Wk. 3 (1 of 8): Racial and Societal Uplift in Scribner’s Magazine and The Crisis.

I noticed some unexpected commonalities in both of the magazines we read for this week. And that commonality is the presence of uplift.


Scriber’s magazine seemed to focus overwhelmingly on societal uplift, from the high-end stores, automobiles, soaps, private schools, even premium bacon that was advertised, it is clear that Scribner’s magazines were targeted towards an upper-class audience. “The orientation of Scribner’s to an upper (or at least moneyed) class is further exemplified by the ten advertising pages devoted to private schools” (Scholes and Wulfman ch.5 131). The fact that there were ten pages devoted to the advertisement of private schools means that Scribner's wanted through their advertisements and their articles, to both educate its audience and to appeal to an already educated audience by providing them with tools for furthering their education and expanding their knowledge.


What was striking was that The Crisis featured a similar advertisement of area schools. Particularly striking to me was the ad: The Call for College-educated women and men: GO TO COLLEGE The World To-day Is Calling for College-trained Men and Women (162).  Especially, for African Americans, having a college education was a way to uplift the entire race that contributes largely to W.E.B. Du Bois’s advocation of racial uplift among the Black community through higher education. I found it significant that W.E.B. Du Bois was the editor of this magazine, and as Scholes and Wulfman have pointed out, in Chapter 6 “How to Study a Modern Magazine”, the editor can play an important part in the shaping of a  magazine (148), and I definitely saw the influence of Du Bois’s ideas in the content of this magazine (at least this specific issue). I remember from a past presentation I did on Du Bois’s book, The Souls of Black Folk for another grad class, the focus Du Bois placed on the idea of racial uplift. From the advertisements such as the very first advertisement of the magazine which is a jewelry ad. This jewelry ad doesn’t just advertise any jewelry, it advertises “the world’s greatest jewelry”. This magazine was specifically written for African Americans and there was an overall theme, much like Du Bois’s ideas of this standard of excellence. There seemed to be a Black separatism of preserving the achievements and success of the black race much in the same way that Scribner’s seemed to preserve what they considered to be the best of the best for their readers.

Looking at these two magazines has allowed me to start putting into motion some of the techniques of investigating periodicals that Scholes and Wulfman have covered in chapters we had read so far For example, pulling from Chapter 5 specifically of Scholes and Wulfman, “The pedagogical value of Periodical studies.” “We can offer students a path to learning something about the feel of a moment in our cultural history by their own direct analysis of magazine advertising” (141). I would like to expand this thought of Scholes and Wulfman by saying that the integration of studying a magazine’s advertising and its contents, can provide valuable insight into not only the history of a specific historical period but also insight into the ideology of a magazine.  

Colored Expectations -wk 3

Advertisements tell us just as much by what they don’t say as what they do, especially in comparison to one another. Scribners and The Crisis both contain sections in their magazines giving information about different lower and higher education. The Crisis dives right in to their education section with a large portrait of a sharp looking black military man, along with several other university postings. Scribners does not immediately post about their educators, though. They have a full paragraph giving warning that families should make their own “personal investigation” to ensure that schools are a fit because “The need of special or individual training for those not capable of adjusting themselves to a certain standard is generally recognized” (22). What this indicates to me is a certain level of trust with the “darker races” to their writers. If a school is posted, the understanding is that it would be “safe.” However, the message conveyed by Scribners is a certain paranoia that schools might have a certain brand of “special” that people don’t appreciate. To me, this reads as “don’t worry, y’all. Your white kids will be okay at these places, but verify to make sure.” Furthermore, certain of these postings communicate gender expectations, and those are not across the board consistent. In The Crisis, the Daytona Educational and Industrial School for Negro Girls discusses “Christian Influences” and how their new principal was once in charge of a house for “Working Girls” (160). This communicates a sense of expectation of black girls—to be groomed for polite Christian living and hard work. Meanwhile, Scribners lists at least 5 schools for girls, and they list activities such as dancing, music, painting, etc (22-23). The women in these schools are not being trained for hard work—they are being trained to be trophy wives and mistresses. The readers of these magazines are not only separated by color; they are separated by economic position. Without even reading the rest of the magazine, these school advertisements communicate the state of their readers. 

Magazine Temporality - Blog 1/8

This week, I am drawn to the notion that magazines are "very much of their moment" and "addressed to the audience of that moment" (cite). While this observation seems apparent enough, it is absolutely impossible to not take note and compare. 

