I stopped at a local antique store to buy my wife a Christmas present and found two World War One copies of The Literary Digest.
Literary Digest Magazine was first published in 1890 by Funk and Wagnalls. The final issue was in 1938. The magazine was a general interest magazine that featured the following departments (in 1918):
Topics of the Day
Science and Invention
Letters and Art
Religion and Social Service
Fuel Problems in War-Time
Investments and Finance.
I purchased the two magazines because I wanted the covers that featured US soldiers in the Great War. I soon found that the magazine was interesting and that it provided insights not only to the Great War and how Americans perceived it, but American life in 1918. I will create more blog posts from the magazine in the near future.
The advertisements are interesting because they reflect an early America that has fallen in love with automobile-something that would have been a novelty and curiosity just a few years before.
The cover art of the American soldiers are both heroic and romantic in the sense of romanticizing war and showing our guys as heroes-something that every country did.
The top cover above shows an American officer leading his men into a bombed out house. He holds a 1911 Colt in his left hand and in the right he is about to toss a hand grenade. His men follow behind presumably armed with the 1903 bolt action Springfield Rifle although many Americans were armed with British Enfields. As far as I can tell there isn’t any explanation of the art in the magazine so I’m guessing people would be familiar enough with the subject matter to understand the picture was of Americans fighting in France. The artist was Vincent Lynch and his signature appears in the lower left.
The lower picture above is interesting because it features US Cavalry apparently charging alongside an early tank (left side of the cover). As far as I know it never happened although the British massed their cavalry behind the tanks and infantry in the hopes the cavalry could be used in a breakthrough.The artist is R. Farrington Ellwell and his signature appears in the lower left.
Although some countries would use cavalry into WW2 (notably Russia) the age of the mounted charge was well over by WW1. Rapid fire artillery, machine guns and repeating bolt action rifles made mounted charges nearly impossible. The cover art in this case reflects the romance of earlier periods when the mounted charge reigned supreme. The tank represents the “steel horse” that replaced the mounted cavalry soldier.
Footnote: The Literary Digest was popular until 1936. The Digest was in the habit of taking straw polls to predict presidential elections and in 1936 predicted an overwhelming win for Alfred Landon of Kansas (Republican) who was running against FDR (Wiki).
Landon carried only the States of Vermont and Maine. Since the popular saying at the time was “As Maine goes so does the country” (in pre-election polls) the publishers assumed a Landon landslide but what they got was an FDR landslide.
The explanation for the disastrous prediction became The Literary Digest focused its straw poll on too narrow of a demographic-generally people who were doing all right during the Great Depression and not on those experiencing hardships.
Whatever the reason the poll cost The Literary Digest all credibility and two years later it folded into history.
I knew nothing of this but could not help thinking of how badly the mainstream media blew the 2016 predictions. They predicted a Clinton landslide right up to the moment it became apparent Trump would win in dramatic fashion. The reason for the Trump win appears to be the mainstream media didn’t poll sample broadly enough and missed that most of the country had gone red even if many didn’t particularly like Trump. Will the mainstream media lose credibility like The Literary Digest once did?