Frank Munsey Crows Inside the March 1898 Munsey’s Magazine

Frank Munsey

Munsey really is just tooting his own horn in his “Publisher’s Desk” column inside the March 1898 issue of his magazine, but his first person account of why his magazine, Munsey’s Magazine, is the best magazine is addressed to the reader in such a personal way that the writing style doesn’t feel much different than the dozen of blog posts I’ve already read today.

He spends two entire double column pages explaining why Munsey’s Magazine is the superior monthly, even including the comparative chart reproduced on this page below to show why Munsey’s is superior to Harper’s, Scribner’s, Century and McClure’s Magazines.

Munsey’s editorial contains four sub-headings. Surely if Frank Munsey were around today he’d have easily managed four separate blog posts out of these, but as he only had a precise amount of space on a timed monthly basis the wealth of content is understandable.

It Doesn’t Hit the Munsey

Munsey begins his commentary by quoting a paragraph from The Albany Express which complains that magazines have a greater regard for their advertisers than their readers. The way the pages were cut in a recent issue of McClure’s is given as a prime example of this position.

See, way back when, not only were magazines printed on paper, but the pages which comprised an issue were not always cut. The reader would have to separate the pages themselves with a knife or other sharp edged device in order to completely page through the issue.

The Albany Express has noticed while most editorial matter is left to the readers to cut that the pages containing advertising are on leaves which are already cut for them.

Munsey takes this opportunity to tout his publication:

The pages of Munsey’s Magazine are cut, and it is the only magazine in the world whose pages are cut. In this, Munsey’s Magazine leads off again.

He writes that when he first brought up the idea of cut pages he was told it couldn’t be done. As time passed on he felt the market demanded cut pages and if demand was there a solution could be had. Plans were submitted and machines were built.

They were installed several months ago in our printing plant, and since then the pages of Munsey’s Magazine have been cut–not trimmed.

He makes the distinction between cut and trimmed by noting that it would have been much easier just to chop the edges off the pages to make each issue entirely uncut. But that’s not The Munsey’s way, the pages were each sliced along the uncut edges rather than trimmed off.

Munsey then points to the chart and especially picks on McClure’s noting that they only have about half the editorial content as Munsey’s at the same price.

The Munsey is the same size as the thirty five cent magazines. It is as big as the biggest, and has a heap more variety in it.

Munseys Comparative Chart 1898

Still Gaining Handsomely

The discussion then turns to subscription numbers and Munsey talks about sustaining quality on their climb.

Sometimes it is thought a thing can be made too good; sometimes it is said to me that the people don’t appreciate the fact that we are giving so much more for a dime that anybody else is giving; sometimes it is said to me that the people don’t know whether we give a ninety six page magazine or a hundred and sixty page magazine–that The Munsey would have just as big a circulation at half the size.

Munsey discredits such talk and insists that quality will win out in the end. Specifically the quality of The Munsey:

The policy of this magazine has been to give more and more, and always more, for the money. The same policy will be continued throughout this year and the coming years.

Can It Be Done?

This is where Frank Munsey gets as personal as possible. He’s pledging to gain as many readers as he possibly can with hopes of being the first magazine to a circulation of one million. He really wants this and ends the section by putting his money where his mouth is.

First he wonders if it’s even possible to reach a million subscribers noting that three quarters of a million has thus far been the largest circulation number reported by any magazine at any time. The number couldn’t be sustained. He writes that The Munsey is currently at “seven hundred thousand wholly without advertising* and wholly without pushing.”

[message type=”simple” bg_color=”#EEEEEE” color=”#333333″]*The magazine itself carries advertising. Munsey is referring to not having advertised the magazine itself to potential readers.[/message]

We should like to reach the million point, but can we? How can it be done? Is The Munsey good enough to command a circulation of a million? If not, how can it be made good enough and still keep the price where it is today? There are a good many questions that the publisher can’t answer satisfactorily to himself. Imagination doesn’t always carry accurately.

