Back in the Day With Henry Cowen

By Ray Schultz

Return with us now to the year 1941. Franklin Roosevelt was President, Joe Louis was heavyweight king, Frank Sinatra was singing with Tommy Dorsey, and 21 year-old Henry Cowen was taking a one-time course at New York University: Direct mail copywriting.  

Not that Henry set out wanting to write junk mail copy (who ever did?). He had his eyes on a banking career. But he was a born writer, so he signed up for the course. Oddly,  the first question they asked was, “How’s your math?” 

“I didn’t know why they wanted to know that,” Henry said in an interview in 1996. But he found out. “Everything was based on the math,” he recalled. “We learned how to do the budgets and the test reports.”

I’m recalling all this because we recently passed Henry’s centennial; he died in 2011.  

Direct mail may not have been the career he wanted, but he was one of the best direct mail copywriters who ever lived, and here’s the proof: copy he wrote as a young man was still selling subs in the age of the internet. 

He was also, to me, one of the nicest guys who ever graced the business. 

The Early Days at Cowles

Henry got his first copywriting job in 1942 at Look magazine. To get it, though, he had to move to Des Moines, Iowa, a place where “the people were nice and the winters were terrible.” 

Conditions were primitive in the Cowles office in the Wallace Homestead building. “We had manual typewriters, no air conditioners and no offices,” Henry recalled. “We created little offices by using file cabinets. When the assistant sub manager traveled, I pushed his files over an inch or two to make his smaller and mine bigger.” 

Look, then five years old, was in a circulation war with Henry Luce’s Life. It had “a lot of single copy circulation, and subscriptions were just coming into their own,” Henry said.  

There were no computers in those days. Envelopes were inserted by hand. With Les Suhler and Max Ross as mentors, Henry wrote letters, studied response, served as art director and ordered mailing lists. “Les said, ‘Spread the list business around. Give everyone their fair share.’” So he did: To brokers like George Bryant, Lew Kleid, Walter Drey and Arthur Martin Karl.  

The state of mailing lists? “We could segment by geography and the age of the list—recency, frequency, that type of thing,” Henry said. “We were sophisticated in using our own names, so sophisticated we could tell whether a person had renewed once, twice, three, four, five or six times. Later, we brought in an industrial engineer and he said, ‘You’re going too far. You’re too segmented.’”

Outside lists came on labels, but the house list was on Speedomat plates, making it  difficult to change an address. Not to worry: “They explained that farmers didn’t move much, so that wasn’t a big problem,” Henry said.  

Look also used some telephone lists, typed directly from phone books by women working at home. “We took the world’s poorest mailing list and made it a good list,” Henry said. 

The basic Look letter was two pages, “nicely written,” and mailed in a No. 9 plain white business envelope. “But it wasn’t jazzy,” he added. There were no premiums and no brochures. (“I don’t believe in brochures to this day.”) But the mailings worked. The offer for new subs? “Sixteen issues for a buck.” 

“We had a different renewal series for each source, and we did a lot of advanced renewals,” Henry recalled.  They even sent hand-personalized mail. “We personalized the name with a brush and ink—in gold, red or blue,” he said. “And we tested them. Gold was best, next was red.” 

Look did sub mailings in “places where no-one was mailing: Hawaii, Guam, the Panama Canal Zone, Alaska.” It also sold subs in Mexico City, Caracas and pre-Castro Cuba. “We sent the letters in English, and got a good return, but then the advertising department decided it didn’t want that circulation,” he said.  

Look also sold subs to department store charge account customers.

“We had stores in just about town in the United States,” Henry explained. “In New York City, we would alternate between Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s and Gimbals’. The orders would come back to the stores, and they would do the billing, so the payups were 99% or better.”

Some of those pieces might look a little strange today. “One store in Ohio had a policy of not using dollar signs, so the mailing went out without dollar signs. They knew their customers” Henry said.  


In 1952, a circulation expert named Harold Mertz visited Des Moines and tried to sell Henry, now a DM veteran, on something called Publishers Clearing House. His idea? Multiple sub offers would be mailed in a single envelope.  

“I told him to save his money because people had tried that before,” Henry said. “Curtis had tried it, Sears, Roebuck and Montgomery Ward had tried it in a way.” 

But Mertz was “smarter than they were,” Henry admitted. “He worked harder and made it work.” Indeed, in 1960, after 18 years at Look, Henry found himself working at PCH.

At that time, PCH was “still only doing $4 million worth of business,” Henry said. And early PCH letters did not have stamps or sweepstakes. 

“Harold would write a letter like, ‘Dear Friend, it’s springtime,’” Henry said. “He wasn’t talking about the benefits or anything like that.” But the copy improved, thanks to Henry and a fellow copywriting legend named Marvin Barkley. 

