The 1st Issue of Playboy Magazine Was Printed in Rochelle
By now, I'm sure that you've heard that Playboy Magazine founder Hugh Hefner passed away at the age of 91 on Wednesday of this week. There are plenty of things online today that will fill you in on his background and exploits, but not many that mention where the first 5 issues of Playboy were printed starting in 1953. That would be Rochelle, Illinois.
I spent the first 10 years of my life living in Rochelle, the town in which my dad was born and raised. I remember hearing my dad and some of his friends remarking on how Hugh Hefner's shoestring budget left him scrambling for someone to print the first issue of his pet project. That scrambling, they said, brought him to the Hub City.
Hefner had just paid $500 for rights to publish a nude photo of Marilyn Monroe that had been taken before she was famous, and was looking for a printer to handle the debut issues. Luckily for Hef, there was a printer in Rochelle with a new printing press that he hoped would draw in new business.
According to Hugh Hefner (via NBC Chicago):
I read that a local calendar company not far from where I grew up on the West Side owned the famous nude photo of Marilyn Monroe. At the time, no one had seen it because the post office considered it obscene and wouldn’t allow it to be mailed. But I talked the owner into letting me publish the picture in the first issue of Playboy for $500. That was my very best day.
As impossible as it all seemed, once I started doing it, I was supremely, irrationally confident. I felt as if Playboy had been meant to happen, and I was energized in a way that I can’t begin to describe.
I drove out to Rochelle, Illinois, and watched the first issues come off the press, editing copy throughout the night. It was unbelievable. I came home in the morning with the first copy of the magazine, and immediately had Millie (my wife at the time) shoot a picture of me holding it.
The actual printing press used to run the first 5 issues of Playboy Magazine can be seen today (if hunting down quasi-famous printing devices is your thing) if you visit the Flagg Township Historical Society & Museum at 518 4th Avenue in Rochelle.
The Flagg Township Museum has over 20,000 prehistoric and historic artifacts and we are getting more each day. All of our artifacts are unique testaments to life in the Flagg Township area. Some of our most notable artifacts include the Partin-Palmer automobile, the Linotype used to print the first five issues of Playboy, meteorite, uniforms from the Civil and World Wars, prehistoric stone tools, and 18th-20th century women's and men's clothing.
Oh, and if you happen to have a copy of Playboy's first issue, it might be worth some money to you: