Posts Tagged 'magazines'

“The Chicagoan” magazine—1973 version

City magazines have been around for a long time.  Their modern era dates from 1968, when New York magazine was launched as an edgier alternative to The New Yorker.

Something similar happened in our city.  By 1973 Chicago Guide had become established as the local city monthly.  Jon and Abra Anderson, a columnist couple at the Daily News, felt there was room for another magazine.  That October they launched a new monthly with an old name—The Chicagoan.

October 1973--The first issue

October 1973–The first issue

The first issue laid out a perspective.  The staff of The Chicagoan liked Chicago, but didn’t like “baloney.”  The magazine would be open to any stories that were truthful, interesting, and well-written.    Phony boosterism was out.  Still, as Jon Anderson noted, “we are not going to be nattering nabobs of negativity, either.”

Anderson also asked readers to be patient while the magazine found its way.  He noted that the new Channel 2 news team of Bill Kurtis and Walter Jacobson had been launched with a huge wave of publicity, but were only now finding their style.

The Chicagoan quickly achieved its own style.  Each issue began with an introduction from Jon Anderson, followed by a group of short, topical pieces gathered under the title “The Frontlines.”  Then came a listing of the month’s special events and entertainment.  Regular columns included Abra Anderson’s pieces about food and drink, as well as others devoted to music, movies, media, art and architecture, theater and dance, and books.

December 1973--What Fun To Be a Bear!

December 1973–What Fun To Be a Bear!

The feature stories were heavy on politics—after all, this was the era of Daley the First.  Will Ralph Metcalfe run for Mayor?  Will Dan Walker or Charles Percy run for President?  Will Jim Thompson run for anything?  And who will be the Machine Boss of the Future?

Like the political articles, the features capture the special flavor of their times.  Oak Park is trying to stabilize as a multiracial village.  The Near West Side is struggling to survive.  Fast food joints have overrun Elmhurst Road.  Circle Campus is killing its students with coldness.  A new movie called The Sting is filming in town.  The Bears are having a lousy season.

Then there were the light-hearted odds and ends.  A Chicagoan board game. Various trivia quizzes.  A survival guide to O’Hare.  A dictionary of “Talkin’ Chicawgo.”

After nine wacky and wonderful issues, the Andersons sold the magazine.  The new owners kept The Chicagoan going through October 1974, then closed up shop.

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“Chicago”—a lost magazine of the Eisenhower Age

The current Chicago magazine grew out of the small monthly program guide for classical music radio station WFMT. When the publication expanded and began concentrating on stories, the title was changed to Chicago Guide. In 1975 it became simply Chicago.

June 1954--with Mayor Carter Harrison Sr.

June 1954–with Mayor Carter Harrison Sr.

Nearly forgotten today was an earlier Chicago magazine. That one first appeared in March 1954.

Introducing their new publication, the editors claimed that Chicago was really two cities. While the city was notorious for crooks, gangsters, and grafters, there was another, less-celebrated city which has been “the principle seedbed” for some of the most revolutionary aspects of American life. Chicago the magazine would attempt to cover both.

Each monthly issue opened with a listing of upcoming local events, followed by short snippets of city life gathered under the heading “West of the Water Tower.” Pictorial essays visited points of contemporary interest like Riverview, Sieben’s Bierstube, and Maxwell Street, as well as the annual Chicago Cat Show and the Old Town Holiday Fair. There was also poetry and fiction, either every good or very bad.

Chicago-the-city was tearing down and rebuilding in the mid-‘50s. The magazine did a story on the demolition of South Side slums. Another time there was a “Sidewalk Superintendent’s Guide” on where to best view the construction of the Prudential Building and similar architectural wonders.

Contemporary issues, like the recent racial conflict in Trumbull Park, were analyzed. Studs Terkel contributed regular articles about the newest medium, television. Reform-minded Alderman Robert Merriam wrote a piece titled “Why Reformers Fail”—and a year later lost the mayoral election to Richard J. Daley.

"Chicago" contributor Studs Terkel

“Chicago” contributor Studs Terkel

Feature articles profiled Admiral Dan Gallery, Sewell Avery, Fritz Reiner, Tom Duggan, and other local celebrities. Advice was proffered on “How To Beat a Traffic Ticket.” The opposite ends of the music world were covered, with visits to the National Barn Dance and to the new Lyric Opera. Another story tried to determine who was the richest Chicagoan (It was either Henry Crown or John Cuneo).

Chicago seemed to be aiming at upscale readers. The real estate ads were heavily geared to North Shore and Gold Coast properties. Art galleries, furriers, financial brokers, and high-end auto dealers regularly bought space.  So did the city’s “better” radio stations.

