“Little skip Fannie Allison Troutsmans writes that she is lonesome and wish to hear from Comfort visitors,” the line starts. “She says this woman is the youngest of ten kiddies latin brides of who four only you live, and adds that her earliest sibling, a conductor in the Southern Railroad, had been killed with a train at Spartanburg, S.C.”
The appeal to other visitors showed up at the opening of this July 1907 “Comfort Sisters’ Corner,” a basic of Comfort Magazine. The columnist includes skip Fannie’s words that are own as well as a address 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 very most variety that is popular or any traditional plants, such as for instance our grandmothers enjoyed.”
The line ran for numerous pages, brief paragraphs in small font sandwiched among the list of many ads. Comfort, most likely, wasn’t only a woman’s journal; it had been a mail-order mag whoever primary function was to bring customer tradition to rural America by marketing kitchen appliances, clothes, medications along with other products. The initial publisher, William Gannett, really developed Comfort in an effort to promote his neurological tonic to ladies. Yet because is obvious 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 the number of magazines within 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 a lot more than 3,000 by 1885, and much more than 4,400 by 1890. Those figures, additionally the blood supply of magazines, continued to increase since the united states of america Postal provider started tinkering with Rural Free Delivery into the 1890s, bringing mail right to the 65 per cent associated with populace whom lived in rural areas instead of leaving the mail at drop-off points. (It wasn’t until 1920 that the census discovered a lot more people surviving in metropolitan areas—towns with additional than 2,500 inhabitants—than in rural areas.)
On the list of first mail-order mags 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 round the nation starting in 1869. By way of Allen’s pioneering work with Maine, Augusta became a hub for posting, with 17 games printed within the city, reaching a maximum blood supply of over 3 million. Not merely had been the mags written mainly for women, these people were frequently created by women too: for the 1,309 individuals working 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 decided on an image for circulation in the publications, writes Robert Lovett into the Bulletin of this Business Historical Society.
“Comfort Sisters’ Corner” was a basic of Comfort Magazine. (Digital Library @ Villanova University)
Nevertheless the mags moving away from Augusta, with names like Thrifty Farmer, United states girl, Golden Moments and Comfort, had been usually low priced, shoddily printed rags supposed to turn rural ladies and families into customers. Publishers would send them free of charge to one-time members, printing adverts for his or her magazines in other publications, and provide incentives for enrolling new members, which permitted the amount of visitors to grow rapidly—whether or otherwise not the mags had been really being look over. When compared with mass blood blood circulation women’s journals like Ladies’ Home Journal and Delineator, publishers among these mail-order mags cared less about readers renewing their subscriptions than about having circulation that is huge with which to entice advertisers. Despite the fact that Good Housekeeping and journals want it truly crammed advertisements on as much pages as you are able to, 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 penned of Ladies’ Residence Journal and Comfort, the 2 different magazines represented “extreme kinds of publications and their particular constituencies; usually the one, the highest kind 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 many affordable things, but more and more them do purchase, so your area will probably be worth just exactly exactly what it costs the advertisers.”
Mary Ellen Zuckerman, a teacher of advertising during the State University of the latest York, Geneseo and author of a brief history of Popular Women’s mags in america, 1792-1995, acknowledges that both forms of magazines added into the flooding of customer items reaching rural areas. But, she states, “In a way that is funny the mail-order publications were very nearly more truthful about their function. You knew whenever you first got it it was likely to be filled up with great deal of marketing.”
Have a book like Comfort. It absolutely was one of the primary mags to achieve a blood circulation of over one million, billing just 15 cents for a yearlong registration for month-to-month editions associated with the 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 of this twentieth century.’” Peruse all pages and posts of old editions of Comfort and you’ll find adverts supplying a pocket that is free for people 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 eye diseases.
But surrounding those adverts had been quick tales and recurring columns, like “Talks with Girls” and “Poultry Farming for Females.” Actually, Zuckerman states, the magazines that are mail-order additionally kinds of interaction.
Comfort’s main function would be to bring customer tradition to rural America by marketing kitchen appliances, clothes, medications along with other products. (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 publications had been an interaction lifeline in method,” Zuckerman claims. For us right now to comprehend, because we’re so inundated with means of communicating.“If you can compose in and find out one thing you had written in publications, to check out other females currently talking about things of great interest or concern to you personally, it supplied an extremely strong connection that’s difficult”
Just look at the telephone, designed by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876. In the change associated with century, just 10 % of most households also had phone solutions. For ladies living on farms definately not anyone however their household members, mail-order publications offered a getaway from everyday life, as well as a method to make a concrete link with other lonely females. In addition to “Comfort Sisters’ Corner,” another regular feature for the magazine ended up being demands from “Shut-Ins”—women too sick or old to go out of their homes, whom depended in the charity of next-door neighbors along with other visitors for success. “I intend to keep in mind the shut-in whenever i could,” writes Edna Peterson of Biggsville, Illinois within the July 1907 version.
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 customers for publications seeking a lesser mailing price. Both of which lasted until 1940 among the mail-order magazines that survived the culling were Woman’s World and Comfort.
“I think they outlived their function,” Zuckerman suggests. “As roadways improved and folks had better transport, these people were in a position to access bigger towns and metropolitan areas to complete their shopping, so they really didn’t need to count on mail purchase. It’s ironic because now we’ve circled back with Amazon. Everyone would like to do shopping from your 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 had been growing easier, even yet in rural areas. Catalogs like Sears and Montgomery Ward became the way that is new make domestic acquisitions. However for a brief duration, mail-order magazines had played an essential part for rural females: making them feel less alone on the farms and homesteads, and empowering them to share with you their experiences with other people.