From Assisting Shut-Ins to Sisterly Information, Mail-Order Publications

“Little skip Fannie Allison Troutsmans writes that this woman is lonesome and wish to hear from Comfort visitors,” the line starts. “She claims this woman is the youngest of ten young ones of who four just you live, and adds that her earliest cousin, a conductor regarding the Southern Railroad, ended up being killed by a train at Spartanburg, S.C.”

The appeal to other visitors showed up at the opening regarding the July 1907 “Comfort Sisters’ Corner,” a basic of Comfort Magazine. The columnist includes skip Fannie’s words that are own as well as 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 very variety that is popular or any traditional plants, such as for example our grandmothers adored.”

The line ran for numerous pages, quick paragraphs in small font sandwiched among the list of advertisements that are numerous. Comfort, most likely, wasn’t simply a woman’s log; 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 developed Comfort in an effort to promote their neurological tonic to ladies. Yet since is obvious in columns like “Comfort Sisters’ Corner,” those quasi-catalogues was included with a astonishing complication: interaction between ladies that otherwise could have been impossible.

Into the decades after the Civil War, rapidly advancing publishing press technology as well as a growing postal delivery system permitted how many 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 significantly more than 3,000 by 1885, and much more than 4,400 by 1890. Those figures, therefore the blood supply of magazines, proceeded to increase given that united states of america Postal provider began tinkering with Rural Free Delivery into the 1890s, bringing mail straight to the 65 per cent for the populace who lived in rural areas in the place of making the mail at drop-off points. (It wasn’t until 1920 that the census discovered a lot more people residing in hot latin brides metropolitan areas—towns with over 2,500 inhabitants—than in rural areas.)

One of the very first mail-order mags to arise in the post-Civil War years had been E.C. Allen’s People’s Literary Companion, printed in Augusta, Maine and distributed all over nation beginning in 1869. Because of Allen’s pioneering operate in Maine, Augusta became a hub for posting, with 17 titles printed within the city, reaching a circulation that is maximum of 3 million. Not just had been the mags written primarily for females, these people were frequently produced by women too: associated with the 1,309 individuals involved in the publishing industry statewide in 1900, ladies accounted for 615, just below 50 per cent. It absolutely was also stated that Allen himself, the “Mail Order King,” required the opinion of feminine clerks whenever he selected a photo for circulation in the publications, writes Robert Lovett within the Bulletin associated with company 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, American girl, Golden Moments and Comfort, had been frequently low priced, shoddily printed rags supposed to turn women that are rural families into customers. Publishers would send them 100% free to subscribers that are one-time printing advertisements because of their magazines in other mags, and supply incentives for registering brand new customers, which permitted the sheer number of visitors to cultivate rapidly—whether or otherwise not the publications were really being look over. When compared with mass blood blood circulation women’s journals like Ladies’ Home Journal and Delineator, writers of the mail-order publications cared less about readers renewing their subscriptions than about having circulation that is huge with which to entice advertisers. And even though Good Housekeeping and journals want it truly crammed ads on as much pages as you possibly can, those magazines also hewed more closely to an editorial mission 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’ Home Journal and Comfort, the 2 different mags represented “extreme kinds of magazines and their particular constituencies; the only, 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 absolute most affordable things, but more and more them do purchase, so your room may be worth just what it costs the advertisers.”

Mary Ellen Zuckerman, a teacher of advertising during the State University of the latest York, Geneseo and composer 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 consumer items reaching rural markets. But, she states, “In a way that is funny the mail-order magazines were almost more truthful about their function. You knew whenever you started using it it was likely to be full of a complete great deal of marketing.”

simply take a book like Comfort. It had been one of the primary publications to achieve a blood supply of over one million, recharging just 15 cents for the yearlong membership for month-to-month 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 twentieth century.’” Peruse all pages and posts of old editions of Comfort and you’ll find adverts providing a pocket that is free for many ready to offer 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 adverts 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 additionally types of communication.

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)

“If you see the life associated with females on these farms, most of the time in and day trip they certainly were separated. Reading these magazines had been an interaction lifeline in means,” Zuckerman claims. For us right now to comprehend, because we’re therefore inundated with methods of communicating.“If you can compose in and find out one thing you penned on the net, to check out other females writing about things of great interest or concern for your requirements, it supplied a tremendously strong connection that’s difficult”

Just look at the phone, designed by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876. In 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 family unit members, mail-order publications offered a getaway from day to day life, as well as an approach to produce a concrete link with other lonely ladies. In addition to “Comfort Sisters’ Corner,” another feature that is regular of magazine had been demands from “Shut-Ins”—women too unwell or old to go out of their homes, whom depended from the charity of next-door next-door neighbors as well as other readers for success. “I intend to keep in mind the shut-in whenever i could,” writes Edna Peterson of Biggsville, Illinois when you look at the July 1907 version.

But despite having the interaction they offered women that are rural mail-order publications weren’t destined for durability. Many ceased publication after 1907, once the Post Office needed listings of compensated customers for publications seeking a diminished mailing price. One of the mail-order magazines 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 roadways improved and folks had better transport, these were in a position to access bigger towns and towns to accomplish their shopping, so they really didn’t need to count on mail order. It’s ironic because now we’ve circled straight right back with Amazon. Everyone would like to do shopping at home and never venture out.”

As transport technology changed, so too did communications. By 1948, the usa had 30 million telephones that are connected 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. But also for a brief duration, mail-order publications had played an essential part for rural females: making them feel less alone to their farms and homesteads, and empowering them to talk about their experiences with other people.