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Potential anachronism in The Little Review

The first installment of The Little Review was published in March 1914 and is filled with essays, poetry, and literary criticism from some of early 20th Century thinkers. Most of the content is quite lofty, and it’s clear that this was a magazine meant for an intelligent, well-educated audience. It is not only the essays and poems that demonstrate the magazine’s intention to be read by the intellectual elite, though. Even the advertisements are geared toward an educated audience. In fact, every single ad is for a book or a different magazine.

One ad that especially interested me is for The Egoist, another modernist magazine with close ties to The Little Review. The ad for The Egoist does not advertise its intellectual content, though. Instead, the main selling point is that The Egoist does not publish any content about “the war.” At first I assumed that this meant World War I, but then I looked at the date of publication. This issue of The Little Review was published in March 1914. Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination, the event that led Austria-Hungary to declare war on Serbia, did not occur until July. Britain did not enter the war until August 4. In early 1914 in England, the only thing remotely resembling a war was some sporadic conflict between Irish nationalists and British loyalists over the issue of Irish independence. Beyond that (unless I’m missing something major), there was no war.         

One possible explanation for this seemingly anachronistic advertisement could be that war was still a major topic of discussion in Britain and England, even in times of peace. Perhaps people were tiring of the conversation, and The Egoist felt the need to advertise their difference from the mainstream discourse. Any other ideas would be greatly appreciated!

 

 

Post WWI Censorship

 

I browsed postwar issues of The Little Review looking, at first, to see if any anti-government sentiments similar to those that I had observed in earlier issues could still be found, despite the passing of the Espionage Act of 1917. Instead, I found content specifically concerned with the Espionage Act and censorship. The first item I decided to add to the timeline is from the June 1919 issue, and it explains the censoring of the May 1919 issue. This item, like the second item I chose, adopts a snarky tone in its regard for government censorship. The second item is a poem from the May 1919 issue of The Little Review, which was deemed "unmailable" by the United States Postal Service -- probably for various reasons. The third item is an advertisement from the June 1919 issue that raised questions about censorship for me.

This announcement was printed in the front matter of the June 1919 issue of The Little Review. It informs readers that the May 1919 issue of the magazine was "declared unmailable," or censored, by the "P.O. Department" and snidely suggests that readers ought to "[a]sk the Government to reimburse [them] for [their] loss":

Although this announcement is not as directly anti-government as some former content from TLR, I am curious about how the tone passed USPS censorship. Furthermore, at the bottom of the page, Havelock Ellis is quoted, commenting on the usefulness of The Little Review. I am wondering why Ellis, specifically, was quoted here and whether the inclusion of a quotation by him may have anything to do with the reasons for which the May issue was banned, given that he was known for studying human sexuality.

Another item of interest that jabs at postal service censorship is Elsa Baroness von Freytag-Loringhoven's poem, "King Adam," from the May 1919 issue:

The poem is one of a series of three (all by von Freytag Loringhoven) that are focused on the body. I chose to add it because of the asterisk/footnote that suggest that text has been cut out and "[d]onated to the censor" (73). Whether a deletion was actually made by either the author or The Little Review, I thought that this constituted a political remark worth noting, particularly since this poem is vulgar in connotation. Furthermore, the remainder of the issue contains additional content that was obviously censored and banned from distribution. 

 

I also noted an advertisement in the back of the June 1919 issue for "Three Important Books," one of which is a series of five one-act plays by Grover Theis, titled Numbers:

According to the advertisement, the content "confronts facts with such grim directness that a year ago, while the war was still being fought, it would have been impossible to publish the play." This advertisement and the other materials I found raised some questions for me: What would have constituted "obscenity" at this time? How would the U.S. Postal Service have determined whether an item in a magazine or a magazine itself was too "obscene" for distribution? Also, I chose not to add it to the timeline or discuss it at length, but why are two pages of William Carlos Williams's "Prologue" from the May 1919 issue printed on white paper (77-78), in contrast to the rest of the issue? Might this have anything to do with the censorship of the issue? 

