Archive for the ‘Blog Stuff’ Category

This week, the New York Times Magazine became ‘Book Review and Magazine’

100 years ago this week, the New York Times combined their previously-separate Magazine and Book Review sections into one larger section on Sundays. If any history buffs or NYT aficionados know why they made this change, please feel free to comment below or send me a message. The Times didn’t seem to explain why anywhere else in the Sunday, June 27, 1920 issue, so far as I can find.

The two sections are distinct these days, so at some point in the past century they were separated once again. I’m not easily finding a record of when that occurred. For all I know, it might have been years or even decades after the 1920 merger.

In the name of consistency, I’m going to continue posting only the most interesting magazine features from 100 years ago to the week, and not the book reviews. There’s a reason this website isn’t titled!

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Written by Jesse

June 26th, 2020 at 4:00 pm

Posted in Blog Stuff will take three weeks off, because NYT Sunday Magazine did the same in February-March 1920

On February 21, 1920, New York Times readers were greeted with this message:


The magazine’s hiatus didn’t last too long, only three weeks, returning on March 7. Albeit in a diminished form, as the editors warned, with fewer articles than before.

Coming exactly 100 years ago to the week that America’s second-largest newspaper chain McClatchy filed for bankruptcy, it’s a reminder that America’s newspaper industry has often seemed down — but it’s never been out. No, not even in the 2010s and 2020s.

In fact, during the past few years, the largest increase in newspaper and magazine print subscriptions has actually been among Millennials. That left-leaning generation not only sees fact-checking and journalism as a bulwark against Trump and the right, but they’re often into pre-digital throwback technologies, responsible for the 14-consecutive-year increase in vinyl record sales. will resume the week of March 7.

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Written by Jesse

February 18th, 2020 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Blog Stuff will take four months off, because NYT Sunday Magazine did the same in late 1918

Earlier this month, I noticed that the New York Times issues 100 years ago to the week no longer seemed to include a Sunday magazine section. Since the whole premise of this website is to analyze those magazine articles with some historical context and/or contemporary commentary, this presented a problem for me and my readers.

Skipping ahead in the archive, I discovered the answer in the Sunday, January 3, 1919 issue: the magazine section had ceased for four months due to a lack of paper as a result of wartime shortages.

A somewhat-similar situation occurred just a few weeks ago; though it did not involve shortages or war, it did involve an issue with newsprint that proved potentially existential to the newspaper coverage.

The Trump Administration’s Commerce Department announced intended tariffs on Canadian newsprint, the main source of paper for American newspapers — including state and local publications. Some newspapers with the narrowest profit margins even felt such tariffs could put their publications out of business. However, a unanimous 5-0 decision by the U.S. International Trade Commission halted the proposed tariffs in August.

Here is the full January 1919 retroactive announcement, in an article titled The Sunday Magazine Again.

When the conditions of war limited the supply of newsprint paper at the end of last Summer, The New York Times met the situation by a reduction of consumption. Among the changes found necessary was the suspension of the Sunday Magazine Section on Sept. 1.

While that part of the Sunday edition had won a high place in the esteem of our readers, especially in the period during which it had been printed and illustrated by the decorative rotogravure process, it had to give way temporarily; the wartime allowance of paper was not sufficient for the urgent news of the day and the full quota of the Sunday special features at the same time.

The paper scarcity has been relieved with the ending of the war conditions, and after a lapse of four months the Magazine Section will reappear next Sunday.


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Written by Jesse

September 15th, 2018 at 3:01 pm

Posted in Blog Stuff

My column in the Daily Beast: “Not Much Passes the 100-Year Test. Will Trump?”

In my time running, it’s become increasingly apparent to me and my readers just how few of the most prominent people, places, and things from 100 years ago are still well remembered tgoday.

What does this insight reveal about who and what from this era might still be well remembered 100 years from now?

My prediction: despite how big the biggest people, places, and things seem to us at the moment, almost nothing and nobody lasts 100 years in the public’s consciousness.

Will Trump? Will Obama? Will 9/11? Will today’s technology? What about the biggest movies or songs?

I tackle these questions in my new opinion column for the Daily Beast: “Not Much Passes the 100-Year Test. Will Trump?”


