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Liberty Magazine

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Of course, the magazine wasn’t always so astute. During the Thirties (by which time it had been acquired by Detroit Daily publisher and health nut Bernarr Macfadden), you’d find plenty of articles supporting FDR’s New Deal (the NRA eagle even appeared on the cover), along with an impressive array of ads for snake-oil treatments of all sorts. But the editors also ran articles about what a great guy Hitler was all the way through the mid-Thirties, at which point they figured out that they’d been listening to the wrong people. (They made up for it with the none-too-flattering diary of one of Hitler’s maids some years later.)

Like virtually every other publication of the day, Liberty considered the 1932 Lindbergh kidnapping the story of the century. First-person accounts not only included the cop who captured the later-convicted kidnapper and murderer Bruno Richard Hauptmann, but an article by Hauptmann himself, written shortly before he went to the electric chair, called “Why Did You Kill Me?” Liberty even published a bizarre poem celebrating the talents of G-men penned by John F. (Jafsie) Condon, the doctor who delivered the Lindbergh ransom money and who became a celebrity in his own right after helping to convict Hauptmann (falsely, many believe) as the kidnapper.

Another great circulation coup was a 1935 six-part serial called “The President’s Mystery Stow.” It came about because one of Liberty’s editors, Fulton Oursler, was acquainted with Franklin Delano Roosevelt when he was governor of New York. One evening as they were discussing mystery stories, Roosevelt confessed that he was more than just a fan; he had long had an idea for a mystery. To wit: A middle-aged millionaire finds himself suffering from a sort of rich man’s
weltschmerz. He feels that he must make an entirely new life for himself or go crazy. Simultaneously, he has a dream for some kind of a do-gooding scheme that will require lots of money. Hence the puzzle: “How can a man disappear with five million dollars in any negotiable form and not be traced?”

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