Thursday, April 7, 2011

Plenty of projects in Pack-o-Fun

Here's the cover of the November 1970 issue1 of Pack-o-Fun, a scrap-craft magazine that was first published in 1951 and is still around today. Lyle Clapper, son of the magazine's founders, said in 2004: "It's the oldest craft magazine in existence, certainly nationwide and probably worldwide as well."

According to the Chicago Tribune2, Edna Clapper started the magazine in 1951 with her husband, John, who served as publisher:
As founding editor, Mrs. Clapper was the driving force behind the magazine for 25 years. She insisted on exact, step-by-step directions for her projects and used her children as test subjects.

"They would try it and she would watch them, and if they had a rough time with it, she would adjust it so that it was a workable project," [former Pack-o-Fun editor Kay] Sweeney said.

The first issue of Pack-o-Fun was assembled in her basement using mimeographs and a sewing machine. Three hundred free copies were distributed. When Mrs. Clapper brought her publication to a Cub Scout meeting, every den mother bought a copy, her son said.

Pack-o-Fun might have gained its greatest fame for the role it played in the growth of the sock monkey craze. In 1958, according to Wikipedia, Pack-o-Fun "published 'How to Make Sock Toys', a guide to making different sock animals and dolls with red heeled socks. Frequently cited as being their most popular book ever, this pamphlet went through multiple printings and was being produced in new editions up until the mid-1980s."3

Some of the other contents of this November 1970 issue were:
  • How to make a squash turkey with acorn squash, butternut squash, radishes and red cabbage
  • How to make Christmas decorations with computer punch cards ("the newest of scrap materials")
  • How to make a pioneer church, Conestoga wagon, wishing well and other items from burnt wooden matches
  • How to make a card-table fort with corrugated cardboard
  • How to make birds from pine cones, plastic-foam balls and pipe cleaners
  • The Idea Exchange, featuring reader submissions, including the description of how to make a chair for your dollhouse from a duck's wishbone4, from Mrs. Mary Keenan of Picton, Ontario
  • Handy Hints, also from readers, including this one from Mrs. Robert Homer of Altoona, Pennsylvania: "Paint a small wooden stepladder to match your room. Place plants on each rung for an unusual and attractive plant holder."
  • Submitted Cub Scout photos from across the United States
  • An extensive Pen Pals section5
  • A full-page advertisement for a set of Musical Multiplication Tables records from Bremner Records.

If you're interested in more reminiscing about the history of Pack-o-Fun, here's a great blog entry from Craft Leftovers.

1. This copy was originally received by the Smoketown Elementary School library in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, four decades ago. I'm not sure how many hands it passed through before I bought it for a quarter.
2. This information is from the Tribune's obituary for Edna Clapper.
3. Amazingly, this paragraph represents the first appearance of the word "monkey" on Papergreat. It took me a stunning 79 posts. It's stunning because one of my favorite pastimes used to be posting photos of monkeys on the Internet.
4. That's pretty disgusting.
5. I am sure no magazine has a Pen Pals section like this today. The Pack-o-Fun section features the full name, age, street address and hobbies of many boys and girls, ages 7 to 17.


  1. What a fantastic blog. I collect these Pack O Fun's and have always wondered about their origins. I don't collect as late as the 1970s - although I think I'll start - so I really appreciate you taking the time to put up something like this with charm and social importance that other people can benefit by - thanks!

  2. I grew up to recycling crafts featured in the Pack-o-Fun and Workbasket magazines. You wouldn't happen to know where Edna or John Clapper were buried do you? I'm a member of Find-a-grave and I have a "Creatives" virtual cemetery I would love to add them to.

  3. I had a subscription in the 1960's for my children. A shame it is no longer published. We had great fun with it.