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Written by Jesse

June 4th, 2018 at 1:22 pm

Posted in Blog Stuff

How much WWI took over everyone’s lives

American entry into World War I “started” 100 years ago plus a few months ago, in April 1917. One thing that’s really striking to me is just how much it overtook everything about people’s lives. In working on this week’s entries for Sunday Magazine, here were the magazine headlines from New York Times Sunday Magazine 100 years ago this week, a relatively “typical” week of the conflict:

  • New Board of Seven: Frank A. Scott, Chairman, Talks of His Committee—Second Great Industrial Phase of War Task
  • Realistic Training at Base Camp Near Front: Outline of British Methods Shows How the American Soldiers Are Being Taught—Trenches Flooded With Gas for Practice
  • Kerensky’s Intimate Talks to Men at the Front: Weak-Kneed Soldier, Who Interrupted Him with Plea for Speedy Peace, Was Ordered to Go Home in Disgrace
  • Labor’s Part in War’s Successful Prosecution: True Source of Military Power Is United Energy of a Nation’s People, Yet the Whole World Is Continuing Class Struggles Labor’s Part in War’s Successful Prosecution
  • Allied Relief and Rid Cross Near Agreement: Expect Soon to Smooth Over Difficulties Created by Plan to Take from Donations to War Sufferers Their Individual Character
  • Battling an Africa Far from War’s Limelight: How a Plucky Band of Englishmen Hauled Boats Over Mountains and Wrested Control of Lake Tanganyika from Germans
  • America Reconciled to Sacrifices of the War: History Teaches Lesson That Individuals Do Not Count—Victory Over Germany Will Be a Mere Incident in Uplifting the World
  • Mayor’s Grandfather Prophesied This War When Germans Were Winning in 1870-71
  • History of the War in American Cartoons: Art at Home and Abroad
  • Women Striving for Efficiency in War Work: Ida Tarbell, of Woman’s Committee of Council of National Defense, Describes Co-ordination in Work of Many Organizations
  • Sailor Tells of U.S. Fleet’s Brush with U-Boat: First Torpedo, Which Missed American Ship Only Thirty Yards, Was Followed by Two Others While the Deck Guns Boomed
  • Women at the Beaches Only Knit, Knit, Knit: Other Pleasures and Labors Are Abandoned for the Wartime Craze, Which Reaches Its Climax at Atlantic City
Even the article about knitting contained a subheading tying it into the war!
My grandparents talk about WWII just consumed everything about their lives. It’s fascinating to me just how all-consuming a true all-out war can be. Let us hope we never see one again.

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Written by Jesse

August 6th, 2017 at 10:06 am

Posted in Blog Stuff

Sunday Magazine has resumed after a nearly five-year hiatus!

David Friedman created this website in March 2010 and ran it until September 2011 until he had a child and couldn’t keep this up with his busy schedule anymore. I’m not David Friedman. I’m Jesse Rifkin and I have David’s permission to take over this blog for a while, posting every week with interesting articles published in the New York Times Sunday Magazine section from precisely 100 years ago to the week.

Sometimes the articles will be serious, sometimes they’ll be funny, sometimes they’ll be strange, sometimes they’ll be nostalgic, but they’ll always be fascinating and engaging. I’ll try to post only the most interesting content with some context, modern parallels, and maybe an occasional aside or two from my own life. And I’ll try to do as good a job with this website as my predecessor David did — if that’s possible.

A quick bit about me. I’m a 24-year-old journalist living in Washington, D.C., where I work as a congressional reporter for GovTrack Insider and a box office analyst for Boxoffice Media. You can read a fun Daily Beast article I published from just earlier this week in which I interviewed the country’s top Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders impersonators.

So come along with me as we crank up the time machine, push the DeLorean to 88 miles per hour, and take a trip back every week to what made the “newspaper of record” a century ago. Let’s begin… again!

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Written by Jesse

June 24th, 2016 at 9:05 am

Posted in Blog Stuff Is Going On Hiatus

Hi, everyone. I’m afraid I have some bad news: is going on hiatus.

The time requirements to maintain all my projects and take care of my new child have spread me a little too thin, so I had to pick something to take a break from, and SundayMagazine lost the coin toss.