At some point in the 60s, PCH finally started doing sweeps. But, as Henry put it, “We made a lot of mistakes.” For example, Reader’s Digest had a grand prize of $25,000. “People would say, ‘Do they really give that away?” So PCH offered a large number of small prizes—the highest was $10.

“It barely made a ripple,” Henry continued. “So we tried a $1,000 prize, and that did 25% better than $10. Then we got brave and went to $5,000, better yet, then to $25,000, then the sky’s the limit!” 

Founder Mertz was “a very smart guy, a very tough guy, a little hard for some people,” Henry said.

He added, “We didn’t even have a calculator in the office, but he could add up a column in the millions, 20 different numbers, zip zip zip. He was a genius at it.” 

Did Henry have any sample letters from the old days at Look and PCH? He got wary: He wasn’t about to share his trade secrets.  

“I still use some of those leads,” he said. “I bring them back every few years.”

DEAR FRIEND: The Rascals, Rogues and Roues Who Made American Junk Mail, Chapter 31: Eros

By Ray Schultz

In 1954, The New York Daily News ran the headline, “Hello, Sucker! We’re all on Mail Lists. From Cradle to Grave You Can’t Get Off.” The term “junk mail” gradually came into use, and the word “junk” was applied to food, bonds and other things.

In 1962, the junk mail business attracted the notice of Congressman Clement J. Zablocki a mustachioed Democrat from Milwaukee. What led him to it was not a genuine outrage that might have required legwork to uncover, but an episode served up by a man who was looking for trouble.

Ralph J. Ginzburg didn’t start out looking for trouble. His first brush with the mail order business came at age 10 in 1939, when he ordered the book, How to Win Friends and Influence People from an ad in Boy’s Life. “I recall riding back and forth to Manhattan from my home in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn on what used to be called the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Subway line, which then cost a nickel to ride — pouring over every syllable of that book, committing it to memory. Of course, reading the book in that way I didn’t finish it until I was 19.”

Ginzburg served in the Army, then worked as a writer and photographer. In 1962, after a varied career, he started Eros, which he described as “an intellectual magazine on love and sex.” Eros was a graphically lavish periodical designed by the revered art director Herb Leballin, hard-bound in the manner of American Heritage, and not at all prurient by later standards. The Ginzburgs launched it with a $400 mailing, and published the first issue only after they had enough subscribers to support it.

Later, Ginzburg argued, that, “America, from Benjamin Franklin’s time, enjoyed a tradition of allowing publishers to solicit prepaid subscriptions for a magazine that had not ye appeared in just this very way. The word subscribe derives from the Latin for “underwrite” and Americans were allowed to underwrite, that is, to subsidize the launching of the new magazines whose editorial purposes, as described in prospectuses they supported.”

The idea of offering a magazine that had not yet been published would not be litigated at that time. What would be litigated was the idea of Eros, which in its fourth issue featured a four-color photo spread of a nude, mixed-race couple. Ginzburg believed that this is what really got him into trouble, although he was never prosecuted for the magazine itself, but for the junk mail that supported it.

Ginzburg’s mistake was mailing a brochure for the Housewife’s Handbook on Selective Promiscuity, to doctors of all people. Their sensibilities violated, several MDs complained, and postal inspectors were sent out to track down  how the pornographer had found them. It wasn’t hard: he had rented the American Medical Association mailing list for $3.50 a name. Ginzburg probably should have let it alone, but he by now a cause celebre, and a skilled publicity seeker. When denied further access to the AMA list, he used the list anyway and sent ou a second mailing to physicians, proclaiming, “The AMA does not want you to open this envelope.”

In 1963, Ginzburg was indicted on federal obscenity charges. He showed up or the first of the big show trials of the 1960s wearing a straw boater and boutaneer. He was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison. The appeals went up to the U.S. Supreme Court, where Justice William Brennan wrote, the “leer of the sensualist also permeates the advertising for these publications.”

In 1971, all appeals dashed, Ginzburg reported for his prison sentence at Allensburg Federal Penitentiary, where he served eight months. His wife Shoshana would later say, “It was so much fun. We had no idea in our wildest dreams that it would cause this kind of trouble.”

And now Zablocki  and several smirking  legislators passed Ginzburg’s mailing piece around and used it to butress the argument that mailing list brokers should be forced to register with the post office. Zablocki was able to come up with a charge that Boy Scout’s names had been used for pandering. BuZablocki had more on his mind than pornography,   complaining that “individuals and organizations who rent their lists often have no idea of how they ultimately will be used.”

So-called legitimate direct mailers had to pretend that Ginzburg, who rented hundreds of thousands of names a year from mainstream companies, was not a part of the “industry.” Red Dembner of Newsweek, who had himself bought millions of names of unknown origin from Herb Ozda, testified, “It is a trying problem to apprehend and convict smut peddlers and yet it is one about which all of us are deeply concerned.”

