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Briton Hadden

Briton Hadden


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Briton Hadden, the son of Crowell Hadden Jr. and Bess Busch, was born in Brooklyn Heights, on 18th February, 1898. His grandfather, Crowell Hadden, was the head of the Brooklyn Savings Bank. Briton's father had been married to Bess's sister, Maud, who died giving birth to Crowell Hadden III. In 1900 Bess had a second child, who was named after her dead sister.

From early childhood, Hadden showed a love for language. He also had a photographic memory and by the age of four he was happily memorizing the poems of John Greenleaf Whittier. The following year he began writing his own poems.

In 1905, when Hadden was seven, his father caught typhoid fever and died. Isaiah Wilner, the author of The Man Time Forgot (2006), has argued: "Hadden's mother, having lived through the deaths of both her sister and her husband, sank into a period of fatigue, anxiety, and depression, and was often directed by her doctors to take the rest cures in the country. Bess Hadden was a buoyant soul, however, and her condition improved. Eventually, she would marry Dr. William Pool, an obstetrician who lived a few blocks away."

Hadden continued to write and as a student at the Brooklyn Poly School he started his first publication, the Daily Glonk. It tended to make fun of his teachers and fellow students. As his biographer points out, "Hadden's tendency to poke fun in public fun at public figures previously accustomed to respectful treatment would become a key aspect of his writing style."

Hadden also became interested in politics. Like the rest of the family he supported the Republican Party. However, one of his friends favoured the Democratic Party. They had heated arguments. He told his mother that when he was older "I'm going to put out a magazine.... when I grow up which will tell the truth. Then there won't be all this confusion about who's right." He said the magazine would be small so that it could be placed in a pocket but large enough to hold the essential facts.

In 1913 Hadden was sent to Hotchkiss School in Connecticut, where he met Henry Luce, another young man who was very interested in becoming a journalist. Soon after arriving the Hotchkiss Record, announced a new competition for sophomores. The student who showed the most "natural ability" would be taken onto the board of the newspaper. Hadden came first, beating Luce into second place. Luce wrote to his father: "I am second though quite far behind the first fellow (Hadden) and while I am not satisfied with second place, yet I think it was worthwhile."

In his senior year, Hadden became editor of the Hotchkiss Record. Luce now decided to concentrate on the Hotchkiss Literary Monthly. A fellow worker on the magazine Culbreth Sudler, later recalled: "He (Luce) had a kind of terrifying egotism. Everything was up there in his head. His personality, his manner, didn't matter. Nothing mattered except the idea."

Hadden made several changes to the student newspaper. Isaiah Wilner has pointed out: "Hadden concocted a plan to print the Hotchkiss Record twice a week instead of once, a schedule that would bring in twice the advertising revenue and give the paper a better chance of breaking news. Hadden also moved the editorials page from the middle of the paper to the second page and eradicated the practice of reprinting editorials from college papers... At the start of his senior year in the fall of 1915, Hadden released a dramatically changed issue of the Hotchkiss Record. The newspaper was curt, factual, and fun to read, and in his first editorial Hadden did not mince words." Hadden claimed he would print "the facts as we see them in an absolutely unbiased and impartial manner."

In November 1915 Hadden began to print his own weekly world news summary down the left side of the front page. At the top of the first column, he told his readers that it was his lifelong goal to explain "the important happenings of the week to those of us who do not find time to read the detailed accounts in the daily papers." This often included accounts of the First World War. In March 1916 he wrote about the German attack on Verdun: "That they renew massed attacks undererred by carnage, speaks well for discipline, but it is the work of automatons, not men."

Hadden and Henry Luce both went to Yale University and found themselves in competition to have their work published in the Yale Daily News. This involved what was known as "heeling rituals". Between October and March, the young students (heelers) wrote articles, sold advertising in the newspaper and performed various tasks for the editorial board. The editors awarded a certain number of points for each task. At the end of the competition, the top four heelers were appointed to the staff of the newspaper. Alger Shelden, the son of a millionaire attempted to buy his way to victor. However, he could only finish second to Hadden, who won with more points than any heeler in history. Luce finished in fourth place. Luce wrote to his father: "I have come to Rome and succeeded in the Roman Games."