If anyone out there has a similar passion for the work I’ve been doing here, and wants to pitch in to research, prep the graphics, and/or write the posts, let me know. Maybe there’s a way I can hand the reigns over or collaborate and keep the site going.

If not, let’s just consider it hibernating for now. I’ll keep the archives up; there’s some good stuff in there to explore if you came to the blog late.

Thanks everyone for reading.

Aside: to make up for this loss, I hope to get back to updating Ironic Sans more often than I have been lately. I have a backlog of posts to write there.


Written by David

September 26th, 2011 at 10:30 am

Posted in Blog Stuff

Important Note About’s Future

I have two important notes about this blog’s future.

1) Due to a minor change in the RSS feed, some of you who read this blog via RSS may need to resubscribe. If you are currently subscribed to the feed at please redirect your RSS Reader to or just click here. The old feed will not work for much longer.

2) I’m expecting a baby in the very near future, and won’t have as much time for as I used to. I’ll be queuing up as many articles to post as I can for paternity leave, but I won’t be able to write as much about each one. Some may have to be just a sentence or less. Please feel free to pick up the slack by adding your own comments on the articles.

Thanks for reading!


Written by David

May 2nd, 2011 at 10:00 am

Posted in Blog Stuff

SundayMagazine on

I wrote a piece about SundayMagazine for that just went online today. If you’re discovering this site for the first time via Slate, welcome! A good place to start is with my roundup of favorite articles from 1910. If you’re a regular reader who’s never read Slate, start with my article!

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Written by David

March 30th, 2011 at 1:37 pm

Posted in Blog Stuff

Mixing things up a little

Based on feedback I’ve received from readers, I’m going to experiment a little bit over the next few weeks with the timing of posts. When an issue of the Sunday Magazine has several especially interesting or long articles, or when there are just a lot of articles to publish that week, I will post some of them early instead of lumping them all together on Fridays.

So keep an eye out for two articles today. One is about the development of a city landmark, and one is a true crime murder mystery.

Two more articles will go up tomorrow. Stay tuned.

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Written by David

January 13th, 2011 at 9:00 am

Posted in Blog Stuff

If you enjoy SundayMagazine, please take this very short survey.

I’ve been thinking about how SundayMagazine should evolve in the new year. It would be very helpful to me if you could take this brief survey about how you like things as they are now. The survey should only take you a couple minutes to complete.

I appreciate your participation.


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Written by David

January 6th, 2011 at 10:41 am

Posted in Blog Stuff

The Top Ten NY Times Sunday Magazine Articles from 1910

It’s that time of year when publications come up with their annual top ten roundups, so I figure I should contribute to the genre. Here, then, is my list of Top Ten New York Times Sunday Magazine Articles From 1910 (Not Including Articles Prior To March 20 Because I Didn’t Start This Blog Until Then).

It was very difficult to pick just ten out of the 179 articles I’ve posted since I started this blog. I tried to pick some that are funny, some that are historically important, and some that are just plain interesting. They are presented in no particular order.

1) Circus Clown A Serious Person Out Of The Ring
I love this interview with Slivers the Clown in which he laments that clowns just get no respect. It inspired me to look up whatever happened to Slivers, and that’s when I found out about his dark downward spiral. If you’re intrigued by a story of love, death, and circus clowns, give this one a read.

2) Rathbone Ends Long List Of Lincoln Party Tragedies
It never occurred to me that there were other people in the booth with the Lincolns when Abe was shot, so I was fascinated to read about the other couple that was there with them. Imagine how scarred they must have been by the experience. There you are, the guests of the President and First Lady, when all of a sudden the President is shot in the head as he sits right there next to you. This article tells what happened to that other couple, and everyone else who stepped foot in the booth that night. Without giving too much away, let me just say that their darkest days were yet to come.

3) Was Queen Elizabeth A Famous Imposter?
Bram Stoker, most famous for having written Dracula, believed that when Queen Elizabeth was a little girl, she died and was secretly replaced by a little boy named Neville and nobody ever knew. This article describes how he thinks it went down.