Munsey then declares that he’s willing to spend $250,000 over the next year if that expenditure can be made to push circulation to a legitimate million copies per month. Legitimate in that no “inducement schemes” are offered, legitimate in that the subscriptions be purely on the merit of the magazine itself.

This is a problem that some great genius may be able to work out successfully. If it is worked out, however, it is far more likely that it will be done by the combined suggestions and personal influence of our readers.

Advancing On Other Lines

Frank Munsey
Frank Munsey, 1910
Munsey writes that besides their busy subscription department, advertising in The Munsey has also flourished over the past year with an increase of 20%. The reason is elementary: Advertisers won’t get a better return on dollars spent than they will in The Munsey.

Beyond its large numbers, readers of The Munsey are:

Wide awake, up to date people, people who have money to spend, and spend it with first rate intelligence. These are the people the advertiser wishes to reach, and they are the people he can reach through Munsey’s Magazine.

Munsey brags about his magazine reaching across the entire continent, “From the Atlantic to the Pacific,” and then says that advertisers cannot afford not to advertise in The Munsey.

The modern way of doing business is to do a big business, and to do a big business one must reach out across the continent–reach out to the millions of money spenders.

Summary

In two pages Frank Munsey makes his case for Munsey’s Magazine as the most technological magazine publisher by way of his specially commissioned machine. He uses statistics to prove that Munsey’s has the highest quality content, or at least the highest ratio of content to advertising. He reaches out to every reader basically attempting to crowdsource ideas for reaching his circulation goals. He doesn’t present the quarter of a million dollar offer as a prize, instead he just states that he will spend that much in total towards the goal. Finally he tells the advertisers that they won’t get more bang for their buck anywhere else.

About Munsey’s Magazine

Munsey’s Magazine actually began as a weekly and it was failing. At the time of the 1893 panic Munsey was $100,000 in debt (Peterson 9). How’d he turn it around?

He executed a brilliant idea and then, contrary to what he says five years later in our 1898 article, he advertised it.

He changed Munsey’s Magazine from a weekly to a monthly but most importantly slashed it’s price from 25¢ to 10¢. He ballyhooed the move with, of all things, an advertisement in The New York Sun, which worked.

Peterson explains Munsey’s masterful stroke: “Once could achieve a large circulation by selling his magazine for much less than its cost of production and could take his profits from the high volume of advertising that a large circulation attracted” (8).

Munsey’s circulation skyrocketed from 40,000 copies sold of the debut 10¢ issue in October 1893 to a half million by April 1895 (Peterson 10). Peterson then mentions Munsey’s boasts from our April 1898 issue and adds that by 1901 Munsey was claiming twice the circulation of Century, Harper’s and Scribner’s combined!

Munsey’s Magazine began the century strong with Munsey claiming top circulation in a 1907 speech, but by the 1920’s circulation had plummeted to just 60,000. Munsey himself died of a burst appendix at the end of 1925 and by 1929 Munsey’s Magazine was merged with another of the publisher’s titles, the Argosy.

Source:

 

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Observations on the eBay Magazine Market and Beyond

I’ve begun at least browsing the eBay magazine listings pretty heavily again. There’s still some pretty interesting material available on the site, but the category has seemed to become a lot more professional in the past few years.

  • Highspots are now recognized. I remember back when I first bought the Russell & Russell Guide in 2005. I quickly made a tidy little sum just seeking out the single magazine titles they pointed too. Nobody overlooks original Salinger fiction in old issues of the Post or Collier’s anymore. In fact, most single issues of the Post and Collier’s seem to be priced as though there’s Salinger inside every one!
  • Niche titles are no longer undervalued. In fact, they’re overvalued. Somewhere along the lines the mass of sellers came to realize that all it takes is one sucker. (Think baseball free agency.) If there’s one guy online looking for a title on, I don’t know, say a focused science or nature title, then he may as well pay $200 for 20 issues the same as he used to pay $20 for the same lot.
  • Quality lots have decreased. In all ways. Either the condition ranks right there with magazines I’d throw out myself, or the titles are undesirable. I gave up my hopes of finding a mid to high grade lot of 1930’s Saturday Evening Post at a bargain a long time ago. I never thought I wouldn’t be able to find a complete set of, oh, 1980 Time Magazines for $50 or even $100 bucks, but I can’t. If you’re looking for lots of National Geographic or old sewing journals though you’ll be pretty happy.
  • An increase in Bound Volumes. I expected this at least, though I don’t know how many “lots” or “complete sets” I have clicked on only to discover that it’s a bound run of a title. And see point 1 on these, highspots are recognized, so there’s really not even much of an opportunity to log into eBay and steal some 19th Century bound Mark Twain runs for a few dollars anymore.

