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30 Vintage Reader’s Digest Covers That Will Take You Back

Some of these covers are absolutely stunning.

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Matthew Cohen

Reader’s Digest through the years

Chances are you’ve seen a copy of Reader’s Digest sitting on your grandparent’s coffee table or heard someone say, “give me the Reader’s Digest version” in a movie or television show. Our brand has been around for a while and continues to unite readers and their families through stories, humor, and top-notch advice. Take a trip down memory lane with us and view some vintage Reader’s Digest starting with the very first issue in 1922. Take a look at these lasting photos from past issues of the magazine.

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February 1922

The very first edition of Reader’s Digest was published in 1922 by DeWitt Wallace and Lila Acheson Wallace. Our brand is quickly approaching its 100th anniversary.

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September 1923

DeWitt Wallace knew that people wanted to read stories, but they were overwhelmed with the selection, so he curated stories from different publications and condensed them into a digestible length—what people now call “the Reader’s Digest version.”

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August 1927

Each issue contained 31 articles—one to read every day of the month.

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November 1935

Within five years of releasing the first issue, the Wallaces were printing 30,000 copies. Check out these 20 real-life heroes that are highlighted in the magazine in our Everyday Heroes section.

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September 1940

By the 1940s, Reader’s Digest was selling more than a million copies every month. It was the best selling magazine in America.

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February 1944

In the 1940s the only book that sold more copies than Reader’s Digest was the Bible.

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December 1945

One of the many appeals of Reader’s Digest is its small “pocket size.” It can easily be taken with you to read on the train or at the park. Take a look at these vintage photos from Christmases past.

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May 1947

Many publishers rejected DeWitt Wallace’s idea for a condensed magazine and they created the first issue on a very low budget.

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October 1950

In the beginning, DeWitt and his wife produced the first issue out of their Greenwich Village apartment in Manhattan. Lila kept her job as a social worker to continue paying the rent. These are the most glamorous vintage photos of life in the 50s.

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June 1951

Reader’s Digest has also published condensed versions of books since 1934. They’re still being sold today, they’re called Select Editions.

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December 1952

The article, “Cancer by the Carton” by Roy Norr in the December 1952 issue lead to the biggest drop in cigarette consumption in America since the Great Depression. These vintage photos show how glamorous flying used to be.

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June 1953

After the magazine became more successful, Wallace would commission articles and offer the full version to other publications, from which Reader’s Digest would run the condensed version.

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January 1954

By the late 20th century, Reader’s Digest had 39 editions worldwide and printed in 15 languages.

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July 1955

Circulation was around 28 million in the late 20th century.

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January 1956

In the late 1930s, DeWitt and Lila Wallace acquired a property in Chappaqua, New York, for their growing company and employees.

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June 1957

The Wallace’s built a Georgian-style brick building and Lila picked out various paintings to decorate the walls with.

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March 1958

In 2004, the company had to sell the building and, in 2009, they moved their headquarters to New York City.

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February 1959

The building has since been re-purposed, but many still know it as the Reader’s Digest Building and think of the magazine when they drive by. Check out the best vintage postcard from every state.

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April 1960

Lila formed the Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Fund in 1956 to help support the arts and make them accessible for people of any income.

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October 1960

Currently, the magazine is published ten times a year.

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March 1961

The draw of earlier versions of Reader’s Digest was that the table of contents was printed on the cover, making it easy for readers to see what stories they were going to get with each issue.

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September 1962

Reader’s Digest produces more than just a magazine. They also publish books and maintain a website. This story, which originally ran in a 1983 issue of the magazine, will convince you to stop saying, “Let me know if you need anything.

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January 1963

RD.com publishes hundreds of original articles online every month, covering topics such as trivia, pets, personal technology, travel, humor, and holidays and observances.

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June 1964

We’ve recently launched a new brand, The Healthy, which covers all things in the health and medical fields.

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November 1965

Throughout many changes, Reader’s Digest kept one central mission: to bring out the good in people and families everywhere.

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September 1966

At one point in time, the global readership of Reader’s Digest exceeded 100 million.

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July 1967

The Wallaces retired in 1973, but the company lived on. It had to for its devoted readers.

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December 1968

Today, Reader’s Digest is one of the brands of Trusted Media Brands.

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February 1969

Other publications under Trusted Media Brands are Taste of Home, Family Handyman, The Healthy, Birds & Blooms, Reminisce, Country, Country Woman, and Farm & Ranch Living.

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April 1970

The covers of Reader’s Digest look much different today, showcasing bright and beautiful imagery, but the stories inside are still just as compelling, heartwarming, and important.