Christmas magazines: 1936 Help Yourself

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Staff at London’s stock exchange produced Help Yourself, a charity magazine

You may have noticed that Christmas is coming, geese are getting fat and it’s time to put a penny in the old man’s hat. Charity is a big part of the season and this cover is from a magazine especially published to raise money for good works.

Beano magazine was launched in 1934 by Nalgo, the trade union, to raise funds for members widows and orphans. Did it inspire the comic title?
Beano magazine was launched in 1934 by Nalgo, the trade union, to raise funds for members widows and orphans. Did it inspire the comic title?

Help Yourself was an annual published by the Stock Exchange Dramatic and Operatic Society as part of its Christmas appeal. The woman Beefeater has been a constant in the four issues I have seen between 1931 and 1938, with Remington typewriters and Cow & Gate milk food as cover sponsors. The image was signed ‘Abbey’. It was a very professional offering at 128 pages plus the covers costing 2/6 – two shillings and sixpence. As a comparison, a copy of Vogue at the time cost one shilling.

It was a common model at the time, with Fleet Street publishing the likes of Winter’s Pie to raise cash for industry pensioners, there was Red Poppy to raise money for veterans, and Beano magazine was launched in 1934 by Nalgo, the trade union, to raise funds for members’ widows and orphans.

What was in Help Yourself to justify a cover price two and a half times that of the expensive monthly glossies? The answer is that is was packed with the biggest names in fiction and illustration at the time. These included Pamela Frankau and Marjorie Bowen, and Fortunino Matania, Bert Thomas, William Heath Robinson, Edward Hynes.

Frankau had dozens of novels published, including The Willow CabinA Wreath for the Enemy, The Winged Horse, all three of which were reissued as Virago. Bowen’s first novel was The Viper of Milan in 1906 and her last in 1954, bringing her total to about 150 works, covering romance, horror, popular history and biography.

Red Poppy was a fundraising magazine produced in Glasgow

Red Poppy was a fundraising magazine produced in Glasgow

Matania had been a war artist and provided illustration for almost all the best titles; Thomas was famed for his ‘Art a Mo’ Kaiser poster from the Great War; WH Robinson is still known today for his mad machine constructions; and Hynes was just starting to do the covers of Men Only – and would carry on doing so for 20 years.

Among the advertising pages was a campaign for Ovaltine by Lilian Hocknell, who did many magazine covers and is probably best remembered for her advertising collaborations with Chilprufe.

A rare feature of this issue is a colour portrait of King Edward Viii as the frontispiece. He stepped down over his affair with the US divorcee Wallis Simpson, having served for less than a year, from 20 January to 11 December 1936.

This is the first of several Christmas covers I’ll be posting in the next week.

More Christmas goodies: self-referential Christmas magazine covers.

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