Zablocki asked Dembner if he would rent the Newsweek list to the likes of Ralph Ginzburg. Denmber weaseled his way out of it this way: “If I were to say, ‘I am going to use this list for sending out a solicitation,’ If they were to say that to me, Newsweek would not rent that list to this user.”

Zablocki’s committee, satisfied that great eveil was lurking, created something called “the pandering file”—a list of people who did not want to receive sexually oriented solicitations. All direct mailers had to match their lists against this file, and eliminate the names of the people who wanted out.

Ginzburg went on to publish a number of magazines, including a muckraking journal called Fact. Senator Barry Goldwater sued him for libel–and won–when Fact alleged he was mentally unfit. Later, it seemed that Ginzburg started magazines, offering lifetime subscriptions, only to generate mailing lists that he could rent out. In 1984, he made news again by running a full-page ad in The New York Times for a save-the-eagle charity, showing a dead eagle with its wings spread out. He said he paid for the ad himself as a “personal contribution.” He was unfairly demonized at times. Gizburg in his later years became a photographer for the NewYork Post. And in 1994, the legendary publisher entertained a meeting of junk mailers by showing slides of his gorgeous bird photos.

Chapter 33: Rub The Buddha For Money


Calling Western Union

By Ray Schultz

Direct mailers have often tried and failed to find alternative delivery systems. But they were offered one in the early 20th century by a trusted brand name.

“The Western Union Telegraph Company has a complete messenger service for delivering telegrams,” manager J.A. Rudd told Printers’ Ink magazine in an interview published on Sept. 30, 1903.

That said, Rudd announced that this service had been expanded to include advertising matter. It would cover “more than 30,000 cities, towns and villages in every part of the United States.”

As Rudd explained, two developments drove this move. First, the company realized that its messengers had too much time on their hands.

“They came to the offices at eight in the morning, uniformed and ready for work, but the rush did not begin until eleven o’clock, and at three it was over,” Rudd said. “This left five or six hours of time during which they were unoccupied.”

Second was the fact that the Post Office had excluded some publications from second-class privileges.

“The express companies could not handle mail matter, and many publishers were at a loss for methods of distributing their periodicals,” Rudd explained.

So Western Union stepped into the breach, delivering samples, advertising literature, catalogs and “any other matter that we could profitably handle,” Rudd said. “Our service is not based on weight, like that of the Post Office, but on individual deliveries, and we are able to distribute small packages at rates far below those of the express companies.”

Case in point: “A publication weighing one pound, which is the minimum weight of most monthly magazines and trade journals,” Rudd said. “The government carries such a publication for one cent at second-class rates, or eight cents third-class. We deliver it for one cent, and get a signed receipt in each case. The latter is turned into the publisher.”

Rudd continued that, “for a publication weighing five pounds we charge four cents, saving a penny on second-class rates, and thirty-five cents on third-class, under which catalogues are mailed.”

And samples? One patent medicine seller “had a remedy which he was sending by mail, selling it at twenty-five cents,” Rudd said. “Postage came to twelve cents, eating up his profit. Consignments of this remedy were shipped to our distributing centres, and when the manufacturer received an order a bottle was delivered and twenty-five cents collected form the addressee. This service cost five cents, including return of money and receipt.”

Thanks to clients like this one, there was so much work that “we are now putting on boys who work wholly at delivering,” Rudd added.

Western Union even offered mailing lists. “We have made no attempt to furnish addresses to our customers, but our books contain thousands of cable addresses, and we also have lists of wholesale and retail houses throughout the country,” Rudd stated. “These lists, under certain conditions, are accessible to responsible customers.”

It’s not clear how long this service lasted. But there was one false note in Rudd’s presentation.

“There are thousands of people right here in New York who have never received a telegram, and delivery by telegraph messenger is an event,” Rudd said.

That’s a little dubious. As I recall, a telegram was a frightening thing for an average person to get—it usually meant a death in the family.

Take The Best and Leave the Rest

By Ray Schultz

Max Shulman should be alive to see this. The creator of Dobie Gillis wrote a story in 1948 or so in which Dobie has to turn in an English paper or flunk out of college.

Fortunately, his girlfriend works in the library, and she loans him her pass. The night before the paper is due, he goes down into the deepest stacks, finds a dust-covered book of essays that hasn’t been checked out since 1920, copies one in its entirety and hands it in.

But this backfires. His professor is so impressed with the piece that he enters it into in a statewide competition. Dobie is a finalist, and wins a trip to the state capital. Then it turns out that one of the judges, a bearded, white-haired old man who can barely walk, is the author. Dobie has visions of the electric chair.

The winner is announced—it isn’t Dobie. But as he is leaving, the old man stops him and says, “Mr. Gillis. I’m very flattered that you chose my old essay to copy. Of course, you understand I couldn’t give you the prize.”

