Playboy is an American men’s magazine that features photographs of nude women as well as journalism and fiction. It was founded in Chicago in 1953 by Hugh Hefner and his associates, and funded in part by a $1,000 loan from Hefner’s mother. The magazine has grown into Playboy Enterprises, Inc., with a presence in nearly every medium. Playboy is one of the world’s best known brands. In addition to the flagship magazine in the United States, special nation-specific versions of Playboy are published worldwide.
The magazine has a long history of publishing short stories by notable novelists such as Arthur C. Clarke, Ian Fleming, Vladimir Nabokov, Chuck Palahniuk, P. G. Wodehouse and Margaret Atwood. With a regular display of full-page color cartoons, it became a showcase for notable cartoonists, including Jack Cole, Eldon Dedini, Jules Feiffer, Shel Silverstein, Erich Sokol and Rowland B. Wilson.
Playboy features monthly interviews of notable public figures, such as artists, architects, economists, composers, conductors, film directors, journalists, novelists, playwrights, religious figures, politicians, athletes and race car drivers. The magazine generally reflects a liberal editorial stance.
By spring 1953, Hugh Hefner – a 1949 University of Illinois psychology graduate who had worked in Chicago for Esquire magazine writing promotional copy; Publisher’s Development Corporation in sales and marketing; and Children’s Activities magazine as circulation promotions manager—had planned out the elements of his own magazine, that he would call Stag Party. He formed HMH Publishing Corporation, and recruited his friend Eldon Sellers to find investors. Hefner eventually raised just over $8,000, including from his brother and mother. However, the publisher of an unrelated men’s adventure magazine, Stag, contacted Hefner and informed him it would file suit to protect their trademark if he were to launch his magazine with that name. Hefner, his wife Millie, and Sellers met to seek a new name, considering “Top Hat”, “Gentleman”, “Sir'”, “Satyr”, “Pan” and “Bachelor” before Sellers suggested “Playboy”.
The first issue, in December 1953, was undated, as Hefner was unsure there would be a second. He produced it in his Hyde Park kitchen. The first centerfold was Marilyn Monroe, although the picture used originally was taken for a calendar rather than for Playboy. Hefner chose what he deemed the “sexiest” image, a previously unused nude study of Marilyn stretched with an upraised arm on a red velvet background with closed eyes and mouth open. The heavy promotion centered around Marilyn’s nudity on the already famous calendar, together with the teasers in marketing, made the new Playboy magazine a success. The first issue sold out in weeks. Known circulation was 53,991. The cover price was 50¢. Copies of the first issue in mint to near mint condition sold for over $5,000 in 2002.