Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Standard & Vanity Fair 952, November 15, 1907 / Bifurcated Morals

The Standard & Vanity Fair 952 (1907-11-15.American Standard)(D&M)
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Get the full hi-res scan here.

Today's issue moves ahead seven years to a point where The Standard has merged with a similar magazine, Vanity Fair. I haven't run across any issues of Vanity Fair, but Dian Hansen in the first volume of her History of Men's Magazines uses the magazine as an origin point of the American girlie magazine in a chapter cleverly entitled, "American Morals Bifurcated." She writes:

While France had a well-established men's magazine industry by 1900, America was just showing its ankles in 1903. A magazine called Vanity Fair (unrelated to the current incarnation) was the raciest thing around, and rooming house loozies the hotties of the time. In this New York, tabloid girls who drank like men might strip down to their petticoats and fall into bed together, exposing their corset cover and stockings to peeping male boarders. The famously loose morals of stage actresses made them popular subjects for these shenanigans, but the biggest thrill of all was bifurcation. "What?" one may well ask. Bifurcation, meaning "split in two", referred to the contours of a woman's legs revealed by her donning men's trousers. Bifurcation was a regular and very popular feature in Vanity Fair, it's popularity leading to Vanity Fair's Bifurcated Girls seen here.

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Hansen includes two thumbnail images of a 1903 issue which looks similar to the content we've seen in The Standard:

Hansen continues:

Women's legs were objects of great mystery and by extension desire in the age of floor-sweeping skirts. Even if a man burrowed under the skirts, there were loose leggings from waist to ankle to conceal the limbs' contours. Bloomers, an invention of the 1880s, designed to allow women to bicycle modestly (traditional leggings were open at the crotch for toilet functions), backfired when they were declared indecently masculine. The transgression of a woman who dared to adopt male clothing has as many layers as her skirts in 1903. First, it suggested she was stepping outside her Heaven-ordained role as hand-maiden to man; second, it hinted at Sapphic perversion; third, it revealed she had legs, which if followed upward from the ankle could lead a good man straight to Hell. So the June 6th 1903 Bifurcated Girls issue of Vanity Fair was really very naughty indeed, even if unrecognizable as a men's magazine today. And in the years immediately following there was little to top it, though French magazines occasionally filtered into the country, to the great delight of those lucky enough to find them. The next step forward wouldn't be until 1919 when Capt. Billy's Whiz Bang, a crude humor magazine appeared...

Vanity Fair might have very well had other contemporaries or predecessors besides The Standard, and there were other magazine crusaders against prudery between these photomags from the turn of the century we've been looking at (in physical culture and movie magazines, at least) and the dawn of the Roaring Twenties, but I think Hansen gives a great description of the proprieties of the era and just how transgressive these managed to be. After looking at all these layers of clothing and all the veils of prudery, the magazines of the 1920s seem almost a world away even though it's not much more than a decade from today's issue to the magazines we'll be looking at that birthed the girlie pulp. The magazines tell the story, a real sexual and cultural revolution was taking place. But before we jump back to the 20s, let's get into today's issue of the merged magazines.

Interestingly, we see the magazine moving away from a society/fashion bent and including sports materials - boxing and horse racing - the bawdy sports of men, for certain. The merged magazine is still mostly girls, though, and there are a couple of extended picture stories, graphic storytelling of playful girls offering opportunity for the imagination to roam and for gams to get shown. In general, though, this issue seems less racy than the earlier issues, maybe there was pressure to tone it down...

Indicia page (I'm going to break this story down into panels following):

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A few lovelies from the magazine.

Boxing! I certainly wouldn't have imagined boxing news in The Standard a few years earlier but the inclusion of sports and cartoons seems to point to an increasingly male readership. Topics include an editorial tearing down of the legend of John Sullivan, Comiskey and Ban Johnson feud over leadership of the American League, and more.

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Tommy Burns talks smack about the legendary Jack Johnson:

A typical stereotypical cartoon portrays Johnson as a jigaboo.

Gunner Moir, the great Brit hope, who Burns would fight and convincingly beat later in 1907. Check out the tats.

But Jack Johnson would get his payback for all the racial invective thrown his way. After finally being allowed to fight for the World Heavyweight Championship he dishes burns a humiliating defeat, jawing with the crowd, completely in command during the entire fight. More here. Or you can watch the fight on youtube:

Cartoons, always a staple of the men's mag, show up. By cartoonist, Mort M. Burger, Oscar Hammerstein, grandfather of the famous lyricist, having just opened a new opera house straddles the line between opera and vaudeville in ownership of various theaters:

A few more lovelies from the magazine. Thanks again to McCoy for the great editing work.

Dorothy Turner

Posey the Model

Mary Winder

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Next time! The Roaring Twenties and a revolution in magazines. A further look at the influence of La Vie Parisienne.

EDIT! I happened to look at the wiki for the more famous magazine by the title of Vanity Fair, which was apparently the magazine Conde Nast began his empire with, initially titled Dress. Wiki sez, "Condé Nast began his empire by purchasing the men's fashion magazine Dress in 1913. He renamed the magazine Dress and Vanity Fair and published four issues in 1913. He is said[citation needed] to have paid $3,000 for the right to use the title "Vanity Fair"[1] in the United States, but it is unknown whether the right was granted by an earlier English publication or some other source. It was almost certainly the magazine "The Standard and Vanity Fair", "the only periodical printed for the playgoer and player", published weekly by the "Standard and Vanity Fair Company, Inc", whose president was Harry Mountford, also General Director of The White Rats theatrical union. After a short period of inactivity the magazine was relaunched in 1914 as Vanity Fair." That magazine would fold into Vogue in 1936 and be relaunched in 1983 as the magazine we know today. Well, what do you know, the magazines are related after all!

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