Happy new year, everyone! I’m sure you’re as glad to say good-bye to 2020 as I am.
It is, incredibly, my fourth New Year’s here at My Life 100 Years Ago. That’s four Saturday Evening Post covers by J.C. Leyendecker. In 1918 we had a baby soldier,
in 1919 a baby celebrating peace,
and in 1920 a shushing baby,
which didn’t make much sense until I realized that it was a censored version of this original:
This year we have a baby coal miner.
This puzzled me, because the violent conflicts in the mining industry seem more up The Liberator’s or The Crisis’s* alley than the business-friendly Post’s. The magazine’s website explains that “the 1921 cherub anticipates an end to the bitter coal miners’ strike in Alabama.” If Leyendecker were still at it (his streak ran from 1907 to 1943), this year’s baby would be getting a vaccine.
Meanwhile, Good Housekeeping and Sunset have New Year’s babies of their own, going for cute and creepy respectively.
The Top 10 Posts
I only published 15 posts total this year, and the top ten were the first ten. This struck me at as strange and a little alarming at first, but when I looked more closely at the numbers it made sense. Four out of the top five were from March, April, and May—i.e. peak COVID lockdown time, when everyone was desperate for entertainment.
This is kind of meta.
I thought you all might want some diversions during those grim first weeks, so I compiled some quizzes I’d published over the years. Except, oops, I forgot What’s Your 1918 Girl Job?
Smart Set co-editors H.L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan may have been the greatest critics of their era, but their attitude toward woman left a lot to be desired. I had a wonderful time writing this post on July 4 and managed to finish it just in time to watch the fireworks from the roof of my building. This is probably my favorite post ever as far as the pictures go.
“Forget the words, I just want pictures!” readers often tell me, although somewhat more politely than that. This year, I listened.
It was fun comparing magazine covers from 1915 and 1920, and I enjoyed hearing about your favorites. Rita Senger’s winning 1915 Vanity Fair cover took me in a fascinating direction that you’ll be hearing about soon. (UPDATE 4/6/2021: You can read more about Rita Senger here.)
This Valentine’s Day post started out with idle curiosity—what happened to four aspiring actresses after they won a movie magazine contest? It turned into a bit of an obsession as I delved into the lives of popular Follies girl Helen Lee Worthing and her husband Eugene Nelson, a prominent African-American physician. Of all the posts I’ve done, I may be proudest of this one, and I’m glad it found so many readers.
I celebrated my return to the northern hemisphere with some wintry cover art, not suspecting that another winter would be on the way by the time I returned to South Africa.
If we couldn’t go on vacation this year, at least we could dream of beaches…and white shoes…and gramophones.
With the salons closed, I got into the F. Scott Fitzgerald spirit and gave myself a homemade bob.
Okay, I get the hint! I’ll do another ad roundup soon.
A Pioneering Gay Novel of 1919. Not that being #11 out of 15 is such a spectacular achievement, but I can’t resist giving this post a plug. Finding a novel about a loving gay couple who just wanted to live like normal people was my biggest surprise of the year.
December 1920 Magazine Covers Bring Holiday Cheer. As I mentioned, the last five posts were the least popular, and the last post of all is on trend with the fewest views. Also: I see I’m in a bit of a blog title rut.**
Best-Performing Post from a Past Year
My Quest to Earn a 1919 Girl Scout Badge. This was my most fun post ever, and it lives on, with more than twice as many views in 2020 as the #1 post published during the year. In the meantime, a new edition of the Girl Scout handbook has been published—I should get on it.
Best Readership News
You know how when you’re just starting out in your profession you work like crazy, and then when you get more senior you can just coast? Yeah, me neither, but blogging works like that. In 2018, when I was reading full-time as if I were living in 1918, I published 94 posts. In 2019, I had 21. This year, 15. But here’s what happened to the numbers.
There are technical and highly boring reasons for this having to do with the impact of longevity on how search engines assess websites, but whatever! I’ll take it!
Happy 2021! May it be better than your 2020.
*The January 1921 Liberator and Crisis covers:
**Although not as bad of a rut as the time back in 2019 when four out of five posts in a row started with “Celebrating.”