Analysis

Topic models were created from articles written by Ullback for Photoplay magazine. The articles used represent two periods within Ullback’s editorial career.  The first from February 1932 – June 1935 are the first articles written by Ullback. The second period from January 1937-September 1937 represents the final year of Ullback’s career as a writer and beauty expert.  Between 1935 and 1937 Ullback wrote for both Modern Screen, Photoplay’s biggest competitor, and  Physical Culture Magazine.

I chose to have the software return six because, after some trial and error, I determined that six returned the most accurate and manageable results based on the 41 articles that were used.  The models returned were:

  1. energy mae powder dont silk si ideal apple mt city size clarke patricia sifted lit test held sing honest
  2. air sun young bend loretta babies beauty quickly allure darlings blues physical youth apply job throat busy depression stiff
  3. connie norma carole knew studio bennett girl made inn fur treatment night ri cry lii lit bet juice orange
  4. eyes nose hair mouth clara skin face eye gently stick chin glenda bette corners nger wax jean habit la
  5. foot upper snow ivory keeping toes heel leg shoes gloria soap winter stretching arm color cise evelyn skating original
  6. sylvia girls good diet back exercise give make hands fat day time work body exercises face legs arms feel

The models did return some OCR errors such as “si” and “mt” but overall the models are informative. These topics and the frequency each one appeared in each article was then graphed. Figure 1 shows the proportion of each topic across the entire corpus of articles.

Figure 1: Topic Proportion

My argument about the shifts in physical culture isn’t clear until the information is graphed. Once graphed by article date and percentage the distribution of the topics becomes clear. Topic 6 is the common thread throughout all the articles. Diet and exercise were two of the staples in Sylvia’s treatments and she was adamant that a good body required work. However, as figure 2 shows, this topic begins to decrease dramatically toward the end of her first run at Photoplay in June 1935. From about August 1934-June 1935 the frequency of this topic decreases significantly from 85.33% to 59.96%. Once she returns to Photoplay, the frequency of this topic declines even further reaching 20.38% in April 1937. The decline in her discussion of diet and exercise supports the argument that her rhetoric became unpopular as physical culture began to fall out of popularity. While this doesn’t suggest any particular reason for the decline in physical culture it does help to support the argument that the discussion about physical culture shifted in the second half of the 1930s.

Figure 2: Frequency of Topic by Article Date

While Sylvia’s rhetoric about diet and the body decreased, her discussion of personality and allure increased indicating a distinct shift in the content of her articles. As seen in figure 2, the second topic further supports this conclusion. The discussion of allure, youth and jobs were uncharacteristic and a distinct departure from Ullback’s traditional rhetoric. In her later articles, she often discussed women in the work place, how to remain young, and how to improve parts of the body such as the throat, eyes, and hands. This topic isn’t heavily represented until her return to Photoplay in 1937 confirming the shift in her rhetoric.

Figure 3: Bar Graph of Frequency of Topic by Article Date

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