I was most struck, I think, by the fact that advertisements in magazines were indicative of the audience reading them. And while, again, this may seem obvious, I couldn't help but notice how this is no longer the case. Car advertisements are no longer exclusive to the wealthy, but instead are widely exposed to people of all backgrounds. Where a Tiffany advertisement in a magazine a hundred years ago was only meant for people who could afford such luxuries, Tiffany or similar companies now advertise to the populace at large. While much of this can be attributed to technological advances such as TV and radio broadcasting, the credit card, social media, etc., I still find it interesting that advertisements really could tell you which magazines were meant for which kinds of people. Nowadays, widespread ads have virtually no boundaries and little consideration for audience beyond concerns of interest. 

Another instance that calls attention to magazine temporality is the "Discovering America by Motor" spread in Scribner's. "You can't do your hundred and fifty miles a day on a timed schedule and let the landscape soak into you" is a shocking sentence to read as a twenty first century adult (140). It took them one week to travel from Ohio to the White Mountains in New Hampshire, a drive that would take 14 hours now and could reasonably be done in one day. Automobile capabilities aside, I can't imagine any modern-day American wanting to take a week to road trip such a small distance. For me, this magazine spread really dates the values of that time. "That lilac bush, now. It was worth noticing," says Sawyer. I can't say with much confidence that someone would stop their car to do the same at present (140). Further, to own a car was considered "distinguished" and "altruistic" and "kindly folk" usually occupied these vehicles (143-144). The attitudes regarding car ownership have shifted so much that it would be unrecognizable now. 


Modern Insurance

In their February 1913 issues, both The Crisis and Scribner’s discuss insurance, which was changing at the beginning of the 20th century. An ad in Scibner’s uses an ethos tactic to try to sell fire insurance to readers. “For over 100 years” Hartford Fire Insurance Company has charged “substantially the same” rates as other insurance companies, but Hartford is all about the quality (28). The rhetoric of the ad relies upon a picture of a row of apples, all different shapes, colors, and sizes, and Hartford claims that the apples represent the variety of quality of insurance companies. I think the quality argument rings a little bit dissonant to my ears because I think about ads that use quantity as their selling point: “better deals!” that is,  lower rates, same quality instead of same rate, higher quality. In advertising and marketing circles, this difference in tactics probably has a long history. Nonetheless I found it compelling as an example useful to compare how companies are advertising. The Hartford Company still exists by the way—it had over 70 billion dollars in assets in 2019. Their stock price is up 1.68%.

To touch on the what of what companies are advertising in these magazines, insurance has modern and antiquated forms, according to The Crisis. In an article discussing why segregation is separate but not equal, Du Bois (or an associate editor) writes “our insurance societies, with few exceptions, do not know what modern insurance means” (185). In Scribner's The Hartford Fire Insurance Company presumably deals only in insuring property for fire damage, the likelihood of which diminished as access to electric lighting and heating expanded. So then modern insurance must be, like modernism, a response to the circumstances/developments of modernity. "Modern insurance" suggests that insurers changed their strategies as a response to new technologies. I don’t have anything more substantive to say, I just find it fitting that “modern insurance”, affected by technological developments like electricity, is being discussed in an editorial of The Crisis while in the same month, Scribner’s has an issue that focuses on cars and a growing car culture, and it advertises fire insurance. The first car insurance policy was issued in 1897, but I wonder when it became profitable to advertise auto insurance in widely-circulated media.

These somewhat scattered thoughts culminate in my main point: I’m interested in the development of this “modern” insurance and its explicit connections to technological developments like automobiles and electricity.

The Crisis 5.4 and James Weldon Johnson

After reading the Crisis Vol. 5 No. 4, it seems like the magazine has a two-fold rhetorical purpose: highlight the achievements by and within the black community, and political arguments that articulate/publicize the injustices facing that community—there is a persuasive angle toward racial progress, ending discrimination and violence, etc. The magazine first highlights various accomplishment and important members of the black community, then argues against and addresses injustices, and then ends by highlighting achievements by the community. I’m not sure the rhetorical effect of ordering the content in this way; but one observation I can make is that this structure roughly follows the structure of the slave narrative: establishes humanity of author, then chronicles the loss of humanity (caused by slavery and racial discrimination/violence), and then ends with the narrator finding humanity again. Note: I’m not taking into account the function/effect of the advertising pages that bookend the issue.

One thing that’s interesting is James Weldon Johnson’s function in this issue-- to span and transition between highlighting members of the black community and the political arguments against American racism. He is first introduced in the “Men of the Month” column (pp 171-2) as “one of the most promising figures in Negro-American literature.” The editors mention his recent publication of “Fifty Years” on the front page of the NYT and then give a brief biography. The majority of this short passage is dedicated to his artistic achievements as first a song writer and then as a literary figure—“more serious writing.” The Crisis primes us to understand Johnson as an author with the potential for “epoch making.” The poem “Father, Father Abraham” follows this introduction and, like the introduction, frames Johnson as an apolitical author. The focus is on the aesthetic quality of his writing. The poem is religious and follows a tight rhyme scheme and metrical form.

