The Story of Better Homes and Gardens


BHG is the go-to resource for improving home life. Their content offers creative decorating ideas, healthy recipes, and garden tips – not to mention a scientific style of recipe writing known as the BHG Test Kitchen!

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Founded by Edwin Meredith

Better Homes and Gardens began its story with Edwin Meredith (1876-1928), an Iowa native who served as secretary of agriculture in President Woodrow Wilson’s Cabinet before founding Better Homes and Gardens (then called Fruit, Garden and Home magazine). Subsequently renamed in 1925 due to better reflecting its content, today this publication remains part of the Seven Sisters group of women’s service magazines; along with Successful Farming, Special Interest Publications plans, etc. –it guides generations of readers as they create, enrich and enhance their lives, their homes, their lives as well as those within families.

Meredith sought to give his new magazine a domestic focus and advertised for subscribers to submit questions and article ideas that could serve as the foundation of its articles. Meredith and his editorial staff reviewed and accepted hundreds of submissions from readers as they built their first issue.

Mockups for a new issue were prepared in 1920, but none was ever printed as World War I had ended, but the national economic recession loomed. Publishing would be a hazardous venture. Furthermore, Meredith was appointed Secretary of Agriculture by President Woodrow Wilson – taking him away from his Midwest publishing hub.

In 1924, Meredith decided to bring back the concept of a magazine for homemakers and hired Chesla C. Sherlock as editor to help implement their plan. Throughout that summer, both Sherlock and Meredith worked tirelessly together on their endeavor.

Reducing costs and streamlining operations were critical to their repositioning strategy, including selling off non-profitable businesses and targeting home and family as niche markets. Instead of frequent redesigns, which may turn readers off, BH&G instead made subtle modifications that kept its magazine fresh and relevant to readers.

BH&G’s Influence on American Home Life

Better Homes and Gardens has long been one of America’s premier lifestyle consumer brands, shaping countless Americans’ home lives over many generations.

BH&G is an influential source for recipes, crafting projects, decorating tips, gardening advice, and healthy living tips. Their magazine boasts over 4 million subscribers and generates an impressive one billion page views monthly on its website alone! In addition, their brand boasts a robust media division, including television programs, cookbooks, and books that complement what BH&G provides to its subscribers.

Fruit, Garden & Home was established in 1922 before changing to its current title in 1925. At first, it offered informative articles, basic cooking techniques, and contests to stimulate reader interest before expanding to include other women’s service magazines known as the Seven Sisters. Through time, Fruit Garden & Home expanded further with cookbooks (the New Cookbook or Red Plaid Cookbook was first published in 1930), special interest publications, real estate listings, and television programs.

As part of its efforts to stay relevant, BH&G experimented with recipes and food trends of its time. For instance, its editors introduced American tastes to tossed salad (1938) and barbecue cooking (1941). Furthermore, they adjusted their recipes during World War II to meet ingredient shortages.

As such, the magazine enjoys an avid following that transcends demographic boundaries. This influence has been utilized to support various charitable causes, including breast cancer research, child health initiatives, and literacy efforts.

Today, Better Homes and Gardens magazine continues to shape American home life by encouraging readers to make their homes more functional and comfortable. It has inspired home-building trends like kitchen-centric design and indoor/outdoor livability. In the future, Better Homes and Gardens’ brand will continue providing invaluable guidance regarding home improvement, design, cooking, and life!

BH&G’s Influence on Home Building

Since 1922, BH&G has inspired homemakers and homeowners alike to discover and cherish what makes their homes unique by stimulating creativity, providing know-how, and sharing fresh ideas they can customize. Beginning as Fruit Garden and Home in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1922, it quickly grew into one of the most beloved women’s service magazines of the twentieth century – fuelling numerous related publications such as cookbooks (notably, its New Cook Book, aka Red Plaid Cookbook first published in 1930 sold over 37.5 million copies!), television shows, special interest publications as well as real estate services.

In the 1920s, BH&G increased its impact on American home life by adding a building plan service, capitalizing on newly launched government initiatives like Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover’s “Own Your Home” campaign and efforts made by the Bureau of Standards to modernize American building practices. This service not only helped stimulate home building but also contributed to changing ideas about domestic labor and household responsibilities.

Local Better Homes and Garden (BH&G) committees often hosted contests and events designed to educate homeowners on new construction, design, and cooking techniques – many as part of Better Homes Week – an annual event that culminated with the construction of a demonstration house in each community. By the end of the Depression, there were 7,279 such committees nationwide, and each was an influential voice representing widespread homeownership across America.

Better Homes and Gardens was an industry leader in advertising sales and circulation for nearly three decades. Each issue averaged 4.24 million readers with an advertising rate base of 3.28 million (second only to Architectural Digest). A four-color page advertised in Better Homes and Gardens costs over twice as much as comparable ads at competitors like Real Simple or House Beautiful.

BH&G’s Influence on Home Decorating

Better Homes and Gardens has long been influential in home decorating, providing fresh ideas and tips. Its focus on enjoyment rather than perfection has made the magazine an essential resource for people seeking to make their home an inviting space, craft meals that bring families closer together and grow lush gardens with expert tips.

The magazine continues to shape national conversations on home life today. From its inaugural home plan design contest in 1891 to the 1930s New Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book (commonly referred to as Red Plaid), BH&G has helped shape American ideas about domesticity. Even during World War II, its company altered recipes due to shortages of eggs and butter!

BH&G stands apart from its print rivals by having an equally significant digital and social media presence, reaching 51 million engaged consumers on multiple platforms. Marketers can connect with these consumers via digital advertising, native content creation, and influencer networks – to name a few ways BH&G provides access to them!

Since 1922, Better Homes and Gardens has been one of America’s leading home and lifestyle publications. Part of the Seven Sisters group, this magazine has guided generations of Americans looking to create homes where families can come together.

BH&G remains an influential brand across all aspects of American home life – from house hunting and buying a car to renovation and decoration projects. Real estate professionals can leverage BH&G as an invaluable source of home cooking, decorating, and gardening inspiration and stay top of mind with their target audiences by sharing prosperous lifestyle content year-round that resonates with homeowners.

BH&G’s Influence on Home Maintenance

BH&G products go far beyond the pages of their magazine when it comes to maintaining your home, offering products designed to help create a relaxing and welcoming environment for you and your family. You’ll find bedroom furniture, storage solutions, and kitchen appliances inspired by the magazine – not to mention outdoor cooking appliances inspired by it – explicitly designed with you in mind. Ensuring your space reflects who you are as an individual family is vital in ensuring it feels welcoming; almost two-thirds of millennials surveyed consider personalizing their space a top priority in ensuring their home reflects them both personally.

Better Homes and Gardens was first published in 1922 as Fruit, Garden, and Home and has become one of the nation’s go-to publications for domesticity topics ranging from finding homes to remodeling them. Since its introduction, Better Homes and Gardens has expanded into numerous books on home economics (such as “Red Plaid”) and special interest publications, television shows, and more.

Home improvement media have helped many homeowners adopt specific design trends. While this may be harmless at first glance, Annetta Grant and Jay M. Handelman, assistant professors of marketing at Bucknell University, conducted a study that revealed that people who watched shows like HGTV or read magazines such as Better Homes and Gardens are more likely decorated by current market-reflected aesthetics.

Sherry Chris is an outstanding leader in real estate, having founded both BHGRE and ERA. With her expertise and cutting-edge consumer insights, she has helped propel their growth and become a trusted source of information for millions of consumers worldwide. She remains a valued advisor as the brands continue to meet the needs of affiliates and consumers.