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Collecting Archery & Bowhunting Periodicals

 

"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 don’t want to pitch them, but I don’t know what else to do with them."

How many times have I heard that one. Plenty. But we all do it, don’t 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

 

Why Magazines?

So why is it that we keep those old rags if they really don’t mean anything? Well the answer is obvious, but we just don’t 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 can’t 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 anyone’s 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 it’s 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 their sport.

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 NFAA issue.

 

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 man’s name stamped right into the shaft. Not written, but stamped in a very professional manner. The man’s 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 1930’s, 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 let’s move on to more details.

In The Beginning….

It is well documented that with the publishing of articles in magazines of the day like Scribner’s and Harper’s 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 it’s popularity among readers.

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.

Special Issues
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 covers.

Archery Magazine from April, 1958 with Glen St. Charles on the cover (signed by Glen)

 

How Much Should I Pay?

Remember what I said to start this article – everyone saved their old magazines. As a result, magazines from the 1940’s, 50’s, and 60’s are not that hard to find. I have bought many a stack for $1 each. I don’t 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 (1881-1885)

"Archery" by McMeen (1919-1926, 8 issues only)

Ye Sylvan Archer (May 1927-Oct. 1933 & Dec. 1935-Dec. 1943)

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 Nos. 1-5)

The Feathered Shaft The Bowhunter The National Bowhunter

(May 1947-Apr 1950) (May 1950-June 1955 (Jul 1955-Sep. 1963

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. 1969

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 to Date)

Longbows & Recurves

Instinctive Archer

Primitive Archer

 

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