I suppose each of my four points could be taken as sour grapes to some degree, as 4-6 years ago I was taking advantage of all four of these unrecognized points in the market myself. I was the guy buying unrecognized highspots, niche titles, undervalued bound volumes and putting a retail price on them; I’d hunt the quality lots at $2 per issue and mark them $10-$20 per issue. And they sold.

But the purpose here was to point out that these opportunities have become much harder to spot. Usually these opportunities will be offered by the part-time or amateur eBay seller, though I haven’t come across a tremendous amount of those in my recent searches on the site.

I get emails and phone calls from people looking to sell their old magazines several times per week. Typically it’s exactly the stuff you’d expect someone to have saved: 1960’s runs of Life Magazine and National Geographic are the commonly cited goods.

I know what’s happened by way of fielding these calls and e-mails: eBay has become too complicated to sell on for those just starting out.

I feel lucky to have signed up back in 2000 as that was a time you could just throw a not very good description up with photos being an option, not a necessity. I was able to learn and evolve slowly over the past decade to the point where I get thrown off trying to list on other sites, even when they have an admittedly simpler process.

Reduced Fees = Reduced Urgency

Over the past few years changes in the eBay fee structure has made it possible for professional sellers to list Fixed Price goods at a very cheap cost. It’s also made it possible for amateur sellers to list 50 free auctions each month, regardless of the value of the minimum bid.

By reducing the risk to selling on eBay the site has significantly raised the cost for buying.

Professional sellers pay a small fee for an ad. They spread as many ads onto the site as they possibly can. The investment per listing is small enough where if a single item does not sell it doesn’t matter too much. Thus why not ask what you want … plus a little more.

Amateur sellers are only investing their spare time to list 50 items per month. If something’s been sitting in the house for 20 years they may as well put it up for sale at the price they want.

Despite the times there doesn’t appear to be any urgency to sell.

Auctions of fine goods still recognize fine prices. No bargains there. Auctions for junk still deliver junk at a bargain.

(Speaking of junk, I’m seeing an increase in items creatively photographed as treasures and delivered as garbage. When buying magazines for resale shipping cost makes returns prohibitive. This is likely the subject of another post, but for now, my advice–if you have questions, ask them!)

Best Deal = Best Offer

The best deals you’re going to find, at least in the categories I deal in, are those that include the Best Offer option. Best Offer on a Fixed Price item indicates that the item is either:

  1. Unabashedly overpriced
  2. An item the seller doesn’t know the value of
  3. Being offered by a seller who actually wants to sell.

The current trend I’ve seen in Offers from buyers is a 50% opening offer. The sweet spot where a deal is agreed upon seems to be somewhere between 60-80% of the full marked price.

Personally I’ve seen enough 50% and lower offers that I’ve begun removing the Best Offer option from my own listings. It’s not worth the aggravation. (Here’s a tip, you might accept a lowball offer from a low feedback buyer, but you’re not very likely to be paid by them.)

When offers of 50% and under used to come in I’d shake my head because I’d never imagine making such a low offer myself. I’d be insulted and make the mistake of taking it personal, at least for a few moments. But guess what? It works. Some sellers actually take half and leave me wondering if I should have offered a quarter.

Give it a shot.

