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Vintage Ken Magazine: Not For The Decorator

Our cottage home has rooms decorated with period items; 1930s styles in the Deco Room, Victorian in the guest room, even using the colorations of the fixtures and tile in the main bath used in the late 1920s. And where do we find examples of these styles to emulate? I purchase magazines for the advertising from the early 40s back to the teens, with some as old as the late 1890s.

Some names may be easy for anyone to find – Look, Life, Ladies’ Home Journal are common and can be found in most antique malls, often well under $10.00 for 1930s and newer. (You can expect higher prices for older examples with Coke Christmas ads.) Other great names include Deliniator, Modern Priscilla, Country Gentleman, Home & Garden, House Beautiful and The Farm Journal.

This weekend, while traveling into Minnesota and stopping all over the state at antique stores and malls, I found Ken.

Ken, you ask? Well, I never heard of it and no one else at the mall had either. It’s a controversial, political, large format magazine with full page photo spreads, published every two weeks on Thursdays. I bought 5 copies from the first year of publication in 1938. With stories and articles, it does have some big name advertisers. The articles railed against the Nazi Germany, politicians, war, corruption, fraud and supported liberal and the black causes.

This magazine featured Big Name Hollywood types in the news in full-page photo layouts. They included Katharine Hepburn, Mae West. Bette Davis, Mrs. Rudolph Valentino, Janet Gaynor, Margaret Sullivan, Claudette Colbert, entertainers Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa and featuring articles from many writers including Ernest Hemingway, Park Cummings, William Schofield and tons of others, (all copies I have include an article by Hemingway.)

Politicians with photo layouts included Presidents FDR (Roosevelt), Calvin Coolidge, Grover Cleveland, Thomas Harding and everyone who was anyone in Germany at this time.

While I did not find the type of ads or pictures of home décor one expects to find in old magazines, these Kens are a fascinating look at the political world leading up to the American entry into World War II, with the warnings that we could not escape being drawn into a conflict.

My next article will discuss a poignant article called “Are You Red, White Or Blue” and an accompanying quiz that was taken by the original owner. The purpose of this Quiz was to determine the political leanings of the reader, from conservative to radical. It seems so appropriate at this juncture in our political process and harken back to the TV networks red-blue maps of the last few presidential elections.

So my search for odd titled old magazines will now include Ken, not for the home decorating but for the history lessons I may learn. If you know of any titles of pre-WWII magazines I should be on the look-out for, please share them with us.


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The Dean

The Dean Thank you for your comment. Ken Magazine had lost its advertiser base, as time went on, as you can see in the issues from that period. The Dean September 16th, 2012 at 7:20 AM

betty I just found 3 old Ken Magazines that my father saved. They are Vol 1 #'s 1,2,3. Truly a look back into the late 1930's. October 8th, 2012 at 10:05 AM

The Dean

The Dean Betty, I'm always pleased when someone finds a treasure like "Ken", The look back in time presented in old magazines is such a REWARD. October 9th, 2012 at 1:24 PM

Shelly Dean, do you, by any chance, have the Ken Magazine that contains an article by John Bartlow Martin about the Haitian massacre in 1937? July 1st, 2014 at 9:49 AM

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