Surveys of the best magazines are done pretty regularly, but they are usually limited in scope and time. But what happens when you open things up to ask who and what are the great names and titles of the 20th century?
Names pop into the frame that you will never have heard of.
How many hands would go up for Stefan Lorant? Even two of the titles he founded – Weekly Illustrated and Lilliput – are now relatively unknown, despite being bestsellers in their day. You will have heard of Picture Post though, which he founded and ran for two years before going to the US where he disappeared without trace as far as magazines are concerned in 1940.
Mark Boxer will be more familiar. The PPA has an award named after him. He learned the design trade on Lilliput, before transforming Queen into a sixties swinger, launched The Sunday Times Colour Supplement and London Life, before dying young in harness as editor-in-chief at Conde Nast. And even his sideline as cartoonist Marc puts him in the frame of fame.
Tom Hopkinson took over from Lorant at Picture Post and, for a while, Lilliput. But did he ever launch a magazine? What did he do after Picture Post?
As magazine supremos, Alfred Harmsworth (Lord Northcliffe), with Answers and Home Chat; George Newnes with Tit-Bits, The Strand and Wide World; and C. Arthur Pearson with Pearson’s Weekly and London Opinion, all belong to the 19th century.
And what about William Ewert Berry? Who’s he? Lord Camrose. Who? He controlled Amalgamated Press, which published 73 magazines in 1951, with a total circulation of more than 14 million. But then most of that – Answers, Home Chat, Weldon’s Ladies Journal, et al – was bought from Northcliffe’s estate in 1926. And he would probably want to be known for his stewardship of the Daily Telegraph.
But these men left the magazine editorial floor for newspapers and created the world of press barons.
How about cartoonist Alfred Leete? Another new name? But his front cover for London Opinion is probably the most famous ever penned. Or Bruce Bairnsfather, whose Old Bill from Bystander lives with us today as the nickname for a policeman.
Another magazine title – London Life. For 10 years running up to WWII this was the apogee of art deco cover design for a weekly and it seems to have spawned every sexual fetish going, from high heels to maids’ costumes to artificial limbs – in its letters pages. Who was the editor? Haven’t a clue.
From the 1960s and 1970s. Town – Clive Labovitch and Michael Heseltine gave Tom Wolsey his head in designing a great-looking magazine, but it never made any money. Nova, another title that burned bright but leaked money. Harry Fieldhouse launched it and art editor Harri Peccinotti was there throughout in some capacity; David Hillman made his name on it; Dennis Hackett edited both Queen and Nova. Oz tried to blow the system apart and came pretty close – it gave Felix Dennis his first taste of magazines and he went on to launch the world bestselling Maxim. With Honey, Audrey Slaughter showed the way for the teen market and went on to edit Vanity Fair (where she was so outraged over the launch of Cosmopolitan that she went off and launched Over 21) and later Working Woman.
Ruari McLean – he designed the Eagle – and wrote Magazine Design, the world’s first book on the topic according to OUP, in 1969. John Parsons was art director of Vogue from 1948 to 1964, and had a stint at Queen.
And talking of Town, what about the magazine it was created from, Man About Town. John Taylor launched it as an offshoot of the trade journal Tailor & Cutter. He spent 24 years in charge of T&C and made it “the most quoted trade paper in the world”, according to The Times. Now, most great editors will receive such lauding at some stage in their careers, but how many have a portfolio of such quotes from the Daily Mail, the Guardian US weekly Time and The New Yorker!
More recent great names: James Brown certainly set the agenda when he moved from NME to launch Loaded, but he didn’t work out at GQ, and Jack and Hotdog never flew. Mike Soutar took FHM by the scruff of the neck – with a ‘funny, sexy, useful’ mantra – to murder Loaded in the sales stakes, did similar things with men’s magazines in the US, and came back to the UK to launch Shortlist. All that and a former beauty editor on women’s magazine Secrets to boot!
Dylan Jones has proved his credentials at The Face, i-D, Arena and GQ.
But what about the face itself; Vogue (1916 launch in UK); Woman (1937); Tatler (1903); Cosmo (1973); Dazed & Confused; Grazia (one of my favourites for its all-encompassing excellence from paper to design to the editors’ A-team); I’m going to have to stop here! It’s like the song lyric – And those I miss you’ll surely pardon. Your thoughts?