Such was college humor in the 1940s (as well as I can remember the story). And the punchline was that Dobie, who inspired a generation of high school goof-offs on TV, got away with plagiarism.

Not everyone does. You can be expelled from school, fired from your job, have your book recalled or be turned into a national laughingstock while your husband runs for president. But Benny Johnson has.

Remember Benny? He was fired by BuzzFeed in 2014 after readers found “41 instances of sentences or phrases copied word for word from other sites,” as editor Ben Smith put it in a blog post, according to Mashable. Unlike Dobie, who at least stole a distinguished essay, Benny allegedly copied listsicles and other trashy material.

It should have been a career destroyer. But he landed on his feet—he’s now working for IJReview. And he was outraged last May because Gawker threw in a little sneer about the plagiarism after he beat them on a story, according to Betsy Rothstein writing in The Daily Caller.

“This is the 4th time this year that Gawker has been forced to aggregate news that I broke,” he wrote on Facebook, according to Rothstein. “This must be hard for their editors who so joyously cheered my ‘demise’ in journalism. Every time they have to push one of my stories, they leave me a little love letter at the bottom of the article. Like Babe Ruth said, ‘It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.’”

These days, there are two capital offenses in journalism: making up facts, and plagairism. If you believe the folklore, both practices were more common years ago, and you were just as likely to be fired for missing a story while sleeping off a hangover.

How did Benny survive in the age of instant online scrutiny? Probably because he draws traffic.

Well, far be it from me to deny redemption to Benny, or anyone. But spare me the excuse that he never went to J school, as some apologists have suggested. Do you have to go to J school to learn that it’s wrong to murder or steal? Most of us are taught in first grade not to copy our friend’s test papers.

Related posts:

41 Shades of Gray

Enough Storytelling—Let’s Tell the Truth

Time Was

By Ray Schultz

Time Inc, not even two years old and decades away from algorithms, sent personalized direct mail letters to businessmen in the 1920s. Take this piece identified in the files only as “before 25.” It went to Alexander Jones, of Market Street, Philadelphia. Since Time magazine debuted in 1923, that gives you some idea of the timeframe.

The letterhead says “Time,” and lists the address as East Thirty-ninth Street New York.” Here’s the direct mail letter:

 Dear Mr. Jones:

 Because TIME is particularly a magazine for people how are not “magazine readers”; for people who have little time to take up with new fads; it seemed to the publishers of TIME that the usual methods of subscription solicitation by mail and advertisements would not bring the new-magazine to the attention of those for whom it was primarily intended—the busy man and woman of affairs.

The publishers, therefore, asked a leading citizen and TIME subscriber in several large cities the great favor of suggesting the names of persons in his city to whom he thought the news-magazine would be of interest. Mr. Edward M. Bok in Philadelphia, Mr. William Allen White in Kansas, Mr. Robert Underwood Johnson in New York, Mr. Bernard M. Baruch, Mr. Otto Bannard were kind enough to give us the names of such people in their respective communities. The judgment of these men in this instance has been most effectively upheld.

The specimen issues of TIME sent to the busy persons whom they suggested have resulted in almost 100% enthusiastic subscribers—an unparalleled response. It is with a feeling of confidence that we have sent you the several issues of TIME. Whether or not you are in a position at the moment to enter a subscription we trust that TIME has afforded you as much pleasure in reading as we have had in sending them to you.

The enclosed card bears your name and address and requires only your signature to bring TIME for the next year. If you will return it promptly we shall take care to see that there is o gap in the delivery of your copies. The card is stamped ready for mailing. It will be a great pleasure to consider you as a subscriber.

Cordially yours,

 Briton Hadden



Alexander Jones Esq.,

Market Street,

Philadelphia, Pa.


Golden Cities

By Ray Schultz

Geographic segmentation was no big thing fifty years ago. What was new was the ability to tailor the copy to the area. Take this direct mailing done by Time magazine.

The letters contained a sort of glorified Johnson Box at the top, printed in gold, asking questions that concerned the reader’s city. Below that box, they were the same.

Here are two samples. One focuses on Boston, the other on Cleveland. I assume that other cities were also targeted, but I only have these two letters.

To put things in context, these pieces were dated Feb. 17, 1964 ten days after the Beatles arrived in America and eight days before Cassius Clay, soon to be Muhammad Ali, won the heavyweight championship. Lyndon Johnson had been president for three months in the wake of the Kennedy assassination, and later that year would win a full term by beating Barry Goldwater.

The envelopes were postmarked Lincoln, Nebraska and were identified in the Time archive by the cities to which they were going.

Did the computer play a role in this direct mail campaign? Hard to say. Time Inc did conduct personalized computer mailings to doctors that very year, but it was a long time before this became a regular practice.