Shelden invited Hadden, Luce and the fourth successful heeler, Thayer Hobson, to spend Easter at the family estate at Grosse Pointe near Detroit. Hadden wrote to his mother that he had accepted the invitation because he wanted to become better acquainted with Shelden, Hobson and Luce "whom I will have to work with more or less during the next few years". Luce told his father that he was excited by the visit as Shelden's father was a close friend of Theodore Roosevelt. While they were staying at the Shelden estate, President Woodrow Wilson declared war on Germany.

When they arrived back at Yale University Hadden and Luce launched a campaign in the Yale Daily News to support the war effort by encouraging the wealthy students to purchase war bonds. They also encouraged young men to join the armed forces and by the autumn of 1917 a third of the students at Yale had left to take part in the First World War. This included John Elliot Wooley, the chairman of the newspaper. Luce and Hadden both put their name forward for the top job. Hadden was elected to the post and Luce wrote to his parents: "Briton Hadden is chairman of the News, and thus my fondest college ambition is unachieved."

Hadden used his new position to call for Yale to offer more classes in subjects like semaphore signaling and drill. This campaign was successful and according to one observer, "for the rest of the war the school became a military academy in all but name". Luce was also a strong supporter of the war effort. He accused his English professor of being a pacifist and suggested that Yale should ban all student groups that could not be classified as "war industries". Hadden and Luce would often print fake letters in order to create debates about controversial subjects. This strategy increased sales of the newspaper.

The following year Hadden was elected chairman of the Yale Daily News for a second time and Luce won election as the managing director. During this period the two young men became very close. Luce later commented: "Somehow, despite greatest differences in temperaments and even in interests, somehow we had to work together. At that point everything we had belonged to each other."

Hadden's written style was deeply influenced by his English professor, John Milton Berdan. In his classes he encouraged his students to communicate to a mass audience. Hadden remembers him saying: "Your job is to write for them all." He argued that the most important thing for a writer was to observe the world, "to see for oneself". Berden added that you kept the reader's attention by communicating with "brevity, clarity and wit".

Luce and Hadden both wanted to become members of the Skull and Bones group. Only fifteen students were allowed to join each year. They achieved the honour in 1919. Other members of this secret society include William Howard Taft, Henry L. Stimson, William Averell Harriman, Clarence Douglas Dillon, James Jesus Angleton, William F. Buckley, Frederick Trubee Davison, McGeorge Bundy, Robert A. Lovett, Potter Stewart, Lewis Lapham, George H. W. Bush and his son, George W. Bush.

After graduating, Hadden went to New York City in an attempt to find a newspaper job. He greatly admired the work of Herbert Bayard Swope, the editor of the New York World. Hadden marched into Swope's office unanounced. Swope yelled: "Who are you." He replied: "My name is Briton Hadden, and I want a job." When the editor told him to get out, Hadden commented: "Mr. Swope, you're interfering with my destiny." Intrigued, Swope asked Hadden what his destiny entailed. He then gave him a detailed account of his plans to publish a news magazine but first he felt he had to learn his craft under Swope. Impressed by his answer, Swope gave him a job on his newspaper.

Hadden's reports soon became appearing on the front page. Swope liked Hadden's conservational style of writing and began giving him the top stories to cover. One of his fellow reporters suggested that Hadden had an "intelligent brain, with baby thoughts". Swope also invited him to his house for dinner and became attending his legendry parties, where he met the writer, F. Scott Fitzgerald, who later used these experiences for his masterpiece, The Great Gatsby (1925).

Hadden told Frederick Darius Benham, who worked with him on the New York World, about his plans to publish a news magazine. Hadden once showed Benham a copy of the New York Times: "See this? Full of wonderful news, tells you everything going on in the world. But you haven't got time to read it all every day... I have got an idea to start a magazine which comes out on Friday with all the news condensed so you and all the other people commuting home for the weekend can catch up on the news they missed."

In 1921 Hadden, on the recommendation of his friend, Walter Millis, got a job with the The Baltimore News-Post. The editor was pleased with Hadden's work and asked him if he had any friends who could write like him. Henry Luce had just been sacked from the Chicago Daily News and Hadden suggested his name and he took up the post in November.

They spent much of their spare-time discussing the possibility of starting their own news magazine. Hadden argued that most people in the United States were fairly ignorant of what was going on in the world. According to Hadden, the main problem was not a lack of information, but too much. He pointed out there were over 2,000 daily newspapers, 159 magazines and nearly 500 radio stations in America. The two men objected to the emphasis placed on entertainment by these various media organisations. The situation became worse when in 1919 a Chicago publisher, Joseph Medill Patterson, moved to New York City and launched his tabloid newspaper, the Daily News. Making good use of photographs, the newspaper concentrated on murder stories and celebrity scandals.

