The Daily, Thoughts

Old Outdoor Magazines Reveal Our Fishing-Hunting Heritage

It’s difficult to know where we are going unless we know where we have been, and looking through old outdoor magazines is a pleasant way to spend free time. If you are like me, and are a hopeless romantic when it comes to all things related to fishing, hunting and reading about these pastimes, perhaps this is a good time and a wonderful way to gain a greater understanding of our outdoor heritage.

Many years ago I acquired the fabulous magazine collection of the late Ben East of Holly, Michigan. He was the long-time field editor for Outdoor Life magazine where he worked his red-pencil magic on articles written by other writers. East worked for the magazine for 41 years, and also wrote hundreds of magazine articles for other magazines before beginning his Outdoor Life career. We shared several years of our lives when I was writing full-time and 95 percent of my work went to Outdoor Life, and he was an excellent mentor. His magazines and extensive files spanning his 60-year writing career came to me following his death.

Careful storage of Ben East’s valuable magazine collection

I have carefully stored those old outdoor magazines (as many as 1,000 of them) and other historical files, in a temperature and humidity controlled atmosphere for nearly 20 years. Now, after reading and studying them, it’s come time to part with about 300 magazines from various publications. Storage space has become very limited, and this calls for a drastic but necessary decision to let some magazines go.

Why collect old outdoor magazines? Frankly, the front cover illustrations on older magazines were graced by full-color drawings by leading wildlife artists of the day, and they have become collectible. These color cover drawings had the power to inspire a reader, to make them dream of a fishing or hunting trip that would be the capstone event of their sporting lives.

These drawings evoke a sense of the wilderness and of wild places and things. The artists could capture some of what today”s photo-illustrated covers cannot. I get goose bumps looking at those old covers, and as a kid of 12 years, my twin brother George and I had our own subscriptions to Field & Stream, Outdoor Life and Sports Afield, the Big 3 outdoor magazines of an earlier era. We greeted each magazine arrival with great anticipation, and read the articles from beginning to end, cover to cover.

Learning about our outdoor heritage

We immersed ourselves in the outdoor literature at a time when outdoor writing only meant writing about fishing, conservation issues and hunting. They were my link to the past, to another era when the outdoors only meant the consumptive sports of fishing and hunting. These were not spectator sports, but were participant sports where what you caught or killed was eaten.

What these magazine covers did, and something current outdoor magazines can’t do, is show human emotions. The drawings could be funny, gritty, raw or tug at your heart strings. One could see dejection, happiness, sadness, or it may portray a funny scene. Each cover had an emotional element that was readily apparent when seen, and the covers depicted things that readers could relate to.

Those stories, and particularly the color covers and inside b/w and color art, were the stuff of excitement. The writers wrote Me and Joe stories where people went fishing and hunting, and the reader was welcome to come along for the literary ride. We shared vicariously in the writers’ defeats and successes, and felt as if we were right at their elbow as they made the final stalk on a big ram or caught a heavyweight bass. We traveled to far-off countries, hunted lions and tigers with Jack O’Connor and other firearm writers, and came away with wild and vivid experiences. Those stories carried us off to one adventure after another.

Meet some of the legendary magazine writers

Those were not the days of the how-to story. Instead, those writers knew how to capture the imagination and the thrill of an outdoor experience and weave it into a great read. Many of those writers were legends in their own time. Men such as:

Russell Annabel Charles Askins Havilah Babcock Erwin Bauer Vereen Bell Ray Bergman
Joe Brooks Nash Buckingham Chester Chatfield Bert Claflin Eugene Connett Paul Curtis
Byron Dalrymple Henry P. Davis Ben East Charles Elliott Corey Ford Arnold Gingrich
Hugh Grey Sparse Grey Hackle Roderick Haig-Brown Van Campen Heilner Ray Holland Cal Johnson
Elmer Keith John Alden Knight Claude Kreider Robert Page Lincoln Jason Lucas Art Macdougall
Gordon MacQuarrie Jack O’Connor Ozark Ripley Ben Robinson Robert Ruark Andy Russell
Archibald Rutledge H. P. Sheldon Fred Streever Edwin Ware Smith Burton Spiller Tap Tapply
Harold Titus Ted Trueblood Townsend Whelen Frank Woolner Lee Wulff Ed Zer

and many others held our minds in their hands as we read along and enjoyed every moment of every story.

