The Vanity Fair magazine has been around since the 1800s. The phrase “Vanity Fair” originally meant a place that abounds in frivolous, flamboyant and idle amusement which was more on the lines of a self-indulgent fair described in the well known book by John Bunyan called “The Pilgrim’s Progress”. William Makepeace, the well-known 19th century author nevertheless adopted the term for his novel in 1848.
The magazine, Vanity Fair, had three incarnations in the nineteenth century. Originally, it was conceived as weekly magazine in Manhattan, which was more centered on humor and was in circulation from 1859-1863 Elisa Gayle Ritter. The second revival of the magazine that lasted from 1868 to 1914 was in the form of a periodical that was centered on the rich and the famous of the time. It was noticed for its caricatures of affluent people and witty prose. Afterwards, it was in 1890, that the American version of the magazine was published which was more on the lines of a theatre publication catering to the affluent society.
Conde Nast, the founder of the Vogue acquired the rights to the name and re launched the publication in the form of a hybrid journal that was named “Dress &Vanity Fair”. However, this failed to create any ripples and lasted for only four issues. It was subsequently overhauled in 1914 under the new editor Frank Crowninshield. This new magazine focused on promoting artists like Brancusi and Picasso along with many new authors like Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence and illustrators like Paolo Garretto. As a result, the magazine became a true symbol of the new celebrity culture with photographers like Baron de Mayer and Edward Steichen.
Vanity Fair was labeled as one of the smart and savvy magazines of the era, which was known for its pictures and coverage of parties by the rich and famous in the field of politics, cinema, arts and sports. However, the magazine was discontinued during the Great Depression in 1936.
The Conde Nast Publications again revived the Vanity Fair in 1983. This time the magazine was more of an idiosyncratic cultural parody, which focused on the tastes, and preferences of the rich and famous. The new editor Tina Brown focused on an offering the readers an eclectic mix of culture, wealth and scandal. In 1991, the international edition of the magazine was launched. In the year 1992, the magazine expanded its horizons under the leadership of the editor of The New York Observer Graydon Carter and started covering world affair and news. He introduced new features like the International Best-Dressed List, issues which focused on music and environment, rankings of moguls in the spheres of entertainment, communications, information and the most coveted Vanity Fair Oscar gala, which is held annually and attended by the who’s who of the world along with the Hollywood Issue of the Vanity Fair.
Although Sports Illustrated is an extremely popular magazine (primarily with a male readership) these days, there were similar magazines called Sports Illustrated which failed before the current incarnation of the magazine that arrives on news stands and in mailboxes across the country. Hard as it may be to believe, sports journalism was once considered beneath other forms of writing. That was before writers like Frank Deford, Robert Creamer and others came along and proved that writing about sports could grab readers and have them debating the pros and cons of various aspects of basketball, football and..yes.. even swimsuit models. Reporting on the Olympic Games was also in demand and some of those covers featuring Olympic athletes have become collector’s issues.
Ironically, an early publisher of the magazine, Henry Luce, was not even an avid sports fan. He could probably be called lukewarm (at best). Still, he managed to ignore those who scoffed at the idea of a magazine focused only on sports reporting and photos. His instincts served him in good stead and Sports Illustrated was ready to take off.
Of course, timing is everything. It didn’t hurt that television was about to help Americans sit in the comfort of their dens or living or family rooms and watch a baseball or other game. It was a natural move to buy a magazine to read during the commercials and Sports Illustrated filled the bill. If there was any question about a particular batting average, the magazine could be consulted. Besides, it was just plain fun to read – and it only became better through the years.
Sports Illustrated was responsible for many innovations in sports reporting. Their noted “Sportsman of the Year” was popular from the start. Everyone loves a good competition so readers were eager to see who’d grace the cover each year – and why. Winners have accomplished such feats as breaking the four minute mile (Roger Bannister) or some other athletic feat. If the covers are representative of the popularity of specific sports, then Major League Baseball seems to be the most popular sport, followed by Pro Football and Pro Basketball.