Hammock Inc. re-envisions the DAR member magazine

The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution has published a member magazine in several different forms since July 1892. At that time, DAR had only recently started its work as a patriotic women’s organization, dedicated to its three guiding tenets of education, historic preservation and patriotism. As an internal publication, the magazine was sufficient for the membership, but generally did not reach out to communities not yet touched by the DAR.

In 2001, some 109 years after its inception, the DAR magazine underwent a radical transformation. The magazine was split into two separate publications: Daughters newsletter, which focused on NSDAR news and notices; and American Spirit, a 52-page glossy, bimonthly full-color publication.

Hammock Inc. was hired to produce American Spirit in July 2002. One of the first things Hammock’s editorial and design team did was try to define the audience and the mission for the magazine. One thing we all agreed on—American Spirit should be the kind of magazine you’d want to leave out on your coffee table. The design should rival any commercial magazine, the articles should be intriguing and informative, and the writing should be fresh and vibrant.

Since the revamped American Spirit was intended to reach out to potential new members, we had to make some assumptions there—concluding that this group would likely be younger, with careers or families or both, and were probably accustomed to brightly designed magazines with a variety of topics.

Originally, American Spirit’s editorial lineup called for articles on women’s health and financial affairs. The more we talked with members, the more we felt readers could, and should, go elsewhere for that information, to magazines that exist to focus on those topics. American Spirit should focus instead on the National Society’s core concerns: history—especially women in history—genealogy, education, patriotism and preservation.

More than focusing on the details of long-ago battles, the magazine strives to tell the American story through the women and men who lived this history. Beyond Revolutionary history, American Spirit shows the human side of American life from Colonial times to the present, with articles ranging from features on historic homes, collectibles and Americana to regular articles on historic travel, timeless crafts and preserving family history.

In the past few years, we have changed the editorial mix in response to reader feedback. Under the current DAR National Magazine Chair, Denise Doring VanBuren, we have increased the focus on DAR goals of education, patriotism and preservation. We have also added more articles about individual members and the DAR itself, including departments such as:

  • Today’s Daughters, which spotlights a daughter who is making a difference in her career and community. We want the readers of American Spirit to value the courage of those who came before them, while keeping an eye on the future.
  • National Treasures, which spotlights the amazing and priceless items in the DAR Museum collection.
  • More focus on the preservation of historic homes or properties owned or managed by DAR.
  • Educational departments like “History 101” and a column called “Class Act,” which highlight creative ways of teaching history.

And Hammock is always searching for even more creative ways to reach the dedicated members of the DAR, and spotlight the myriad ways they enhance their communities and their country.