G.D. (Gustavus Dedman) Crain Jr. was a major force in the world of American business publishing for more than a half-century. He is best remembered for founding Advertising Age and developing Crain Communications Inc., which published about 30 business and consumer titles in 2001.
Mr. Crain, who was born in Lawrenceburg, Ky., in 1885, had his first brush with journalism as a schoolboy, when he sold copies of the Louisville Times. That entrepreneurial bent was a preview of things to come for Mr. Crain.
After graduating from Centre College in Danville, Ky. (he received both bachelor's and master's degrees in three years), he became a reporter for the Louisville Herald. To supplement his income, he was also a correspondent for several trade publications. That led to his leaving the Herald and setting up an editorial service supplying news and features to about 100 business publications in a variety of fields, including banking, insurance and lumber.
In 1916, Mr. Crain founded two trade magazines. Capitalizing on the boom in hospital construction, he introduced Hospital Management in February. While the magazine got good response from readers, advertisers were slow to respond. In part to help spur ad sales in Hospital Management, he started Class in March. Also a monthly, the digest-sized publication targeted manufacturers and advertising agencies that were large users of the specialized business press.
In 1922, Mr. Crain was one of the founders of the National Industrial Advertisers Association, which became the Business Marketing Association.
Both titles thrived during the Roaring Twenties, so much so that in 1929 he decided to launch a weekly publication covering the world of advertising and marketing. Despite the stock market crash in October, he launched the new venture, Advertising Age, in January 1930.
The 1930s were tough, but with a still-small staff, Mr. Crain kept all three publications afloat; Class, by then renamed Industrial Marketing, was folded into Advertising Age for two years before re-emerging as a free-standing title in 1935. In the waning days of the Depression, Mr. Crain's publications regained their health.
In 1936, the widowed publisher married Gertrude Ramsay, who would herself become a powerful force in the business publishing world, as would their two sons, Rance and Keith, who later ran the company.
Advertising Age grew throughout the late 1930s, the 1940s and the postwar years, eventually supplanting longtime category leader Printers' Ink, which ceased publication in 1972 as the renamed Marketing/Communications. And although the company eventually shed Hospital Management, it was definitely in a growth mode, adding Business Insurance in 1967, Automotive News in 1971 and Pensions & Investments in 1973.
Mr. Crain died on Dec. 15, 1973, at the age of 88, and his wife, Gertrude, succeeded him as chairman of Crain Communications the following January. He was posthumously inducted into the American Advertising Federation's Advertising Hall of Fame in 1975. Gertrude Crain was accorded the same honor in 1997, one year after her death. They were only the second husband-and-wife team to be inducted; the first were Stanley and Helen Resor of J. Walter Thompson Co.
Born in Lawrenceburg, Ky., on Nov. 18, 1885; founded two trade publications to launch Crain Communications Inc., 1916; introduced Advertising Age, 1930; died at age 88 on Dec. 15, 1973; posthumously inducted into the American Advertising Federation's Advertising Hall of Fame, 1975.