50th Anniversary HR Magazine: A Half-Century Covering the Business of People

By Bill Leonard
Reuse Permissions

HR Magazine, 50th Anniversary 2005Since 1955, the evolution and growth of the HR profession have been chronicled in the pages of HR Magazine.

HR Magazine marked its 50th year as a magazine in 2005. Although a predecessor publication, Personnel News, was launched as a newsletter in April 1950, it consisted simply of four typewritten pages copied on a mimeograph machine for the 124 members of the American Society for Personnel Administration (ASPA)later renamed the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

By the mid-1950s, ASPA was beginning to show some stability after struggling for more than seven years to establish itself. It debuted a reformatted, magazine-style Personnel News in February 1955, circulated to only 505 ASPA members. Although no 1955 copies could be located, available records indicate that they contained fewer than 30 pages, a couple of black-and-white photographs and no advertisements.

In April 1956, the magazine was renamed The Personnel Administrator. ASPA continued growing and, by the end of the decade, had 1,757 members and more than 30 chapters in 16 states.

The magazine reflected the growth and change in the profession as it evolved from a publication primarily filled with news about the young Societys conferences, chapters and volunteer leaders to a magazine containing substantive articles about the profession.

Topics in the magazine from the 1950s should strike some familiar chords with HR professionals today. As early as 1958, articles about the baby boom generations impact on the workforce began to appear. Although the term baby boom generation had not yet been coined, an article by Ewan Clague, commissioner of labor statistics for the U.S. Department of Labor, examined the challenges the post-war population boom would pose. Employers, therefore, must recognize that, during the coming years, they will be facing a shortage of prime workers, grouped with a steady increase in older workers, and a flood of young workers needing training, Clague wrote.

The growing number of women entering the workforce also was a hot topic in the late 1950s. In the September/October 1959 issue, Alice K. Leopold, director of the Labor Departments Womens Bureau, wrote an article, Womanpower: A National Asset, and became the first woman featured on the cover of the magazine.

Benefiting from its circulation growth, the magazine announced in February 1958 that it would begin accepting advertising to help defray the cost of publishing and to improve the magazines content. The June 1958 issue featured the first four advertisements to appear in The Personnel Administrator, including ads for Pepsi, Owens-Illinois glassware and, of all things, a Christmas tote bag.

While the ads helped subsidize the number and quality of articles, the magazine still was planned and edited by volunteers such as John M. Boyer, personnel director for London Engineering Co. in St. Louis, who served as the magazines editor in the late 1950s.

Coming of Age

By 1961, the magazine had a new look, changing from a 6-inch by 9-inch format to the 81/2-inch by 11-inch page size used today. That same year, the editorial offices moved to Fort Collins, Colo., where Ray O. Davies, a management professor at Colorado State University, served as the editor. Davies and a part-time secretary produced the magazine while remaining on the universitys payroll.

The 1960s were the space-race years, making rapid changes in technology a hot topic for the magazine. The first ad for a new computerized personnel information system appeared in the July/August 1964 issue. Most of the technology articles focused on the challenges posed by automation and the pitfalls of replacing workers with machinery. The first article on the practical use of computers in personnel administration appeared in the January/February 1965 issue with the title Employment Turns to Computers by Robert T. Bueshel, personnel manager of technical divisions for Honeywell Inc.

While the ad for the computerized personnel system may have been ahead of its time for the 1960s, many ads reflected that eras now-outdated social attitudes. In July/August 1961, an ad for the newsletter Just Between Office Girls was headlined: Your Office Girls Need Lovin Care. Another ad in that issue proudly urged readers to Use Gals from Manpower as Temporary Vacation Replacements. But by 1967, the feminist movement had begun, and changing attitudes were reflected in a July/August 1967 ad prominently featuring the copy: Marilyn Ross is no girl.

In July 1965, the Societys publications office moved again, this time from a satellite office run by volunteers to the ASPA headquarters in Berea, Ohio. Willard Largent joined the ASPA staff as the first professional journalist to serve as editor of the magazine. The September/October 1965 issue of The Personnel Administrator was the first produced by a professional editorial staff. By 1969, four of ASPAs 11 employees worked with the magazinean indication of pub- lishings overall importance to the Society.

Struggle For An Identity

While debate over the true nature of the profession had begun years earlier, discussion intensified in the late 1960s and early 1970s on how to build the professions credibility and gain recognition in the corporate world.

The magazine began using new phrases and terms as personnel professionals attempted to redefine themselves. The phrase human resources department first appeared in the May/June 1970 issue in an article by Drew Young, president of the Societys board of directors that year.

