THE MECCANO MAGAZINE
One of the great achievements of Frank Hornby through the Meccano publicity department was a monthly publication "The Meccano Magazine" produced between 1916 and 1981. Originally conceived in 1916 as a single sheet promotional tool to increase the sales of Meccano but by the 1920s it had expanded to cover other interests. Articles featured Meccano construction, Hornby trains, and other products of the company plus many other topics of interest to boys and adults of the time, such as aviation, railways, shipping, engineering, travel, stamp collecting, animals, geography, wireless and photography. The editor during the nineteen twenties and nineteen thirties was Ellison Hawks who gave the magazine high standards of content and writing. One of the features were the beautifully illustrated colourful covers such as Steam shovel illustration on the front cover of September 1924 (shown on the left) and the Niederfinow boat canal lift in Germany. This looks like it was built with the new gold Meccano parts and no doubt inspired many a model builder as did so many of the topics in the magazine.
Every month there would be articles on exciting new developments in engineering, railways, construction, industry, shipping, aviation and how engineering would change the world of the future. Many articles would be linked to new products from the company for instance, the Bo Bo Diesel in December 1959 was featured with an item in the railway news section along with a mention of this on Hornby Dublo pages. It must have worked because I saved up and purchased the locomotive! An illustration from the December M.M. is shown on the right. Engineering items were often directly related to Meccano, in many cases machines described in the MM would later turn up as products or as models in the manuals. Commonwealth countries ( earlier the British Empire) featured strongly in articles, these countries were prime destinations for exports from the Meccano Company.
There were regular competitions for Meccano model building announced in the magazine with big cash prizes. The copyright on all the entries became the property of the Meccano company and were often used later in instruction manuals or published in the Meccano magazine. Quite often competitions would be linked to an engineering company's own products such as cranes, diggers or loaders. This clearly made a link between "Engineering in Miniature" and the real world of engineering the former phrase was used for many years in Meccano advertising. At its peak of circulation in the1930s the magazine was selling 75,000 copies per month.
The outer pages of the Meccano Magazine carried advertising for many other manufacturers products such as Triang, Basset Lowke, Bayko, Dunlop Tyres, Brylcreem, Webley air guns, Britain's lead toys, Firework companies, biscuits, and many others. Meccano though always took the inside and back covers for their own products. In 1939 with the war approaching many of the advertisers withdrew and Meccano products took up most of the advertising space. One thing that never happened was advertising for products in direct competition with Meccano products. In post war years there were many pages of advertising for Triang products but never Triang Railways.
One of my favourite covers is shown on the left from April 1933
The second world war brought many changes to the publication but until the end of 1939 the magazine remained much the same as in pre--war days. However from January 1940 the amount of pages gradually deceased with much talk of shortages and a lot less advertising. In 1942 the magazine was reduced greatly in both content and size, from approximately A4 to a much smaller 210 mm x 140 mm and became just a shadow of its former self. After the second world war it remained at the reduced page size with little more content than during the war years. The paper and print quality was in these times of austerity little better than newsprint. Much of what was published at this time was pre war material and the models shown were generally much smaller and simpler. It was not until late 1952 that real improvements were made with more pages and printed on a much better quality, semi gloss paper. There were also many new products from the Meccano company to promote, such as new Dinky Toys and Hornby Dublo railways but regrettably not to many new Meccano parts. However the Meccano builder was fairly well catered for with many new models such as the model of the month and many mechanisms many submitted by Meccano enthusiasts. Circulation picked up but never reached again the peak years of the 1930s.
In 1961 the page format size was increased but by then its sales were in a rapid decline and so was the Meccano content. Sadly too were the sales of Meccano sets and the other products of the Meccano company. In December 1963 Meccano Ltd. handed the magazine over to a publishing company, the first two issues January and February 1964 remained much as the previous year. However in March MM was re-launched in a larger format and became a magazine with very little actual Meccano content, more of a boys general hobby magazine.In July 1967 the magazine ceased publication but following negotiations between Meccano Ltd.and MAP (Model Aeronautical Press) the magazine was re-launched in January 1968. The Meccano content though was still produced in the main in Binns Road publicity office but this took up only a small part of the magazine.In 1973 it looked like the end of the magazine, with low sales it was no longer viable for an outside publisher and Meccano/Triang took the magazine back in house to avoid its closure. The magazine however was now a very poor shadow of its former self.
In 1977 it was once again re launched in a co-operation with Meccano/Triang, an independent publisher and enthusiasts, this time in a form that was to appeal to Meccano builders. A magazine that was actually about the subject in a large format with high print quality, articles and model plans by the leading Meccano experts of the time such as Bert Love. Unfortunately there were just not enough sales and after twelve Quarterly issues it sadly folded for the final time in 1981 just outliving the production of Meccano in the UK. The cover of the final edition is shown on the left, with a proposed, rather pathetic Meccano kit most of which was poor quality plastic, "The shape of things to come", but they never did. The remains of the Airfix company owners of he Meccano brand and its backing of the MM collapsed along with Meccano and Dinky Toys in the UK. In the years since its closure several Meccano societies and clubs have published some very fine magazines.
The Meccano Magazine's heydays were undoubtedly the years between the late 1920s and 1939.This was also the era of the greatest success for the Meccano company and its wide range of quality products. The magazines are today are an excellent source of Meccano reference, historic information and an invaluable aid to collectors of toys from those years.
A very useful source for finding material published in the Meccano Magazine inlcluding every MM published can be found by clicking here. There also hundreds of great building ideas and plans.
The Meccano Magazine was also published in France between 1916 - 1937 then again between 1953 - 1959.
Page Created January 31 2015 Revised February 14 2022