In the mid-70s, I was browsing the local newsstand and came across a magazine called The Mother Earth News. It was printed on inexpensive paper, and chock-full of the kinds of information that people would need to be self-sufficient in the last days of hippiedom. I bought one magazine, and then over the next few months went back to the newsstand again and again to pick up every back issue I could get my hands on. And I subscribed.
The magazine had been founded by John and Jane Shuttleworth, and it was their personal philosophy that dictated what appeared. Many of the articles were geared toward people who were giving up the urban life to go “back to the land.” Of course, people raised in suburbia who were embarking on a glorious quest to become self-sufficient farmers needed plenty of advice, so there was no shortage of material.
The one main complaint I had about the magazine in those days was John Shuttleworth’s constant whining that the readers just could not comprehend how HARD he was working to keep the magazine alive. It began to seem like he thought we’d forget that he was working his tail off if he didn’t bring it up in endless variations in every issue. Yes, the magazine was being run on a rather frayed shoestring in those days, but what could we-the-readers do about it? We were, after all, buying the magazine and subscribing. They even offered lifetime subscriptions in those days. I think originally those cost $100.
Time passed, and the Shuttleworths moved on, and the masthead changed so that they were listed as “founders.” And then it changed again so that John Shuttleworth was the “founder” and Jane Shuttleworth was the “co-founder.” Maybe there was a divorce in progress, who knows? At any rate, the content of the magazine itself changed with the times, and eventually became (to my eyes) nothing more than “Better Homes and Gardens” for rural residents, with mediocre article content and even more mediocre editing.
So, the time came when I canceled my subscription. But I still had a nearly complete collection of about the first ten years of the magazine. And they were thick, meaty publications that took up a lot of room, but they were still worth re-reading and chock-full of useful information.
Alas, the first year in this house, we had a flood in the back yard, and lost 15 cartons of books and my boxes full of old Mother Earth News magazines. I hoped to save some of them, but when a magazine is printed on inexpensive newsprint-like paper and gets soaked… sigh. Out they had to go.
Yesterday, I was reading Gizmodo, one of my favorite blogs, and came across an article describing someone’s construction of a solar heater with black-painted soda cans inside a glass-fronted frame. “That’s not new,” said I. “The Mother Earth News did that ages ago.” So, on a whim, I put “mother earth news heat grabber” into a Google search.
Be still, my beating heart. The Mother Earth News has put their archives online, going all the way back to the beginning! I haven’t yet explored enough to find out if there’s a comprehensive year-by-year index… but I’m going to.
Everything old is new again. I love the internet.Hope you'll recommend my posts via your favorite social media. Just don't copy the material as your own.