As part of the effort to improve the image of the profession, the magazine began using the term personnel administration and industrial relations profession, which was abbreviated as PA/IR. But human resources management gained wider acceptance and, by 1974, the term was appearing in headlines. However, the magazine still spelled out human resources every time; todays shorthand HR was yet to come.

While the number of ads and their sophistication steadily increased during the 1970s, some would still be construed as sexist today. Advertisements for Kelly Girls or Hire a Western Girl appeared as late as 1976.

During this period, the magazines appearance began to improve dramatically with color graphics inside and full color photos on the cover. Its annual frequency also increased from six issues to eight in 1974 and to 12 in 1978.

A New Name Emerges

At the start of the 1980s, Personnel Administrator dropped The from its name and began to look more like modern magazines. The July 1986 issue unveiled a radical redesign from which todays look has directly evolved. The changes included a new typeface, color photos and professional artwork. The magazine was switched to glossy coated paper that was perfect bound as it is today, instead of the folded/stapled binding used since 1955.

After nearly 10 years of hinting that human resources was the preferred term to identify the profession, the magazine began to feature the term prominently on its cover, with cover lines such as HRM for the Generalist (November 1981) and Managing the HR Function (January 1984). In the 1986 redesign, the magazine officially adopted the cover line The Magazine of Human Resource Management.

1984 also marked a huge change for both ASPA and the magazine when the Society relocated its offices from Berea, Ohio, to Alexandria, Va. The relocation to the Washington, D.C., area and the Societys growing interest in governmental affairs was reflected in magazine articles, which began to cover changes in employment laws and compliance with myriad federal workplace rules and regulations.

As the decade drew to a close, it was clear that the names ASPA and Personnel Administrator were out-of-date with the profession. In September 1989, after an overwhelming vote of approval from its members, ASPA changed its name to the Society for Human Resource Management. The magazine followed suit and was renamed HR Magazine.

The New Information Age

The first copy of HR Magazine rolled off the presses in January 1990 with a circulation of nearly 45,000 throughout the United States and nearly 20 countries. The magazine had truly become the first international publication dedicated to HR management.

The name change brought more design changes with greater use of color and computer-generated graphics. In March 1994, the magazine switched from the rapidly obsolescent machinery of manual typesetting and paste-up to a desktop graphics and layout system that offered greater flexibility and production speed.

That November, SHRM became one of the first associations to enter the Internet Age when it launched a forum on the Prodigy online service. With the advent of the online presence, e-mail addresses began to appear in the magazine in December 1994.

But in just eight short months, the Prodigy forum would be replaced by an independent web site, SHRM Online (www.shrm.org), unveiled during the 1995 SHRM Annual Conference in Orlando, Fla.

The Internet and its many business applications became of great interest, with the first articles on employees Internet access at work, online recruiting and the proper use of e-mail appearing in 1996.

In the 1990s, membership in the Society exploded. HR Magazines circulation jumped from about 70,000 in 1994 to more than 100,000 in 1998. In 1999, the magazine debuted at No. 461 on a list of the 500 largest magazines compiled by Folio:, a magazine industry publication. Circulation was approaching 150,000 as the decade drew to a close.

A New Millennium

As the Internet became ubiquitous, changing both communications and advertising practices, SHRM revamped operations to take maximum advantage of the new med-ium to deliver news and information. In February 2003, SHRMs monthly tabloid newspaper, HR News, was converted from a print publication to an online daily news operation. HR Magazine was expanded and redesigned to incorporate monthly digests of online news stories and departments from the newspaper, including Court Report, HR Solutions and Inside SHRM. The magazine sported a fresh new design and a new subtitle, The Business of People.

Through the first five years of the 21st century, the magazines circulation and advertising revenues continued to grow. In 2004, it was listed at No. 69 in revenues among trade publications by BtoB magazine. Circulation for HR Magazine topped 200,000 earlier this year, when, in June, SHRM announced that it had reached that membership milestone.

Business and trade publication groups also recognize HR Magazine for its quality, as it consistently receives editorial and design awards from groups like the Society of National Association Publications, Folio: magazine, the American Society of Business Publication Editors and American Business Media.

Although HR Magazine has evolved dramatically from its humble beginnings, the Societys dedication to providing the best information possible for the HR profession has remained consistent. We look forward to continuing to help HR fulfill its mission and promise.

Bill Leonard is senior writer for HR Magazine.

Reuse Permissions


Choose from dozens of free webcasts on the most timely HR topics.

Register Today

Job Finder

Find an HR Job Near You


Find the Right Vendor for Your HR Needs

SHRM’s HR Vendor Directory contains over 3,200 companies

Search & Connect