Sunday, April 3, 2011

Modern Man: First Men's Magazine 1950s~1960s

The modern American "men's" magazine was born in the wake of the wonderful pulps of the 1920s and early '30s (Paris Nights, Stolen Sweets, Breezy, Snappy and Pep Stories); the Film Fun, Stocking Parade and Movie Merry-Go-Round types of the 1930s and the 1940s/early 1950s magazines from Harrison Publications (Beauty Parade, Eyeful, Wink and Titter). Along with the end of WWII, the incredible growth of America, the creation of the superhighway and the suburban commute, came a cultural explosion in the early '50s including the birth of Modern Man magazine in January,1952.

Preceding Hugh Hefner's incredible success by almost two years, the publication of the little known Modern Man (The Picture Magazine for Men, first issue January 1952) is to many, including myself, the genesis of the American "men's" magazine. 

Above: the not very sexy, girl next door cover of the premiere issue of Modern Man January,1952; below: the second issue featuring stripper Lilly Christine on the cover.

December,1952. Playboy's first issue is still one year away.

The formula adopted by Modern Man was a mix of male centric picture stories including hunting, cars, guns, boxing, horses, racing and sports. Located at the middle of the magazine was the much anticipated dessert, the "girlie" feature and photo center spread. This same combination, the mixture of "men's" articles and "girlie" feature in the center of the magazine was emulated by Hefner for Playboy. It is more than likely that Hefner, a resident of Chicago, was influenced by what he saw in the pages of Modern Man, which was also a product of the windy city.

For me, what always kept Playboy from being a "girlie" magazine and made it the ultimate "men's" magazine was the "something special" it was infused with right from the start in the premiere issue. Today, nearly 60 years later and with 20/20 hindsight, we know that something special was Hefner himself and his "Playboy philosophy".


Eventually what separated Playboy from the other men's magazines was the mix of editorial content. The girlie photo layouts began to dominate the pages of the majority of other men's magazines. Meanwhile Playboy expanded in size and content: added interviews, created the Playboy lifestyle, published articles by top writers about art, jazz, film, men's style and included national advertising. 

December,1954. Betty Brosmer cover

As the late 1950s approached there was a flood of men's magazines. But the real competition for newsstand space was from the girlie magazines. Seductive scantily clad cover girls, plus an abundance of partially nude models in photo layouts were hard to resist. But I digress. Today's post is focused solely on Modern Man, from Issue Number One to the mid-1960s, illustrating the range of covers over that ten year period: strippers, pin-ups, movie stars, busty babes, internationally acclaimed actresses and blond bombshells. 

In future posts I will explore my archives of American girlie magazines, non-newsstand magazines (magazines sold only in adult bookstores), the high quality Parliament magazines published in Los Angels and much more.

March,1955. Marilyn Monroe cover


July,1955. Rita Heyworth cover

December,1956. Lilly Christine cover

July,1958. Judy Tomerlan cover

October,1959. Elaine Ray cover

November,1959. Terry Higgins cover

March,1961. Jayne Mansfield cover

September,1962. Linda Duryea cover

December,1962. Terry Marshall cover

Special spiral bound issue: Modern Man's Quarterly 
circa 1960. Anita Ekberg cover

Special spiral bound issue: Modern Man's Quarterly 
circa 1961. Paula Page cover

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