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The Tall Buildings of New York – Skyscrapers In 1898

New York City Skyline in 1898

A heavily illustrated article inside the March 1898 issue of Munsey’s Magazine caught my eye so I’ve scanned all of the images to share with you here. The unattributed article is titled “The Tall Buildings of New York” and goes on to talk about early skyscrapers at a time in which there was great wonder at the rapid progression from the 10 story skyscraper to those of 20 to 30 stories in height.

New York City Skyline in 1898

While the article concedes Chicago should be credited with the first of the skyscrapers in the 10 story Home Insurance Building built there in 1885, it concentrates on New York because the skyscraper had become imperative to the city’s continued growth. Towards the close of the 19th Century, New York was simply running out of room.

According to the anonymous author “predictions were freely made that the days of New York’s supremacy were numbered.” The demand for space had grown to such a degree that rent became prohibitive and businesses turned to other locations.

The 1898 article comes at a time where the skyscraper has only recently established its place in the American imagination. In the skyscraper “modern architecture has evolved its first great distinctive type,” comparing it to the tombs of kings constructed in Ancient Egypt and the gothic cathedrals of Medieval Europe.

People used to seeing buildings erected one floor at a time, one on top of the next, stopped in wonder as the building process reversed itself before their eyes. Now the first thing they saw were steel frames stretching into the sky; masons and bricklayers only showed up to ply their trades afterwards.

Until the development of the steel frame method buildings other than simple towers or spires could only stretch 8 or 9 floors high at most. The weight of higher levels made going any higher prohibitive.

The following 15 illustrations from the March 1898 Munsey’s article show the landmark skyscrapers of New York, 1898:

The Bowling Green Building
The Bowling Green Building, 11 Broadway. 16 stories with frontage over 120 feet. Built by W. and G. Audsley. The white granite the same used at the Grant Monument.
The Empire Building
The Empire Building, Rector Street and Broadway
The Manhattan Life Insurance Company Building
The Manhattan Life Insurance Company Building, 66 Broadway. 348 feet high, at the time only the twin spires of St. Patrick's Cathedral was higher from the sidewalk. Architects were Kimball and Thompson who also did the plans for the new Standard and Empire buildings shown on this page.
The Ivins Syndicate Building
The Ivins Syndicate Building, 13-21 Park Row
The American Tract Society Building
The American Tract Society Building, Nassau and Spruce Streets, and The Times Building, Spruce Street and Park Row
The Standard Building
The Standard Building, 26 Broadway
The Commercial Cable Building
The Commercial Cable Building, 20-22 Broad Street
The New York Life Insurance Building
The New York Life Insurance Company's Building, 346-348 Broadway
The American Surety Company Building
The American Surety Company's Building, Pine Street and Broadway. A great white building with gilt coping, named in the article as possibly the most artistic office building in New York. 308 feet high and visible from miles around as far as New Jersey and Long Island. Built by Bruce Price; Sculptor Massey Rhind helped to beautify it.
The Postal Telegraph Company Building
The Postal Telegraph Company's Building, Murray Street and Broadway
The St Paul Building
The St. Paul Building, Ann Street and Broadway
The St James Building
The St. James Building, Twenty Sixty Street and Broadway
The Constable Building
The Constable Building, Eighteenth Street and Fifth Avenue
The Waldorf Astoria Hotel
The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, Thirty-Fourth Street and Fifth Avenue. Designed by Mr. Hardenburg, with red brick and stone walls, high Dutch roofs pierced with many windows. 'A unique and certainly an imposing specimen of skyscraper architecture.'
The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Building
The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company's Building, Madison Square

Source:

“The Tall Buildings of New York.” Munsey’s Magazine. March 1898: 833-848.

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Important Collection Available for Private Sale

This was a bit of a shocker. Dr. Steven Lomazow, author of the comprehensive American Periodicals: A Collector’s Manual and Reference Guide and highly entertaining Magazine History: A Collector’s Blog, has made his magazine collection available for sale.

