What do Mad Men, Amelia Earhart, and College Fashion have in Common?
It was summer time in New York City. My mom, grandparents, and I had taken the train from the suburbs to New York for a Sunday in the Big Apple. One of the first places we stopped? A big indoor flea market in Manhattan, held every weekend in a school building. I remember the lot full of white tents like snow caped mountains, hot New York air, and accents -- so many accents. I found a bound book almost half my height with marbled cardboard and leather binding. For $20 the seller said it was mine. "Do you want to really carry that all day?", my mom warned -- her way of promising that if I buy it, I carry it. She wasn't going to be shuttling this massive old book around New York all day. I could, but she wasn't!
I carried that heavy book with me all over New York that day. It got its own seat at the diner where had lunch. When I got it home to Pennsylvania it was so large that it only fit one place: under my bed! For five years at least I went to sleep every night literally on top of history. And we wonder where my fervor for Flea Market Love Letters comes from...I thought that today we'd take a look at some of the fascinating frozen in time details of that 1939 bound "Herald Tribune" index. The book holds several months of full editions of the newspaper as it would have appeared freshly printed.
A New York Herald Tribune Front Page from August 1, 1939.
Read on for a brief history of the paper, a timely spotlight on a mysteriously missing aviator, and finally for all your fashion tips and tricks for the 1939 Fall season.
The History of the New York Herald Tribune:
The New York Herald Tribune was a newspaper from 1924 to 1966. During its "lifetime" the paper won twelve -- yes, twelve -- Pulitzer Prizes. The Herald and the New-York Tribune were merged to produce the New York Herald Tribune in 1926, and the early readership was 275,000 wide.
The first Pulitzer Prize came in 1930 for coverage by journalist Leland Stowe of the Second Reparations Conference on German reparations for World War I. Following the Treaty of Versailles, the Central Powers -- of which Germany was one -- were "compelled" to give war reparations to the Allied Powers. This is where the "Young Plan" developed which would have seen the Germans over twelve years paying billions of dollars to the Allies. Due to the Great Depression etc. the Young Plan was abandoned and full reparations were never issued.
The paper had a long, complicated history with politics during World War II. Funding issues led to shady sponsorships and editors with a bend towards facism and the growing trend of Nazism sweeping Europe had power over the New York Herald Tribune's writing room.
Ultimately, the paper was always in competition with the New York Times and after decades of struggles was sold in 1958 and continued in circulation until the 1960s.
The New York Herald Tribune as seen being read by the character Roger Sterling in the Mad Men episode "New Amsterdam".
A Missing Icon Remembered:
Famous for her tragic disappearance in 1937 American aviation pioneer and author Amelia Earhart was declared dead in January of 1939.
In this August 13th, 1939 piece entitled "Amelia Earhart's Way of Life and of Death: Her Husband Tells How He Met Her and How She Gave Herself to Ardent Living" the journalist mentions that Earhart herself was a very talented writer. In a letter to her husband the morning of their wedding in 1932 Earhart wrote: "Please let us not interfere with each others work or play, nor let the world see our private joys or disagreements...". Her husband George P. Putnam included this letter and other samples of her "verse and prose" in his biography of his wife entitled "Soaring Wings".
It is most touching to see that in her letter -- which you're not doubt aware we prize here at Flea Market Love Letters -- Earhart seems so painfully aware of her celebrity. Everything Earhart did was so magnified in the public eye that it is hard to imagine what she must have been feeling when she penned those lines. A deeply private person in the public eye, Earhart had been missing for two years when this piece was published, indicating her mystery would hold public imagination for some time yet to come.
For the College Lady:
In this photo spread for the acceptable College Lady by Katherine Vincent, the Fashion Editor of the New York Herald Tribune, the austere conservative trends of the 1930s are headed out the door. Fashion historians say that women's style in the 1940s was about the "hourglass silhouette" with high waisted, wide leg trousers and A-line knee length skirts. "Masculine" details like padded shoulders were popular which you can start to see sneaking into these recommendations from 1939. Hats, gloves, handbags, and jewelry were the final touch to an outfit for the chic College Lady.
Mrs. Vincent died in 1962 at the age of 52. She had a long career as the Fashion Editor for the New York Herald Tribune, where she was possibly 29 years old when this piece was printed. In the summer of 2020 I got to visit "Jenny Vander", a delightful vintage clothing shop here in Dublin, Ireland. The proprietor and absolute "legend" Gail, showed me some of the vintage fashions in shop that ladies taking Vincent's advice might have snapped up!
Like this vintage 1930s/40s make up compact complete with room for your pressed power, powder puff, and lipstick for all those touch ups between Art History and English class!
Get in Touch.
Something here strike your interest? Have a letter story you'd like to share? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org today!