Luce and Hadden intended to change this trend by producing a magazine that dealt with serious news. Luce wrote to his father: "True, we are not going out like Crusaders to propagate any great truths. But we are proposing to inform people - to inform many people who would not otherwise be informed; and to inform all people in a manner in which they have never been informed before."

Over the next few months they began working on their proposed news magazine. Every day they cut-up the New York Times and separated the articles into topics. At the end of the week, they extracted the main events and rewrote the stories in their own words. Luce and Hadden showed these mock-ups to their former English professors, Henry Seidal Canby and John Milton Berdan. Canby thought the writing was "positively atrocious" and "telegraphic". Berdan was more sympathetic and accepted that the style was essential if they were to compete with movies, radio shows and billboards. Despite his criticism of the writing, Canby advised the men to continue with the project.

Luce and Hadden resigned their jobs at the Baltimore News-Post and moved back to New York City where they moved in with their parents. They also recruited their friend, Culbreth Sudler, as their business manager. They drew up a prospectus that they could show prospective investors. It included the following: "Time is a weekly news magazine, aimed to serve the modern necessity of keeping people informed, created on a new principle of complete organization. Time is interested - not in how much it includes between its cover - but in how much it gets off its pages into the minds of it's readers." It added that the magazine "would entertain as well as edify" and argued that they would tell the news through the personalities who made the headlines.

A friend of Luce's father introduced them to W. H. Eaton, the publisher of World's Work. He later recalled: "I spent a full afternoon with those fellows going over their first dummy, discussing their editorial philosophy. They certainly were intense about the whole thing, and Hadden seemed to be driving every minute of the time. But it didn't have a professional look to me. I told them I didn't think they'd have a Chinaman's chance." Eaton was so convinced they posed no threat to his magazine, he gave them a list of several thousand of his own subscribers. He also helped them draft a subscription letter that was mailed to a 100,000 people. Of these, over 6,000 people requested trial subscriptions.

Luce and Hadden also had a meeting with John Wesley Hanes, an experienced figure on Wall Street. He told them that it was foolhardy to compete with the highly successful Literary Digest. However, he was especially impressed with Hadden: "Hadden was damned convincing... Luce was there, too. They made a good team. But Luce wasn't much of a talker. He thinks faster than he can talk, you know, and sometimes it gets garbled up. But all the time, Hadden would be in there, selling, selling. He just had what he takes. He was intelligent, he was enthusiastic, he was willing to work and work hard. He was the whole ball of wax rolled into one." Culbreth Sudler agreed that Hadden was very impressive in his dealings with potential investors. He later recalled: "Hadden was interested in everybody. His mind was tireless, and he had an almost unparalleled drive coupled with a strong personal discipline."

Hanes gave them important advice on how to raise money from investors while retaining control of the company. He told them to create two kinds of stock. Preferred stock would pay dividends to investors sooner, but only the common stock would carry the right to vote on company affairs. Under this plan, Hadden and Luce would each keep 2,775 shares - a total of 55.5%, giving them control of the company.

Hadden and Luce used their contacts through the Skull and Bones secret society. A fellow member, Henry Pomeroy Davison, Jr., persuaded his father, Henry Pomeroy Davison, a senior partner at J. P. Morgan, the most powerful commercial bank in the United States at the time, to invest money in the magazine. Davison introduced Luce to fellow partner Dwight Morrow, who also bought stock in the company. Another member, David Ingalls, had married Louise Harkness, the daughter of William L. Harkness, a leading figure in Standard Oil. He had recently died and left $53,439,437 to his family. Louise used some of this money to invest in the magazine. By the summer of 1922 Hadden and Luce had raised $85,675 from sixty-nine friends and acquaintances.

Hadden, who was appointed editor of Time Magazine, now began to acquire his staff. Thomas J. C. Martyn, a former pilot in the Royal Air Force during the First World War, who had lost his leg in an aircraft accident, was given the job of Foreign News editor. He had little experience in journalism but Martyn, who was fluent in French and German, seemed to know a great deal about European politics. Another successful appointment was John Martin, who specialized in writing humorous stories for the magazine. Roy Edward Larsen, was appointed as circulation manager. He had just left Harvard University, where he was business manager of the college literary magazine, The Advocate. Luce had been impressed by the fact that he had been the first person in history to turn it into a profit-making venture.

