Sunday, February 15, 2009
A buy at the end of the auction Friday night sent me on this search. I have often bought these prints, and I even have had the images on china...this one is surrounded by an aluminum frame, a 1940s decorative accent,
but I never took the time to explore the history, and what I found proved to be rather enlightening...there is a web site where you can see original issues that have been digitized... http://www.uvm.edu/~hag/godey/
The magazine was published in Philadelphia by Louis Godey (see...naming magazines after oneself...i.e. "O" or "Martha" is not new)from 1830-1878. It was targeted specially to women, and it published poetry, articles, and, of course, the famous engravings that have been reproduced throughout the last century. A couple articles from the digital copies shows that no matter how many years pass, we really don't change all that much: "A Suburban Cottage in the Italian Style," "A Nervous Wife, and How she was Cured," and "Medical Education of Women."
Edgar Allan Poe, Washington Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Oliver Wendell Holmes had works published in the magazine, but the editor from 1837 to 1877, Sarah Josepha Hale (best known for writing "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and making Thanksgiving a national holiday), created a publication that championed women's right to work and their need for quality education. She would publish special issues which only included work done by women. What we take for granted was highly irregular for the women of that era.
Because the Civil War happened during this time, Godey did not want to offend southern readers so he forbid articles on war and politics! He was determined to feature "fashions, etiquette, receipts, patterns, house plans, crafts, helpful hints, health advice, short stories, poetry, book notices, and musical scores."
In 1845, Louis Godey began copyrighting the magazine to prevent other magazines from lifting the articles. He was severely criticized, but he maintained a sense of elegance. His magazine was expensive...$3.00 a year which translates to $76 in today's money.
According to my research, it cost $105,200 to produce the Lady's Book, with the hand tinted fashion-plates in each issue costing $8,000. But, despite the fact that the images from Godey's Lady's Book remain engrained in our illustration library, it is Hale's courage in reformatting the magazine that we should understand. One of her first decisions after becoming editor of Godey's was to rid the magazine of "watery verse and sugary romances."
Being a composition teacher, I have to admire Hale who sought to improve the literary quality of stories submitted by professional writers, and she also attempted to advance the writing skills of Godey's readers. One article she wrote was titled "Rule of Composition," instructing writers to "give yourself as you are --what you see, and how you see it. Shakespeare, Goethe, Cervantes, gave the world as they saw it, each for himself."
And so...think when you write...are you "watery" and "sugary"...or do you "give yourself as you are"? Still looking good, of course...as the Godey women attest...
Posted by Susan at 4:00 PM