 

Patriotism, Anarchism, and Anti-Militarism: Advertisements in WWI Issues of Scribner's and The Little Review

On the timeline, I searched for some topic tags that were similar to the ones that I chose, including “advertisement,” “propaganda,” “Kultur,” “bonds,” “patriotism,” and “rationing.” Among the results, I looked for other advertisements from Scribner’s Magazine, which was the source of my three advertisements, as well as for advertisements from the little magazines. With a cursory search, I found only one advertisement from a little magazine that used tag words similar to my own. The advertisement was found in the June 1916 issue of The Little Review, and it aims to sell and promote “anti-military literature,” encouraging readers to “read the miscellany” (46). The advertisement provides a list of books that readers can purchase in order to spread "anti-military propaganda" (46). The advertisements that I found in issues of Scribner’s Magazine, all of which were published between July and October 1918, were all pro-military and attempted to incite guilt in readers of Scribner’s in order to encourage them to purchase war bonds and ration food to support the troops. The ideological differences between the advertisement in The Little Review and the advertisements in Scribner’s serves to demonstrate the different audiences for which each of the magazines was produced; while The Little Review would have served a more intellectual audience, Scribner’s was a middlebrow magazine that appealed to the upper class, as well as members of the middle class who wished to become upper class.

By performing a genre search for other advertisements printed around the same time as the ones that I looked at, I was able to extend my search into advertisements from The Little Review. In the June/July 1916 issue of the magazine, I found an advertisement for a lecture series by “Emma Goldman, the Noted Anarchist.” Some of the components of her lecture series included “Art for Life” and “Preparedness, The Road to Universal Slaughter” (50). Although this advertisement is not anti-military like the other advertisement I located via the timeline from The Little Review, it does attempt to sell anarchism and further demonstrates the disparity in political ideologies between the audience of The Little Review and the audience of Scribner’s.

Meanwhile, a magazine search enabled me to find another Scribner’s advertisement – this one for Tyco Thermometers – that parallels the others I looked at for today. This advertisement mentions saving money for “War Ships, Railroads, and War Industries” and features Uncle Sam (43). In contrast to the anarchist and anti-military advertisements found in The Little Review during war years, this advertisement aligns with the other wartime Scribner’s advertisements I found; it emphasizes patrotism and the need for Americans to provide economic support for the war from home (43).

I also performed a timeline search for the authors and sponsors of the advertisements that I found in Scribner’s. I was unable to find other advertisements that had been produced by the United States Government Committee on Public Information, the United States Food Administration, or the Indian Refining Company (some of which definitely exist, as a search through the MJP will show -- just not on the timeline). I did, however, locate another advertisement that was connected to Mellin’s Food Company, which supplied the space for the Scribner’s advertisement for war bonds, titled “That Monstrous Thing Called Kultur.” Unlike the advertisement that I posted to the timeline, this advertisement did not involve propaganda or war bonds, but instead, it aimed simply to sell Mellin’s Food milk. The advertisement was printed in Scribner’s prior to U.S. entry into World War I and does not seem to have any connection to the war. A look at all of the Scribner's content from 1914-1918 on the timeline alone (via a magazine search) suggests that the magazine did not publish much war-related content until 1915.

Searching the timeline proved to be valuable in helping me to determine that the items I chose were representative of the general rhetoric of Scribner’s wartime advertisements. I have yet to find advertisements with content or a tone like these in any other magazine. Granted, however, my search through the MJP was not exhaustive, and the timeline does not contain all of the content available on the MJP, so it is possible that other magazines printed advertisements similar to those I examined for today's class. I also found searching the timeline to be valuable in that it allowed me to compare content from different magazines that was printed and circulated around the same time. Certainly, I could have searched for advertisements by clicking page-by-page through other magazines from the World War I period on the MJP, but using the timeline search tool was far more efficient. By doing so, I was able to define disparities, rather than connections, between advertisements in both Scribner's and The Little Review, which helped me to learn more about the respective intended audiences of each magazine. 