The first edition of Time Magazine was published on 3rd March, 1923. Only 9,000 copies were sold, a third of what it would take to break even in the first year of business. In an attempt to increase sales, Hadden employed young women to ask for the magazine at news-stands. Their reply was that they had never heard of it. After a few women had requested a copy of the magazine, Hadden arrived and by that time they were in the right mood to take a couple of copies.

According to Isaiah Wilner, the author of The Man Time Forgot (2006): "Gradually Time gained a following among the young and modern set. College students kept the magazine on the coffee tables, circled favorite phrases or surprising facts, and quoted them to friends. A single issue would make its way through several sets of hands." After six months the magazine was selling 19,000 copies a week. By March 1925, Time Magazine had a paid circulation of 70,000 subscribers. In its second year, the magazine made a profit of $674.15.

Despite an increase in revenue, Henry Luce still had trouble paying suppliers. Roy Edward Larsen was asked to come up with a way of finding more income from advertising in the magazine. Hadden suggested the idea of increasing the price of smaller adverts and offering a discount for buying in bulk. This method not only improved revenue but eventually became the industry standard for selling advertising. Larsen devised several different subscription offers. This included paying the cost of postage. The company also supplied a self-addressed and stamped postcard in their mailing.

Although Time Magazine claimed it provided an objective view of the world, its editor, Hadden, always sided with the underdog. He ran several stories on the lynching of black men in the Deep South. He also attacked James Thomas Heflin of Alabama, the leading proponent of white supremacy in the Senate. His reporting on race relations provoked complaints from readers who held conservative views on politics. One reader, Barlow Henderson of South Carolina, accused the magazine of a "flagrant affront to the feelings of our people". His main objection was to the policy of giving black people the respectful title of "Mr."

Hadden hired a team of four young women to do research. They searched through newspapers and books in search of revealing details that they would then pass onto the journalists. The women also had the job of checking the facts of the articles before they were published in the magazine. The researchers were paid half the wages of the journalists on the magazine and Hadden was therefore able to cut the size of the payroll.

Time Magazine targeted the upwardly mobile. It was particularly successful with the younger set of upper-class readers. Hadden wrote that he was not interested in obtaining those readers who read tabloid newspapers. He described them as "gum-chewers, shop girls, taxi drivers, street sheiks, and bummers".

Hadden, the editor of the magazine, created a new style of writing. He was a savage editor who stripped the sentence down, cut extraneous clauses, and used only active verbs. He also removed inconclusive words words like "alleged" and "reportedly". Hadden also liked using the odd obscure word. The author of The Man Time Forgot (2006) has pointed out: "By sprinkling the magazine with a few difficult words, Hadden subtly flattered his readers and invited them to play an ongoing game. Those with large vocabularies could pat themselves on the back, while the rest guffawed at Time's bright boys and looked the word up."

The editor of Time Magazine was also interested in creating new words. For example, while at Hotchkiss School he described boys who had few friends as being "social light". In his magazine he began using the word "socialite" to describe someone who attempted to be prominent in fashionable society. Hadden wanted a new word for opinion makers. As they thought themselves as wise, he called them by the name of his old Yale prankster group: "pundit". Another word brought into general use was "kudos", the Greek word for magical glory. Henry Luce also developed new words. The most famous of these was "tycoon" to describe successful and powerful businessman. The word was based on "taikun", a Japanese term to describe a general who controlled the country in the name of the emperor.

Hadden encouraged his writers to use witty epithets to convey the character and appearance of public figures. Grigory Zinoviev was condemned as the "bomb boy of Bolshevism" and Upton Sinclair was called a "socialist-sophist". Winston Churchill was described as being "ruddy as a round full moon". Benito Mussolini was attacked on a regular basis. John Martin commented that when public figures came under attack from Hadden, it was like being "undressed in Macy's window".

Articles in Time Magazine were very different from those found in other newspapers and journals. Isaiah Wilner has pointed out: "Having invented a new writing style that made each sentence entertaining and easy to grasp. Hadden and his writers began to toy with the structure of the entire story. Most newspaper writers tried to tell everything in the first one or two paragraphs. By printing the most important facts first, they destroyed the natural narrative of news. Hadden trained his writers to act as if they were novelist. He viewed the whole story, including the headline and caption, as an information package."

