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No, Norman Rockwell never worked for Liberty. But virtually every other cultural icon of the Twenties, Thirties, and Forties—whether illustrator or writer, philosopher or movie star, sports hero, war hero, or celebrity criminal—managed to take a bow in the pages of Liberty magazine sometime during its reign as the “second-greatest magazine in America.” (The Saturday Evening Post outgunned it in circulation, if not in quality.)
Liberty was a general-interest magazine of the sort that died out with the advent of television. When it first appeared on the stands in 1924, it called itself “a weekly for everybody.” And to a degree that seems astonishing in today’s target-market publishing, it lived up to its name. Then as now, famous names sold magazines; Liberty’s specialty was to feature the work not only of famous authors, but of celebrities from every walk of life, whose articles appeared under their own bylines (though quite a few required some editorial massaging).
For a nickel a week, you could read everything from George Bernard Shaw’s “The Palestinian Muddle” to Eleanor Powell’s beauty tips (do the splits every day, ladies). Or you could delight in H.L. Mencken’s savaging of politicians, Shirley Temple’s New Year’s resolutions, and Babe Ruth’s thoughts on “How It Feels to Be a Has-Been.” There was fiction by the likes of Theodore Dreiser and F. Scott Fitzgerald. And illustrations, drawings, and cartoons by everyone from Leslie Thrasher (whose “For the Love o’ Lil” cover paintings proved so popular that a movie was made based on his characters) to the young Theodore Geisel (a.k.a. Dr. Seuss). All that, and crossword puzzles, too.