Let’s Read Harper’s Bazaar, August 1936!

Let’s put some generations in perspective this week. This issue of Harper’s is all about the youth – a veritable album of youth! Covering parenting, babies, young children, and college-aged women (weirdly, teenagers are almost entirely skipped over – Elvis hadn’t come along to legitimize them yet). Let the glamorous little hat parade begin!

The art for this month’s cover was by A.M. Cassandre, who did Harper’s covers for over three years and in addition to being a prominent surrealist also designed several typefaces. You can read more about the history of Cassandre and Harper’s Bazaar covers here.

I wonder where the shift happened between college being the place where you flaunted how rich and fashionable you were to college being the place where the accepted lifestyle was stealing sugar packets from the dining hall to survive on in tiny bits of glucose, like an impoverished hummingbird. The 70s?

I say, Dorothea, your Howdy hat gives me the first whiff of Autumn!

Cruella DeVille in her prime.

You’re going to see the word “smart” a lot in this issue. “Smart” infers practical and neat, not fancy or fussy, which was perfect to frame the new generation of a nation that had finally clawed its way out of the great depression. “Look at these lessons of hard work and pragmatism that my parents have instilled on me! I’m going to be just fine. Look how jaunty my hat is!”, says this ad.

Because you’re never truly in your underwear without your strappy heels on!

They went through so many models who were crushed under that mysterious giant sphere before they finally found the perfect girl.

30s magazines really have the best graphic design. Another recurring theme you’ll see is the emphasis on men’s tailoring for women’s styles. They’re all very quick to point out that this is all masculine-styled clothing, but not by any means actual clothing that would ever be considered manly. They’re very slyly blurring the lines towards unisex clothing, but keeping the gender boundaries rigidly enforced at the same time. I would say that this was a big deal, but we all remember the MANNISH style of boots from that old Cosmopolitan, right? And that was thirty years before this (that’s right, only about one generation removed – isn’t time crazy?)

I wanna go!

Just reading this ad copy in your best Grace Kelley voice is like a pair of fluffy pink marabou bedroom slippers.

Am I breathing? Now I don’t know! I haven’t been in school for five whole years, I must have forgotten how! *Huff huff* SUSAN! AM I BREATHING? *collapses*

Sadly I couldn’t find a digitized version of “Cosmetic Urge”, which sounds like it was utterly amazing in a horribly condescending and insecurity feeding way if this ad is anything to go by.

Cute children, cute dog, buy some soap.

I have no idea what’s happening in this story, but it’s from a world so different from my own that I find it hilarious. I’m not sure if Lou Teller, the Frivolous Waiter is like…a vaudeville performer? A socialite? Does he just prank rich people by pretending to be a shitty waiter, like a 1930s Ashton Kutcher?

The recipe is mayonnaise. It’s always mayonnaise.

You know, when I think of how dogs would sound if they could talk like people, I wouldn’t really expect them to speak in eloquent paragraphs with the droll candor of Noel Coward, but movie star dogs in the 1930s of course would speak like this. Also this photo is too freakin’ cute.

The upper crust really, really took their dog breeds seriously. Not that they don’t still do. I appreciate the note in the “Blakeen Babies” column advising readers to not let a puppy be “mauled by the children”.

While I have a feeling that this would only be flattering on women with the figure of a literal movie star, it’s a very elegant design. Also of note is that this is not the first item of clothing in this magazine that comes in the color “dubonnet”, which refers to a wine and is another word for a wine-red color.

Hey, hipster hot dog pop-up people – quit it with the sriracha and kale dogs and add Irish bacon and something called “India Relish” (which I thought at first was chutney, but it’s dill pickle relish with cabbage. They still make it!) to your hot dogs. Also, Heinz’s recipe for barbecue sauce involves flour and butter. That’s…interesting. Boil smartly!

This makes my head hurt.

Let’s use the power of the Internet to find out what happened to these very rich babies!

Ramona von Hofmannsthal (spelled elsewhere as Romana): married Rory McEwan, a very influential Scottish folk singer and artist of noble birth. Probably hung out with George Harrison, as McEwan hosted Ravi Shankar at their house so that Ravi could teach George how to play the sitar. Died in 2014.

Paul Henry Channon: member of parliament, served several cabinet positions under Margaret Thatcher. Married his cousin’s ex-wife. Died in 2007.

That looks to be Audrey Evelyn James [Coats Field Playdell-Bouverie] , who divorced (ooh!) Marshall Field III (gasp!) in 1934 in Reno and was married and divorced again just four years later (*FAINT*). Sadly my research failed to find any breadcrumbs to follow on Angus James, so I don’t know what happened to him.

I kept this whole article in because it was fascinating in both tone and content. Let’s review:

  • Social progress on behalf of child welfare has been made to the extent that you can’t just breeze into an orphanage and come out with an armload of kids for free anymore (but adoptions in 1936 are still free, as opposed to today, which can cost up to $40k).
  • A woman who probably doesn’t lunch at The Carlyle and works for free will be judging you, the prospective mother. Later on she will judge your husband. She will even have the audacity to ask you questions about money.
  • The trendy place to adopt a baby is called The Cradle, where movie stars go to adopt but for some strange reason are discouraged from talking about it.
  • The Cradle is still around and seems to be doing very well! They remain the only adoption agency in America with an onsite nursery, which seems wrong to me.
  • Adopted babies, by law, must be the same religion as you, the new parents, and the staff will endeavor to find a baby that looks the most like you.
  • There is a story about a family with seven boys desperate to add a sister that sounds like it was ripped straight out of a Frank Capra movie.
  • There is also a story about a man who, immediately upon learning that his newborn had died, swapped out the dead infant for a foster child like he was swapping a dead goldfish for a living one, and SHE WAS TOTALLY COOL WITH THAT.

