• U.S.

The Press: Embarrassed Housekeeper

3 minute read

By far the most prosperous of all Hearst magazines is Good Housekeeping. Pioneering in insisting on respectable advertising copy, it has grown buxom from advertising brought in by the seals of approval it issues to manufacturers and by its money-back guarantee to consumers. This week the Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint against Hearst Magazines Inc., charging Good Housekeeping with “misleading and deceptive acts and practices in the issuance of guarantys, seals of approval and the publication in its advertising pages of grossly exaggerated and false claims for products advertised therein.” Further charges:

¶ That up to Jan. 1, 1939, Good Housekeeping operated a shopping service through which readers could buy articles advertised in the magazine. “This shopping service [now discontinued] was advertised as being a free service for the convenience of readers, when in truth and in fact, Good Housekeeping received substantial commissions from sellers of all merchandise sold.”

¶ That the use of various seals, coupled with assurances appearing throughout the magazine, “mislead . . . the . . . public into the erroneous belief that all articles advertised . . . or articles which bear the seal in one of its several forms, have been scientifically tested in … laboratories. . . . In truth and in fact, all the articles . . . have not been tested and approved by any scientific laboratory.”

¶That in using the statement “Guaranteed by Good Housekeeping as advertised therein,” certain advertisers, with the knowledge and sanction of the magazine, have [blurred] the words “as advertised therein.” Thus the magazine “acts in conjunction with such advertisers in misleading and deceiving . . . the public.”

No sooner had the complaint been issued than Hearst Magazines Vice President Richard Emmett Berlin hit the deck. Promising to fight the case through the courts if necessary, he snapped:

“Good Housekeeping Magazine has refused to sign a cease-and-desist stipulation as submitted by the Federal Trade Com mission containing charges that we contend are untrue. . . . Signing the stipulation would have disposed of the matter. We have long felt, however, that many advertisers have unwisely signed damaging stipulations merely to avoid public embarrassment, legal expense, or inconvenience. This we decline to do. … In no single case . . . was the Commission able to show that Good Housekeeping had failed to carry out its guaranty, which has been in existence for over thirty years. . . .

“Certain subversive elements, pretending to serve the consuming public but actually motivated by Communistic theories, have persistently been attacking the institution of advertising and Good Housekeeping in particular as a leading medium in the advertising field. … We believe that the underlying motive of these attacks on advertising is to destroy the freedom of the American Press.”

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