Saturday, August 28, 2010

Deconstructiing Old Ads: The History of Outdoor Life in Covers

The History of Outdoor Life in Covers
Magazine covers have always been a form of advertising. They are an attempt to get you to buy the magazine. I thought it would be interesting to look at the covers of several "outdoor" magazines and how they have changed over the years. We will start this week with Outdoor Life.
The first cover shown is from April, 1917. Outdoor Life was known in the early days as the "Sportsman's Magazine of the West." The magazine is in the small format that most magazines of the day were in. The Cover is not spectacular but shows that Outdoor Life was moving away from strictly trout fishing. This issue contained articles of bass fishing, bass fishing plugs and pike fishing. The price was 15 cents

 Cover number two is from the August, 1918 issue. The magazine is now in the large format and features a cover and articles on saltwater fishing. This cover painting by H. L. Hastings is one of the most unusual magazine covers I've seen of that period. The price has risen to 20 cents a copy.

Cover number three is from April, 1930 and features a painting that has appeared in countless forms and venues over the years. It is the young boy with cane pole and worms being offered cash for his catch from the nattily attired and outfitted sportsman who has not had a successful day fishing..

Cover number four is from July 1932. About this time Outdoor Life began a series of cover painting that are my personal favorites. This one seems to me to be the "ideal" in magazine covers and I never get tired of looking at it. Though things were going downhill fast in 1932 with advent of the Great Depression, the magazine was still 25 cents.

Cover number five is from May 1942, five months after Pearl Harbor. There are few ads indicating that war production had started and most outdoor suppliers were advertising full force. For Outdoor Life this is one of the earliest uses of a photograph rather than a painting as a cover. This cover has to be a favorite among lure collectors. The price of the magazine has dropped to 15 cents reflecting realities of the depression.

Cover number 6 is from July, 1944, one month after D-day. The majority of tackle and outdoor equipment ads tell us that their company will be making more tackle, outboard motors, ammunition, etc when the war is over but for now they are going full strength on "war production" for Uncle Sam. The price is back up to 25 cents an issue.

Cover number seven is from April, 1956. A great uncluttered cover reminiscent of the Saturday Evening Post covers of the day. The price is still 25 cents, but the magazine is close to 200 pages in length and crammed with advertising that reflects the booming economy of the mid 1950's.

Our final cover comes a few months later in August of 1956. This is a personal favorite of mine as it is the first copy of Outdoor Life I ever owned. I was 12 years old when my dad purchased a copy for me when we were standing by a magazine rack in a drug store. It led to a lifetime of enjoyment of outdoor books and magazines. I was trying to figure out how to catch a bass in those day and the magazine contained an article by Don Shiner entitled "Calabogie Bass" which told the story of an unsuccessful bass fishing trip that was saved when it was discovered that attaching pieces of rubber balloons to the hooks of lures made them irresistible. I immediately went to the dime store and stocked my small tackle box with a lifetime supply of rubber balloons in all colors!

-- Bill Sonnett 

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