The 'Workbasket' magazine started publication in October 1935 with a 16-page issue, printed on newsprint. It was Titled: "Aunt Martha's Workbasket, Home and Needlecraft, For Pleasure and Profit". Published by Modern Handcrafts of Kansas City, MO. In the first issue (Vol. 1 # 1) there is a little letter stating: 'Aunt Martha is going to compile different projects together in each issue. Each issue will sell for 15 cents or a yearly subscription would be $1.00. '
Vol. 1# 5 is a very special issue. It was 1 large sheet with patterns to make a quilt with blocks for all 48 states.
The first few issues were each 16 pages long until June of 1936 when they changed to a little 5 x 8-inch booklet that folded out into about an 11 x 16-inch sheet. From that time on many had quilt patterns, also, many had a free transfer pattern enclosed. At that time many of the issues were only one color. They continued in that format through Vol. 9 # 4. (Jan. 1944). Dropping the "Aunt Martha's" from the name in Jan 1942.
Something interesting I have learned after getting a second issue of the September 1936 issue: It was so popular they had to do 3 printings. The first sold out, so they did a second that too sold out but in the meantime the printing forms had been torn down. So the third printing is a small 4 page issue, in black and white, rather then the 16 page color issues as it was originally published. I now have a copy of each type of issue. There is a Special Notice in the third printing telling of this.
In February 1944 the magazine went all black and white, it still had the quilt pattern in most issues and included the transfer pattern. Starting in April 1945, Vol. 10 # 7 the shape changed to a 8 x 22 inch fold-out sheet that could be slit down the middle to create a little booklet. In November of that year the month was added to the front page.
These first issues were basically little advertising brochure for all the patterns that could be ordered. With a quilt block included in most issues. Many of these early issues had transfer patterns included, and any woman who got several of her friends to sign-up for "The Workbasket" received a large bundle the patterns, these patterns today, are a collectors item in themselves.
In 1947 there were more changes ahead. With the January issue the year was listed on the cover. The May issue was 16 pages long, then back again to the small one till September 1947 when it was 16 pages again, with staples. It continued to be black and white, and published my Modern Handcrafts of Kansas City, MO. It went to 24 pages in March 1948, by December of that year it was 32 pages with many different projects included in each issue.
The years 1949 through 1950 were expanding years. In Nov 1950 the style of the name was changed from the yarn looking writing to a cross-stitch design. It was getting a little fancier all the time.
A big change was coming in January of 1951. There was color; at least the cover was changed to a black, white & 1 additional color for each issue. At this time each issue cost 15 cents, annual subscription $1.50, the books were from 40 to 80 pages long. In December of 1959 'Home and Needlecraft For Pleasure and Profit' was dropped from the magazine's name. The booklet stayed with this basic format till Sept 1964, the cover then was upgraded to a better quality paper, more color and the words 'And Home Arts Magazine' were added below the name, also some color was added to the inside pages. The prices had remained the same. In June 1966 the price increased to 25 cents an issue.
In 1975 the price went to 35 cents an issue.
One of the most popular sections of the magazine was 'Women who make sense', little hints about how the ladies could make things and bring in a little extra money, after all they weren't suppose to work outside the home. It is very enjoyable now, to look back and see the ads. "Go on the FAT woman's diet", dresses for $1.95, corsets, for the slimmer you. The whole cultural revolution can be tracked in this little book. From obvious racial difference to clothing styles, to women's lib. The ads especially, back then were very to the point in their language as to racial color, a persons size, women belonged at home, all that sort of thing.
Many celebrities were featured on the cover including, Eddy Arnold, Nancy Walker of "As the World Turns", Mary Ann Esposita (Oct/Nov-92), Crystal Gayle (Feb/Mar-92).
From October 1984 - May 1987 it offered State Quilt Patterns, put them together for a quilt of the whole United States. Hawaii and Alaska were also included.
The magazine didn't change much the last few years, till the end in March 1996. Except in the April/May issue of 1992 the "Home Arts Magazine" was changed to "The World's Largest Needlework & Crafts Magazine". It had went to a slightly smaller 7 1/2-x 5 inch format, and was only published every other month, Prices at that time were $2.95 an issue or $14.95 a year. It was still the same simple magazine with all the most current crafts, totally colored by this time and printed on a nicer quality paper. Although it had went to a by monthly format, getting a magazine every 2 months. It abruptly quit. The next issue we received was "Flower and Garden" with the "Workbasket" incorporated into that magazine. Some of us were very disappointed to say the least. And I am sure many more subscriptions then just mine were canceled.
In its long run, there were 671 issues published. The final issues cost more then a whole year of the first issues, inflation, WOW! It never wavered from its simple format of currant modern projects, helpful hints, and requests from readers. It was greatly missed.
While working on the collection, I received this neat letter from a fellow collector, I can't vouch for it's authorized but it sounds very probable.
"WORKBASKET got it's start in October of 1935. (Vol.1, issue 1) The depression was in full swing, and Clara Tillotson's husband Jack had lost his job. Mrs. Tillotson used her resources and began putting together knitting, crocheting, tatting and quilting instructions. It was a time when people didn't have the money for new things; if they needed something, they made it. She sold patterns through the mail under the quise Aunt Martha's WORKBASKET; Home and Needlecraft for Pleasure and Profit. At the time, there were 12 issues a year. (October to September).
Aunt Martha's WORKBASKET was printed on newsprint. Sometimes it took a booklet form with the gutter stapled and other times it simply took the form of a fold-out.
With the February 1942 issue, the name changed to The WORKBASKET. I'm not real sure what happened to the fictional Aunt Martha, but December of 1943 produced a Christmas Supplement that had a note to subscribers from the fictional Aunt Ellen. Aunt Ellen has made semi-regular appearances from that point.
The Tillotson family owned and operated Modern Handcraft, which owned WORKBASKET, until September of 1990. John C. and Carol A. Precich purchased the company then. They changed the name to KC Publishing, Inc., and they still own and operate the company."
A final thought; I have another small booklet, same size, as these, but no dates. It is titled "Knitting and Crochet for Pleasure and Profit" I am kinda wondering if this is the forerunner of "Workbasket", one of the earlier publications mentioned in that first letter. There is no information as to its publication but it has a stamp "Capper's Weekly" Topeka, Kansas on it.