Hadden commented on his relationship with Luce to a friend: "It's like a race. Luce is the best competition I ever had. No matter how hard I run, Luce is always there." Luce was told about this and later he recalled: "If anyone else had said that, I might well have resented the implication that the best I could do was to keep up with him. Coming from Hadden, I regarded it, and still regard it, as the highest compliment I have ever received." Polly Groves, who worked at Time Magazine, remarked: "Everyone who knew Briton Hadden loved him. You couldn't love Henry Luce. You admired him but could not love him."

In March, 1925, Hadden went on a long vacation. The following month Luce discovered that Time Incorporated had lost $1,958.84 over the previous four months. He decided that he could save a considerable sum of money by relocating to Cleveland. John Penton, claimed he could save Luce $20,000 a year by printing the magazine in the city. Luce signed the contract without telling Hadden. When he arrived home from holiday Hadden had a terrible row with Luce. According to Hadden's friends, Luce's action struck a severe blow to their partnership.

Time Magazine moved to Cleveland in August, 1925. The advertising staff remained behind in New York City. Most of the journalists, researchers and office staff refused to relocate. This was partly because Luce refused to pay for their moving expenses. Instead, he sacked the entire staff but offered to reappoint them if they applied for jobs in Cleveland. Martyn was furious about the way he was treated and refused to move.

Henry Luce's secretary, Katherine Abrams, commented: Luce is the smartest man I ever knew, but Hadden had the real editorial genius... He was warm and he was human and he had what Luce lacks, an instinct for people." Culbreth Sudler added: "Briton Hadden was Timestyle. It was Timestyle that made Time popular nationwide, and therefore it was Hadden who made Time a success." By 1927 was selling over 175,000 copies a week.

In 1928 the two men argued about business matters. Henry Luce was keen to publish a second magazine that he wanted to call Fortune. Hadden was opposed to the idea of publishing a journal devoted to promoting the capitalist system. He considered the "business world to be vapid and morally bankrupt". Together, Hadden and Luce owned more than half of the voting stock and were able to retain control of the company. However, Luce was unable to publish a new magazine without the agreement of his partner.

In December 1928 Briton Hadden became so ill he was unable to go into the office. Doctors diagnosed him with an infection of streptococcus. Hadden believed he had contracted the illness by picking up a wandering tomcat and taking it home to feed it. The ungrateful cat attacked and scratched Hadden. Another possibility was that he had been infected when he had a tooth removed. The following month he was taken to Brooklyn Hospital. Doctors now feared that the bacteria had spread through his blood-stream to reach his heart.

Henry Luce visited Hadden in hospital and tried to buy his shares in the company. Nurses reported that these conversations ended up in shouting matches. One nurse recalled that Hadden and Luce had yelled at each other so loudly that they could be heard from behind the closed door. Doctors believed that Hadden was wasting his precious energies in these arguments and it was partly responsible for his deteriorating condition.

On 28th January, 1929, Hadden contacted his lawyer, William J. Carr and asked him to draw up a new will. In the document, Hadden left his entire estate to his mother. However, he added that he forbade her from selling the stock in Time Incorporated for forty-nine years. His main objective was to prevent Luce from gaining control of the company they had founded together.

Henry Luce visited Hadden every day. He later recalled: "The last time or two that I was there, I guess I knew he was dying and maybe he did. It seemed to me that he knew and every now and again was wanting to say something, whatever it might be he wanted to say in the way of parting words or something. But he never did, so that there was never any open recognition between him and me that he was dying."

Briton Hadden died of heart failure on 27th February, 1929. The following week Hadden's name was removed from Time's masthead as the joint founder of the magazine. Luce also approached Hadden's mother about buying her stock in Time Incorporated. She refused but her other son, Crowell Hadden, accepted his offer to join the board of directors. Crowell agreed to try and persuade his mother to change her mind and in September 1929, she agreed to sell her stock to a syndicate under Luce's control for just over a million dollars. This gave him a controlling interest in the company.


Briton Hadden put in the spotlight

Sometime on the eve of the Roaring Twenties, two Yale seniors enter Skull and Bones.

The first is Henry Luce ’20. He approaches deliberately, his narrow blue eyes directed at the tomb in front of him. He is about to cook a meal for his fellow Bonesmen, during which he will share his sexual history, his thoughts on foreign affairs and his theory of the best route to amassing power and influence in American society. He’s smart, he’s successful, and he knows it.

Next to enter the tomb is Briton Hadden ’20: Chairman of the Yale Daily News, king of what is called the “Yale Democracy.” Youthful and endearingly sarcastic, he is looking forward to a conversation with Bonesmen in which he can flippantly mock their self-importance and pseudo intellectualism while still drawing on their insights for Monday’s editorial in the News. He hasn’t slept in days.

Jump forward 80 years to sometime on the eve of the millennium.

Luce, now dead, has made his eternal mark on time, quite literally. Not only was he the founder of Time Magazine, but he also launched Sports Illustrated, Fortune and Life. Many Americans credit him with inventing modern magazine journalism.

Hadden has much less to show for himself. Dead by 1930, young and burnt-out, he has his name on the Time Magazine masthead and a modest building at Yale named in his honor — the Briton Hadden Memorial Building, which houses the Yale Daily News.

Inside that building, Isaiah Wilner ’00 is sitting beneath a mysteriously grinning portrait of Hadden — a modern day Mona Lisa — wondering why no one knows anything about the man in the painting. He is especially curious since a plaque on the bottom floor of the building reads, “Briton Hadden: His Genius Created a New Form of Journalism.”

One day, Wilner asked himself a life-changing question.

“If Briton Hadden was such a genius,” Wilner wondered, “how come I’ve never heard of him?”

That question launched Wilner into a journey that continued this week, as he made the final stops on the tour for his debut book — “The Man Time Forgot: A Tale of Genius, Betrayal, and the Creation of Time Magazine.”

The book tells a story that has sent shock waves through the American journalism establishment since its release earlier this month, sparking both enthusiastic praise and dismissive criticism by proposing, among other not-so-small things, that Hadden was the true genius behind Time Magazine and therefore the true genius behind modern American journalism. And that Luce, from the day Hadden died, actively and successfully worked to suppress his dead partner’s memory until Hadden, who outshone Luce while living, became only a footnote in time.

Though Wilner spent six years researching and then resurrecting Hadden’s spirit in his 300-page biography, in some ways, Hadden was already back by 2000 — in the form of Wilner himself.

After all, as Wilner waved his arms energetically and stared at each member of the audience at a New Haven stop in his book tour last week, he said, “This is a story about my two favorite things: relationships and ideas.” Hadden, at least according to Wilner’s book, might have made the same statement in 1920.

Like Hadden, Wilner served as head of the News while at Yale, entered a career in New York journalism and is possessed by a love of possibilities, theories and people. Like Hadden, Wilner’s writing style is ridden with imagery. And also like Hadden, Wilner, on occasion, had a knack for getting himself into trouble.

“I identified with Hadden,” Wilner said. “He was the creative genius behind the thing. He was the one with the creative ideas.”

But Wilner is quick to point out, in his book and in interviews, that Hadden relied on Luce. They were complements — even if Hadden, with a “magical aura around him,” according to Wilner, was the “brighter light.”

“Theirs was a life long rivalry — Luce lost the YDN elections [for Chairman], but Hadden let him write half the editorials and felt that Luce was the man to help him achieve his dream,” Wilner said. “Luce was a brilliant scholarship boy who just had to get ahead: shy, awkward, but always improving, gaining confidence, learning from Hadden.”

When Wilner decided to research Hadden in history professor John Gaddis’ “Art of Biography” seminar, he handed in 25-page paper that, years later, became a book that was more than 800 pages before editing.

“Isaiah always struck me as someone who loved writing, did it well, and intended in some way to make it a career,” Gaddis said. “I always assumed … that Isaiah would eventually turn it into a book. The topic was too good to pass up, and the fact that no one else had written a biography of Hadden was a real opportunity.”

History professor John Merriman, another one of Wilner’s inspirations, used to eat hotdogs with him in the Pierson cafeteria and talk about ideas, the news and Yale. He came to know Wilner as someone who “embodied the life of the mind” and was very alert, even if he sometimes “looked wasted” since he had not slept the night before because he had been editing the News.

Wilner must have been alert. It took 80 generations of News editors and reporters before someone decided to explore who the mysterious Hadden was. William F. Buckley ’50, a former News chairman, grudgingly admitted that though he saw Hadden’s portrait, he never explored who Hadden was even though he knew — and admired — Luce. He said he enjoyed Wilner’s book, though he thinks he did not give enough credit to Luce’s legacy.

“It was bright and readable,” Buckley said. “But you have the sense that he started in with an afflatus and he sort of worked it in through the book. I think that’s recognizable even by people who were not familiar with the work of Henry Luce. The strength of Luce was not sufficiently acknowledged in the book.”

