Saturday, November 10, 2012

Deconstructing Old Ads with Bill Sonnett: Magazine Covers As Advertising - Part One (Field & Stream)

Magazine Covers As Advertising - Part One– Field & Stream
One hears a lot about advertising and the need to make a lasting impression on the prospective customer's mind. I know there are advertisements that were on television 50 years ago that are still recalled sharply by most who watched them: “Ajax the foaming cleanser” - “Plop Plop Fizz Fizz” - that peanut with the southern accent diving into a swimming pool of chocolate before becoming an M&M Peanut. They were in black and white of course, before color television. Try as I might I cannot recall a single Outdoor Life or Field & Stream magazine cover from the past few years. They all seem to look alike with the covers cluttered with print about the “new” and “secret” methods featured within. As Joe Wilcox once said, “these are some of the poorest kept 'secrets' ever known”.

In looking for ads for this column I have occasion to look through hundreds of vintage outdoor magazines and many have covers with the type of pleasing art work that is seldom seen on the front of today's outdoor magazines. After a while many of these illustrations start to look somewhat alike with common themes: the leaping bass or trout, ducks and geese coming in for a landing etc. Once in a while there appears a cover that is so unique that it is not easy to forget. I'd like to present a few of my most memorable in this category, in this the first part of a three part series. I'll start today with Field & Stream magazine. These are NOT my favorite covers, they are not even necessarily about fishing, but once seen they are for me, forever stamped in my memory.

We will start with the cover that for me is so striking that it has always been my number one choice in this category. I have no desire to hunt Cape Buffalo but once seen, this one from the January 1954 issue is hard to forget!

January 1954 cover.

The next cover is from the June 1903 issue of Field & Stream. I don't know if is the cover or that there are just a lot of copies of this issue around, but I have owned two and have seen other copies on different occasions. This cover tends to draw me in and the longer I look at it the more fishing related items I see.

June 1903 cover

The May 1954 cover is definitely not fishing related, and might have been better suited at the time for either TRUE or ARGOSY magazines, but I must admit it is a cover that one does not forget seeing. A leopard leaping on a angry Baboon is not the usual fare for Field & Stream readers.

May 1954 cover.

When I first saw the cover of this July 1955 issue of Field & Stream, I was somewhat stunned. Between the red background and the subject matter it is a hard one to forget. I was immediately reminded of the many ads for the “Cree Duck” lure that appeared in my youth. A friend in Ohio had a very large and fertile farm pond in the 1970s in which there were many very large Bass. His Muscovy Duck hatched a large brood under an overturned rowboat and headed out across the water with them in tow. The large Bass had a field day devouring all but three ducklings by the time they reached the far shore.

July 1955 cover.

Finally, the cover from the June 1933 issue of Field & Stream makes my most memorable list. This is based on my personal memories of camping for many years in northern Canada on a wilderness lake with a rock in front of the tent very similar to this. We would stand there and cast several times a day and more often than not, catch plenty of fish. I guess it is not just the physical location that makes this cover stand out , but the cast and the hope that it will result in a catch. Unlike the battles and catches seen on most fishing related covers, there is a lot more “hope” than “catch” in most fishing.

June 1933 cover.

30 years ago casting from that favored rock in front of my Canadian camp site on the Chapleau River.

-- Wild Bill

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