It was a fun magazine. Sadly, it didn’t last. Three years after rolling out its first issue, this version of Chicago magazine ceased publication.

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“Chicago Times” magazine

In the winter of 1987 I was spending much time at the Chicago Historical Society, revising my doctoral dissertation for publication.  I began to hear rumors floating around the building.  Timothy Jacobson, the director, was going to start an expanded, monthly version of the Society’s magazine.  The title of the new publication would be–wait for it!– Chicago History Today.

Nothing came of those plans.  However, that September, Chicago Times was launched, with Jacobson as editor.  This was a bi-monthly magazine of more general interest.

Nov/Dec 1988

Nov/Dec 1988

It was the golden age of print journalism.  Chicago magazine was riding high.  Surely there was room for another city magazine.

The first issue opened with an introduction to readers.  “Chicago Times rests on the notion that life today did not drop out of the blue, but has a background and a future,” Jacobson wrote.  “Neither a booster nor a muckraker, Chicago Times gives writers the freedom to do good work, to speak their minds, to say their piece.”

In that first issue, Mike Royko paid a return visit to his old Logan Square neighborhood, while Joseph Epstein presented a scholarly perspective on Chicago. Other articles looked at the city’s construction boom and the new local blues scene.  A pictorial section highlighted children’s Halloween costumes in Bucktown.

The inaugural issue also contained two features profiling two prominent Chicagoans, Mayor Harold Washington and City Hall beat reporter Harry Golden Jr.  In retrospect, that might be seen as a bad omen.  Both men would soon die.

But let’s not get spooky.  Chicago Times was publishing every other month.  It quickly found its rhythm.

Jan/Feb 1990

Jan/Feb 1989

The magazine’s “Show of Shows” section took a wry look at the local news since the last issue.  “Razzmatazz” previewed cultural events, while “Voices” presented personal essays on an eclectic variety of subjects.  There was always at least one history article, on anything from Dr. King’s year in Lawndale to the reversing of the Chicago River.

Heavyweight authors like Milton Friedman and William F. Buckley contributed articles.  Frank Sinatra and George McGovern wrote advice letters to new mayor Richard M. Daley.  The magazine tackled such current topics as post-industrial Chicago, the sorry state of the city’s sports teams, innovative architects, and the rise of suburban street gangs.   One of the issues introduced “the new boss of Illinois politics”—House speaker Mike Madigan.

I finally finished converting my dissertation into The Mayor Who Cleaned Up Chicago in November 1989.  I queried Chicago Times about writing an article on Mayor Dever, and they were interested.  But the magazine folded after the March 1990 issue.

I still miss it.

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“The Chicagoan” magazine–1926 version

In 1974 I was a graduate student in History at the University of Chicago. Poking around the Regenstein Library one day, I came across bound volumes of a 1920s magazine titled The Chicagoan.

September 10, 1927--getting ready for Dempsey vs. Tunney

September 10, 1927–getting ready for Dempsey vs. Tunney

I was intrigued. The first issue of The Chicagoan was dated June 14, 1926. In format and attitude it was an obvious rip-off on The New Yorker, which had arrived on the scene about a year earlier.  Decades before the term was coined—incidentally, by a New Yorker writer—Chicago was already exhibiting its Second City Syndrome.

I found contemporary articles about contemporary Chicagoans. I delved into the movie listings for forgotten cinema palaces. I discovered a dismissive review of a soon-to-be theater classic, “The Front Page”—the reviewer referred to it as “Chicago’s latest ordeal by drama.” I immersed myself in the editorials. I especially liked the artwork, both on the cover and throughout the magazine itself.

I eventually read every issue of The Chicagoan from cover to cover.  I even found it helpful in writing my doctoral dissertation.  Then I forgot about it.

November 23, 1929--also the cover of the Harris book

November 23, 1929–also the cover of the Harris book

Some years later, Professor Neil Harris also discovered the old magazine volumes, and he knew what to do with them. The result is a wonderful coffee-table book titled “The Chicagoan”—A Lost Magazine of the Jazz Age. Among the treasures in it is a complete reprint of the issue of July 2, 1927.  The book faithfully captures the flavor of a magazine that faithfully captured the flavor of an era.  I heartily recommend it.

The Chicagoan died in 1935, a victim of the Depression. In the decades since, other local-themed magazine have come and gone. Though not as flashy as The Chicagoan—and therefore, not suitable for translation into coffee-table books—each of them also gives a feel for its particular time.  I’ll be looking at a few of them here.

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