Skip to main content

The Reader’s Tale of the First Digest

The Reader’s Digest was founded in 1922 by husband wife duo Lila Acheson Wallace and DeWitt Wallace. During World War I, DeWitt Wallace, having enlisted in the U.S. Army, received shrapnel wounds in France during the Battle of Verdun. He spent four months in a French hospital, recovering from his injuries and passing the time by reading American magazines. According to one account, this was the period of inspiration for Wallace. He realized that some articles had far more enduring appeal than others had and that the impact of most articles could be improved by vigorously condensing them, focusing on essentials. The idea took shape in his mind: Reader’s Digest that offered “An Article a Day of Lasting Interest in Condensed, Permanent Booklet Form.”

The idea was finally given a body on 5 th February 1922 with the publication of the first issue. For this first issue all the selecting, condensing, editing, titling, copy reading, etc., was performed by DeWitt and his bride, Lila Acheson Wallace. They worked on the digest in their garden flat at MacDouglas and Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, New York City and they looked for material to be published at the New York Public Library, where they had access to all the publications they couldn’t buy. The copies were printed in Pittsburgh, where DeWitt Wallance had worked briefly for Westinghouse Electric while still putting the finishing touches on his new invention – a pocket- size publication, The Reader’s Digest that offered “ An Article a Day of Lasting Interest in Condensed, Permanent Booklet Form.”
Aided by a group of girl recruits paid by the hour, the young couple stuffed the magazine into envelopes in a one-room windowless basement storeroom below a prohibition speakeasy at No. I Minetta Lane, also in Greenwich Village. Total capital for the venture was Rs. 13, 140. The magazine took no advertisement and was sold only by subscription, but it had great popular appeal. The couple never had to go to the bank to finance their venture. Lila Wallance paid the rent for their flat out of her salary from the social-welfare work she managed somehow to do in addition to her editorial duties.
The Wallanc edited the Digest in New York for a year. Then they moved to a flat above a garage an attached stable on a hilltop estate in Pleasantville, 65 kilometers north of the city. The popularity and reach of the magazine grew beyond the dreams of its founders.
In 1922, the first issue had reached 5,000 subscribers and already in 1926, it had 50,000 readers 1926. This growth was exponential as in 1929 it reached 228,000 people.
The first international edition appeared in Britain in 1938.

The cover of the digest’s first issue published in February 1922 had announced:


The magazine, now published in more than 50 editions in 21 languages across more than 70 countries reaching almost 100 Million people, has since had the same central theme.


Read about Corporate Timeline and Milestones of The Reader’s Digest here
Read about 1972 Indian Edition of The Reader's Digest


Popular posts from this blog

Famous Old Faces of Doordarshan

Some people recall the faces and some people recall the names. Here are images of some of the famous readers and presenters of Doordarshan down the years. If you recognize any of them, leave a comment. [ Update 1 : Most of the faces now have names thanks to helpful comments by olio-gallimaufry ] [ Update 2 : Included image of one of the earliest presenters, Gopal Kaul. Send in generously from personal collection by son, Ashutosh Kaul. Sept, 2010.] [ Major Update 3: Got a tip-off about a documentary about the famous faces of Doordarshan from the makers   of     “The Golden Trail , DD@50 :Special feature on Golden Jubilee of Doordarshan ” from which these caps were taken. I managed to catch the incredible documentary and am adding some more faces/name and part of the docu here. New ones can be found after the image of  Narotam Puri. 30th Oct, 2010]  Pratima Puri. Believed to be the first Doordarshan reader.

Indian Cigarette Vintage Ads

He put a cigarette in his mouth and, as a matter of silent routine, offered one to Gwyn, who said ‘No thanks.”Richard looked at him.”I packed it in.”"You what?”"I stopped. Three days ago. Cold. That’s it. You just make the life choice.” Richard looked up and inhaled needfully. He gazed at his cigarette. He didn’t really want to smoke it. He wanted to eat it. Almost the only thing that he still liked about Gwyn was that he still smoked…Paradoxically, he no longer wanted to give up smoking: what he wanted to do was take up smoking. Not so much to fill the little gaps between cigarettes with cigarettes (there wouldn’t be time, anyway) or to smoke two cigarettes at once. It was more that he felt the desire to smoke a cigarette even when he was smoking a cigarette. The need was and wasn’t being met… While it would always be true and fair to say that Richard felt like a cigarette, it would now be doubly true and fair to say it. He felt like a cigarette. And he felt like a cig

Freedom Run: The Torch Song from Doordarshan

Back in the turbulent '80s when air travel was still out of reach of common people due to what was called as an un liberalized economy, Indians were reminded of their great country's length, breadth, unity in diversity and diversity in unity by government commissioned songs to be played on national television, religiously. These songs having jazzy catchy tunes, visuals magnanimous - with famous personalities having different hues, castes and states of origin - were like magical harps played out to put some nasty beast to sleep. Big beasts like Communalism and Regionalism. India was facing unrest bordering on chaos. When wasn't India facing utter chaos, right! The first songs in the memorable series Lok Seva Sanchar Parishad by Lok Seva Sanchar Parishad was 1988 video song “Freedom Run” that most folks would remember as “The Torch Song” or "Torch of Freedom" (the actual name of the video). It was first telecast on Doordarshan on the day of Indian Independence