4) Wireless Wonder Aged 14 Amazes Senate Committee
If this kid were born 70 years later, he would have been building computers in his garage. Instead, he built radios in his garage, and imagined a day when people would use handheld devices to make wireless phone calls. A proponent of keeping the airwaves open, he testified before congress on the topic in his role as the president of the first amateur radio club in America. It’s a great story about a smart kid, and one of the first articles that inspired me to look up what ever happened to the person. Being able to look into our past to see what happened next feels a bit like looking into the future from 1910.

5) Wooed a “Marjorie Daw” For Fourteen Long Years
Today we sometimes hear stories of sad and lonely people conned out of their savings by an online lover who turns out not to be who they claimed to be. This is the story of a man who falls for the same scam by mail. He spends 14 years strung along by an imaginary girlfriend who takes him for all he’s got. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

6) How Those Amusing Freak Moving Pictures Are Made
The motion picture industry was still young, but already people were figuring out how to do special effects. This article reveals the secrets of some popular effects films.

7) No Immortality Of The Soul, Says Thomas A Edison
This article kicked off several weeks of back and forth articles on the existence of an afterlife. First, Edison reflects on a friend’s death and mentions that he believes there is no soul. The next week, people wrote in to either agree or disagree. Several more articles were published, with scientists and laymen declaring the soul’s existence or non-existence.

8) First Account Of The Conquering Of Mt. McKinley
The early 20th Century was full of exploration firsts. Both poles were reached within a few years of each other, and airplanes were allowing people to venture further and faster than ever before. But I think this exploration achievement is far more interesting than the others because it was achieved by a group of laypeople who had no climbing experience. Or was it? There were so many lies and false claims of summiting Mt. McKinley already made, that there was reason to be suspicious.

9) Night In A Fascinating Square That Never Sleeps
This is a very well written description of a full night spent in Times Square. It describes the people, the sounds, the sights, etc. If you’ve ever been in Times Square during the week hours of the night, you’ll recognize the feeling. It’s easy to read this and relate to the author.

10) Charles K. Hamilton Tells How To Run An Aeroplane
In the seven years since the Wright Brothers made their first flight, airplanes became a popular hobby for the wealthy and adventurous. Most weeks, the Magazine had at least one article about airplanes. Someone was always doing something new: either flying an airplane further, faster, or somewhere they’ve never gone before. So I chose this article to represent all the others. It’s a very readable description of exactly how to fly an airplane, complete with illustrations.

I just realized I accidentally ended up with 11 articles on my list. So this one’s a bonus:

11) A Proposed Plan For An Invariable Calendar
Maybe it’s not that big a deal that every year has a different calendar. January 1 falls on a different day of the week each year, and we’ve still managed to get by. But I can’t help imagine what it would be like if this plan had actually been adopted. What if every year, every date was always the same day of the week? Would life be any easier, or would it just be different in this minor way? At any rate, I thought this proposed calendar was kind of clever.

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Written by David

December 13th, 2010 at 11:30 am

Posted in Blog Stuff

This week’s posts will be a couple days late

I’m sad to report that this week’s posts, which usually go up on Friday mornings, will be a couple days late. I just moved, and life is a pile of boxes right now. But the articles will be worth the wait. The topics include atheism, a poor guy who got conned out of a lot of cash, and a close look at the city budget.

I’ll try my best to get the posts up in time for your Sunday morning coffee. Stay tuned!

Update: Okay, so it’s Sunday night and I still haven’t posted. I’ve got the laptop up and running, but all the files I had prepped to post are on the tower, which is still in boxes. My new estimate is end-of-day Tuesday, which makes it more than a bit late. But I don’t expect to get behind schedule again. Thanks for bearing with me.

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Written by David

September 30th, 2010 at 9:01 pm

Posted in Blog Stuff

When Future Historian Comes To 1910

From August 7, 1910


WHEN FUTURE HISTORIAN COMES TO 1910: Will He Look Us Up with Interest, or Pass Us by with a Grunt (PDF)

Back in 1910 the New York Times Sunday Magazine had a regular weekly column in which two characters known as the Office Radical and the Office Philosopher debate two sides of an issue. I’ve read a few of their debates while doing research for this blog, but I haven’t published any of their columns here so far. But this one was too good to pass up.

In this week’s column, they debate whether or not anything interesting has happened in 1910 that would be worth future historians looking at, especially as compared to all the interesting stuff their own historians have to look back on.

