Newsstand: 1925: Hygeia

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a virtual newsstand from the summer of 1925

 

Overview

           Hygeia began publication in 1923 as the American Medical Association’s (AMA) “family health magazine” [1] with lofty intentions.  Not only was Hygeia supposed to “educate the public in matters of personal hygiene and public health” (AMA House of Delegates Proceedings 1923), it was also touted as a “strong right arm and… most powerful weapon in combatting quackery…” [2] The tone of Hygeia was not that of a technical trade journal.  While content of the magazine was comprehensive in its coverage of health topics, it could still easily be read by its target audience: mostly mothers and older school-age children, although its usefulness to those in many facets of life is apparent.

 

History

 

           According to the AMA’s House of Delegate proceedings from 1923, Hygeia was mandated to consist of “64 pages of double column reading matter set in double leaded ten point” priced at $3.00 per year or $0.25 an issue (20). The content of the magazine included easy-to-read articles spanning a wide variety of issues, including:  concerns of new mothers, control of household insects, various common ailments and diseases, weight loss, mental health, exercise, exposés of fraudulent patent medicines, and even cosmetic surgery. Frequently included were stories, poems, or coloring pages meant to educate children in some health regard.  

           Editorial control was given to Dr.’s Morris Fishbein, Arthur J. Cramp and Victor C. Vaughan (AMA House of Delegates Proceedings 1923).  The Editor-in-Chief position was assigned to John M. Dodson, until Fishbein took over as editor in 1924 (ama-assn.org).  These editors also frequently wrote articles for Hygeia. Additional contributors were doctors, medical professors, and other members of the medical establishment.  While Hygeia could be found on many newsstands, its main distribution was through individual subscriptions, doctors’ offices, and even through donations to schools and public libraries. [3]  It was even reported in 1927 that “in a few instances, large manufacturing concerns … subscribed for a number of copies of the magazine for the use of employees.” [4]  By 1928, “many industrial concerns devote[d] whole sections of their publications to reprinting [Hygeia’s] articles.” [5]

           Hygeia actually operated at a financial loss willingly absorbed by the AMA until 1928 when it finally reached a tentative self-sufficiency (AMA House of Delegate Proceedings 1928). Despite its fledgling beginnings and low circulation in comparison to other national magazines, the AMA put its full support behind Hygeia as a critical tool for helping the public (AMA House of Delegate Proceedings 1923).  In this spirit, it is interesting to note that the letters sent to the editors were answered personally even if they were not published in the “Questions and Answers” portion of the magazine. [6]

 

Contextualization

 

           In 1907, the AMA reprinted a series of articles first published by Colliers Weekly and written by Samuel Hopkins Adams called the Great American Fraud, about fraudulent patent medicines. [7]  At this time, patent medicines were heavily marketed and sold with little repercussion or recourse for the failed or tragic results of “secret” and unproven ingredients. The AMA’s Chemical Laboratory, the Council on Pharmacy and Chemistry, and its own Bureau of Investigation (previously called the Propaganda Department, formed to educate the public on health matters) were critical entities in the fight against fraudulent “nostrums” (AMA House of Delegates Proceedings 1923). These departments worked in tandem to provide information for articles in Hygeia regarding the efficacy and truthfulness of the claims purported by sellers of patent medicines (AMA House of Delegates Proceedings 1925). As the head of the Bureau of Investigation and a member of Hygeia’s executive editorial staff (AMA House of Delegates Proceedings 1923), Arthur J. Cramp had a personal stake in exposing the dangerous fraud of the patent medicine “industry.” It is reported that Cramp had consulted with a man claiming his patent medicine could cure Cramp’s sick daughter. Cramp’s daughter subsequently died, and the man he consulted ultimately was deemed a “quack.” [8]  Cramp’s mission and message against unscrupulous medical quackery is rampant throughout his many articles written for Hygeia. These articles were not general statements about generic remedies. These articles highlighted specific remedies and named their producers. Graphics of specific advertisements were included in the articles, so there would be no mistake which products or services were being exposed as frauds. [9] Over the years, some of these articles sparked lawsuits from developers or marketers of medicals products or services not deemed credible by the AMA. [10]

