December 17, 1892: the First Issue of Vogue Magazine

The first issue – December 17, 1892. Price? 10 cents.

“Vogue: Mode or fashion prevalent at any particular time; popular reception, repute, generally used in the phrase ‘in vogue’: as, a particular style of dress was then ‘in vogue’; such opinions are now ‘in vogue.’”

The first issue of Vogue magazine came out 122 years ago today (or 123 – more on this later) , on December 17, 1892. It started as small, weekly society magazine – nothing like the Vogue we see today. It released its first issue “with the aim of attracting”, in the words of its founding publisher Arthur Baldwin Turnure, “the sage as well as the debutante, men of affairs as well as the belle.” (A. B. Wenzel/Vogue/Condé Nast). The first cover featured a debutante at her début – not much of a surprise there.

I had intended to write a history of Vogue and its first issue, then discovered it had already been done quite well by Ali Bayse in her blog-style magazine On This Day in Fashion. Her post of December 17, 2010 – “A Plucky Little Paper by the Name of Vogue is Born” – is a well-written history of the society weekly’s founding:

“It was a place where anything seemed possible. The small, weekly society magazine that went by the name of Vogue was staffed by “ladies and gentleman, so no one worked very hard and anybody who wanted extra duties was welcome to them,” according to Edna Woolman Chase, an employee there for nearly 60 years. When Chase was just an 18-year-old “little girl from the country” (aka Asbury Park, New Jersey), a friend helped her get hired into Vogue’s circulation department, barely three years after the magazine was founded on this day in 1893. The teenager lived in a Manhattan boarding house with other single working women in an atmosphere she nostalgically describes as “family-like.” She threw herself into her job, a full-time gig addressing subscriber’s envelopes and adding new subscriber’s names into a ledger. Chase was paid $10 a week and loved every second of it.” Click here to read the rest of her fabulous article.

As for the confusion about the date of first publication, I don’t know what to make of it. A number of historically reliable sources say it’s 1892, but some historically reliable sources say no, it’s 1893. However, Vogue itself says it’s 1892 and if I squint at the top of the first cover image – really squint –  I can just make out “December 17, 1892.” So that’s what I’m going with.

Here’s a peek inside that first issue with an example of etiquette advice since, as “everyone” knows, breeding is nothing without grace and etiquette:

Photographs from the first issue of Vogue, taken by Jessie Tarbox Beals: The right way to – stand when walking, offer a seat, carry bag & umbrella, come down the stairs, sit in a chair. NYHS images.

December 17, 1892, The first issue of Vogue. Photographs, by Jessie Tarbox Beals,The right way to - stand when walking, offer a seat, carry bag & umbrella, come down the stairs, sit in a chair. NYHS images.

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2 thoughts on “December 17, 1892: the First Issue of Vogue Magazine

  1. Oh yeah, I’m going to hold my foot up behind me when presenting a place to sit…..and fall on my butt. Weird standing position w/ one foot lifted back too. Also would make me land flat on my butt.
    Val

    • That’s my favorite one, too. It looks as if she’s saying “And this is a CHAIR! TahDah!!” Either that or she’s explaining the rules of that “chairs in a circle and sit when the music stops” game and demonstrating how one should dash toward the closest empty chair. 😉

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