Monday, September 13, 2010

When Life Was Good – Magazines of the Jazz Age

What magazines would the Great Gatsby have on his coffee table? In 1925, he probably would have had magazines like the ones you see here.

Back then, magazines such as Puck (which started as a German-language magazine and then published English- and German-language editions), Judge, Life (the original one, before Henry Luce came out with his version), England's Punch, Germany's Fliegende Blätter and even the early New Yorker and the similar Chicagoan were flourishing, many of them published weekly.

These magazines were both part of and mockers of the new modern, sophisticated population in the country that was coming about as a result of urbanization, industrialization, and spreading wealth. They were filled with cartoons and fanciful illustrations by the best illustrators of the day, short snarky humorous bits and brief articles lampooning the mores and peoples of the day.

Judging from the number and creativity of these magazines, there was clearly a readiness on the part of the reading public to enjoy sophisticated commentary on their lives. The magazines were eventually done in by changing reading tastes, though I suspect it was also a change in the country from the brash optimism and edginess of the 1920s to a more conservative and traditional mindset established by depression and world war.

They are worth seeking out if you're curious either about Jazz Age magazines, or about how different American society was back then.

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