After all, Wilner is not one who hesitates before letting his inspirations take over. Michael Barbaro ’02, a former News editor in chief who reported for Wilner as a freshman before moving on to a post-graduation career at The New York Times, said he inspired those on the paper younger than him to believe in the mission of student journalism — it was Wilner’s “gift, beyond his writing abilities.” He also managed to sneak cigarettes into the editor’s office, Barbaro said.

And in a controversy that made the pages of The New York Times, Wilner’s tenure as editor was marred by a controversy during the 1999 aldermanic campaign. Near the end of his term as editor in chief, Wilner was removed temporarily from daily production of the paper for allegedly favoring one candidate ­— his roommate — over another in the News’s coverage of the race, which he directed.

“I was in all kinds of scrapes when I was in college, and I had a hell of a lot of fun when I was doing it,” Wilner said. “I won some, I lost fewer, and I lived to write a book.”

Walter Isaacson, the former managing editor of Time Magazine and now President of the Aspen Institute, described one such Wilner victory. “Almost on a whim,” Wilner said he sent Isaacson his 25-page seminar paper on Hadden, requesting that he open the Time archives. Isaacson did, thus unlocking the key to Hadden’s story.

“I also like writing biography myself, and there’s nothing I feel more strongly about than people should be open with their sources for people trying to write serious biography,” said Isaacson, who is now finishing a biography of Albert Einstein. “The guy was serious, and I knew they had some of the Time archives under lock and key. That seemed wrong, especially for a journalism enterprise like Time, Inc.”

Wilner said he was taken aback by the world he discovered inside the archives. He found, for example, a vault of childhood letters between Hadden and Luce, discovering that their precociousness surfaced at an early age.

Hadden often summoned his “mum” at night to dictate poetry for her to transcribe — he did not yet even know how to write. Luce, who was very religious, tended to preach to other children. And when the duo met at boarding school, they became instant friends — though Hadden, even then, edged out Luce to become editor of the Hotchkiss paper.

“I made an extreme effort to understand Luce from the perspective of Hadden and vice versa,” Wilner said. “How did this friendship come about and what was the quality of this friendship? How did it bring about this media revolution?”

While in the archives, Wilner said he discovered something disturbing about the Time media revolution: It had been, in many ways, a lie.

As illustrated by a particularly vivid scene in Wilner’s book — the Time Magazine 40th Anniversary Gala in 1963 — in Wilner’s view, Luce deliberately slighted Hadden to the day Luce died.

“Packed into two rooms was a crowd of rare achievement,” Wilner wrote. “There were clergymen and generals, athletes and intellectuals, artists and politicians. There were opera singers and piano virtuosos, architects and cartoonists, a premier and a president. The greatest boxer of all time was there, and it didn’t matter if you thought he was Jack Dempsey or Joe Louis, since both arrived.”

Luce gave his final speech around midnight, but “at no point during the evening’s program did Luce utter the name of the one man who had made it possible for him to stand before the crowd,” Wilner wrote, referring, of course, to Hadden.

“He really owed that to his friend, and he let him down,” Wilner said. “If this person can’t even tell the truth about his own history, how can you trust him to tell the truth about the news? He had 38 years to get the story right.”

But Luce’s grandson H. Christopher Luce ’72 said although he hasn’t read the book, he takes offense to everything he has heard about Wilner’s reading of his grandfather’s persona and work. Christopher Luce said that Hadden, as Wilner discusses in the book but may not emphasize, “led a kind of risqué life” and said that if Hadden, as an alcoholic with a likely case of untreated bipolar disorder, “hadn’t died one way, he would have died another.”

“I don’t know what purpose the author was trying to achieve beyond maybe trying to make a name for himself,” the grandson said. “I happen to know the man [Luce]. He was a very confident person, and as we all know, he ran the company extremely well for the rest of his life … We do know what did happen. We don’t know what didn’t happen.”

He said he remembers his grandfather mentioning Hadden rarely and only in passing.

Lance Morrow, a renowned essayist who worked under Luce for several years and is now in the midst writing his official biography, said he read the book and disagreed with all of Wilner’s major conclusions, especially the notion set forth in the book that Luce betrayed Hadden on his death bed by defying his wishes regarding Time’s direction and stock.

“To conclude that Luce was some sort of imposter is simply to reach the wrong conclusion,” Morrow said. “What Wilner has done — and he’s done a lot of interesting research — is he has set up what I consider a rather immature Mozart and Salieri scenario … where Hadden was this brilliant poet, this authentic American, this native genius, and Luce this strange, surreptitious kind of character in the background.”