Patience Abbe was something of a flash-in-the-pan tween idol, but you can’t deny that’s a badass photo of any little girl.

1930s parenting advice! I know the left column seems to be the extreme choice in all decisions, but this was the way of the Edwardian parent. Kind of terrifying, isn’t it? The most prudent advice they can give is patiently communicate with your children like it’s a revolutionary idea. And maybe, just maybe, don’t beat the shit out of them? I also can’t get over the advice for the Aunt Harriet situation, which is “don’t force your kid to be friendly with a relative, there’s no point in exerting yourself when they’re probably not going to leave you their money anyway”.

WELL, WHY DON’T YOU? Washing your child’s hair in flat champagne is sooo French!

I wish that little kids dressed like this today. They do look very, dare I say it, smart. William and Kate get it, which is why Prince George is always dressed like Christopher Robin.

And now, a remarkably sapphic pictorial of college girls in the prime of their youth.

There’s no caption for this, nor does it need one. I hope this girl grew up to be someone’s beloved free-spirited grandma.

Don’t they look like a couple of heartbreakers.

“I, who was young, and now am old…I stave off the bloody and invincible troops of death day by day” — Jan Struther, who was all of 35 when this poem was published.

Dear god, who wrote this editorial? The flat pillbox hat must never be paired with a MONKEY! Monkeys must only accessorize a darling little trilby tipped roguishly forward! Cancel my subscription!

That poor kitten. He knows that he, and NOT the Siamese, looks best when paired with the Tyrolean, and he is just mortified.

Presented with absolutely no context, some cartoons from Jean Effel.

Well, this is all terrifying and certainly didn’t contribute to countless little girls growing up with debilitating insecurities. It makes me think of my husband’s grandmother, who was born around this time to a wealthy East Coast family and once told me that she has been on a diet since she was five years old. In fact, this entire issue helps me understand her a lot more, if this was the world she was raised in.

WILL BLOOD TELL? No, but the Internet will!

Nicholas Eden: Decorated military man, served in the Thatcher administration, died of AIDS.

Michael Lewis: Small-time actor in TV movies, died of Hodgkins Lymphoma at the age of 44.

Pepe Bienvenida: Fought bulls for 25 years. Dropped dead of a heart attack in the middle of a bull fight.

Mary MacArthur: Died at 19 from polio.

Wendy Day: Married a British explorer and had adventures in the Seychelles. Wrote a book about it. Had children named Digby and Ming. Is still alive.

Gogo Schiaprarelli: Became an iconic socialite and the mother of Marisa Berenson. Try as I might, I can’t find a record of her death, so I will assume she is an ageless vampire.

I can’t stop giggling at Mrs. Rodman Wanamaker II and her icy-perfect resting bitch face.

The burden of weariness, fatigue is lifted from you. Your nerves are eased and comforted. You feel free. You rise from your bath cool, filled with fresh energy, wrapped in a lingering fragrance. Your skin has become soft and white. You are joyous, exhilarated, radiant with a new loveliness. You are in your next door neighbor’s living room. You eat your neighbor’s parakeet and absorb its power. You are unstoppable. You effortlessly pull feathers out of your perfect teeth. You are naked. You dress yourself with luxurious banana peels taken out of your neighbor’s kitchen trash. Your skin has now become scaly and green. You are an iguana. You are the lizard queen.

“Oh dear, my ostrich-feather boa has dissolved again, I really must be more careful.”

A black-and-white ad for full-color Kodachrome film. Really selling it to me here.

The Hindenburg wouldn’t blow up for another year, and I feel compelled to point out for the sake of perspective that airships crashed ALL THE TIME prior to the Hindenburg going down. It’s only that this particular crash was caught on video by journalists, so the ensuing media hysteria effectively killed the airship overnight.

Fascism and gasoline can be yours in hospitable Italy!

Yes, in fact, I do need a separate penthouse suite to house my hat collection in.

Pretty cool that Wrigley’s has kept the same packaging, wait –  can we got back to the part about the “primitive Eskimos”?

Now that’s some iconic advertising.

I’m all for joining the inner circle of women who dominate through Smartness. Is that a 1936 way to say “dismantling the patriarchy”?

Double points for working MANNISH and SMARTNESS into the same line.

“Vina del Mar, one of the gayest resorts in South America” – I’m sure it is.

Finally, the back cover featuring an iconic advertising line that Don Draper totally stole the credit for, 20 years too late. This model looks a lot like Natalie Portman, doesn’t she? She also looks very annoyed that you’ve interrupted her tiny-suitcase-peering time.

Next week we’re going back to Man-land with Sports Illustrated, which delivers some sexist gems that only 1960 can.

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