This is the first post in what will be a weekly segment here on the Green-Walled Tower. It will share selections from magazines ranging from 1908 to the 1930s and 40s and interesting insights into the culture and current events of the time. First though, let me give you a little history about how this all started.
About 17 years ago, my grandparents moved into a smaller house and were going to throw away two boxes of old magazines. I took them, although I had nowhere to put them. And so, they sat in my parents’ house for 17 years while I was in university, and then in Korea. They brought them to me a few weeks ago and I could finally look through them properly. The magazines are all ones my great-great-aunt collected over her lifetime. She was a school teacher and a devout Christian, so most of her magazines relate to teaching, Sunday School, or missions. Still, among the lesson plans and Sunday School stories (and in them too) were many fascinating details about life at the beginning of the 20th century. And now, without further ado…
Ads in Teacher Magazines
It appears that modern times are not alone in having ads crammed into every square inch. All magazines in the 19-teens and 20s seemed to have ads everywhere, especially in the teaching magazines. Here’s an example from the February, 1913 issue of Primary Plans:
What surprised me most were all the ads for other jobs. Most teachers today don’t get into it for the money, and it was even more so back then. The February 1913 issue of the Cambridge Tribune mentions in an article about raising teacher salaries that some teachers made about $800 a year (they also use the term “starvation wages”), which is about $18,600 today. So, it is not a shock that teachers would want to make a little extra money. What is surprising is the types and variety of jobs: watchmaking (if you’re a man), doing magic, sewing, organizing Lodges of the Owls, and even what looks suspiciously like spying, considering the phrase “reporting Information, Names, etc.”
They even had for-profit schools back then, promising BIG PAY for people who wanted to pay them to help prepare for the civil service exam; i.e., to stop being a teacher.
Another surprising advertisement is the one right at the bottom, for Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup. It was a tonic whose principle ingredients were morphine and alcohol, and while that might seem par for the course for teachers, it was actually marketed for infants. Also, it was denounced by the American Medical Association two years before this magazine came out.
This Week’s Bonus Weirdness
A few pages over from the above advertisements was this tiny one, little more than half an inch high:
Tell me, what do you think this ad is about? He is looking for subscriptions. Does that mean he wants you to buy subscriptions to magazines through him (with big savings) since he gets them at a discount? If so, it’s a strange thing for the magazine to print, since it would undercut their profits. Or does he want second-hand magazines, although if so, what does he mean by “big savings?” What do you think?