Radio marked founding of women’s magazines

I’ve already mentioned Godey’s Lady’s Book here, because Cavalcade of America did an episode about its editor, Sarah Josepha Hale.

Here’s a women’s magazine whose name may be more familiar to 21st century readers: Ladies Home Journal. It’s still around in print, and has an online edition called LHJ.com, which even offered a 125th anniversary trivia contest. Back in the 1930s, radio listeners heard two rather different tales of its founding.

Cyrus & Louisa Knapp Curtis (click to play or download)
On DuPont Cavalcade, the magazine’s original editor, Louisa Knapp Curtis, turns up in the last 10 minutes of this program titled “Opportunity,” first broadcast in 1936. The multi-part episode follows its title theme across two centuries, from Benjamin Franklin to the magazine publisher Cyrus H.J. Curtis, who ultimately owned the Saturday Evening Post, which traced its origins to Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette.

The episode quotes Louisa Knapp Curtis saying that her husband was inspired by Franklin, and also brings her into the story to laugh at the sorry excuse for a women’s page in one of his early publications. In response, she became the editor of that page, which the couple eventually expanded into a magazine of its own, The Ladies Home Journal.

It was, as the narrator tells us, “one of the first great financial successes of the publishing business.”

A year later, another of radio’s historical-drama series profiled Cyrus H.J. Curtis, and barely mentioned Louisa. Give a listen to this 1937 “Captains of Industry” episode from the Old Time Radio Researchers Group at archive.org, which is also the source of the Cavalcade program above:

Cyrus H.J. Curtis (1938) click to play or download

As its name hints, “Captains of Industry” draws a more businesslike picture of Curtis, even making his deal for the Saturday Evening Post sound like aggressive capitalism, while “Cavalcade” makes it sound like a much gentler rescuing of the struggling magazine, in Ben Franklin’s honor.

Louisa Knapp Curtis doesn’t get much credit, but if you listen carefully, you’ll hear mention of the fact that profits from the Ladies Home Journal were the force behind the Post deal, among other things.

For more about the Captains of Industry series, see the kind folks at DigitalDeliToo, who have researched the series and its origin, a production of David Louis Harris’s Atlas Radio Corporation of Canada. They add a hat-tip to rescuer of radio archives J. David Goldin’s RadioGoldIndex for his detailed listing of the programs.

I haven’t listened to all of the 52 “captains” profiled, just those involved in journalism, and from the gender of the names, I don’t expect to be making any more Women’s History Month references to the series.

About Bob Stepno

mild-mannered reporter who fell deeper into computers and the Web during three trips through graduate school in the 1980s and 1990s, then began teaching journalism, media studies and Web production, most recently as a faculty member at Radford University.
This entry was posted in 19th century, cavalcade, historical figures, magazines, publishers, women. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s