Memory stream Dipping into Philadelphia's illustrated past

An 1890 advertisement for Ladies' Home Journal, which had its start in Philadelphia in 1883. It is one of the nation's most popular women's magazines.
An 1890 advertisement for Ladies' Home Journal, which had its start in Philadelphia in 1883. It is one of the nation's most popular women's magazines.
Posted: February 17, 2013

Ladies' Home Journal is one of the nation's most popular women's magazines, with more than three million subscribers.

The magazine, originally called the Ladies Home Journal and Practical Housekeeper, had its start in Philadelphia in 1883. Cyrus Hermann Kotzschmar Curtis, a pioneer of magazine publishing who would later establish the Curtis Publishing Co., expected young couples to turn to the magazine regularly for housekeeping advice. His wife, Louisa Knapp Curtis, worked as its editor until 1889.

That year, Edward Bok, sometimes called the father of the American women's magazine, was named editor. Under his leadership, the magazine hit its stride. Bok successfully toed the line between promoting conventional principles and new consumer values. The magazine contained articles on traditional housekeeping methods as well as advertisements for the latest inventions - from prepared meals to laundry machines - that allowed women more leisure time and encouraged spending. In his editorials, Bok encouraged women to pass down traditional family values and housekeeping knowledge to subsequent generations of mothers and daughters.

Bok did accept, if reluctantly, the changing role of women in society. As more and more women wrote asking how they could make their own money, he published articles on the topic. He also created a girls' club that employed young women to sell magazine subscriptions. Yet, when it came to Ladies' Home Journal, he endeavored to always keep housekeeping principles and the traditional model of women as heads of the household front and center.

Today's version of the magazine, published by Meredith Corp., focuses on health and relationships, beauty and style, and food and finance.


Content and images provided by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. For more stories, visit www.hsp.org.

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