Collecting Archery & Bowhunting
"Magazines? You mean those dusty old rags that I keep
in a box out in the garage? Nobody wants those things. I just
keep them because I dont want to pitch them, but I dont
know what else to do with them."
How many times have I heard that one. Plenty. But we all do
it, dont we? We all keep the back issues of our favorite
magazines laying around close to our favorite chair for weeks,
at least until the wife catches us in a moment when we are not
looking and "disposes" of them while she is cleaning.
May, 1933 Issue of Archery Review
So why is it that we keep those old rags if they really dont
mean anything? Well the answer is obvious, but we just dont
want to admit it. We love those old magazines. We love the lessons
that they taught us, the experiences that the writers allowed
us to share with them, and the beautiful pictures that the photographers
took for us. We just cant stand the thought of turning
them into nothing more than trash to be thrown in the dumpster.
No, that would be to throw out our memories, and we will have
nothing to do with that!
Magazines for Fun
There are absolutely no better ways to explore the history
of this sport than to spend an evening sitting by the fire reading
a magazine from the early days of bowhunting. Keep in mind that
99% of the people who wrote these early articles did not make
their living as writers. They were not famous people by anyones
standard. They were simply people who enjoyed pulling the string
of a bow and listening to the sound of the arrow as it sped on
its journey to the target. These were people just like
you and me. They worked everyday jobs, they hunted hard to find
animals, and they worked hard to make the money required to buy
that new bow, or to take that once a year trip to hunt some form
of critter somewhere in their world. Their heart was really into
Magazines allow us a window into the world of these early
bowhunters, a chance to read their minds, to listen to their
thoughts, and hear their opinions. Sitting by the fire and reading
an issue of Ye Sylvan Archer or American Bowman Review
allows us an opportunity to experience what it was like to be
one of the first people in a brand new sport, and to understand
what it must have felt like to learn from your mistakes, without
the opportunity to go down to the store and rent a video and
hear some "expert" tell us what we did wrong in 50
words or less. These people lived in a time where everything
was more or less an experiment. These bowhunters could not wait
for the next issue so that a little more could be learned
Some titles are simply works of art, as this early
Magazines for Research
Magazines are also THE BEST research medium which we have
available to us as archery collectors and historians. Just about
anyone who dreamt up a new product and even thought about trying
to turn their idea into reality bought an ad at some point in
their effort. There are pictures and drawings of fletchers, feather
burners, broadheads, gloves, armguards, quivers, bows, sights,
just about anything that you can imagine. I personally love sitting
down and going through the old magazines looking at the ads trying
to "discover" the manufacturer of some old piece of
equipment that I own by finding a picture in an ad.
For example, I once found an old Easton wooden target arrow.
Wooden Easton arrows are pretty scarce in their own right, mind
you. But this arrow had something unique about it. This arrow
had a mans name stamped right into the shaft. Not written,
but stamped in a very professional manner. The mans name
was John Willard. Well, I had never heard of John Willard, but
I knew that this man must have been someone well connected to
afford such a special arrow, and to be able to have his name
stamped into his shafts. Problem was that I could not find any
information at all about him. Everything turned into a dead end.
Then one evening several years later I was sitting around
the basement reading an old copy of Ye Sylvan Archer from the
early 1930s, and there it was - an article about a fellow
by the name of John Willard! I could not believe it. It turns
out that old John was a Hollywood actor and friends with some
of the more famous archers of the day. John turned out to be
a pretty fair archer himself, and became very serious about the
sport. My search for John was over.
This is just one example of how magazines can help us. I could
recite many more examples, but lets move on to more details.
In The Beginning
It is well documented that with the publishing of articles
in magazines of the day like Scribners and Harpers
Weekly, the Thompson Brothers had begun to kindle the interest
of the American public in the sport of archery. Apparently it
was this growing interest in a new sport that led publishers
to attempt creating new titles dedicated to this hobby.
The very first national archery periodical that I have found
reference to was entitled THE American Toxophilite. This
must not have been a very successful venture for the publisher,
as only 1 issue has ever been found (July, 1879). The next example
of an archery periodical appears to have been THE ARCHERY
FIELD. Again, this must not have been very fruitful as this
one lasted only 2 years, from 1879 until 1881. It must have been
discovered that their simply was not enough interest in the sport
at that time to support a magazine dedicated to this one pursuit,
so the publishers of this magazine doubled up by including the
participants of tennis into their little pubication and renamed
it "ARCHERY AND TENNIS NEWS". The time was 1881, and
even with this change the new magazine lasted only until 1885.
