Cover image for Creating the modern man : American magazines and consumer culture, 1900-1950
Creating the modern man : American magazines and consumer culture, 1900-1950
Pendergast, Tom.
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Publication Information:
Columbia, Mo. : University of Missouri Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
x, 289 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
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Table of Contents
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In the late nineteenth century, general-interest magazines began to reach an unprecedented number of readers and conveyed to those readers diverse messages about the meaning of masculinity in America. Over the next fifty years, these messages narrated a shift from Victorian masculinity, which valued character, integrity, hard work, and duty, to modern masculinity, which valued personality, self-realization, and image. In Creating the Modern Man, Tom Pendergast studies the multifaceted ways that masculinity is represented in magazines published during this transitional period.

Pendergast focuses on the rise of mass consumer culture, demonstrating that consumerism was a key factor in reshaping American notions of masculinity as presented in popular magazines. Whereas much scholarship has decried the effects of consumerism, Pendergast treats consumer culture as an energizing force in the American magazine market. He suggests that such magazines offered men new and meaningful visions of masculine identity and argues that men actively participated in restructuring the masculine ideal. Engaging a wide range of magazines from American Magazine to Esquire to True, Pendergast demonstrates how these publications presented masculinity in ways that reflected the magazines' relationship to advertisers, contributors, and readers.

This fascinating study includes such African American magazines as the Colored American, Crisis, Opportunity, and Ebony. Pendergast reasons that the rise of modern masculinity opened the way for African American men to identify with normative masculine values. As white men reinvented the idea of the "self-made man" for a new era, black men struggled to negotiate a meaningful place for black masculinity in a culture intent on denying them access.

The first complete investigation of the representation of men in American magazines, Creating the Modern Man makes an important contribution to our understanding of these publications, both as elements of mass culture and as interesting institutions in their own right. Pendergast takes readers inside the complex world of magazine publishing, demonstrating how magazines slowly yet surely help create the cultural images that shape societal gender roles.

Author Notes

Tom Pendergast is the editorial director of Full Circle Editorial, Inc., and coeditor of the St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

This book touches on many disciplines, including journalism, sociology, and business, while focusing narrowly on one place and time. There is a simple explanation for the simultaneous breadth and narrowness of this study: it was conducted for the author's doctoral dissertation in the hybrid but specialized field of American studies. Citing over 200 sources, Pendergast (St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture) uses general-interest magazines to chart the shift from Victorian masculinity, which emphasized character and hard work, to a modern masculinity based on personality, sexuality, and appearance. Pendergast disputes the prevailing assumption that the new masculine image was imposed by corporate consumer capitalism, with dire consequences for both white and African American men. Rather, he argues that the shift is a gradual, ongoing process in which all of society participates and from which we all gain. Recommended for academic libraries supporting American studies programs.-Susan M. Colowick, North Olympic Lib. Syst., Port Angeles, WA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Pendergast surveys how masculinity was represented in general interest magazines published during the first half of the 20th century. He considers not only articles and editorials in magazines but advertising and letters to the editor as well, enabling him to determine the "personality" of each magazine. The author examines magazines with large and small circulations that represented the entire magazine market and reflected the concerns and interests of American males. Concentrating on magazines that have not been extensively studied, Pendergast gives less consideration to the Saturday Evening Post than McClure's, Munsey's, American Magazine, Collier's, and Sporting Life. The most interesting chapters in this important and original work are those dealing with magazines primarily intended for African Americans. Ebony was the first really successful magazine for blacks, achieving that status by downplaying racism and "by offering a vision of the black experience that embraced consumer culture." This book is a valuable contribution to the history of men, accessible to all levels. W. K. McNeil; Ozark Folk Center

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introductionp. 1
1 Old-Fashioned Manhood in a Newfangled Mediump. 30
2 African American Masculinity and the Great Debate: Rescuing Black Masculinity from the Success Ethicp. 65
3 "Horatio Alger Doesn't Work Here Any More": The Emergence of Modern Masculinity, 1915-1935p. 111
4 From the Ground Up: Reclaiming the Basis for Masculinity in African American Magazines, 1910-1949p. 167
5 A Pleasing Personality Wins the Day: The Cultural Hegemony of Modern Masculinityp. 206
Conclusionp. 260
Bibliographyp. 269
Indexp. 285