Bob’s Magazine Museum in Skokie showcases unique Vietnam War collection
Bob Katzman pulls a Life Magazine issue from more than three decades ago from his newly-assembled Vietnam archive at Bob's Magazine Museum in downtown Skokie. | Ruthie Hauge~Sun-Times Media
Address: 4906 Oakton St.
Merchandise: Magazines, posters, flags and other collectibles.
Newest Collection: National magazines featuring Vietnam War coverage from 1950-1975.
Periodicals: 157 national magazines
Updated: July 22, 2012 6:13AM
The latest addition to Bob Katzman’s downtown Skokie store tells you just what you need to know about why the store changed its name.
When Katzman opened in downtown Skokie more than two years ago, his store’s name was Bob’s Newsstand, which referred to earlier days when Katzman ran a newsstand in Chicago.
But the historic magazines, newspapers, flags, posters and other collectibles make the packed store at 4906 Oakton St. more of a museum. Its current name, Bob’s Magazine Museum, feels just right — especially with his new extraordinary collection from the Vietnam War.
Katzman went through a plethora of magazines to assemble valuable and eclectic coverage of the Vietnam War — from fighting in the fields to war reaction back home, to raging controversies and neglected war heroes.
“I spent a month trying to create an archive for the Vietnam War,” he said. “There doesn’t exist in the United States a place you can call or walk in and buy magazines covering the complete period.”
Katzman, who calls himself “a history neurotic,” assembled stories ranging from 1950 to 1975 from different national magazines.
Even amid the store’s narrow walkways and cluttered space is meticulous organization with materials defined under more than 100 categories. He says his new Vietnam War archive is the store’s 106th section.
“I went through 10,000 magazines in 30 days to create it,” Katzman said.
He didn’t use computers to organize his collection but just good old-fashioned pen and paper, allowing him to make a grid to keep track of what he was processing.
The coverage is from more than a half-dozen national magazines including Time, Newsweek, Life and Lady’s Home Journal. He recorded how many articles come from different periods so they could be cross-referenced and researched.
“I did not take everything,” he said. “I did not take things I thought were superficial or not up to the standards I was establishing as I went along.”
First-hand coverage of Cambodia and Laos, cover stories on the Kent State massacre and escalating American war involvement are all captured by different journalists, and now located in one space. The window of his downtown store contains some of the most provocative coverage although he reserved the most disturbing images for inside.
Retrospectives, analysis, photo essays — they’re all part of Katzman’s remarkable assemblage.
The response, however, has been frustrating to Katzman. He has called school districts and major media outlets but interest has been timid at best.
“I can’t find my counterpart anywhere,” he said. “I feel like I’m in a Twilight Zone of isolation when it comes to concern or interest about history.”
Katzman, 62, was 39 when he opened a similar store — although a bit larger — in Morton Grove. He moved the store to downtown Skokie with most of his collectibles now selling for under $20. The earliest item in the store dates back to 1576.
He continues to treasure history, looking to share another piece of it with the world.
“Coast to coast in this country, 3 million square miles, 310 million people, and there is no other place that has an archive of 157 different periodicals for people who are doing research on Vietnam,” he said. “But it’s all here.”
Katzman is still waiting for more of those people to answer his call.