Friday, October 2, 2009

Two Military Magazines: History Repeats Itself. Norman Rockwell Military Artist.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. I love to collect comparable magazines from different eras. Here's a great example.

Perhaps the first magazine to be published by the American military outside the United States was The Soldier's Letter, published in 1898 in Manila, Philippines. I've seen a few issues over the years and its valued at a few hundred dollars.

Only a few years ago, I came across the first issue of Rank, published in Vietnam by the American military 1969. Its sort of a meld between Playboy and a travel magazine, geared towards the recreational activities of soldiers while on liberty in Japan. There can't be too many of these around. I got it for $14.67 on eBay and am very happy to own it.

During WW1 and moreso during WW2, miniature abbreviated "pony" editions of popular magazines were produced for the use of soldiers overseas. I've seen Time, Newsweek, and New Yorker and the Saturday Evening Postpublished a cute little title called Post Yarns. Here are the covers that were done by Norman Rockwell, in only the way he could, featuring his recurring GI character Willie Gillis (Bob Beck in real life). These images had also appeared previously on the cover of the parent publication.

Rockwell had also done miltary theme covers for various magazines during WW1, especially the old humor Life. He spent his military service during the war as an apprentice painter and varnisher in the good 'ol U.S.A, but basically spent his time illustrating the base newpaper Afloat and Ashore and painting portraits of officers, aside from ongoing contributions to a dozen or so non-military magazines. Here's one the rarest of all Rockwell illustrations on the cover of the pulp fiction Popular Magazine.

Its rarity is testimony to truly ephemeral nature of these magazines. The original circulation must have been in the tens if not hundreds of thousands and in all my years of collecting, I've only seen one of these (bought at a pulpcon in Dayton, Ohio for one dollar!).The bulk of 'em probably went into the paper drives (early 2oth century recycling).

Ain't collecting fun? Going off to one of my favorite paper shows tomorrow at the Allentown, Pennsylvania fairgrounds, right across from a fabulous Amish farmers market- can't wait- I can taste the shoo-fly pie already- and who knows what paper treasures are to be found! Full report to follow.

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