Standing tall in the centre of the Reader’s Digest HQ is the Reader’s Digest Archive. This archive contains every-single-edition of Reader’s Digest from 1938 up to the present day. Every month, as a new issue hits the newsagents–or your door mat if you’re a subscriber­–we take a look back and share with you a piece of RD history. This year we take a look at August 1957.

What happened in 1957?

  • Humphrey Bogart died after a long battle with cancer.
  • John Lennon and Paul McCartney met for the first time, 6 months after The Cavern Club first opens.
  • Ingmar Bergman release the incredible film The Seventh Seal
  • Jodrell Bank Telescope opens in Cheshire

As you can see it was a year of great cultural significance. We can learn from August 1957’s Reader’s Digest that we all had the same insecurities, loves and plenty of world issues causing dramatic tensions.

On the cover:

Vintage 1957 Reader's Digest

Anxiety on the up in Britain:

"Between 1952 and 1954 an average toll of slightly more than 108,000 Britons consulted National Health Doctors about some form of digestive upset each year. And this figure, the latest available, is probably much the same today. Included were 17,100 men and 6,900 women suffering from ulcers. The remainder were victims of gastritis or some other disorder of digestion…. And in most cases sufferers were literally worried sick."


50s Wonder Vitamins No Longer So Wonderful?

In our latest edition, we asked doctors what they really think of vitamins and supplements, do they lead to a well-balanced human being, or are we unnecessarily pilled up as a nation? (Click here to read.) Today we are forming a negative expert opinion surrounding the amount of supplements the average adult takes, interestingly, in 1957, chemical nutrition was relatively new, and were encouraged by the research, particularly vitamin: B. The crux of this argument was to stave off old age–sound familiar?

How to Prolong the Prime of Life

"A brilliant new science of nutrition, grown out of the discovery of synthetic vitamins, is demonstrating that old age need no longer be regarded as a sad dragging out of existence. There is today chemical hope that for many it can be a period of active, productive life.

We know that the time to try to push back senility is before we’re old in years. Old age begins to sneak upon us even in our twenties. Nutrition scientists have uncovered a fantastic fact: though it’s true that we are what we eat–while seemingly adequate–may mean the premature ageing of many of us. But by using chemical knowledge now available, this premature ageing can be reversed.

Keys to this reversal are the synthetic vitamins."


“Them cats really dig ol’ pops”

Music has long united disparate groups of people and has become a cultural driver for tolerance, acceptance and humanity; a mutual love really helps to set aside differences. And no more was that true than in the 50s. This was the birth of modern day music. At the forefront of Jazz was Louis Armstrong. Surprisingly considered somewhat of a diplomat in those days. A great profile on the Jazz legend.

Louis Armstrong Vintage

Louis Armstrong: Ambassador with a Trumpet

How 'Satchmo' became the world-wide sensation who blows away bad feeling between nations.

"In certain dedicated quarters any jazz musician born in New Orleans is an 'immortal,' or, if 'Satchmo' Armstrong, the extroverted trumpet player, kerb-stone philosopher and world traveller is, however, the only immortal living legend upon whom diplomatic status, albeit unofficial, has been conferred.

During the Big Four [a group of the four biggest countries gathering to ease cold-war tensions] deliberations in Geneva in 1955, which coincided with a European tour of Louis Armstrong and his band, a New York Times correspondent cabled that 'America’s secret weapon is on a blue note in a minor key,' a piece of information the serious minded Times put on its front page. 'Right now,' The reporter went on, 'its most effective ambassador is Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong'."


Still Animal Crazy

Who doesn’t love a good heart warming story about one man and his dog? Or, in this case, and entire Navy crew and their Dog Jim. The language and gender assumptions of this article is so typical of the era.

The Dog that Joined the Navy

The Dog Who Joined the Navy

He loved to go to sea, where he had senior officers for slaves, but he also loved to go ashore and chase the girls, the way all the sailors do.

"I first heard of him on July 3, 1919, the day I reported for duty aboard the battleship U.S.S. Texas in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Nobody gave a damn about me , a newly minted ensign joining his first ship….

Jim barely noticed me at first. He wasn’t a snob, he was simply aware of his rank. I was a mere junior officer, and Jim didn’t pay much attention to anybody in the junior officers’ mess. He had senior officers not only for intimate friends but for worshippers and slaves.

A year and a half later, when I was promoted and moved up to the wardroom, Jim was the first to congratulate me. From then on we were fast friends."


A joke that doesn’t work today:

"Bookshop assistant proffering new novel: 'You can take it in your car, in your boat, on a camping trip–just like a portable TV set.'"

We have iPads and Kindles for that today...


A lesson still prominent

Canada was once considered inconceivable: “no impossibility can be more manifest than that of the fusing or even harmonising a French and Papal and a British and Protestant community” as an authority on Canadian affairs in the 19th century once said. Oh, how wrong you were! And, on Canada’s 90th year of national existence we reported on how other countries could learn from their great example. From a "'manifest impossibility' they have converted what could have been a national tragedy into a triumph”


Advertisements of the month:

We had to choose two, these are both brilliant. Firstly a classic Guinness advert.

1957 Guiness Advert

And secondly a Rowntree's Fruit Gums advertisement.

1957 Rowntrees Fruit Gums

If you enjoyed this article then take a look at Reader's Digest from July 1960.

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