The very next page of the magazine is the “Opinion” (p 173) section wherein lies the bulk of the persuasive, argumentative content. The section opens with an “Emancipation” subsection, and Johnson’s poem is quoted at the beginning, highlighting now his political writing. The section of the poem that’s quoted alludes directly to violence enacted on the black body (“spirit bowed beneath the blow… wounds and stings… brutish might/That strikes…”). There is an overriding sense of “despair,” of progress not made. And the poem ends with the suggestion that previous efforts toward emancipation will continue, and that “God” won’t let those strivings “come to naught.” This is a directly political poem, one that contrasts directly with Johnson’s biographical sketch before and the “Father, Father Abraham” poem. The question is why the Crisis sets up Johnson first as an artist and then as a political writer? Why shape the audience’s understanding of Johnson in this way? On a functional level, Johnson is used to transition between sections in the magazine. How does this structure, though, shape the audience's reading of argumentative content of the opinion section?

The Line Between Ads and Prose

In Robert Scholes and Clifford Wulfman's Modernism in the Magazines: An Introduction, the authors bring up discussion about how advertisements in the early twentieth century (and late, late nineteenth century) were beginning to influence the organization and content of magazines. Of course, the argument can be made that the reverse is true: advertisements, being a necessity for many magazines to keep costs low, were influenced by the content of magazines themselves. Certainly, little magazines kept their interests literary, as seen in the predominantly literary ads of The Freewoman and The New Freewoman. However, in the case of magazines such as Scribner's--with their larger audience--whole sections were dedicated "to situate and enhance the ads themselves" (Scholes and Wulfman).

This is apparent in the February 1913 edition of Scribner's, in which the entire edition is based around automobiles. In fact, the magazine reads as a not-so-subtle (today, at least, where there are cars aplenty) advertisement to intice readers to buy cars. In Scribner's "Index to Advertisements," it says, "Scribner's was one of the first periodicals in the country to publish the advertisement of an automobile. . . You can hardly fail to be interested in the attractive motor announcments in this number. Scribner's recommends these manufacturers to you" (2). Following this is not only a list of manufacturers, but a promise that mentioning Scribner's to these manufacturers will be beneficial (2). The rest of the magazine includes illustrated images of cars on mountaintops or black and white photographs of vehicles trudging through different environments. In short, it is clear that this magazine has not only embraced advertisements, but has found a way to incorporate these ads rather than to allow them to appear wholly unrelated (and unappealing, perhaps). In fact, Ralph D. Paine's article "Discovering America by Motor" reads as both engaging prose (for readers of John Steinbeck, it feels reminiscent of his later memior Travels with Charlie in Search of America) and a buyer's guide that promises safety and adventure. Ezra Pounds disdain for advertisements in magazines might not have been wholly unfounded, as in Scribner's case, but the fine line between advertisements and prose is an interesting prospect in itself. Only, however, if my endorsement of its study does not read as an ad itself.

The Advertisement and Compulsory Recognition

Advertising’s compulsory nature has ensnared the subject so totally as to become ceaseless. Total advertisement has steered perception itself toward its sole object: the commodity. By simple animal recognition, looking and listening earn their fetish character by being put forcibly into service of the commodity. As Joyce understood in Finnegans Wake, even if one manages to close their eyes and plug their ears, culture still intrudes. Its vessel is the ad. Advertisement is omnipotent. It’s thus unsurprising that Joyce’s Leopold Bloom is an advertising canvasser. The canvasser’s day is the daytime of modernity itself: the daylit rush to illuminate everything at once under the bright lights of the market. Lewis understood as much. Blast incorporates the aesthetics of advertisement to make aggression and exclusion essentially saleable. Like the radio, the magazine, a technology of industrial modernity has its own set of ideological claims and interests. Advertisement enlists art to serve the commodity. Still, the ad is hardly rhetorically empty. The story of Tiffany and Co. in Scribner’s, for example, isn’t marginal to the fiction, but attends it. Reflexively, the serial novel, efficient and consumable, aspires toward the condition of the ad. Scribner’s two glossaries—one for literature and one for advertisement— proves their fixed relation, as though to invite the reader to pick their poison, or, to quote Ecclesiastes: “All go to one place; all come from dust, and all return to dust” (3:20).

