

“When Commander Byrd sent in the accompanying article he asked what he termed a ‘favor.’ Here is is: ‘Would THE AMERICAN MAGAZINE,’ he said, ‘be willing to run an editorial box in the middle of the story, pointing out that, despite the great progress in aviation and the fine records of many flyers, the real men behind all this success–the men who put the engines in commission–have never received their full due?’ We are glad to carry out this generous and justified suggestion. THE EDITOR.”

The next article was “Divorved! Prosperity and political campaigns can go their separate ways in this election year” which is billed as “an interview with Colonel Leonard P. Ayres, famous business statistician” by Keene Sumner with drawing by Rollin Kirby.

Ammann“Back Up Now and Then–You May Get a Better Start” is by Helen Christine Bennett about William Adger Law, who is pictured with his dog. Again the photo-caption tells us who Law is, “William Adger Law is president of the Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company, of Philadelphia. Mr. Law, a native of South Carolina, began his career as a court stenographer, went from that to banking, and then into insurance.” It appears to be another tale of a successful businessman about his rise to his current heights.

“These Swift Couriers Are Always Homeward Bound” by Appleton Street is about messenger carrying pigeons and includes a drawing of the birds in flight by noted nature illustrator Lynn Bogue Hunt.

Ross Santee“The Greatest Bridge in The World and the Man Who Is Building It” is by M.K. Wisehart about Othmar H. Ammann and the Husdson River Bridge. Photos show Ammann along with a picture at the top of the page showing the bridge as it will look upon completion and below is a shot of an approach to the central span.

I enjoyed the article “Advice Is All Right If You Don’t Take Too Much of It” by horse-wrangler/artist/writer Ross Santee. This is another rags to riches tale where Santee recalls wanting to be a cartoonist because of the work of John T. McCutcheon in the old Chicago Record. Santee writes about his slow rise and difficulties in making sales, and most interestingly notes some of his friends and fellow-students from art school such as Neysa McMein, Anita Parkhurst, and his good friend Rolf Armstrong. Out west Santee was a wrangler who would work on his drawings in his spare time. It was Armstrong who convinced him to come back to New York where he would have his cartoons published by the old Life and Century. It was Boy’s Life who first published his writing about the west, and Leslie’s who paid him two hundred a story for it. Santee sums up his feelings on his career at the end of the article: “Writing still comes hard to me, an’ I expect it always will, An’ the real fun in doing a story is drawing the pictures for it.”

Ross Santee

Next up is “Paine’s Career Is a Triumph Of Early American Virtues” by Frederick L. Collins, with again a photo caption giving us a nice summary of the subject of the article: “William Alfred Paine is one of the outstanding business leaders of New England. He organized, and is president of Paine, Webber and Company, of Boston; he is also one of the big men in the American copper industry. Mr. Paine is seventy-three years old.”

“The Strange and True Story of One Modern Girl” is by Mary B. Mullett about Rosamond Pinchot, who “was born, as the old-saying goes, ‘with a silver spoon in her mouth.’ Yet for the past four years, ever since she was eighteen, she has worked as hard as if she hadn’t a penny–Part of her story reads like a fairy tale; but the rest is very different.” There is a photo of Pinchot, whose uncle had been Governor of Pennsylvania and whose father was well-known in New York. Pinchot’s chosen career path was the theater and this article recounts her meeting with Max Reinhardt and her playing in “The Miracle.”

“Houdini’s Conquest of America” is part four in a series of articles about Harry Houdini written by Harold Kellock. This particular article is summed up under the title as “He gives a seance that baffles Theodore Roosevelt; he gratifies a lifelong ambition by filling his mother’s apron with gold; he escapes from a Federal prison cell, releases the prisoners and then locks them up again; he is buried under six feet of earth, but comes to the surface.” Top that, David Blaine!

“There’ll Be 9,000 Earthquakes This Year” by George W. Gray is about respected earthquake predictor, the Rev. Francis Tondorf, a Jesuit Priest from Georgetown University. Included is a photo of Tondorf and an image of the “earliest seismograph” which is said to be invented by “Choko, a Chinese smith in the second century.”

“The Interesting People” section includes photos and articles about interesting personalities. To give you a taste the photo-captions from each interesting person follow. Each caption seemed to give a nice summary of why these people were deemed interesting by The American:

  • “During the past fifteen years, Tommy Luther, lumberman of the Saratoga Lake section of New York State, has planted more than six million trees. On his sixty-third birthday, he planted 70,000 between sunrise and sunset.”
  • “Norma Bamman, of Plainfield, New Jersey, known to her friends as ‘Pinkie,’ and her ‘Pantry,’ filled with good things of her own making. This little shop took firstprize in the Better Wayside Refreshment Stand Contest. Pinkie bakes her pies and cakes and bread before the very eyes of her customers.”
  • “M.F. Chapman bought a pair of chinchillas from an Indian hunter in the Chilean Andes, and now he has a chinchilla farm in southern California. He is said to be the first an able successfully to remove the delicate animals from their mountains.”
  • “Mrs. Minna Schmidt, of Chicago, Illinois, is an authority on costumes of every period, and has dressed a collection of dolls representing famous people.”
  • “Captain Charles Bruder, 68-year-old river captain, has missed but one day from his run in fifty years. In the summer season he commands a boat running between New York and Albany, on the Hudson River.”

The last article is “Dime Wise and Dollar Foolish” by Clarence Budington Kelland, which inspired the newest page on CollectingOldMagazines.com. The title of the article is referring to Kelland’s own ways of spending, especially since he has found success as an author, but the new page actually relies more on another article written by Kelland for The American, one is which he details a good portion of his life.

See, when I originally planned this issue I wanted to do as I had in a previous Random Issues and give a brief summary of each writer and artist included in the issue. My mistake, or my reward, was beginning with Clarence Budington Kelland, who I figured would be the easiest choice to start with because his name so commonly crops up in old magazine issues. Not so. Most of the info about Kelland on the net refers to the fact that he is forgotten and nobody knows much about the man now. So, due to the length of this issue, I’ll only include the link here to what I hope is now the best Clarence Budington Kelland page available on the net.

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3 Comments
  1. I will pay $100 for the October 14, 1928 issue of the American Weekly. My great-grandmother is in it. I’ve been looking for that issue for years.

    • Hello Kay,
      I have that issue in a bound magazine, with all issues complete. Are you still looking for that issue?
      Frank Miller

      • Hello, Frank! Yes! Yes! Yes! I’ve been looking for that issue for 15 years! What state do you live in? And can you contact me directly via my email address? It’s kayzpen@verizon.net

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