 

Influence

 

           In 1923, the Bureau of Health and Public Instruction was formed within the AMA (AMA House of Delegates Proceedings 1923).  Hygeia was an integral part of this public education. The magazine itself obviously helped to serve this purpose, but other forms and uses for the magazine helped the AMA in its goal of educating the public. For example, “Clip Sheets” of “important” articles from Hygeia were sent to other periodicals for publication.  Newspapers in the North American Newspaper Alliance “agreed to publish a health column….from abstracts of articles printed in Hygeia…including questions and answers on health topics taken from Hygeia” (AMA House of Delegates Proceedings 1924).  By 1924, Woman’s World Magazine had agreed to “publish one article each month under the direction of the bureau” (16). Various pamphlets were compiled from articles and series of articles in Hygeia and distributed through varying media (16). The Westinghouse Station KYW in Chicago broadcast “readings from advanced sheets of Hygeia” on its radio station (16). By 1925, nine more radio stations were added to this list broadcasting Hygeia material (AMA House of Delegates Proceedings 1925).

           Teachers also made good use of Hygeia in their classrooms.  By 1927, the AMA’s Woman’s Auxiliary had Hygeia “placed in all public schools and libraries” (AMA House of Delegates Proceedings 1927). According to House of Delegates meeting notes even in 1925, it is stated that “teachers in practically all parts of the country…are making daily use of the magazine in their classroom work.” [11] This claim can also be bolstered by the fact that the covers of Hygeia were the winning posters submitted by high school students (AMA House of Delegates Proceedings 1924).

           Perhaps Hygeia was even more influential in the “truth in advertising” movement. Under Cramp’s direction, as early as the 1920s the Bureau of Investigation worked with the Associated Advertising Clubs, whose motto was “Truth in Advertising,” (AMA House of Delegates Proceedings 1926) and the Better Business  Bureau  to combat the advertisements of “blatant quacks and nostrum vendors” (AMA House of Delegates Proceedings 1925).  In September of 1925, the director of the Bureau of Investigation, Hygeia’s Arthur J. Cramp, was asked to speak at a meeting of executives of the Better Business Bureau in Indianapolis (AMA House of Delegates Proceedings 1926). The topic was “Truth in Advertising ‘Patent Medicines’” (8). The AMA’s Cooperative Medical Advertising Bureau also worked for the AMA’s various journals, including Hygeia, to secure advertising that met its medical quality standards (9).

 

Transition and Today’s Health

 

           Over the next two decades, Hygeia continued to thrive and increase circulation, turning a profit for many years. [12] Even though a five year paper shortage in the early 1940s “held down circulation,” in 1946, Hygeia was the “most quoted of all periodicals in the field of health,” (14) according to the House of Delegates Proceedings in 1947. Between 1946 and 1947, printing of Hygeia was transferred from in-house to “Kable Brothers, Mount Morris, Illinois” (14). In 1947 and 1948, circulation of Hygeia was at its highest thus far, but it again began to operate at a financial deficit due to lack of adequate advertising revenue. [13] In 1949, the Director of the Bureau of Health Education, W.W. Bauer, took over as editor from the retiring Morris Fishbein (AMA House of Delegate Proceedings 1949). In December of 1949, Hygeia was changed to the title Today’s Health. [14] By 1952, although it was “highly regarded” by those who read it, the magazine still struggled with relatively low circulation compared to other national magazines, even to the point of a “complete lack of familiarity” on the part of many of Americans. [15]  Despite this public unawareness, the AMA was still very much in support of Hygeia, not just as a medium educating the public in health matters, but also in “expanding the service of the A.M.A. to the public…and in contributing to the prestige of the A.M.A” (AMA House of Delegates Proceedings 1952).  In 1966, Today’s Health received the “Distinguished Service Award of the American Medical Authors” for its “valuable public service…and in appreciation of its interesting format and appealing editorial pattern.” [16] By this time, paid circulation topped 680,000. However, actual readership was estimated to top 4.5 million, because many of the magazine subscriptions were for schools and doctors’ offices (AMA House of Delegates Proceedings 1966).  By 1970, readership was estimated at over 6.5 million, and content reflected current medical concerns of the time, including: “ …sex education, abortion laws….national health insurance…” as well as its hallmark attention to “quackery.” [17] However, by 1975, the AMA was considering several options for selling Today’s Health, which was finalized with its sale in 1976. [18]