Dr. Lomazow isn’t blowing smoke when he writes that his 35 year collection is “considered to be the finest in private hands.” Just have a look around his site, all of the often valuable and typically rare periodicals showcased on Magazine History are included in his collection. “The collection contains virtually every major magazine highlight ever published from the eighteenth century to the present and covers virtually every topic- literature, politics, technology (TV, Radio, Movies, Aviation etc). It also includes by far the largest collection of first issue pulp magazines (over 850) in existence.”

Dr. Lomazow notes “Serious inquiries only, we are talking a price (on request) well into seven figures.” I don’t know how widely the doctor would appreciate his email address being published around the web, so I will direct you to his post announcing the sale and point you near the bottom of his text to locate his email address.

Besides his wonderful blog and his hardbound Collector’s Manual, which is perhaps the most valuable of all resources to magazine collectors, Dr. Lomazow includes several free online magazine collecting guides in his sidebar. One example is his Complete Movie Magazines Guide, 1909-1940, while other free guides include Radio and Television and Early Literature in magazines.

Dr. Lomazow, a neurologist, along with journalist Eric Fettman published FDR’s Deadly Secret, a work which uncovers previously unknown details of Roosevelt’s poor health, in 2010.

When Dr. Lomazow’s Magazine History blog first appeared in January 2008 I was taken aback by the content. The reason my own site came into existence was that there was previously very little information available online for magazine collectors.

As he exposed his wide collection I became so absorbed with Dr. Lomazow’s site that I’m afraid I neglected this one. I can only hope that once his collection sells Dr. Lomazow will continue to occasionally update his Magazine History site with his collecting experiences.

… And we’re back! Collecting Old Magazines 2011 Relaunch

Happy Columbus Day!

I’ve been at this little project for awhile. These articles have been tucked inside a far away corner of Immortal Ephemera for a few years now, though prior to that they did at one time have their own home. I wouldn’t imagine that the classic movie fans and collectors who visit Immortal Ephemera regularly were even aware of the presence of Collecting Old Magazines, but it was there.

Traffic was good, mostly organic through Google, and so once I realized that my hosting plan allowed me to host an unlimited number of sites on the same dime (thank you, Dreamhost!), I decided Collecting Old Magazines was well worth snapping off and placing on its own piece of web real estate once more.

The bulk of the heavy lifting which comprises the articles that make up Collecting Old Magazines was work I originally did between 2005-2007. Don’t let the dates worry you, it’s strong evergreen content. After all, the history of Life Magazine or the Saturday Evening Post haven’t changed too much in the passing years. I can look inside a January 30, 1904 issue of Harper’s Weekly to relive their original presentation of the Wright Brothers’ first flight just as well today as I could back in 2007 when I first posted that article.

Collecting-Old-Magazines.com launched back in 2005 hosted by a platform called SBI! It was pretty cool at the time as I really didn’t know how to build a handsome looking site on my own from scratch and my early experiences with WordPress 1-point-whatever assured me that I’d never be a blogger. Toying around SBI!’s back end finally taught me html and I found myself moving from Immortal Ephemera’s then FrontPage2000 construction over to html by my own hand. From there I cancelled my SBI! hosting to save money and moved the magazine site over onto Immortal Ephemera circa 2007. In 2009 I learned that WordPress 2-point-something was a lot easier to work with than that 1-point-whatever and by 2011 WordPress 3-point-now is beyond what I ever would have imagined. And so CollectingOldMagazines, sans hyphens, makes the move back to its own home.

Will I be posting a ton of new content here? I can’t say so for sure at this time though I will say that I still buy and sell old magazines and so by relaunching this site I now have somewhere to write about them again! And so that is something I imagine will naturally happen.

[message type=”info”]You can use this link to subscribe to any future Collecting Old Magazines posts by email.[/message]

For now, the next step is to find all of the non-movie magazine related content still posted to Immortal Ephemera via WordPress–it’s there–and move that over here. That’s content that was never part of the original hyphenated magazine site but was posted to my classic movie themed site post-2009 after I began switching everything over to WordPress. Once that’s all up I expect to post something new to this space every so often, even if it’s just bragging about some new arrivals.

