News & Runway

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Condé Montrose Nast

Conde Nast

image: Vogue.de

These days, when someone mentions Condé Nast, you probably first think of Anna Wintour and second of rats, or one of the other problems publicly troubling the magazine publisher’s new One World Trade Center headquarters. What you may not know, however, is that the mass media company would be nothing without Condé Montrose Nast (yes, there was actually a man named Condé Nast). The publishing visionary had the foresight to buy Vogue when it was nothing but a small New York society magazine. Here’s a look at 10 things you probably didn’t know about the New York-born publishing legend.

  1. Nast’s father left his family when Nast was just 3 years old, leaving his mother to fend for him and his three siblings. The family left New York City for St. Louis, where they struggled financially. Luckily, a wealthy aunt paid for Nast to attend Georgetown University, which is where he met Robert J. Collier, the son of the man who owned Collier’s Weekly, a weekly magazine. It was the first magazine to offer Nast a job and the future publisher spent a decade working there. He was credited with dramatically expanding its readership and ad revenue
  2. When Nast bought Vogue, he saw it as an opportunity to produce something luxe and sophisticated. He transformed a little-known society magazine into one of the world’s most highly-regarded glossies. Nast hired the most acclaimed illustrators and photographers, and the glossy became one of the first to print a color photo on its cover. It was also Nast’s idea to raise the magazine’s price and turn it from a weekly into a semi-monthly publication.
  3. Nast was also leading the way with a number of printing techniques, all of which tied into his empire’s luxe image. For example, Condé Nast owned and operated Arbor Press in Connecticut, where the “bleed” printing method, which allows ink to go to the edge of the page after trimming, was pioneered.
  4. Following Vogue’s success, Nast acquired House & Garden, Vanity Fair and later launched Glamour. Glamour was a game-changing magazine as it was the first to focus on Hollywood as its inspiration for the fashion and beauty content it featured. The idea was to bring Hollywood glamour to the average woman.
  5. It was Nast who came up with the now commonplace “crowded” magazine layout format, which entails a page with lots of images. Until Nast, magazines had no more than one or two images per page.
  6. Nast believed that editorial and advertising should be kept separate, but this was something that became increasingly difficult to sustain when the Great Depression hit. Advertisers demanded editorial coverage and lines began to blur. In 1934, for example, Bergdorf Goodman spent over $16,000 for about 16 pages of advertising and in return, Vogue gave the retailer over 60 pages of editorial coverage.
  7. With the launch of British Vogue in 1916, Nast became the first American publisher of international editions.
  8. Nast was married twice. He had two children with his first wife, an heiress who later became a costume designer, and one child with his second wife, the granddaughter of a governor. Both marriages ended in divorce. That said, he was known to have many girlfriends, even when he was married. He had a particular weakness for actresses, models and debutantes.
  9. When the stock market crashed, Condé Nast Publications’ value fell from $93 per share to $4.50. Nast owed millions to his bank and subsequently lost control of his publishing house. He never recovered from his debt.
  10. Born in 1873, Nast died in 1942 of a heart attack. A total of 800 people attended his funeral. Because he was saddled with debt, his possessions were auctioned off to pay for his debt after his death. He is buried in the same cemetery as Babe Ruth.