The Office Radical is sure that “some future historian will be ransacking the newspaper files and official records of 1910 the same way our present-day historians are ransacking those of, say, 1859 or 1770.”

The Office Philosopher says, “I’ll bet you 10 to 6 he doesn’t look at them for anything but Peary and the airships.”

I read this as I sat in the microforms room of the New York Public Library, doing research for this blog. I’d been researching the other 1910 articles I’ve posted over the last couple months, on topics that do indeed include Robert Peary and airships. And when I saw this discussion my eyes got wide and I thought, “They’re talking about me!”

I felt like Bastian in The NeverEnding Story when he realizes that the book he’s reading is talking specifically about him. Maybe this means I should write a post in which I wonder if future historians will ever look back at blogs of today with the same fascination I have in looking at newspapers of 1910.

So, obviously, I side with the Radical on this one.

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Written by David

August 6th, 2010 at 9:45 am

Will Future Generations Lose Historical Records Of To-Day?

From July 24, 1910


WILL FUTURE GENERATIONS LOSE HISTORICAL RECORDS OF TO-DAY? Scientists Point Out the Probably Destruction of Newspaper Files in a Few Centuries — The Wood Pulp Problem (PDF)

In the late 1990s, I was a photographer for Christie’s auction house. I shot for every department, and even though the historic letters and documents were not a challenge to shoot, they were still among my favorite things to photograph. I felt privileged to handle (carefully) important documents from history, including one of the original copies of the Declaration of Independence, letters from America’s founding fathers, the diary of a Civil War soldier, etc. Since many of today’s documents exist only digitally, our ancestors won’t have these kinds of physical objects hundreds of years from now. While looking at digital files can give me a similar feeling of connectedness with the past, there’s a feeling I get when I’m holding a piece of paper in my hand that was signed personally by George Washington that I just can’t get from a digital copy of the same document.

Preserving those kinds of historic documents has always been a challenge. This article mainly concerns newspapers and the switch from rag-based to wood-based paper in the late 1800s (wood-based paper being more difficult to preserve). Microfilm was already around in 1910, but the article does not discuss the possibility that newspaper copies could be preserved on film. Microfilm didn’t really become popular until the mid-1920s, and it wasn’t until 1935 that Kodak’s Recordak division began preserving the New York Times in that format.

Incidentally, if you do have a wood pulp newspaper you want to archive, the website has a pretty good overview of how historical newspapers can be preserved.

[Note from January 2019:

Today, newspapers are usually created digitally, and so are easy to preserve digitally. But even digital records can become impossible to retrieve as formats become obsolete. And the fluid nature of the internet, where most publishing takes place these days, makes it a difficult medium to preserve. But the non-profit Internet Archive is making a great effort.

I’m glad that people were thinking about preserving their archives 100 years ago. If they weren’t, I’d have a much harder time with this website.

Side note: As a photographer, I think a lot about future-proofing my digital archive. I began shooting digitally in 1997 — at Christie’s, where the studio was on the cutting edge of digital photography — and recently came across some old images in file formats that I couldn’t open. (It took some hunting but I finally found legacy software that allowed me to convert the images to a modern format.) If you save the raw files from your digital camera, chances are good that they are in a proprietary format that may one day be obsolete. Some of the best writing I’ve found about future-proofing your digital photo archives is by Peter Krogh. If these issues concern you, I recommend his book on Digital Asset Management for photographers.

[Side note here added January 2019 by Jesse Rifkin, David Friedman’s successor administrator for The aforementioned website referenced midway through David’s post no longer exists, which in and of itself attests to David’s statement: “The fluid nature of the internet, where most publishing takes place these days, makes it a difficult medium to preserve. But the non-profit Internet Archive is making a great effort.” I have updated David’s original link about History Buff’s guide to newspaper preservation to the Internet Archive’s cached version of that same link from 2010, back when David originally made this post.]

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Written by David

July 23rd, 2010 at 10:15 am

Blog Launch Day

I’m formally announcing this blog today. You can get the story behind the blog on the About Page. I hope all of you find the material here as interesting as I do. If you have any questions or notice anything not working correctly, please leave a comment or email.

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Written by David

April 13th, 2010 at 12:45 pm

Posted in Blog Stuff