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Grolier Club Exhibitions


Magazines, The Best-Read Army in the World, curated by Molly Manning, exhibited at the Grolier Club

The magazine industry was the first to experiment with reducing the size of their publications, producing an incredible variety of miniature periodicals. From using V-mail technology to shrink pages and expedite delivery, to substituting newsprint for heavy-weight glossy paper and eliminating advertisements, these trailblazing magazines were the smallest the industry has ever seen. From stalwarts like Time, Newsweek, and Esquire to troop-created imitations, hundreds of millions of magazines were distributed to soldiers hungry for information.

Esquire: The Magazine for Men. 1945, 1946 Calendars. 

“Reading Esquire,” undated Photograph. 

Dozens of magazine titles were sent to troops overseas. In this photograph, a GI takes a break from his work and enjoys a full-sized edition of Esquire. The Army regularly polled troops to determine what magazines were the most popular. Based on this information, the Army collaborated with Esquire to produce a “holiday” gift in the form of a miniature calendar with twelve pin-ups ringing in each month. The calendars were carried inside helmets.

Newsweek. Dayton, OH: Weekly Publications, Inc., July 12, 1943. 

By late 1943, Newsweek had landed upon its “Battle Baby” edition and the V-Mail prototype was abandoned. The “Battle Baby” was an overseas edition distributed by the Army’s Special Services Division and the Navy’s Bureau of Supplies and Accounts. It was not for sale—the only way troops could receive a copy was if the Army or Navy distributed the magazine to their unit, division, or ship. New_Yorker.jpg

The New Yorker (Overseas Editions). New York: F-R Publishing Corporation, 1943-1945. 

The New Yorker was printed as an overseas edition from 1943 to 1946. If you look closely at the cover art, you may notice some issues have crisper images than others. This annoyed Harold Ross to no end. The “halftones took an awful licking in the miniature edition,” and the cover art was “mutilated” by the change in page size, Ross complained.  Troops did not care; they savored every issue that reached them.

The New Yorker. New York: F-R Publishing Corporation, April 21, 1945. 

The New Yorker produced a weekly miniature edition for the Army and Navy, which Harold Ross affectionately described as his “pee wee edition.” While each overseas issue had the same cover art and articles as the home front’s edition, it utilized smaller font and contained no advertisements. As you can see, the overseas issue is a fraction of the size and weight of the full-size domestic edition. grolier_230921_9907.jpg

Post Yarns. Philadelphia: Curtis Publishing Company, 1944-1945. 

The tiniest “overseas edition” of a mainstream magazine was the Saturday Evening Post’s “Post Yarns.” These 64-page booklets contained articles, stories, and cartoons (no advertisements) from the domestic edition of the magazine. Ten million copies were distributed, gratis, across the world and “pass-on circulation carried each booklet through many hands.” Here, you can see the miniature magazines, along with the compact boxed libraries that each contained 36 booklets.

The Saturday Evening Post. Philadelphia: Curtis Publishing Company, October 4, 1941. 

One of the most popular magazines of the era, The Saturday Evening Post, treated readers to illustrations by famed artists like Norman Rockwell and stories by prominent authors. Because the magazine was too hefty for overseas troops, the Post created pocket-sized editions for GIs. The Post Yarns contained a handful of cartoons and the leading stories of each domestic issue. The Yarns were incredibly tiny compared to the home front edition.

The New Yorker War Cartoons (Overseas Editions). New York: F-R Publishing Corporation, 1945. 

Cartoons were incredibly popular among troops. While a few cartoons were included in every “pee-wee” edition of the New Yorker, this special edition was printed in 1945 to showcase the best military-themed cartoons printed in the magazine between 1939 and 1945.

Boxed Set of Stories Produced by the Pennsylvania Railroad. Undated. 

Most troops arrived at ports of embarkation by train. “Recognizing the desire for entertaining literature among members of the armed forces traveling on military trains,” the Pennsylvania Railroad created these miniature boxed sets of stories from popular magazines. From St. Louis to the east coast, Pennsylvania Railroad Stations distributed these pocket-sized booklets to troops so they could read and swap stories to pass the time. Some were tucked into pockets and carried overseas. grolier_230921_9899.jpg

Yank the Army Weekly Advertising Posters. Undated. 

By the end of 1945, there were over twenty editions of Yank printed around the world—from Britain to Japan, Alaska to Australia. Each issue was composed of eighteen to twenty-two pages of general interest material produced by its New York City headquarters, and an additional two to six pages of locally-gathered stories. As new editions were unveiled, advertisements such as these appeared in different parts of the world.