The Local Magazine that Conquered the World
Contact: Ali Klein
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: In February 2010, the New Castle Historical Society presents “Reader’s Digest: The Local Magazine That Conquered the World.” This exhibition chronicles one of the most phenomenal publishing successes in the 20th century … all happening in our own backyard of Westchester. It’s the amazing story of how DeWitt and Lila Acheson Wallace founded Reader’s Digest in 1922, moved to Pleasantville and then Chappaqua, and established the first foreign edition in 1938 – all part of an ever-expanding publishing empire that eventually reached 100 million people worldwide.
“This is the first time the Historical Society has chronicled the company’s impact on our area,” says Fran Osborne, President of the New Castle Historical Society. “The Digest’s reach into our community is incredible. Its footprint is deeply etched: all the jobs, the Easter egg hunts, the Wallace Wing at the Northern Westchester Hospital and so much more.”
Just like The Digest itself, the show – with vintage photos, products and artifacts such as DeWitt’s WWI helmet and gas mask – will “inform, enrich, entertain and inspire.” Consider these fascinating facts:
- DeWitt and Lila Wallace were awarded the highest US honor conferred on civilians in peacetime – the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
- They didn’t like to fire anyone. One employee was let go only after failing to show up to work for eight weeks!
- Colonial Williamsburg, home of the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, was a special destination for employees. The Wallaces organized a goodwill program for staff – secretaries, receptionists, researchers and other non-executives – that ran for years. Nearly 400 employees flew to Williamsburg on the corporate jet as their guests.
- The Wallaces supported the rescue of the ancient Egyptian temples at Abu Simbel, saved from rising waters of the Aswan High Dam. The Temple of Dendur, built in 15 B.C. and now on display at the Metropolitan Museum, is one of those treasures.
- After the Wallaces passed away, their beloved company continued to grow, reaching 7,500 employees worldwide in the early 1990s, including 2,800 in Chappaqua and across the U.S.
Among other little-known facts at the exhibit are DeWitt’s rules for a good marriage: 1) Consult LB always before making dates. 2) Show affection and thoughtfulness without fail when others are present. 3) Don’t mention any girls in past. 4) Take initiative in suggesting having friends in. 5) Don’t crab about clothes, crowd, etc., when dancing. 6) Drive carefully.
Learn more about Reader’s Digest and the life and times of the Wallaces at the exhibit.