—Contextualization by Kristen Hansen

 

Notes and Works Cited

 

[1]       The American Medical Association.  House of Delegates Proceedings, Annual Session. Volume              1923. Issue 000. Chicago, IL: 1923: 20.

[2]       Rich, William L., M.D., Calderwood, W.R., M.D., eds. “Report of the Twenty-Ninth Annual

           Meeting of the Utah State Medical Association”. 1923. California State Journal of Medicine.

            Vol. XXI, No. 9: 395.

[3]       The American Medical Association. House of Delegates Proceedings, Annual Session. Volume

           1925.   Issue 000. Chicago, IL: 1925:11,12, 25.

[4]       The American Medical Association. House of Delegates Proceedings, Annual Session.  Volume

           1927.   Issue 000. Chicago, IL: 1927: 11, 12, 56.

[5]       The American Medical Association. House of Delegates Proceedings, Annual Session. Volume

            1928. Issue 000. Chicago, IL: 1928: 8.

[6]       The American Medical Association. House of Delegate Proceedings, Annual Session. Volume 1926.            Issue 000. Chicago, IL: 1926: 8-10.

[7]       Adams, Samuel Hopkins. The Great American Fraud. 4th ed. 1905. P.F. Collier’s & Sons; Chicago:            The American Medical Association. 1907. googlebooks.com. 10 October 2011.

[8]       Young, James Harvey, Ph.D. The Medical Messiahs: A Social History of Health Quackery in 20th            Century America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1967.

[9]       Cramp, Arthur J. “Tinkering With the Eyes.” Hygeia  August 1925: 433-436. Print. [7] Adams,            Samuel Hopkins. The Great American Fraud. 4th ed. 1905. P.F. Collier’s & Sons; Chicago: The            American Medical Association. 1907. googlebooks.com. 10 October 2011.

[10]     “Medicine: Brinkley’s Trial.” Time Magazine 10 April 1939. Web. 10 October 2011.

[11]     The American Medical Association. House of Delegates Proceedings, Annual Session. Volume

           1924.   Issue 000. Chicago, IL: 1924: 16, 20.

[12]     The American Medical Association. House of Delegates Proceedings, Annual Session.  Volume

           1947.   Issue 000. Chicago, IL: 1924: 14.

[13]     The American Medical Association. House of Delegates Proceedings, Clinical Session. Volume

           1949.   Issue 000. Chicago, IL: 1949: 9.

[14]     The American Medical Association. House of Delegates Proceedings, Clinical Session. Volume

           1950.   Issue 000. Chicago, IL: 1950: 9.

[15]     The American Medical Association. House of Delegates Proceedings, Clinical Session. Volume

           1952.   Issue 000. Chicago, IL: 1952: 15.

[16]     The American Medical Association. House of Delegates Proceedings, Clinical Session. Volume

           1966.   Issue 000. Chicago, IL: 1966: 47.

[17]     The American Medical Association. House of Delegates Proceedings, Clinical Session. Volume

           1970.   Issue 000. Chicago, IL: 1970: 66.

[18]     The American Medical Association. House of Delegates Proceedings, Clinical Convention. Volume            1976. Issue 000. Chicago, IL: 1976: 175.

          

Bibliography

www.ama-assn.org

www.museumofquackery.com

www.quackwatch.com

www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,761009,00.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

click cover for magazine

August 1925

Genre

Family Health

Publisher:

American Medical Association

Place of Publication:

Chicago, IL

Years of Run:

1923-1949 (Published under the name Today’s Health from 1950 until its sale in 1976.)

Frequency of Publication:

 

Monthly

Circulation in 1925: