Best Covers: The Early Years

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Here’s the one that started it all: Volume 1, Issue 1. In terms of cover art, it’s not too elaborate or impressive. But keep in mind that printing was still black and white in the 1890s, and it was more common for magazine covers to be filled with words, not images. Believe it or not, Outdoor Life was largely a bicycling magazine in the beginning (note the guy on the bike in the center of the “O.”)
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This cover from April 1908 makes the list. It’s a fierce-looking bear, and also significantly more colorful and dynamic than many other magazine covers from the same era.
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December 1913 showed a snarling cat. Note the 15-cents price tag. How times have changed.
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A lion on the Outdoor Life cover is rare. This one, from 1909, was the first time one appeared.
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This cover, June 1908, has developed iconic status among hardcore Outdoor Life readers. It’s one of the more famous covers, likely due to its Norman Rockewell-esque picture.
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A classic moose painting
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An interesting patriotic cover from the early 1900s. It’s not just a picture of a soldier. Look closely at the helmet and the guy’s face.
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While it wasn’t until the 1960s that photos (rather than illustrations) became common on the cover, the earliest photo cover is actually from 1903.
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Another iconic cover. November 1910.
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Here’s a rather amusing holiday cover
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From the looks of this guy’s shirt, this wasn’t an easy bear to kill. It appears that there was some sort of a struggle between man and beast.
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Another bear cover, somewhat different in tone. May 1921
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Note the magazine’s early slogan at the bottom of this cover: “A Sportsman’s Magazine of the West.”
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Another gem from 1910 that makes our list of favorites
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Slowly but surely, more covers featured fishing. Here’s a beautiful one from May 1910.
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December 1905. Note the nice detail and coloration on the ground and rocks.
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A good late-winter cover. March 1907.
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A great summer illustration for a summer issue. June 1909.
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Here’s an interesting cover from August, 1913. The pheasant is practically as big as the girl.
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In 1898, the magazine was published by “The Outdoor Life Publishing Company,” and readers could subscribe for $1.00. (…yes, you read correctly; that’s 12 issues for a buck!)
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A good, simple bison cover.
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October 1907
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A nice camping illustration–although, we wouldn’t advise holding a skillet over an open flame without a glove or hot pad.
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February 1909
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July 1905
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August 1912
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Quick quiz: How many times have snowshoes appeared on the magazine cover?
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Hunting a boreal forest.
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In the early 1920s, the editors and art staff started playing with the Outdoor Life logo. Here’s a cover, from March 1920, where they decided to try black letters with yellow trim. What do you think of it?
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A polar bear cover from 1915.
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December 1919
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January 1926. The gear might have changed a bit since then, but hunters can still relate to being wet and cold on a hunt like this.
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February 1929. “Blue Tiger: The Asiatic Story Begins This Month.”
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One of the more iconic covers from the early years, two guys fishing from a birch bark canoe.
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Here’s a great trout cover from the 1930s.
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Here’s another birch bark canoe cover.
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Live goose decoys? A novel concept. January 1923
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Apparently, beaver fever wasn’t of much concern in October 1931.
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The magazine ran several stories about Buffalo Bill in the early years.
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March 1918
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Here’s a famous cover that actually bears a resemblance to Winchester’s logo.
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Another Norman Rockewell-like cover from the early years.
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February 1925
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June 1919. The price per issue has increased to 20 cents.
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Another lion cover. September 1916
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One of the only other snowshoe covers.
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May 1926
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September 1917
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Here’s a pristine illustration from 1906.
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A famous cover for a famous issue–this one featured Buffalo Bill’s final interview. Buffalo Bill died on January 10, 1917.