Steven Lomazow and I met at the little café and bookstore, Shakespeare and Company on the Left Bank of the Seine in Paris, France. It is affectionately called the “Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart” and is perhaps the most famous English-language bookstore in the world — a storied gathering place of 20th Century literati (Baldwin, Hemingway, Pound, Joyce, Huxley, Wilder, Lawrence, Fitzgerald, Miller). Steven was awestruck to be where so much literary history has taken place and it was fitting to talk with him here since he is a passionate historian, co-author of the Bibliography of American Literature in Periodicals and curator of what is considered by many to be the finest accumulation of American periodicals, the Lomazow Collection.
Steven likes to say he is a “neurologist by trade and an historian by passion”. He has a fulltime medical practice and a second passion for history and collecting periodicals. He is also a medical and World War II historian. All this is just for starters. Steven is the co-author of FDRs Deadly Secret that reads as a medical mystery he solved; is the author of articles published in peer reviewed medical journals; is researching the history of cancer care and philanthropy; is writing another Franklin D. Roosevelt biography “the way it was”; keeps two blogs; writes and speaks on medicine; is a national trivia champ; serves on the National Council of the Norman Rockwell Museum; is a Trustee of the FDR Library and Museum. (See below in RESOURCES for more detailed information and links.)
I wondered how many hours are in his day, surely more than twenty-four.
For our StudioSeeds conversation I focused on Steven’s passion for collecting magazines and periodicals. His highly-respected Lomazow Collection (also known as the American Magazine Collection) is admired by those in the know and mere mortals alike. It dates from the first periodical to use the word “magazine” in 1731 until today.
SUZE BIENAIMEE: Steven, so good to have you on StudioSeeds. As you know, StudioSeeds is for conversations to explore inspiration and creativity in artists, poets, geeks, environmentalists, scientists, doctors, historians, collectors, philosophers, etc. You cover many of those bases! For our conversation on StudioSeeds.com we will focus on your magazine and periodical collection. I ask you, Dr. Steven Lomazow, what inspires you?
STEVEN LOMAZOW: The short answer is magazines and the hunt for them, however, a passion for collecting is deep in my DNA as I learned recently while watching a Steven Spielberg produced, USC Shoah Foundation video on YouTube of all places. My aunt, Dr. Helen Fagin, was interviewed and she revealed her father, my maternal grandfather, after whom I am named and who perished in the holocaust, “was a collector of books and periodicals”. (My mother never told me; holocaust survivors rarely speak about the details of that time.) This connection to my grandfather is huge as so much family and history was tragically lost; it still chokes me up when I think about how collecting is an important connection to my grandfather and I’ve discovered an insatiable curiosity goes with it.
My passion began at about age eight when my father, who in his youth was a stamp collector, introduced me to collecting stamps and coins.
When I was a kid, I spent hours putting coins in the change machines at the local laundromat to hopefully find coins for my collection; In those days there were still rare nickels and dimes to be found in circulation. I would put a quarter in the machine and sometimes I would get a rare coin or two.
I lost interest in stamps and coins as a college student when the challenge of obtaining new items hit the inevitable financial barrier that confronts collectors and also, there were few surprises left to find.
After entering medical school in Chicago in 1972, I decided to spend my spare time searching for antiquarian medical books. By pure serendipity, a local dealer on Clark Street showed me a first issue of Life magazine as well as what seemed an innocuous “first issue” of Look.
He said: “this is the first issue of Life with a Margaret Burke-White photo on the cover.” It was her classic picture of Fort Peck Dam, so I bought it for five or ten dollars.
Then he said: “here’s the first issue of Look.” It was complete with documentation showing it was, indeed the first issue; Herman Goering is on the cover.
For me, the problem was that inside, it was identified as Volume One, Number TWO!
When I asked why, the dealer couldn’t tell me, saying: “nobody knows, but some think it was pornographic and pulled off the market.”
So the mystery of “Look, Volume One, Number One” got me hooked! From that point, my goal has been to collect the first issue of every important American periodical or at least, a representative copy. I’m not picky about the condition, if something is the only surviving copy, I’m not about to sniffle about that or a smudge or wrinkle.
Look, Volume 1, Number 1, was my first “holy grail”. It took me fifteen years to get an answer to the mystery.