Let’s start with the Boston version. Is there anyone there who remembers these worries? Old-timers will recall that the MBTA was called the M.T.A. in those days.

Who will be Ted Kennedy’s opponent in the Senate contest? / What is the outlook for Boston’s tax rate? / When will we have an answer to the nagging on-street parking problem—are theft-proof meters the solution? / Why should the M.T.A. be extended to the South Shore? / Where will the Celtics finish the season? / How corrupt is Massachusetts—and can the crime commission do anything to correct it?

 Now here’s the Cleveland variation.

Who will be Ohio’s favorite son at the Democratic National Convention? / What are the prospects for this year’s Cleveland Indians team? / When did the term “diffusion” come up in connection with school integration? / Where is the first apartment building in Erieview to be erected?  / Why are Shaker Heights residents protesting the proposed construction of the Clark Freeway? / How does Senator Stephen Young feel about John Glenn’s 1960 voting record?

What follows is the body of the direct mail letter, which was identical in each case:

February 17, 1964

Dear Reader: 

Questions like these, of largely local interest illustrate something that’s also true of national or international issues. It’s essential to have more than just a few raw facts; it’s important to know the background.

These same questions also help show why, in reporting the news from every field, TIME has always done something more than give a plain recital of the facts. Naturally it starts of with the eyewitness story; but when the event is big news, the eyewitness may be standing too close to get the full significance. TIME stands back, examines the causes, digs out other pertinent facts, relates it to other events. TIME also knows the personalities involved.

As a way of following the news, TIME makes sense – because it makes sense of the news.  

It’s not just the international news that you find all the more understandable. To give a few examples from other fields – if a report on a dramatic discovery takes you beyond the door that’s just been unlocked, you’re beginning to understand the real meaning of the discovery itself. Events in Washington can be better judged if the issues are clearly spelled out. Explore, instead of just recount, new developments in education and you od justice to their fundamental importance.

In TIME’s other news departments also, even in the briefest reports, you find you get more out of the news, because TIME looks at sit with a penetrating, appraising eye.

It’s the reason why many leaders in business and the professions in communities across the country vote TIME their favorite magazine the most important magazine in the U.S. today. TIME reports with the intelligence, accuracy, and consciousness that the leadership community needs and demands.

If, so far, you’ve only read an occasional copy of TIME, we hope you’ll take advantage of an invitation we offer here and now to read TIME regularly at a special introductory rate. Return the card and we’ll send you

20 weeks of TIME For $1.97 (that’s only 10 cents a copy).

No need to sign or check it. Just drop it in the mail – today.


Putney Westerfield

Circulation Director

Quality TIME

By Ray Schultz

Time magazine liked to flatter prospects in its direct mail pieces. The message was that only smart people read Time, and that you had to be in that category to even be asked to subscribe. And the flattery must have worked, because it appeared in many forms over the years, sometimes subtly, at other times boldly.

Take this letter sent in the fall of 1955. It was identified in an in-house note, posted over the letter, as a House List Copy Test. The note also included these tidbits:

Pick one Letter

Pick One Envelope

IBM Check Card



It’s not clear now why this direct mail prospecting test went to the house list—maybe the file was of Life and/or Fortune subscribers—or what the IBM Check Card was.

And we don’t know why someone wrote “’69” on the note. Can we conclude that this test did well, and that the letter was still being mailed in 1969? That’s doubtful, but no matter. Here it is: another engaging piece of direct mail copy from the wordsmiths at Time.

Dear Reader:

 How would you like to be described? Pick one:

 “The kind of person who reads comics.”

 “The kind who reads business papers.”

 “The kind who doesn’t read anything.”

 “The kind who reads whodunits.”

 “The kind who reads TIME.”

 There’s nothing to be ashamed of in any of these characterizations — except the third. But I think that most people, if they had to be described in only one of those ways — would choose the final one.

 Why? Because reading TIME has become a hallmark in the U.S. and throughout the world. It has come to mean that you are ambitious to know more, to earn more, to participate more actively in the “action and passion of our times.”

 Reading TIME means that a man is “constructively discontented” – that he is anti-smug, that he doesn’t think he knows it all, that he is ,in short, young in mind and heart and spirit.

 But how has this come about? Why is this magazine so widely approved and respected?

 Because of the men and women who read TIME.

Because for more than thirty years these readers have been demanding standards so high that TIME has had to keep getting better and better.

Because these readers have shown their loyalty to TIME in the most eloquent possible way – by renewing their subscriptions year after year after year.

And finally, because of who these readers are. TIME’s subscribers are leaders of business, the professions and government. They are people active in clubs and civic organizations, people who travel a great deal, people of influence.

When you become a TIME reader, you join, for example:

 –leading architects, who vote TIME their first-choice magazine … top engineers – who say TIME is their favorite publication … college deans who vote TIME their favorite magazine. And you join the most valued executive customers of U.S. industries – who say Time is the magazine they consider most important.