Hope you enjoy, I’m excited to have the site back up on its own two feet!

Wisdom – The Magazine of Knowledge and Education

Ernest Hemingway

I really love what I’ve seen of this old over-sized picture magazine which touts itself as “The Magazine of Knowledge and Education.”  A large format title, similar in size to LIFE Magazine, Wisdom first appeared in 1956, typically featuring Yousuf Karsh photos of famed intellectuals and artists on both covers and on the main inside feature.

Albert Einstein
January 1956, Volume 1, Number 1 of Wisdom Magazine, Albert Einstein front cover

An example of the subjects of Wisdom can be found in this checklist, found on the inside covers of issue #25:

#1 Albert Einstein
#2 Albert Schweitzer
#3 Bernard Baruch
#4 Winston Churchill
#5 Abraham Lincoln
#6 Jascha Heifetz
#7 Laurence Oliver
#8 Dr. Jonas E. Salk
#9 George Bernard Shaw
#10 Cecil B. De Mille
#11 Helen Keller
#12 Jesus
#13 The Thinker by Rodin
#14 Bertrand Russell
#15 Artur Rubinstein
#16 Somerset Maugham
#17 Jung, Adler, Freud
#18 Dwight D. Eisenhower
#19 Eleanor Roosevelt
#20 Will Durant
#21 Pope Pius XII
#22 David Sarnoff
#23 Benjamin Franklin
#24 Yousuf Karsh
#25 Pablo Picasso

And since I’ve had #26 I can tell you that was Ernest Hemingway.  But how long did the title continue being published, that I did not know.  All I knew is I liked it and wanted to know more.

Ernest Hemingway
June 1958 issue of Wisdom Magazine, Ernest Hemingway cover

In what was one of the last sources I found about Wisdom, Albert R. Vogeler writes eloquently about the title, and some of the unfortunate events which are covered on this page below.  I’ll link to Mr. Vogeler’s document at the bottom of this page when I return to it, but for now we’ll let his eloquent words describe what was Wisdom the magazine:

“An elitist publication (hard covers, opulent large format, semi-annual issues in limited numbers), it nevertheless embodied a populist message (everyone can aspire to wisdom, the great minds of the past speak directly to our generation through their books, and they can make our lives better if we learn how to read them).”

I ran into a bit of a problem trying to determine when Wisdom Magazine died before finally discovering the date was 1964. After coming up empty searching for a tight little history of the title both on my book shelves and online, I decided to Google the publisher Leon Gutterman. To my surprise it appears at least possible that Mr. Gutterman is still going strong as the Director of what is now called The Wisdom Society For The Advancement Of Knowledge, Learning & Research In Education (Wisdom Hall Of Fame). Of course, the business directory page I found is far from official, but adding the 52 years it claims this company has been in business to the 1956 date of Volume 1, Number 1 of Wisdom Magazine we do come out at 2008, which is pretty close. The manta.com directory also tells us that the business is located in Beverly Hills, CA and currently has 2 employees with estimated revenues of $100,000/yr.  There’s even a phone number.

But I didn’t find the 1964 date there and I was pretty sure Wisdom Magazine had long ceased publication.  The issue I had pulled out to create this post did include the information that “Wisdom Magazine is published monthly by The Wisdom Society for the Advancement of Knowledge, Learning and Research in Education, a non-profit educational and literary organization” (May 1958 issue), and so obviously The Wisdom Society would live on after the magazine ceased publication.

Pablo Picasso
May 1958 Wisdom Magazine, Pablo Picasso front cover

Continuing my search for anything Wisdom or Gutterman I came upon TIME Magazine’s announcement of Volume 1, Number 1 of Wisdom Magazine in the Press section of their December 26, 1955 issue.  Wisdom is referred to as a “glossy ‘class magazine for the masses'” and notes Gutterman, age 39 (which would make him 93 today), as an ex-movie press-agent claiming 150,000 subscribers for his new monthly.  TIME also reports that Gutterman says he has approximately 100 backers investing $1 million in Wisdom.

