People subscribed to the magazine for decades before there was a cable TV channel nicknamed "Nat Geo." And people who subscribed, tended to keep the back issues. I don't know why. Perhaps it was a badge of honor among magazine collectors; perhaps it was because information about faraway places was not as readily-available then as it is now, and people liked to look through them long after they arrived. Often I see hundreds of old National Geographics, stacked and gathering dust, in the garage of an old house.
At a recent sale, though, I spotted only two, dating from 1924 and 1925, and since they were very inexpensive I brought them.
If you look through these old magazines, you can see how the world was changing in 1924 and 1925. A pair of advertisements show a couple of pretty young women. Of course pictures of pretty young women have long been used to sell products.
But look closely: one young woman is sitting in the driver's seat in a car. The other has just graduated from school. You probably would not have seen many ads like that, say, 20 years before. Their world was changing.
Many of the ads in these National Geographics were, predictably, travel-related. The one that caught my eye was for travel to the desert Southwest:
New Mexico and Arizona had not been states for very long; New Mexico officially joined the Union as the 47th state on January 6, 1912 and Arizona as the 48th, on February 14th of the same year. So in 1924-25, Arizona and New Mexico were still probably somewhat exotic travel destinations that few travelers had visited.
Scientists and tourists alike were interested in the Southwest. The scientists writing for National Geographic made several expeditions and reported on them in these and other issues of the magazine. The pictures tell stories of the landscape, the history and the people -- Hopi, Navajo and Zuni -- of the time:
This photograph of another pretty young girl caught my attention:
So, according to the caption, this young woman's world was changing too.
Little did the caption-writer know that, many years later, that same hairstyle would become part of a series of iconic films set "a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...."
By the way, if you're interested in the history of the Southwest, or in Native American history and culture, a great place to visit is the Heard Museum in downtown Phoenix. Their website is at http://www.heard.org/ .