PLAY IT STRAIGHT OR PLAY IT COOL: Self-marketing in Poetry and The Little Review

How little magazines enlist support of their patrons has a lot to do with tone, tone meaning attitude. Even if we look at The Little Review and Poetry, two American—two Chicago-founded—magazines with many shared authors between them, we find a vast disparity in stance toward their readers.  I focus on late-1917 issues of each magazine (the brink U.S.  involvement in W.W.I).  In these issues, both magazines are soliciting, with pointed notes to their readers, monetary support.  Each entreats its readers with very different strategies.  

Harriet Monroe portrays Poetry–and portrayed it from the start—as a gallant supporter of art, doing the much same work as museums and opera houses (Scholes &Wulfman, 122). In October 1917, Poetry reached the end of its initial five-year endowment.  The magazine needed money; they went to their patrons.  This letter (read advertisement) calls for essentially two things of Poetry’s readers: One, sympathy to the rising costs of making a magazine; two, recognition of Poetry “as an organ of…art,” a vital aspect of culture.  It’s a warm and sincere appeal, for sure.  It’s also some sly marketing for how Monroe positions the magazine as living piece of culture, “an organ” that needs “maintaining.”  If I were to compress the sentiment—the attitude—of this ad to a few words, it would go something like this:  Poetry embodies good art.  Please support us.

   
The Little Review’s
(TLR) editors play things much cooler.  They are downright brash, downright playful with the paying public.  In the October, 1917 issue, TLR’s appeal to their reader is a confrontational one.  It challenges readers to support “genius” to support “yet unknown” great writers.  Where poetry paints its subscribers as protectors of high art, TLR portrays promises its readers an anecdote to mediocrity.  If I were to abbreviate TLR’s call for subscribers, it would sound something like the following:  We hate bad art.  You should too. Buy The Little Review.

At bottom, the message of these two magazines is one, their tone is different.  Poetry stands as a protagonist—a leader—of high culture, TLR positions itself as an antagonist—an adversary—of mediocrity. A good example, here, that there’s more than one may to skin the cat; there’s—by example of these magazines—at least two ways to say, Buy good art.

 

Comparison between The Little Review and Scribner's Magazine

I compared an issue of The Little Review against an issue of Scribner’s Magazine from the same month and year that they were published, that being, March 1915. By comparing these two magazines it was easy to tell the difference between their marketing strategies, and their readership.           
 
The Little Review seemed to be written for a more sophisticated and politically involved crowd, based upon their advertisements. Interestingly enough, at the beginning of this particular magazine, they advertise for Scribner plays. There is an advertisement that lists plays that one might have interest in, and at the bottom of this ad there is a short blurb about plays written by John Galsworthy, who is also mentioned in Scribner’s Magazine. However, in Scribner’s Magazine he receives an entire page solely marketing his works. Unlike in The Little Review, Scribner’s does not solely depict Galsworthy’s plays, but his novels are also shown. The Little Review has a very small amount of magazine space devoted to advertisements, in fact; only 9 out of 68 pages depict advertisements. Interestingly enough, 7 out of the 9 advertisements are in regards to plays, other magazines, and radical book shops, all things that deal with literature. One advertisement concerning literature advocates for pieces about anarchy. They also have a captivating ad regarding magazines which reads, “The International Socialist Review is a Magazine of Revolt”, yet another advertisement which seems to deal with this idea of anarchy. The only two advertisements that are exempt from this category are: an advertisement for Good Year tires and the Cable Piano Company.
 
Scribner’s, however, has many more advertisements dealing with household items and things that the readership might want, but not necessarily need, including: food (such as Jell-o, chocolate bonbons), light bulbs, and expensive cars. Within Scribner’s Magazine there are 64 advertisements out of 206 pages. Roughly 31% of the magazine, which is more than double the percentage in The Little Review. This clearly demonstrates that a much more significant percentage of the magazine is taken up by advertisements. This shows that the average reader of Scribner’s Magazine is more concerned with travel, new food products, and various luxuries; where as the reader of The Little Review seems to be more concerned with works of literature and barely any frivolous items.  It is also interesting to note that Scribner’s does not contain one advertisement for another magazine, while The Little Review contains advertisements for not only plays published by Scribner, an anarchy magazines as previously mentioned, but for the magazine Poetry, as well.