Life (magazine) - Weekly News Magazine

Weekly News Magazine

Life

Cover of the June 19, 1944 issue of Life with Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. The issue contained 10 frames from the Normandy landing by Robert Capa.
Editor-in-chief Edward Kramer Thompson
Categories News
Frequency Weekly (1936–1972)
Monthly (1978–2000)
Publisher Henry Luce
Total circulation
(1937)
1,000,000
First issue November 23, 1936
Final issue May 2000
Company Time Inc.
Country United States
Based in New York City
Language English
Website http://www.life.com
ISSN 0024-3019

In 1936 publisher Henry Luce paid $92,000 to the owners of Life magazine because he sought the name for Time Inc. Wanting only the old Life’s name in the sale, Time Inc. sold Life’s subscription list, features, and goodwill to Judge. Convinced that pictures could tell a story instead of just illustrating text, Luce launched Life on November 23, 1936. The third magazine published by Luce, after Time in 1923 and Fortune in 1930, Life gave birth to the photo magazine in the U.S., giving as much space and importance to pictures as to words. The first issue of Life, which sold for ten cents (approximately USD $1.48 in 2007, see Cost of Living Calculator) featured five pages of Alfred Eisenstaedt’s pictures.

When the first issue of Life magazine appeared on the newsstands, the U.S. was in the midst of the Great Depression and the world was headed toward war. Adolf Hitler was firmly in power in Germany. In Spain, General Francisco Franco’s rebel army was at the gates of Madrid; German Luftwaffe pilots and bomber crews, calling themselves the Condor Legion, were honing their skills as Franco’s air arm. Italy under Benito Mussolini annexed Ethiopia. Luce ignored tense world affairs when the new Life was unveiled: the first issue depicted the Fort Peck Dam in Montana photographed by Margaret Bourke-White.

The format of Life in 1936 was an instant classic: the text was condensed into captions for 50 pages of pictures. The magazine was printed on heavily coated paper that cost readers only a dime. The magazine’s circulation skyrocketed beyond the company’s predictions, going from 380,000 copies of the first issue to more than one million a week four months later. It spawned many imitators, such as Look, which was founded just a year later in 1937, and folded in 1971.

Life got its own building at 19 West 31st Street, a Beaux-Arts architecture jewel built in 1894 and considered of "outstanding significance" by the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission. Later it moved editorial offices to 9 Rockefeller Plaza.

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