Ken magazine was first published in April 1938 and continued to run bi-monthly, on Thursdays, until August of 1939 - just before the start of the Second World War. Ken was founded by David Smart and Arnold Gingrich, the publisher and editor of Esquire, which was first published four years prior to the premier issue of Ken, and has lasted much longer. Ken, though short-lived, made a name for itself as a Leftist publication, although Gingrich claimed the magazine was both anti-fascist and anti-communist when forced to testify in front of the House Subcommittee of the Special Committee to Investigate Un-American Activities. Ernest Hemingway was a regular contributor to Ken in its first year of publication, and he used it as a space to write about developments in the Spanish Civil War. The SVA rare Periodicals Collection boasts two issues of the magazine, both with somewhat strange themes. The August 11th 1938 issue, “Folding the Big Tent,” examines life on the circus circuit, and the June 30th issue of the same year, “Check-Up on Hat Check Girls,” pivots on a several-page spread about the women who work what is now known as “coat check.” Other issue highlights include news snippets from that pivotal time in history, an inquiry into the meaning of Polish dictator Smigly-Rydz’s name (lightning quick mushroom!), and an exposé on the historical inaccuracy of a new Pennsylvania holiday celebrating the 300th anniversary of the state (wrong date, wrong state).

Cover of Ken magazine. A woman in profile holding a hat and a coat check number.
A few people check their hats and coats.
A warship in the ocean, a plane above it.
Cover of Ken Magazine. A sad clown leans his chin on his hand.
A group of children in gas masks.
Illustration of a puffin on a gin ad.