McCalls Magazine

McCall’s was a monthly American women’s magazine, published by the McCall Corporation. Duringthe baby boomer era it was particularly popular and in fact, was so for most of the 20th century. In the early 60s more than 8 million people read it. It was established as a small-format magazine called The Queen in 1873. In 1897 it was renamed McCall’s Magazine—The Queen of Fashion (later shortened to McCall’s) and subsequently grew in size to become a large-format glossy. It was one of the “Seven Sisters” group of women’s service magazines.

It discussed fashion and values and family entertainment and many other aspects of family life during that time period. In addition other things were added. Patterns and sewing tips were part of the book as well as family events and even fiction.

McCall’s published fiction by such well-known authors as Alice Adams, Ray Bradbury, Gelett Burgess, Willa Cather, Jack Finney, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Barbara Garson, John Steinbeck, Tim O’Brien, Anne Tyler and Kurt Vonnegut.

From June 1949 until her death in November 1962, Eleanor Roosevelt wrote a McCall’s column, “If You Ask Me”. The former First Lady gave brief answers to questions sent in to the magazine.

Starting in May 1951, and lasting until at least 1995, Betsy McCall paper dolls were printed in most issues. Children could cut out the printed dolls and clothing, or for a small fee (10¢ in 1957, 25¢ in 1967) paper dolls printed on cardboard could be ordered. Betsy McCall became so popular that various sized vinyl dolls were produced by Ideal and American Character Dolls.

Another popular feature which ran for many years was the cartoon panel “It’s All in the Family” by Stan and Jan Berenstain. A pair of pioneering female illustrators, Jesse Willcox Smith and Neysa McMein, drew dozens of McCall’s cover portraits.

Film critic Pauline Kael worked at McCall’s from 1965 to 1966, and was reportedly fired after writing a highly unfavorable review of The Sound of Music.

When McCall died in 1884, his widow became president of McCall Company, and hired Mrs. George Bladsworth as magazine editor. Mrs. Bladsworth held the position until 1891. Though still mainly a vehicle to sell McCall’s sewing patterns, The Queen began to publish homemaking and handiwork information, and by 1890 had expanded to 12 pages. In 1891, the magazine’s name became The Queen of Fashion, and the cost for a year’s subscription was 30 cents.

The classic and elegant magazine ended sadly with lawsuits and legal wranglings after Rosie O’Donnell took the helm.

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