Let’s Read Life Magazine, January 4, 1937!

If you missed my update last week, I decided for ethical reasons not to do Outdoor Life because after looking through it the magazine was more like Outdoor Murder. It’s been a rough enough couple of weeks without my having to write about and look at pictures of dead animal hunting trophies on top of that. So there is a 1978 issue of Backpacker coming my way that will be a much better fit for this feature. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather look at naked hippies selling sleeping bags than ponder the catastrophic consequences of duck plague (it’s a real thing, don’t look it up, unless ducks killed your family or something and you need vengeance). Naked hippies in sleeping bags are in the near future, but this week we’re doing a last-minute substitution with another Life, from the short in-between period of post-Depression recovery and World War II.

You can read the whole magazine here, which may come in handy for some pages that got cut off in the margins.

The cover provides us with an unencumbered study of FDR’s face, which like any president with a lot behind him is full of wrinkles and sunken eyes. Sorry if the header image freaked you out at all. This issue is very ra-ra-Roosevelt, since he had just been elected in a massive popular landslide for his second term the previous November, making this issue his victory lap.

Apparently the experience of driving a car prior to 1937 was akin to standing on a skateboard being pulled over loose gravel by a team of restless labradors. And it wasn’t even smooth enough to get wasted out of a thermos while driving, but it is now! What a miracle this Plymouth is!

Embarrassing pictures that rich people and their swanky resort don’t want you to see! Like…Anne Lindbergh’s knees!

And these weirdos who may be good enough for those fame hungry scum in MIAMI BEACH but certainly not The Del Monte! I don’t know who any of them are, but if they’re vacationing at the premier glamour resort of the California coast, they’re guaranteed to be disgustingly rich and probably important. I wonder how Mr. and Mrs. Cosplay up there in the corner reacted to this story.

I love the encouragement at the end of the paragraph for more pictures like this, because clearly the editors of Life enjoyed the hell out of them.


I love Clara Callender’s shocking shorts. I would wear those suckers in a heartbeat.

Sadly, Jean Harlow died in September of that same year. January is when she first became sick, so I wonder when that picture was taken.

I’m sure that servant (their words, not mine) was given a sound thrashing and sent away without references as soon as this came out. Maybe he was the one who leaked these photos.

Queen Juliana, the last hope for producing a male heir, had four daughters. Sad trombone. They wouldn’t get a male ruler until 2013, putting the all-time Dutch King drought at over 120 years, but Juliana and her succeeding daughter Beatrix seemed to do just fine in the meantime.

“Queen Wilhelmina did not resent it when her subjects pictured Juliana asking the stork for a brother…” yeah, SURE she didn’t.

Moving along…the sports section.

Caption from the opposite page: “The four young men you see under a shower on the opposite page compose the backfield of the University of Washington football team, which plays the University of Pittsburgh eleven in the Pasadena Rose Bowl on Jan 1. The are (left to right) Halfbacks Jim Cain and Byron Haines, Fullback Ed Nowogroski and Quarterback Elmer Logg. Held every year to ballyhoo California sunshine and roses by trying to determine the crack team in the U.S., this year’s Rose Bowl classic will settle no championship, will only decide whether Washington beaten by Minnesota is better than Pittsburgh beaten by Duquesne.”

Washington lost to Pittsburgh 21-0. At least they have their happy shower memories.

Whoever wrote this had a really strong affinity for the “no _____ did _____ better than _____” style of description. No presumably straight man looked more androgynously fetching than Jimmy Donahue! (whom the British press even today describes as an “outrageous homosexual playboy” and had a long affair with Wallis Simpson)

Priscilla St. George and Angier B. Duke are rather adorable, sadly their marriage only lasted a few years. I know what you’re thinking – but, how could this happen? She’s a ROOSEVELT!

Mr. Watson of IBM looks like he’s just settling down after a long day of bulldozing orphanages and organizing his money into little glittering piles.

The writer was really stretching it by the time they got to Mrs. Cowan and her stupid hat.

Mm yeah economic reform great depression banks organization uh huh HE BROUGHT BACK BEER!

Meet Hugh “Iron Pants” Johnson, a very shouty man who loved to shout his support of the NRA (National Recovery Administration, NOT the National Rifle Association, although I’m sure he loved to shout about that too). The NRA had already been declared unconstitutional by this point, as it gave the wrong people too much power (hmm).

The NRA was not a lasting success, but at least it led to the creation of the Philadelphia Eagles so that’s something.

Beer, dinosaurs, lots of art, some bridges and crap I guess. No seriously, this graphic is great.

Fun fact: this guy happens to have been my paternal great-grandfather. Cool, huh? I’ve never been to DC so I haven’t had the chance to see this stuff in person, unfortunately, but it’s still there.

My great-grandfather was so cool that he had cameos in other people’s paintings. He’s the guy with the saw here.

