Monday, August 4, 2008

Needlecraft Magazine

© April Carter 2008

Beginning Publication in September, 1909, Needlecraft remained in circulation until WWII. The monthly magazine was published in the, at the time, mecca of women’s periodicals, Augusta, Maine. Over it’s life span of approximately four decades Needlecraft saw several changes, eventually dying in the 1940s, possibly due to a combination of WWII rationing and a general decline in interest for hand done needlework.

Needlecraft magazine is generally accepted to have been published by The Needlecraft Publishing Co., 11 Chaple Street, Augusta Maine. However, the first issues show the publisher as The Vickery & Hill Publishing Co. The change to The Needlecraft Publishing Co. happened somewhere between September 1913 and October 1914. Although unconfirmed, it appears that Needlecraft was started as a way to market the publisher’s clothing patterns. The early issues (1909-??) have several pages of patterns which could be ordered separately from the publisher, The Needlecraft Publishing Company. Lovely line drawings are shown for the various patterns, sometimes including a schematic of the actual pattern.

Interestingly enough, the earlier issues of Needlecraft contained short stories, despite editor Margaret Barton Manning being quoted in 1920 as saying “This publication is devoted exclusively to practical needlecraft for personal and household use, No fiction is published. Reproductions of original pieces of work are used for illustrations.” (From Where and How to Sell Manuscripts, a directory for writers compiled and arranged by William B. McCourtie, publisher The Home Correspondence School, Springfield Mass., copyright 1917, 1920.) Of course, by then The Women’s Institute was running full page ads for their dressmaking course. The ads took the form of short stories illustrating the money which could be saved and the pride gained by making one’s own clothes and are actually quite entertaining themselves.

In addition to to the Needlecraft dress pattern, instructions and patterns for all sorts of needlework are given. There are instructions for crochet, knitting, embroidery, tatting, baby clothes, purses, garments and house linens galore. There is column of tips from other subscribers and one for questions to the editor. The editor’s replies to some of the questions can be quite snippy and I often wonder if Ms Manning got tired of repeatedly answering the same questions. I’ve become fond of her but I suspect that one didn’t want to try her patience!

On top of the abundance of needlework instruction and inspiration there are the ads. From about November 1916 on the cover and selected pages were in color and covers frequently had artwork by well known artists of the period. Herrschner’s first appeared as an advertiser in the inaugural issue, way back on page 22 with a tiny little ad on the bottom of the page. Originally the Frederick Herrschner Co., the company was started in 1899 and is still in business today. Cream of Wheat was an early advertiser even in the black and white issues, but once color was added to the magazine the charming work of Leslie Wallace could be seen in its full glory. Needlecraft magazine is actually almost worth collecting just for the Cream of Wheat ads alone, although they are most definitely not politically correct by today’s standards!

1 comment:

Ilysa Bierer said...

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