McCall's Magazine

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated

McCall's Magazine

McCall's Magazine dates back to 1873, when James McCall, a Scottish tailor who had recently emigrated to the United States, created a publication called The Queen: Illustrating McCall's Bazaar Glove-Fitting Patterns as a vehicle for disseminating his stock of dressmaking patterns. Following McCall's death in 1884, the magazine was continued by his widow. George Bladworth and his wife later took over the management of the magazine and renamed it first The Queen of Fashion, then, in 1897, McCall's Magazine. During the first 40 years of its existence, the publication evolved from being exclusively a pattern-book to a more general but fairly obscure magazine; a century later, McCall's still published separate pattern and sew-it-yourself magazines, both print and online. The magazine's purchase, in 1913, by White, Weld & Co., which became the McCall Corporation under the direction of president Edward Alfred Simmons, signaled a dramatic change for the publication. In 1921, a year after national women's suffrage had been achieved, Harry Payne Burton became editor of the new McCall's Magazine, vowing to make it a substantial national monthly by raising its editorial standards and publishing high-quality fiction and nonfiction for a new generation of enlightened women.

In 1928, when 23-year-old Otis Wiese became its editor, McCall's Magazine came into its own as a major player in the arena of the home-and family-oriented magazines that were then competing for the attention of the more affluent and educated "modern" woman. Wiese reorganized the magazine into three distinct sections—"Fiction and News," "Home Making," and "Style and Beauty"—and developed "youth conference" articles to attract a younger readership. During Wiese's tenure as editor, McCall's maintained its strong text-oriented identity with the publication of full-length novels in its pages, as well as contributions from celebrity authors like Eleanor Roosevelt, the Duchess of Windsor, Alfred Kinsey, and Norman Vincent Peale. During and after World War II, architectural and interiors editor Mary Davis Gillies invited architects and designers to present their concepts for gracious and efficient living in the postwar home through such features as "the kitchen of tomorrow" or "the bathroom of tomorrow." In 1949, McCall's advocated the "Yardville Plan" through a four-part article that encouraged homeowners in cities to create semipublic commons by combining their backyard plots; the idea was reportedly adopted by civic-minded groups in more than 350 American cities.

In the face of stiff competition from other women's service magazines in the 1950s, Wiese tried to position McCall's as a magazine for the entire family under the theme of "togetherness," but the concept was relatively ineffective in helping the magazine maintain its market share, and it was jettisoned entirely by Herbert Mayes, who assumed the editorship in 1958. Mayes effected a bold redesign of the magazine's layout and identity to solidify its position as "The First Magazine for Women" with colorful, vivid layouts and more high-quality fiction by such writers as John Steinbeck, Phyllis

McGinley, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Herman Wouk, and others. Circulation and advertising revenues quickly improved, and McCall's solidified its position as one of the trade-designated "Seven Sisters" of women's-service magazines. In 1966, McCall's hired 23 year-old Lynda Bird Johnson, the President's oldest daughter, as a contributor in an effort to appeal to young, college-age readers.

Several years later, the corporation that owned McCall's was absorbed by Norton Simon, and the publication later became part of the women's-magazine group at the New York Times Company. Robert Stein, who served as editor during the late 1960s, put heavy emphasis on research organizations to supplement the editorial staff with in-depth information. In 1994, the Times women's group, which also included Family Circle, Child, and other publications, was sold to Gruner & Jahr USA Publishing, a part of the German media giant Bertelsmann AG. Soon afterwards, Kate White, who had been McCall's editor-in-chief since 1991, left to become editor of Redbook and was replaced by Sally Koslow. By the mid-1990s, McCall's was reporting a monthly circulation of around 4.6 million. Among the online services being offered by the publication at the end of the 1990s was "Parents.com," a joint website resource that drew on the editorial expertise of McCall's and three other national publications: Child, Family Circle, and Parents.

—Edward Moran

Further Reading:

"McCall's." http://www.mccalls.com. May 1999.

"Parents.com." http://www.parents.com. May 1999.

Reed, David. The Popular Magazine in Britain and the United States. London, The British Library, 1997.

Tebbel, John. The American Magazine: A Compact History. New York, Hawthorn Books, 1969.

Tebbel, John, and Mary Ellen Zuckerman. The Magazine in America: 1741-1990. New York, Oxford University Press, 1991.

Wood, James Playsted. Magazines in the United States. New York, The Ronald Press Co., 1978.