Meet and treasure the outdoor illustrations of these legendary artists

However, as great as these writers were, it was the artists who drew the color cover illustrations that took our mind away from other things and captivated us with the artistic mastery of their drawings. There were artists named

Robert Doares Charles Dye William Harnden Foster Arthur Fuller Howard Haskell Hinton John Newton Howitt
Lynn Bogue Hunt Francis Lee Jaques Marguerite Kirmse J. F. Kernan Bob Kuhn Harry Livingston
Edwin Megargee Harold Megargee Wiley Miller P. B. Parsons William Schaldach G. Tyng
Walter Wilwerding Edgar Wittmack

and many others.

Here’s the deal

A total of 301 of these magazines will be offered for sale but there are far too many to list here. If you are interested in some great old outdoor magazines from Ben East’s personal collections, send a personal check for $5 with the word magazines in the subject line, and I’ll send the complete list which notes the magazine name, date of publication, a listing of some of the authors in that issue, and notes on the artist and topic of that particular cover.

Your $5 fee will be refunded from the cost of the first purchase. Orders of $50 or more will be shipped free. I can send scans of the covers but please limit your choices to three per order.

Various magazines being offered

Magazines include

  • Boy’s Chum
  • Field & Stream
  • Fishing Facts
  • Fishing & Hunting Guide
  • Forest & Stream
  • Fur-Fish-Game
  • Great Lakes Fisherman
  • Hunting & Fishing
  • Hunter Trader Trapper
  • Michigan Sportsman
  • National Geograpic (only one)
  • National Sportsman
  • Outdoor Life
  • Outdoors
  • Outers Recreation
  • Outdoor Recreation
  • Outdoorsman
  • Sports Afield
  • The Michigan Sportsman
  • The Northern Sportsman
  • The Sportsman

Most magazines are one of a kind and all are scarce while some are rare. Sales will be made on a first-come basis.

Categories of outdoor magazine covers

This listing is broken down into broad categories including

  • Atlantic Salmon Fishing
  • Bass Fishing
  • Bears
  • Brook Trout
  • Comic or Mood Scenes
  • Deer & Deer Hunting
  • Duck & Goose Hunting
  • Exotic Wild Game
  • Game Bird Hunting
  • Hunting Dogs
  • Lake Fishing
  • Misc. Outdoor Action
  • Muskellunge
  • River Fishing
  • Saltwater Fishing
  • Various Wildlife
  • World War II Related

How to pay

1) Make checks payable to

David Richey
Box 192
Grawn, MI 49637

2) Enclose

  • your complete address (home)
  • e-mail address
  • magazine name
  • publication date
  • price

These magazines will make a novel and much appreciated birthday or Christmas gift. Although I don’t recommend it, magazine covers do look wonderful when framed under glass, and hung on a cabin, den or recreation room wall wherever sportsmen gather. Each order will be accompanied by a letter from me certifying that these magazines originated from the outdoor magazine collection of Ben East. E-mail me at to determine availability before ordering.

Please note that there is a wide variation in prices, which is determined by the artist’s stature as a magazine illustrator, content, scarcity, presence of inside art, and topic of the cover art. These magazines date back to the 1920s through the 1950s, and only a very few are newer.

Here is a rare opportunity to own something that once belonged to the legendary Ben East, the Dean of Michigan outdoor writers. All lists will be sent by e-mail. I’ll look forward to hearing from you.


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