I can only guess what “Crank-Catcher Dalyrmple” means in that layout of the west wing, but I’m thinking it means that Dalyrmple and Seaman are the security guards on duty at the lobby. Interestingly, the “Little Wigs” room in the layout is now the Roosevelt Room in the west wing’s current floor plan.

Get on this quick, ladies, a catch like John won’t be single for much longer!

John’s ex actually spent the rest of her life in Spain with Elliott’s ex after their divorce, and doesn’t that sound soo-hoo-hoooper gay.

I love the yearbook-style collage.

“He wasted all these years learning how to paint when he could have spent that time sculpting more boobies”

They look like they’re having a great time, don’t they?

“As Ambassador to Great Britain, this German’s job is to utter soothing words of peace to London each time Der Fuhrer thunders new threats in Berlin. At present, Herr Von Ribbentrop finds himself in hot water. At the London banquet for Anglo-German fellowship at which this picture was taken (Dec. 15), he rebuked the world for its blindness to Nazi peace offers. Almost immediately came the report of Hitler’s plan to send 60,000 Nazi troops to Spain.”

The Duchess of Wellington was also married to a right-wing Nazi sympathizer, and Lord Mount Temple was initially a big enough fan of Hitler to go hang out with him for a bit, until I guess he remembered that he was married to a Jewish woman and then he peaced out.

As for Herr Von Ribbentrop, he was last seen at some remote Bavarian luxury resort called Nuremberg.

Elsewhere in England, it’s Ramadan and this poor chicken is in danger!



Batista had kind of a Bela Lugosi in Dracula thing going on at the height of his power. In that he was handsome. And a bloodthirsty monster.

(I’m sure Bela was a very nice man)

It really catches you off guard to see a man smiling with a big toothy grin in an ad from this period. There’s the implication that his wife thinks Del Monte is a luxury brand, probably because of its association with the Hotel Del Monte.

I was originally going to just keep the ad in, but you have got to read the story from the society wedding on the bottom right:

“Sarah Paschall Davis, Daughter of Norman H. Davis, American Ambassador-at-Large, got a job as a receptionist in the Manhattan advertising agency of J. Sterling Getchell through a cousin of a brother-in-law. It is not unusual for a receptionist to attract the attention of men in her office, but Miss Davis attracted no one less than her big boss, John Stirling Getchell, whom she has now married. Miss Davis is 24 and her groom, who advertises among other things Chrysler automobiles and Socony-Vacuum oil, is a dozen years or more her senior.”

Don’t give up, working girls! Go hook your own Roger Sterling!

(J. Stirling Getchell died in 1941 of a tooth infection. Cha-ching!)

This very issue that I used for this week was archived for the public library in one of those 1937 binders! It has held up marvelously over the years.

Yes, Life puts their Table of Contents at the back of the magazine, but not even at the very back, just stuck in awkwardly at the 60 page mark with eight more pages of features. Why did they do this? I have no idea.

The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall actually did fascinate me as a kid. According to the history of this photo, this is the first time this photo was published in an American magazine after being first sensationalized in England just a year before. I think this was debunked in the 1990s as being an overexposure of a maid with a feather duster or something, but now most are saying it was a staged fake of a statue of the Virgin Mary.

The Plainsman, a not-great Cecil B. DeMille western starring Gary Cooper as the most bored iteration of Wild Bill Hickock ever. The movie is notorious for being so lazy with history that Abraham Lincoln lives until 1876. And there were people watching this movie who were old enough to remember firsthand when Lincoln was assassinated, so it rightfully got a lot of flak for that.

The whole shaboozy is up on YouTube if you feel like it.

A staggering amount of the movie is spent on people bitching out Wild Bill Hickok for not being married.

Actual Native Americans playing Native Americans? Wait, let’s back this up. Looking at the IMDB page, the mostly uncredited actors playing Indians include a Hungarian man, a black man, Anthony freaking Quinn, probably a few thousand white and Hispanic background extras, and three whole men with names suggesting Native American descent! WOWIEE!

While I adore the sentiment and the podium-thumping prose, take my time traveling advice and just go back to bed and sleep 1937 out. You’ve got the Hindenburg, the Memorial Day Massacre, a ton of labor strikes, polio, influenza, the continued rise of Hitler, and the invention of spam. On the other hand, Batman, The Shadow, and Snow White all came out that year.

I love that they tell you about all these cool things to see in San Diego but can’t come up with a more convincing endorsement than “You’ll like it”.

I would DIE to see a copy of Soviet Russia Today from 1937.

If you can’t take this hard-riding Texas cow-puncher’s word for it, why don’t you listen to Joselyn Libby, the busy and attractive secretary. The assurance that she’s attractive is how you know Camel is legit.


Thank you for reading!! Next week we’ll break ground on our first magazine from the 1920s with Better Homes and Gardens from February 1929, a scant few months before the great stock market crash.