What’s funny is that two issues later, January 9, 1956, TIME publishes a letter from Mr. Gutterman complaining about the previous coverage.  In all caps, Gutterman writes that he’s “deeply disappointed that TIME’s Dec. 26 story on “Wisdom” Magazine was presented to your readers with such inaccuracy and indifference.  Gutterman states that he is not an ex-movie press-agent but was a screenwriter and nationally syndicated columnist.  TIME’s editorial team replies that “Gutterman’s own biographical sketch in the Motion Picture Almanac notes: ‘Paramount publicity writer 1941-42. June 1942 appointed publicity director Warner Brothers Radio Division.'”

Hey, you can’t fault the guy for creating another little mention in TIME Magazine at the launch of his own title, well done, I say.

Actually, the IMDb does list a Leo Gutterman as the original author of a 1948 film titled “Smart Women” starring Brian Aherne and Constance Bennett.  Note this Gutterman wrote the source material that the script, written by others, was based on.  Even with the missing “n” (this is Leo, not Leon), this is the only credit for Gutterman on the comprehensive, though admittedly not perfect, IMDb site.

Pablo Picasso
May 1958 Wisdom Magazine, Pablo Picasso back cover

From there I thought I’d hit a dead end. TIME does not choose to cover the death of Wisdom, and so I thought I’d have to do a little guess work.  But I did find a couple of more relevant sources.

Next stop was Oregon State University’s site where they showed off a “Wisdom Award of Honor” made out to Linus Pauling and signed by Gutterman.  The library dates this item as 1965.  Interesting.

From there it gets more interesting, with this March 12, 1974 Free-Lance Star article “Post Office Frowns on Hall of Wisdom” in which we discover at least 30,000 people have received letters from Leon Gutterson of the Wisdom of Hall of Fame through the mail proclaiming:

“It is a pleasure and privilege to personally notify you that you have been judged worthy of highest honor”

“Based on our evaluation of your impressive accomplishments, you are, to the best of our knowledge, a man of superior intelligence, intellectual attainment, high idealism, personal integrity, excellent reputation.”

“You have been nominated by the Board of Editors and deemed worth of the highest status, highest prestige award of education in America: The Wisdom Award of Honor.”

All you had to do to have your name added to a list featuring the likes of  Walt Disney, Cecil B. DeMille, Walter Cronkite and others was send a $100 gift to the Educators and Editors of Wisdom.

The USPS estimated just a 1-5% response rate.  The Star writes “In a recently concluded case postal officials found that the so-called Wisdom Board of Editors consisted essentially of Gutterman and one female assistant who combed lists from Who’s Who publications and submitted them to each other for promotional purposes.”

Actually, 2 employees rings a bell from up above.

We also get our end date of 1964 when the Star notes “the magazine actually ceased publication in 1964, only one Wisdom book has appeared, and the encyclopedia is still far from completion.”

The USPS decided against Wisdom and stopped their incoming mail.  This document appears to be the USPS’s findings at Wisdom’s appeal.

Of Wisdom Magazine’s death, Albert R. Vogeler, who is also quoted above, had this to say in his document, “Wisdom, Inc.”:

“This glossy “class magazine for the masses” seemed briefly to prosper after its much-publicized founding in 1956, then stagnated, and staggered into financial failure in 1964. It remains to this day on library shelves, an unread relic of a purportedly idealistic publishing venture that was deeply tainted with hubris.”

The Vogeler piece does a great job in explaining how Gutterman’s Hollywood background brought less intellectual subjects such as Cecil B. DeMille and Walt Disney into Wisdom’s mix.

Frankly, I think Wisdom’s past could be called checkered at best, but at the same time I’m all the more intrigued by the title and look forward to handling more in the future.

Pablo Picasso
May 1958 Wisdom Magazine, inside pages on Picasso

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