In short, wherever you find a group of men or women remarkable for high standards of achievement, TIME turns out to be the magazine they prefer.

You should be reading it too.


Bernhard M. Auer

Circulation Director

P.S. The enclosed card offers you a special rate on an introductory subscription to TIME. If mailed at once, it can bring you TIME for less than nine cents a week delivered to your door.

The Girl With the Guys

By Ray Schultz

Of all the writers I’ve known in direct marketing, none was more talented and charming than Joan Throckmorton.

Joan, who died in 2003, was a brilliant direct mail copywriter, and a prolific author and speaker. But she was also a gracious woman, with a certain wry reserve.

She was born in Evanston Hospital, something she had in common with the DM legend Bob Stone, and grew up in Florida. She arrived in New York in the early 1950s, and was hired by Doubleday, because friends and former classmates worked there. Her first assignment was in the art department.

“My job was literally to do character counts on new books, and all the scut work, and also to work with some of our illustrators and artists,” she said in an interview in her home in Pound Ridge, NY in 1997.

She particularly recalled one young artist who would hand her a drawing and say, “Joan, I drew you this butterfly.” After she had thanked him and he’d left, she’d promptly discard it.

He was Andy Warhol. “If I had kept some of those butterflies, I would be in a lot better financial position today,” Joan laughed. Another artist was Ted Gorey, whose ghoulish Victorian drawings later made him famous.

Eventually, Joan moved on. “Because I was a writer and an English major who wanted to write, I was allowed to go downstairs to what they called Sherman’s Alley. Charley Book Club Sherman ran the Doubleday Book Club promotions. He was known throughout the company as a vociferous, harsh, cookie-scary boss, but maybe he had a heart of gold, and I rather thought he did.”

Joan worked on club mailings. “I was Mystery Guild and Catholic Book Club. I did a few Literary Guilds here and there. Literary Guild was, as always, a high-end club. We worked with the editors, and that’s how I started to write, mostly with the thrillers., where you do sort of a film trailer or preview, the monthly club announcement. That was my introduction to direct mail.”

Most book club prospecting was done in space ads at that time. But there were also monthly selection mailings. “The package consisted of pretty much what it consists of now: a plain white out envelope identifying the club,” Joan said. “Sometimes it may have had copy lines, very simple lines, club announcements and not a series of flyers. We had a small list of many fewer books, alternate selections, that we changed and updated. Today we have many more.”

She continued that the prevailing wisdom then was that the information age was on its way, “the information age when people would be given more to read about, more data input than they could handle, due to new electronic methodologies, one of which was the photo facsimile of newspapers, not to mention the purple-inked Xerox machine.”

Making Your Own Clothes

Work aside, Joan’s early life in New York was right out of My Sister Eileen.

“I started at Doubleday at $55 a week, and we got an extra bonus at Christmas of about $20, with taxes taken out,” Joan said. “That was it. Now how did you live in those days? You lived like they’re living today—two and three people in an apartment. No real privacy. Once a week, you would go out to dinner with a friend when you didn’t have a date, and you’d have a nice meal at a modestly priced restaurant. If you had a date (the women never paid in those days0 you might go to a modestly priced little French restaurant, or to a Third Ave. bar and hang out with your mixed groups of friends. And we had lots of parties. But nobody had any money.”

In contrast to women with their $55 salaries, men started at $65 to $70 a week—not bad money at the time, Joan said. “We’re talking in weekly terms,” she added. “Nobody could understand anything more than that.”

On those tight budgets, young working women usually made their own clothes. “We sewed—we either rented or one of us had a sewing machine,” Joan remembered. “We made clothes so we’d look decent in the office.”

But Joan was a talented writer, and she jumped around, even though she was advised against it. “They’d say, ‘Why would you want to leave? You’re doing well.’”

Joan noted, though, that “we had quite a hard time for women to get promoted, so I went over to Time Inc. and applied for a job to Life Promotions. And there I worked with Bill Herringbone, and the publisher, a young guy named Andy Heiskell. Wendell Forbes was down the hall, and Bob Fisler was over in Time, and we all knew each other. Later, I became Andy Heiskell’s assistant. And I moved to being promotion director for Sports Illustrated when Bob Fisler left that book.”

Sports Illustrated was a daring start-up for the time. “In those days, they said sports was tennis and golf. It wasn’t. Tex Maule was there early, and we were doing a lot more cogent advertising. But there was no professional basketball. Pro football was just getting started, and I was dating one of the guys on CBS, so I got to know all of the New York Giants football team, which was nice for a young gal working for Sports Illustrated. It was really wild and crazy—Frank Gifford, Kyle Rote, the whole bunch.

As copywriter, Joan also worked on the first Life book—The Life Cookbook. “By today’s standards, it was a pretty antiquated-looking book, but it was a life-sized book and I did the promotions for it,” Joan said.