One day I got a call from a fellow who said: “I have something I know you are looking for. I have the first issue of Look.” I said, “no no, no, you have the second issue, volume one, number two”, and he says, “no, I have number one.” That, as you can imagine, got my attention!
He lived at the Jersey shore, so I jumped in my car to meet him. What he wanted from me was a trade and I had a signed copy of the first Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post cover. He liked it, so we struck a deal. The mystery of the Look, the real Number One was solved. Turns out it was an in-house, pre-publication mock-up issue printed on fragile rotogravure paper. I had it restored and I still have it.
In 1987 my first large acquisition was a major collection of first issues and volumes from the State Street Book Shop in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Collectors never forget events such as this; it’s very much like the first date with the woman who will be your wife.) Since then my collection has expanded into a “magazine history of America” comprising a compendium of every aspect of American culture as seen through its magazines and periodicals.
It used to be easy to hunt for rare magazines. Every town had one or two antiquarian book stores. I would go to the back of the store and always find the most amazing things on dusty old shelves. Now, with eBay and the internet, the joy of that hunt as well as the musty smell of an old bookstore is an aroma almost totally lost in time.
Learning about each new acquisition is a great thrill. I try to get first and important literary appearances of poets and authors such as Wheatley, Dickinson, Poe, Hemingway, Joyce, Elliot; important first “covers” such as the Saturday Evening Post by Norman Rockwell and even pulp magazines — everything that was published in American periodicals from the beginning to the present.
I also have additional special focus on pulp magazines as they were an important part of American popular culture. Weird Tales, October 1933, with Bat Girl on the cover is a favorite.
I have many favorites, including a Garbo-esque photo of Madonna on her first cover, Island magazine. It is very rare and I found it while walking with my daughter along Broadway in New York City. It was on a street-vendor’s blanket on the sidewalk with other magazines.
Over the last couple of years I have focused on adding magazines from World War II especially the United We Stand campaign from July 1942 featuring the American flag on each cover.
Another reason collecting magazines is fascinates me, is because there is no comprehensive catalog or encyclopedic reference. Nary a day passes that doesn’t bring a new piece of information that enhances my understanding of American history and culture. I also get special pleasure from meeting collectors in all fields and engaging them with fascinating items they may not have been aware of. I surmise this may have started with the pleasure I derived from “show and tell” early in school.
Thanks for choosing me for StudioSeeds. It’s been fun to talk about my passion for collecting!
SUZE BIENAIMEE: Thank you, Steven!
@StevenLomazow, Lomazow Collection on Twitter
LomazowCollection.com — Search the collection as well as very current information and recent additions
AmericanMagazineCollection.com — Another way to access the Lomazow Collection online
Magazine History: A Collector’s Blog by Steven Lomazow, MD
FDRsDeadlySecret Blog by Steven Lomazow, MD
USC Shoah Foundation YouTube video interview with Dr. Lomazow’s aunt, Dr. Helen Fagin, (1917-) education advisor to Elie Wiesel and later appointed chair of the United States Holocaust Council’s Education Committee in charge of developing an educational track for the then future Holocaust Museum. In 1993, President Clinton appointed Dr. Fagin to join the World War II Memorial Committee charged with building a national memorial in the nation’s capital.
ShakespeareAndCompany, also known as “the Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart, Paris, France
American Periodicals: A Collector’s Manual and Reference Guide, 1996, Steven Lomazow, MD. A reference respected by professional book dealers and collectors; it. It is referred to as “Lomazow” and something is either in “Lomazow” or not.
Bibliography of American Literature in Periodicals, 19th Century, 1998, Periodyssey Press Periodyssey.com, Steven Lomazow, MD and Richard Samuel West
The Great American Magazine: Adventures in Magazine History, 2014, Steven Lomazow, MD
FDRs Deadly Secret, 2010, Steven Lomazow, MD with Eric Fettmann
Adjunct Professor of History, Kean University, Kean.edu
American Antiquarian Society, AmericanAntiquarian.org
Grolier Club, GrolierClub.org
Ephemera Society of America, EphemeraSociety.org
FDR Presidential Library and Museum, Trustee, FDRlibrary.org
Norman Rockwell Museum, National Council Member, NRM.org
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Dr. Steven Lomazow: Great American Magazine Collection, 1731 – Until StudioSeeds Inspire By Suze Bienaimee