Panama Canal Week 3 (Blog 2 of 8)

Volume 53, No.2, pages 234-51.  Joseph Bishop.

Scribner's Magazine, Vol. 53, No. 2. (February, 1913) (brown.edu)

This article really caught my eye. I knew the Panama Canal was dug at that time, and the problems associated with yellow fever, but not written in such a personal way before. With everything going on with our ongoing epidemic, comparing it to one from the past keeps making me think. How do we act now compared to back then? Trying to find a cure and immunity takes time and sometimes lives. Back then they made sure in the article to mention the names of the brave men that volunteered to be test subjects. How scary that must have been. These men had a very strong sense of honor. But maybe it is not seen as often now because science is so advanced. It really struck me that they didn’t want a reward for their services rendered, even though death was probable. And some of them did die. It’s very sad, that they had to sacrifice their lives. I did like the part where it was said that they had no country but the human race. 

   The Panama Canal was an amazing feat to dig and build, but this article shows the cost of live to create it. That should never be forgotten. Also of note is the mention of malaria, which is also a huge problem that some countries deal with even today. It’s interesting to see the small steps that were taken 100 years ago that led to where medical science and cures are today. So many discoveries, trials and failures, it really shows how humanity keeps trying and never wants to give up.  

Week 2 The Spinster (1 of 8)

The Freewoman Issue I Volume I, page 10. By One. 

The Freewoman, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Nov. 23, 1911). (brown.edu)

This article really set me to thinking about the idea of the unmarried woman with no children during magazine’s time and the present. Some ideals about this subject have changed, and some have not. The word Spinster was meant to be negative, but more morally acceptable than having a child out of wedlock or having casual relations. Single men were called bachelors, and it was more accepted for them to have no family or wife. But then, as now, there is a smaller form of stigma about a woman living unattached for too long unless she is a widow. Society then, as now, pushes the idea of women falling in love and getting married. There is the growing idea of a woman being strong and independent, but I believe there is also a silent clash with the idea of marriage, as if a woman can’t be both strong and independent if she’s alone for too long, or loses that strength when she gets married, as if sharing responsibility with her husband somehow makes her weaker. 

The article pushes the idea that a ‘Spinster’ must expend her extra energy and be a workaholic to make up to society for her lack of producing a family. I find that interesting, because while it can be taken as offensive, that is what many women do when they do not have a family to also take care of. But now, women do not do it to ‘make amends,’ but for their own satisfaction in being allowed to have a career and control over their reproduction cycle. The author thinks this will be Puritanical, as it will also take her away from her sex drive. 

The author believes that women are trapped and must go along with conventions of the time, and is well meaning and piteous. But they do not consider alternatives like adoption, or helping out with relative’s families, which often happens. Nor do they seem to try to understand the woman’s point of view and what she wants in each situation, how much money they have, age, health, all may be factors. I also find the term ‘social slaughter,’ interesting. Women in the article were compared to a butchered animal because of how vulnerable they are during this time. The idea of the lone vulnerable woman is not totally vanished even in this time, but options are more plentiful now. 

WW1 Affecting Modernist Magazine Content

            In The Crisis Vol. 19 No. 3 there is an article on page 120 titled “The Optimist” by Ethyl Lewis that reflects on the motivations of African Americans at the time and during the war. It mentions how the war is tough and gruesome, but they must hold out because they are fighting for a future where African Americans are respected and have equal rights. While the piece tries to be optimistic about their goals, there are some depressing reality checks such as when it mentions “the country you love despised you so” (Lewis 120). This reminds the audience that there is still oppression against African Americans at this time and how they need to still fight. The article also appeals to the audience through religious diction or religious allusions.

            People also tried to escape the war’s effects such as in Others Vol. 5 No. 4 in an entry titled “Vegetable Store” by Helen Hoyt on page 16 where Helen clearly depicts vegetables. This appreciation of food may originate from the lack of food during the war due to rationing and in describing the food, Helen also occasionally uses comparisons that have war-related diction. This includes a comparison to “spears and lances,” and “prickly foreignness,” where the weapons are obvious, but the foreignness could relate to the battle being overseas (Hoyt 16). While trying to stay away from the topic of war, the diction in these comparisons could also be used when describing parts of WW1. The idea of describing a vegetable store itself is an escape from the depressing war topic as it is civilian focused. WW1 had a major impact on everything in the world and literature was no exception even if it tried to stay away from the topic.

                                                                   Works Cited

Hoyt, Helen. “Vegetable Store.” Others, vol. 5, no. 4, 1 March 1919, pp. 16

Lewis, Ethyl. “The Optimist.” The Crisis, vol. 19 no. 3, 1 January 1920, pp. 120