Time Inc was a fun place to work. “Two weeks wouldn’t go by without some floor party—a big birthday party,” she went on. “Ad salesmen met at the 3G’s across the street at 5:30, and drink, drink, drink. There were people falling down elevator shafts, being caught in embarrassing positions,” she laughed.

It was easy to party: The work day went from 9 to 5, and maybe they’d stay until 5:30 or 6 when busy. There was no weekend work.

Joan’s next stop was American Heritage, where her sometime boss at Time was now in residence: Frank Johnson.

“Frank was quite a character, not a ladies’ man, a wonderful guy,” she said. “A perfectionist, a tough guy, and Bill Jayme was writing for us, too. Jayme and Frank were very close. And Frank was a good red pencilier, on anybody’s copy. Tough, tough guy to work with.”

Later, Joan worked for Time Life Books and later on Look magazine at Cowles. “That’s where I got to know Pat Carbine and that group—the Ms. Magazine group,” she said.

Finally, Joan went out on her own and had an illustrious freelance career, writing thousands of effective packages, columns for DM News and Direct and books.

I richly enjoyed our interview in ’97. We sat in her home office, a small room with a desk and computer, a zebra painting on the wall, and large stacks of catalogs. Joan’s husband Sheldon Satin, a customer service consultant, was at work in the office next door. You could see the autumn foliage outside the window.

In the end, Joan had mixed feelings about some of her experiences–for example, Andy Heiskell’s birthday dinner at age 80, thrown by the Time Life Alumni Society. Heiskell had been chairman of Time for 30 years.

Joan felt a certain loyalty, but “they were all tall men in Navy blue blazers,” she recalled. “Just wasps—no blacks, no Jews. All the women had lovely little dresses on, and they were all wives. I thought: All the good and bad things rolled up into one.”

The Man From Mars

By Ray Schultz

Scientists believe that life may exist on some of the ice-covered moons of Jupiter and Saturn, and many say that it may have once been present on Mars.

Here’s a hint that could help prove their case. In the 1950s, Time magazine wrote that a Martian visited Earth.

Wait—let me qualify that. It wasn’t the magazine that said it, but a direct mail piece sent to prospective subscribers. Either way, this may have important consequences for the human race, so I here reproduce the letter:

This is His Excellency, the Ambassador from Mars.

You’ve probably never heard of his unexpected visit to America, for it was a very hushed-up affair. (But just don’t be surprised anymore when you see, or hear of, flying saucers. Don’t even be surprised if you should bump into a Martian on the street.)

His Excellency arrived in Washington one evening recently, in a shiny flying saucer that put down on the Mall near the Lincoln Memorial. His mission was to find out as much as possible about the Earth people: whether they were friendly or unfriendly, barbaric or reasonable civilized, and so forth. And since the atmospheric pressure here wasn’t really suitable for a Martian, he had to get all this important information in just a few hours.

But he didn’t have much luck, right from the start!

He rushed over to the Pentagon to learn about carrier jets and atomic subs, tanks and super bombers and grand strategies (and also to invite a few of the officers for a ride in his saucer), but the sentry thought he was a newspaperman playing a joke, and wouldn’t pay any attention to him – or even let him talk to a general on the phone.

He ran to the State Department to ask about treaties and tariffs and the United Nations, but a brusque young charge-d’affairs told him to come back after Easter … and the guards wouldn’t even let him near the White House.

So he walked into the National Art Gallery looking for the paintings and statues and frescoes and tapestries that have delighted art lovers for centuries, but the doorman said he wasn’t properly dressed and wouldn’t let him in.

And so it went, everywhere he turned. On the Hill everyone was too busy to be bothered . . . the British Ambassador was out of town … the Russian representative simply said, “Nyet” … and even one of the city’s most famous scientists was reluctant to have him pay a visit without a clearance.

Soon, his Excellence became discouraged. He wasn’t angry at the situation; he just realized that he had come down a century too soon. For cabinet members, protocol experts, admirals and even science-fiction writers were simply too startled for words.

Reluctantly, the Ambassador trudged his way back to his waiting flying saucer – his mission unaccomplished. Suddenly, something happened that made all the difference in the … ah … universe! He picked up a battered, thumbed-through copy of a weekly news-magazine called TIME that was lying in the grass just in front of his saucer. And, glancing quickly through its pages, he became so excited that he shouted “Eureka” – and roared off into the sky. And all the way up to Mars he had one of the most thrilling rides he’d ever taken, reading about …

… the ups and downs of the President’s program on its way through Congress … about great industrial plant that built cars and planes and things called refrigerators and washing machines …

… about the problems in Europe, and the restlessness in the Middle East, trouble from a vast nation called Russia, and battles going on in a small country called Indo-China, a boom going on in a large country called Canada …

… and about books and plays and wide-eyed movies and color television, and about all the strange and wonderful, generous and greedy, good and bad people who were doing and saying the things that other people wanted to know about.