Finally, A Success
The first truly successful magazine totally dedicated to the
sport of archery, with a huge emphasis on hunting with the bow
and arrow, was Ye Sylvan Archer. The first issue of this magazine
was May, 1927. In the pages of this magazine you can find articles
by bowhunters who later in life became superstars in the sport,
such as Howard Hill, Fred Bear, Art Young, and Roy Case. But
you can also find some very special articles by people who later
became famous in other facets of life, men like Earl Stanley
Gardner, the creator of Perry Mason. What a wonderful little
magazine this was. The fact that it lasted until the middle of
the Second World War (1943) attests to its popularity among
Volume 1, No. 1 of Ye Sylvan Archer, May, 1927
The Most Successful
Without a doubt, the most successful archery/bowhunting magazine
of all time has been Bowhunter Magazine. Started by three Hoosier
bowhunters from Ft. Wayne, IN (Fred Wallace, Don Clark, and M.R.
James) in late 1971, this magazine remains strong even today.
The first issue of this magazine was Oct/Nov 1971, and is a very
hard to find item. I believe that only 15,000 copies of the first
issue were printed. Look through those old magazine boxes at
the flea market for this one. It is a keeper!!
Vol. 1 No. 1 of Bowhunter Magazine, Oct/Nov 1971
Good Magazine, But
Even some of the magazines of today are destined to become
treasures of tomorrow. For example, Longbows & Recurves magazine
was a very good magazine in my opinion. But for some reason,
it lasted only a very few issues and folded. I would recommend
that it might be a good idea to put a set of this title together
now and salt them away for the future.
Archery Magazine from April, 1958 with Glen St.
Charles on the cover (signed by Glen)
Some people only specialize in collecting the issues with famous
people on the cover. People such as Fred Bear, Howard Hill, and
Glen St. Charles are very sought after covers. You might want
to start your magazine collection by looking only for these special
How Much Should I Pay?
Remember what I said to start this article everyone
saved their old magazines. As a result, magazines from the 1940s,
50s, and 60s are not that hard to find. I have bought
many a stack for $1 each. I dont think that I have ever
paid over $5 for a copy of any in this time frame.
The earlier issues however are very tough to find. I would
not hesitate to pay $40 or more for some of the earliest copies
of the titles from before 1926. It is very common to see copies
of Ye Sylvan Archer sell for $12-15 each. Look for good quality
issues, and beware of torn or loose covers and missing pages.
Common sense is the word of the day.
Where Do I Find These Magazines?
Look at flea markets and used book stores. Also advertise
in places like BOWSITE Classifieds. I have seen many a magazine
move through there. Also, use the Internet Search Engines to
look for "Magazine Collectors" or "Magazine Resellers".
There are many of them out there.
The History Of
National Archery Periodicals
The American Toxophilite 1879 (only 1 issue)
The Archery Field (1879-1881) Archery & Tennis News
"Archery" by McMeen (1919-1926, 8 issues only)
Ye Sylvan Archer (May 1927-Oct. 1933 & Dec. 1935-Dec.
Archery (Feb 44_Nov/Dec 79)
The California Bowman Hunter (May-Dec 1943, 7 issues only)
The American Archer by Fred Kibbe (1928-1934
The Eastern Archer (Jan 1930-Jan. 1931, 7 issues only)
The Archery Review (Aug, 1931-Jan. 1937)
American Bowman Review (Feb. 1937 Nov. 1951)
The American Bowman (Dec. 1935-Jan. 1937)
The American Archer (1939-1941, Vol. 1 Nos. 1-6 / Vol.2
The Feathered Shaft The Bowhunter The National Bowhunter
(May 1947-Apr 1950) (May 1950-June 1955 (Jul 1955-Sep.
Feb 1951 not printed) bought by TAM Oct. 1963)
T.A.M. T.A.M. & Archery World
(Jul. 1952-June 1964) July 1964-Nov. 1969)
The Eastern Bowhunter Bowhunting Archery World
(Jul. 1956-Jan. 1959) (Feb. 1959-Oct. 1962) (Nov. 1962-Nov.
Nov. 1966 not printed)
Archery World (Dec. 1969, then Bi-Monthly starting Oct./Nov.
1970 to Date)
Bow & Arrow (Bi-Monthly May/Jun 1963 to Date)
Bow & Arrow Annuals (#1 in 1976)
Bowhunter (Bi-Monthly Oct/Nov 1971 to Date)
Traditional Bowhunter (Quarterly 1989-1992, then Bi-Monthly
Longbows & Recurves