Vanity Fair (US magazine 1913–36)
Condé Nast began his empire by purchasing the men's fashion magazine Dress in 1913. He renamed the magazine Dress and Vanity Fair and published four issues in 1913. He is said to have paid $3,000 for the right to use the title "Vanity Fair" in the United States, but it is unknown whether the right was granted by Vanity Fair (1859–63), Vanity Fair (1868–1914), Vanity Fair(1902–04) or some other source. It was almost certainly the magazine called The Standard and Vanity Fair, "the only periodical printed for the playgoer and player", published weekly by the "Standard and Vanity Fair Company, Inc", whose president was Harry Mountford, also General Director of the White Rats theatrical union. After a short period of inactivity the magazine was relaunched in 1914 as Vanity Fair.
The magazine achieved great popularity under editor Frank Crowninshield. In 1919 Robert Benchley was tapped to become managing editor. He joined Dorothy Parker, who had come to the magazine from Vogue, and was the staff drama critic. Benchley hired future playwright Robert E. Sherwood, who had recently returned from World War I. The trio were among the original members of the Algonquin Round Table, which met at the Algonquin Hotel, on the same West 44th Street block as Condé Nast's offices. Crowninshield attracted some of the best writers of the era. Aldous Huxley, T. S. Eliot, Ferenc Molnár, Gertrude Stein, and Djuna Barnes all appeared in a single issue, July 1923.
Starting in 1925, Vanity Fair competed with The New Yorker as the American establishment's top culture chronicle. It contained writing by Thomas Wolfe, T. S. Eliot and P. G. Wodehouse, theatre criticisms by Dorothy Parker, and photographs by Edward Steichen; Clare Boothe Luce was its editor for some time.
However, it became a casualty of the Great Depression and declining advertising revenues, although its circulation, at 90,000 copies, was at its peak. Condé Nast announced in December 1935 that Vanity Fair would be merged with Vogue (circulation 156,000) as of the March 1936 issue.
In 1983 Vanity Fair was revived by Condé Nast Publications as a magazine of pop culture, fashion and politics.
Notes and references
- 1913-1922: HathiTrust has all issues through the end of 1922 in full view. (Some later volumes can be searched but not read online.)
- Vanity Fair is a year-long fair in John Bunyan's Christian allegory The Pilgrim's Progress, where visitors are tempted with every worldly vanity.
- Ben Yagoda, About Town, New York: Scribner, 2000, p. 37.
- Yagoda, 2000, p. 36.
- "Vanity Fair Merged With Vogue by Nast", New York Times, p. 21, December 30, 1935. "Conde Nast Publications To Combine Two Magazines", Wall Street Journal, p. 2, December 31, 1935.
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