Monday, July 22, 2013

Gentlemen Prefer

I enjoy finding old magazines at estate sales.  By looking through them, I discover not only how times and tastes have changed, but also how magazine editorial policies have evolved over the years.  The editors are concerned, of course, with providing information ("content") and selling ads.  They gear the content to what they think the readers (and potential buyers) are interested in.

So it was with great interest that I landed on a stack of mid-century Sports Illustrated magazines at a recent estate sale.  What has changed, over the years, in the magazine's content?  Let's look at one issue, from January 28, 1957.

The cover is pretty typical for an American sports magazine of any era: it features major team sports, sports overseas, and so on.  The inside of the magazine reveals that then, as now, even though women read SI, it's pretty much aimed at men.  You still see ads for cars.

And ads that draw a dotted line between sleek styling, powerful engines, and pretty girls.

One feature story commanded the center of the magazine the week of January 28, 1957.  The editors must have thought it was pretty important:

The New York Empire Cat Club Show.  No "swimsuit issue" here.  Real men like cats.

And, to give the story context, the following two pages were devoted to literature and art:

The two-page spread featured poems by T.S. Eliot (originally written in the 1930s) and illustrations by Andy Warhol (first published elsewhere in the 1950s).  Now there's a Jeopardy question for you:  What major publication featured the work of T.S. Eliot and Andy Warhol, in January 1957?

Warhol's "Green Sam," repurposed as "Macavity"
by Sports Illustrated.

Answer:  Sports Illustrated.

You can find copies of Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats everywhere.  I recommend the version illustrated by Edward Gorey.

Warhol published a book of cat drawings in 1954, called 25 Cats Named Sam and One Blue Pussy.  It was reprinted as Cats, Cats, Cats in 1994.

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