Kane County History: How The Household Journal Came To Batavia, IL

Kane County History: How The Household Journal Came To Batavia, IL

  • Editor’s Note: This article is part of a weekly series on Kane County’s amazing history. Today’s article was contributed by Jennifer Putzier, director of the Batavia Depot Museum.

Printed as an inexpensive women’s magazine, the Household Journal was circulated from 1908-1935, with the majority of that time in Batavia. The magazine served to entertain, educate, sell products and keep in touch with women’s trends.

The Household Journal was first printed in 1908 by the Central Publishing Company of Springfield, OH. At that time it was called “The Household Journal and Floral Life.”

It is unknown whether the Household Journal combined with the publication called “Floral Life” (established c. 1906) or they simply renamed the publication to catch more readers.

The Household Journal grew quickly, and by 1912 they boasted a circulation of 260,000 subscribers, and more than a million readers. (You can find volumes 5 and 6, which cover 1912 and 1913, on-line at https://books.google.com/books?id=gzZJAQAAMAAJ)

How this publication came to Batavia traces back to the development of Mooseheart, which is just south of Batavia.

Mooseheart was founded July 1913 and was a home and school for children of Moose members who had died or were in some way incapacitated and could not support their families. This is well before Social Security or Medicaid was established; membership served as a kind of insurance for the unthinkable.

Rodney Brandon of Anderson, IN, an active Moose member, was brought to Batavia as secretary-treasurer of Mooseheart.

By 1914, there were enough students that Brandon turned his attention to vocational training. He contacted his friend Ernest Morgan Oswalt, owner of Oswalt Box and Printing Company, back in Anderson, IN.

Mooseheart purchased the Oswalt Printing company and all its assets, and brought Ernest Oswalt on staff to supervise the print shop. The Mooseheart Press was born.

Ernest’s brother Benjamin also came to Batavia with him, and served as the athletic director of Mooseheart for many years.

The Mooseheart Press grew large enough that they purchased another printing company out of Springfield, OH, in 1916.

Around the same time, the Household Journal, also of Springfield, was sold to Perl Young. Young was a Batavian and father-in-law to Benjamin Oswalt, and, in support of the family’s interests, the Household Journal was printed at Mooseheart.

The company had formed a temporary office in Chicago, and moved to Batavia in 1917 to much fanfare.

According to an article from the time, the Journal had 400,000 subscribers, and were anticipating an increase thanks to the acquisition of another magazine, The Hearthstone. Household Journal set up their offices in Lockwood Hall on South Batavia Avenue, former home of Judge Samuel Lockwood. The general office staff worked there, and printing continued at Mooseheart.

By 1920, there were 475,00 subscribers to the Household Journal, which cost 25 cents for a subscription. The Journal was geared toward small-town and rural women across the United States, with the bulk of the subscribers in the Midwest.

Around 1920, the Household Journal sold Lockwood Hall to Rodney Brandon, and built a new office building on the corner of Batavia Avenue and First Street, next to the Congregational Church.

While the one-story office building showed the industrial progress of Batavia, as it was “the first exclusive office building in Batavia,” there was some general unhappiness that the company removed the Burton Home, which had stood since the 1840s, and “several nice trees being sacrifice.” (source: undated clipping in the Batavia Historical Society collection, 101.59.177 )

The Household Journal continued to be owned by the Oswalt family along with some outside investors, and Ernest Oswalt became president in 1932.

Though he had done well at Mooseheart and with the Household Journal, Ernest diversified his interests and invested in a Canadian Patent for “Campana’s Italian Balm.” He started manufacturing of the lotion in Batavia as early as 1926 (though some sources say 1927) in the building he had available – the Household Journal’s offices.

Though it was a business that was started on the eve of the Great Depression, Campana’s growth was exponential thanks to Oswalt’s knowledge of the press and the Household Journal.

Campana was one of the first companies to offer free cosmetics samples in magazines, a method that is still extensively used.

While Campana weathered the Depression, the Household Journal did not. In 1932, the Journal sold their building to Campana, and its assets had dropped from an estimated $200,000 to $20,000.

In October of 1935, the officers of the Household Journal filed papers to dissolve the corporation.

About the Batavia Depot Museum

The Batavia Depot Museum opened in 1975 as a partnership between the Batavia Park District and the Batavia Historical Society. The Chicago Burlington and Quincy Railroad Depot was the first of its kind built in 1854, and is recognized on the National Register of Historic Places.

Inside, the city’s past comes alive through exhibits detailing the history of rail transportation, manufacture of windmills, agriculture, banking, commerce and a brief stay by Mary Todd Lincoln at Bellevue Place.

Open seasonally, March –though mid December. The Depot will reopen for the season March 2, 2020. Hours are 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Feature Photo Caption

The Batavia Historical Society Collection at the Depot Museum has a handful of issues from 1929 – 1933, but is always on the look out for more! If you know of any earlier issues, please call the Depot Curator Amber Foster at 630-406-5274.

Read The Kane County History Series!


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