May 19, 2010


The arrival in my mailbox of the May 17, 2010, issue of The New Yorker reminded me of an unsuccessful campaign I pursued a few years ago.

May 17, 2010, New Yorker Cover
I began reading and subscribing to two magazines when I was in college, Trains and The New Yorker. What do you think these two magazines had in common in the 1960s? (This is a trick question.) Both magazines were mailed in protective covers to which the mailing label was attached. I appreciated this fact because I cherished those covers. I collect copies of Trains. My collection contains every issue from even before I began subscribing. Although I have not actually collected copies of The New Yorker, I’ve always enjoyed the covers and appreciated the fact that each cover included a band at the left that sharply defined the edge of the cover art. My room in the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity house included a collage I made out of some of my favorite New Yorker covers.

Both of these magazines have since dropped the protective sleeves, presumably to save money in the increasingly cost-conscious magazine industry. When Trains began putting mailing labels directly on magazine covers, the editor explained that a special glue was being used that allowed the label to be peeled off easily. That system actually works. Even before I remove the various reply cards from inside the magazine, I peel off the mailing label that directed the magazine to my mailbox, a simple task that only occasionally requires me to rub my fingers across the two rubbery lines of glue that have held the label in place.

Alas, The New Yorker chose to eliminate its kraft paper sleeve in which I had always received the magazine in favor of gluing labels directly on the cover with what seems a particularly tenacious adhesive. It is virtually impossible to remove a mailing label from the lower right corner of a New Yorker cover without damaging the cover.

The May 17 issue reminded me of the label problem. The 12 cartoons on that cover were clearly meant to tell a story, but the end of the story was being obscured by the mailing label, which, in this case, was more obnoxious than usual. Some time ago, I wrote to The New Yorker and asked why the magazine did not use peel-off labels. The reply asserted that available technology did not assure that labels would not be lost in transit.

I have never failed to receive my monthly issue of Trains, and I have never again used covers from The New Yorker to decorate my walls.


  1. Try a hair dryer on hot. After you've heated the label long enough (maybe five to ten seconds) so that one of the corners has started peeling up a bit and you can get hold of it, just pull the rest off yourself. Not perfect—the two bars are still faintly visible and sticky—but far, far better than the dozens of covers I have destroyed in the past.

    1. Betsy,

      Thanks for the tip. Your technique actually works and isn’t difficult to use. You’re right about the two thin strips of adhesive that remain after removing the label. I tried rubbing them off. (This works like a charm on Trains labels, but it has no effect on a cover of The New Yorker.) I discovered that Goo Gone can remove the adhesive, but it also removes the ink, so I don’t recommend using it.


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