He learned so much about the people and governments and problems and opportunities on the Earth that by the time his saucer had reached Mars, he was able to turn in a full and revealing report on the things that were going on in our world.

* * *

Now, just because I am enclosing with this little story a return card which entitles you to receive TIME at a special introductory rate it does not mean that I think you don’t know much about the news – or that reading TIME will assure you of becoming an Ambassador Extraordinary the way his Excellency eventually did.

But it does mean – that you’ll find TIME as valuable and interesting as do the more than 1,000,000 American families who wouldn’t miss their copy of TIME for the … ah … world.

And that after a few issues you will understand what actor Charles Laughton meant when he said:

“When I open TIME and read about anything whatever, I know that you have certainly been into the subject and found out all about it inside out, upside down, back, front and sideways.”

So because TIME can be especially helpful to you in the news-filled days ahead, won’t you give TIME a trial and accept this special invitation to try TiME for:

27 weeks for only $1.97

–eight cents for a world of information and enlightenment every week.

No need to send money now – we’ll gladly bill you later. But this is the only time I can offer you this reduced Introductory Rate, so please sign the enclosed card and mail it back to me at our expense today.


Bernard M. Auer

Circulation Director

It’s not clear who wrote this direct mail piece, or what the exact date was. I suspect it was 1954 or 1955, since that $1.97 offer then dominated in prospecting pieces.

But the Time team tried to update it later, and penciled in changes on the copy I Xeroxed. Atomic subs were changed to nuclear, tanks to missiles and super bombers to rockets. At the end of that paragraph, in which the Ambassador is spurned by everyone, someone wrote, “And NASA wouldn’t give him any lunar trips.”

Further down, the British Ambassador who was out of town was changed to the Chinese Ambassador who wouldn’t speak to a non-Marxist, famous scientists became newscasters and a clearance became a press pass. Admirals were changed to Congressmen. Wide-eyed movies became professional football. And the 1,000,000 American families was increased to 4,450,000 families.

I’m not sure if these copy changes hit the mails, or if the Martian Ambassador ever returned to Earth.

More on Hiroshima Mon Amour

By Ray Schultz

I was afraid this would happen. A few weeks ago, I did an item about Time Inc sending a small strip of film from the movie Hiroshima Mon Amour in a mailing. A friend in the circ business asked for the actual letter.

I couldn’t find it at first–I wrote the original piece from memory–but I have since located a Xerox in a cardboard box. So here’s the original 1960 copy from Time. The envelope had a light green panel featuring many small Time logos, and a line saying, “Film Enclosed.” Handwriting on the envelope identifies the piece as “Hiroshima Mon Amour 1960.”

* * *

Dear Reader:

These six frames of film are from the much-discussed French film, “Hiroshima, Mon Amour”, directed by Alain Resnais and described by TIME as “the acknowledged masterpiece of the New Wave of Gallic moviemakers.”

After you have held the strip up to the light and caught the spirit of this “intense original and ambitious piece of cinema”, you may or may not decide to see the film. (The locale shifts between France and Japan; the sub-titles are in English). We think you’d find it an interesting experience.

But the real reason for this letter is to tell you how to get more out of every new movie you see, every new book you read, every new place you visit, and just about every conversation you find yourself taking part in —

— by giving yourself the extra advantage of becoming a regular reader of TIME.

For people who read TIME can’t help but bring to every activity the background and insight they’ve gained from following the wonderfully varied story of the news and the people who make it.

In the case of this film, for example – you would start out several laps ahead – with a firm grasp of the new goals and the new techniques that imaginative movie directors are exploring now…with a sharp awareness of the current unrest in Japan, the spoken and unspoken attitudes that underlie the actions of the characters you watch. And the same point applies to almost every else you do. Just think about it…

Are you planning a trip? Going to the theater? Following the election campaign? Helping a youngster to choose the right school?

As a TIME reader, you’ll have bases for comparison…facts to bolster your private judgments…and easy familiarity with the whole broad subject, whether it’s music or books or business, science or sport or the arts.

Just because of what it is, TIME enhances, enriches and adds meaning to almost all your experience. It truly equips the Twentieth Century citizen to get more out of all the ways of life that are open to him in this infinitely complex world.

So if you are not now reading TIME as a subscriber with the continuity and flow that can only come from reading it every week, I hope you’d like to start now.

The enclosed card will bring you TIME for 27 weeks (a full six months) for only $1.97 – a saving of $1.66 under the regular subscription price and $4.78 under the newsstand price. If you will simply sign it and mail it, we will start your subscription promptly and bill you later, after your first copies arrive.


Rhett Austell

Circulation Manager