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Popular Mechanics Magazine Review

Popular Mechanics Magazine Review

My son, Michael Parks, loves to hunt garage, estate and yard sales for "treasures."  He brought me an old Popular Mechanics magazine dated June, 1950.  The magazine is still going strong with over a million subscribers and is also on-line and in podcast.  My review is on the 1950 issue, but bear in mind that there have been many changes in this magazine over the years.  The essence of the periodical hasn't changed.  It is still a favorite among young and old alike, with subjects that range from one extreme to another and of interest to all ages and gender.  Popular Mechanics magazine was first published on January 11, 1902 by H. H. Windsor, Sr who was also the editor.  His son, H. H. Windsor, Jr succeeded as editor and other family members were also part of the editorial staff.  In 1958 the Hearst Magazines Company bought Popular Mechanics and incorporated it into its list of titles.  Today the magazine is printed in the United States and nine other international editions.  Today's Editor-in-Chief is Ryan D'Agostino. 
Popular Mechanics has always been rather eclectic and the topics followed a wide range of subjects that attracted young men, adults and even women.  There are articles on woodcraft, science, outdoor activities, construction, automotive, racing, technology, do-it-yourself, inventions, how-to build things, home and garden, and just about any subject you can think of.  From the beginning Popular Science attracted attention and was a favorite.  It was published monthly and the 1950 issue cost just 35 cents, which was a hefty sum back then.  A meal consisting of a hamburger fries and drink cost that much then.  But it was a bargain when you looked at the content of the articles and the advertisements.  The magazine in 1950 ran to 295 pages, the print was small and it would take you a month to read the entire issue.  Today the magazine is published ten times a year and the graphics and look are more modern, but still roughly the same size.  You can also buy back issues of the magazine back to 1905 and these old issues show the development of America as we entered the Air and Nuclear Age.  For historians this is a priceless archive of invention and Americana.  Today's magazine also includes a column on Jay Leno's Garage and the Tonight Show host's collection of fabulous cars.
The June 1950 issue contained the following articles; Three quarter sized midget race cars, College in the Tall Timbers, Navajos hunt for Uranium, a mail order five room house, parachute jumpers, GI servicemen’s workshops, Prairie oil boom, movable oil well derricks, home improvements, racing boat shells, new paint spray products, boat safety, basement golf, motor tune-ups, bandsaws, radio, television and electronics, abrasives for the do-it-yourselfers, automotive, planes, boats, farms, industry, lawn and garden, models, tin can railroad, whittling, outdoor recreation, photography, tools, crafts, carpentry, toys, astronomy, stamps, plumbing, metallurgy and much more.  Some of the topics discussed back then are still relevant today.  The article on oil drilling in the American and Canadian prairie states and the discussion of pipeline building to bring oil to the US refineries bears an eerie resemblance to the argument over the Keystone pipeline being discussed in Congress today.  The modern reader can readily understand all the topics in the 1950 issue, though the language is dated.
As engrossing as the articles are it is the advertisements that are as interesting if not more so.  I remember reading the ads in Popular Mechanics as a boy and wondering if I should order the product that will add more muscles to my skinny frame.  Should I have bought the magic book and practiced legerdemain?  The ladies could buy nylon stockings and go into business selling all sorts of ladies undergarments door to door.  There was something for everyone and many of those products no longer exist except in our fading memories.  Popular Mechanics is a time machine; a veritable historical encyclopedia of facts, stories and especially ads.  You could order a kit and build a boat or a house or a midget racer.  I remember wanting to build a telescope and a crystal radio set to receive signals.  The strangest stories on space and space exploration found their way into the magazine.  What shade tree mechanic wouldn’t want the Audel Auto Guide for Mechanics and you could send in four payments of just one dollar and it was yours.  There was a 15 page classified ad section that I used to peruse with amusement and where you could buy or sell whatever your heart desired.
Today you can get a subscription or go on-line to read the magazine.  It has flashy graphics, videos, photographs and text; updated and modern.  Today’s version isn’t really any better or worse than the older versions.  The magazine is still a special publication for young and old alike.  It still whets the appetite for the unknown, new, creative and simply weird ideas.  Another magazine similar in content is Popular Mechanix, which first came out in 1928.  Popular Science magazine predates both Mechanics and Mechanix and was first published in 1872.  Popular Science is published in 30 languages in 45 different countries and specializes in science and technology.  I’ll review them when my son brings me a copy from a garage sale.
Gone Racin’ is at [email protected].