American Girl Magazines from the Swingin’ Sixties
My sister and I flew home to California this past weekend for my grandmother’s memorial service. My family organized the whole thing, and one thing I’ve learned from the experience is that to do a memorial properly, you need tons of photos of your loved one: there are obituaries and slideshows and photo boards and funeral decor, all of which require them. The day we flew in, the family stopped into my grandmother’s old house — the very same house my mother grew up in — to see if she had any photos lying around that we could use.
Among the finds were three 1968 issues of American Girl that had belonged to my mother when she was 13. They dated back to before the time of towering megastores filled with American Girl dolls and their varied and exorbitantly priced accessories — indeed, 1968 was a couple of decades before the first American Girl doll ever existed. At that time, American Girl was just a magazine for girls in their early teens that was filled with the kind of stuff they were into: fashion, makeup, and boys, sure, but also articles about scouting, science, crafting, technology, and other topics to pique their curiosity. I was a subscriber when I was younger, and I’m happy to see that it continues to be just as wholesome as I remember.
I was already scanning a ton of photos, so I figured I’d scan a few interesting pages from the magazines to share online. Here they are! Click any of the images to see them in full resolution.
Fashion and Makeup
So. Much. Plaid.
These magazines taught me that those big hairstyles of the 60’s didn’t all come from teasing and hairspray — there were a ton of ads for hairpieces. I kind of think that Sue and Jo-Ellen here were better off in their before pictures, but I’m no stylist.
I laughed out loud at this one. The first acne medication in three shades, and the shades they chose are white, white, and white girl with a tan. Also — light, medium, and “brunette?” Not only are they suggesting people who wear makeup are all white, they’re also suggesting that “dark” is a naughty word? Also: those collars are frilly as fuck.
Twiggy, the British supermodel known for her lean build and androgynous appearance, experienced her rise to prominence in 1966 and 1967, so it’s to be expected that young girls would be obsessed with her around the time these issues came out. This particular article asked readers to write in and tell how it would feel for them to be Twiggy. The responses ran the gamut from charming terms like “outa-site” to more expected reactions like “HUNGRY!” A few of my favorites:
“It must be an outa-site feeling to be the most famous model in the world.”
“She’s the grooviest person since the Beatles.”
“I think it would be just about the greatest thing that ever happened to me except for my few discoveries of boys, discs, and disco makers.”
“Being Twiggy is: Having to hold onto a street sign on windy days. Not having to wear boots on snowy days because you don’t sink in. Having to shrink your baby sister’s clothes for them to fit you. Having to brace yourself against a wall when you sneeze.”
“Twiggy can never be herself. Her personality we don’t know, we are only seeing her and not knowing her. This would be annoying –– to be famous, but no one really knowing you. Her personality is crushed. I would feel pressured, bored, and put upon. The only story would be long nights, bright lights, and looking right, maybe with a touch of glamour.”
There were a few articles about cutting-edge technology and ideas of what the future would be like, to which I obviously flocked. This one let readers know that computers were all around them:
“Curious about the outcome of the World Series? Would you like to know which weekend in July will be the best for sailing? Or if that new boy in town will ever notice you?
It’s easy enough to find out. All you have to do is ask a friendly computer.
More and more, this amazing machine is playing a role in your life. The funny letters you get from Suzie were sorted by computers. Everytime you call someone long distance, your call is put through by computer. The electric current which turns on your hi-fi set, your television—even your lights—is controlled by a computer in a central power plant.
And this is just the beginning.
Everytime you see a spaceship zooming off into space, you can be sure that its course was plotted by a computer.
And computers are used in hospitals, too. In Oakland, California, a man entered a medical center for a complete physical examination. Ordinarily, this examination takes two days and costs about three hundred dollars. This time it took two hours and cost just fifty dollars, thanks to a computer.”
This one mused about what it would be like to vacation during the 21st century (spoiler alert: it’s pretty much The Jetsons).
“What will a girl like you dream about when vacation time rolls around in the next century? The possibilities will be fantastic! You’ll be able to take your pick—up in space, under the sea, no-time-at-all trips to remote corners of the earth. This brave new world will be full of wild new ways to enjoy extra leisure hours.
To get away from it all you will have to leave cities that run north and south from San Diego to Seattle, from Mexico to Alaska, from Quebec to Miami. Pittsburgh and Atlanta may be possible trips now, but in the future these will be nearby neighborhoods linked by deep-level compression air tubes for shipping freight. Mostly you will get around your town on moving, multi-lane pedestrian strips, or by escalator and elevator. The world will be overpopulated, holding some ten billion persons confined within four megalopolises. Your Aunt Joan, along with most of the global population, will live in one of the underground cities with scientifically created sunshine deep beneath the earth, and you may want to visit her but chances are you won’t, because most people ‘visit’ by tuning in to each other on closed circuit 3-D television. You will talk to each other and even play games by punching a dial. Besides, you’ll want to get away from all the people in the city.”