Yet John Huey, current editor-in-chief of Time Magazine, said he now admires not only Hadden and Luce, but Wilner too. On Thursday afternoon, he dined with the writer, found him to be a “bright, energetic, outspoken young man” and felt refreshed that someone of his generation was interested in exploring an old media company rather than Google.

Huey said he thinks Luce’s repression of Hadden’s role in the company might have been necessary to keep the workers inspired and the company afloat, but admitted that it is mostly Luce’s spirit that persists among writers and editors — he said there are two portraits of Luce hanging in the Time offices, but there are none of Hadden.

He considered Wilner’s book “a good read, and of course of particular interest to all of us over here,” even if it happened before his time and occasionally felt like ancient history.

“I thought it was sort of the style of a classic biographer, and for somebody of his youth and inexperience he did a good job of turning out a pretty clear, narrative biography,” Huey said. “I found myself self-speculating how they would have lived and how they would have worked it out.”

And when Wilner self-speculates about his future, as always, he has larger-than-life plans.

“I really dream of writing a big biography that will capture an entire era and speak to international themes,” he said.

On one hand, Wilner is about the details — Hadden’s athletic and quirky style of writing, vivid descriptions of Luce and Hadden editing all night in the News building during the World War I, the notebook Hadden carried with him that contained his ideas for future journalistic ventures.

But something about Wilner’s jet-black hair and emo glasses, his expressive style of speaking and writing and his easily lit-up eyes makes it clear to those who meet him that for Wilner, above all it is about the big picture.

“When I was writing the book, I think my writing was impacted by Hadden — his narrative storytelling, seeing the news in the mind’s eye,” Wilner said. “And that’s why I was attracted to history: getting people to envision what the events looked and felt like, all in the service of getting across a big idea, which, in this book, is the creation of the national media.”


An oral history of how the pre-eminent media organization of the 20th century ended up on the scrap heap.

By SRIDHAR PAPPU and JAY STOWE MAY 21, 2018

It was once an empire. Now it is being sold for parts.

Time Inc. began, in 1922, with a simple but revolutionary idea hatched by Henry R. Luce and Briton Hadden. The two men, graduates of Yale University, were rookie reporters at The Baltimore News when they drew up a prospectus for something called a “news magazine.” After raising $86,000, Mr. Hadden and Mr. Luce quit their jobs. On March 3, 1923, they published the first issue of Time: The Weekly News-Magazine.

In 1929, the year of Mr. Hadden’s sudden death, Mr. Luce started Fortune. In 1936, he bought a small-circulation humor publication, Life, and transformed it into a wide-ranging, large-format weekly. Later came Sports Illustrated, Money, People and InStyle. By 1989, with more than 100 publications in its fold, as well as significant holdings in television and radio, Time Inc. was rich enough to shell out $14.9 billion for 51 percent of Warner Communications, thus forming Time Warner.

The flush times went on for a while. But then, starting about a decade ago, the company began a slow decline that, in 2018, resulted in the Meredith Corporation, a Des Moines, Iowa, media company heavy on lifestyle monthlies like Better Homes and Gardens, completing its purchase of the once-grand Time Inc. in a deal that valued the company at $2.8 billion. The new owner wasted no time in prying the Time Inc. logo from the facade of its Lower Manhattan offices and announcing that it would seek buyers for Time, Fortune, Sports Illustrated and Money. The deadline for first-round bids was May 11.

We reached out to more than two dozen editors and writers who worked at Time Inc., asking them to reflect on the heyday of this former epicenter of power and influence, as well as its decline. These interviews have been condensed and edited.

The Old Culture

Time Inc. rose to prominence at a time when old-world mores still held sway in a society about to undergo a transformation. In 1959, the company left its home at Rockefeller Plaza and moved into the grand, 48-story Time & Life building at 1271 Avenue of the Americas, a cobalt blue curved sculpture by William Crovello marking the company’s presence at the center of the media universe.

Richard Stolley Managing editor, Life founding managing editor, People editorial director, Time Inc. (Years at company: 1953-2015) We were at 9 Rockefeller Plaza, across from the skating rink. On closing night, to prevent or make it unnecessary for writers and editors to go out of the building for dinner, they would serve dinner and preceded that with the so-called drinks cart. It was not abused, as far as I was able to tell. The food was good and it came from a French restaurant.

Jim Kelly Managing editor of Time managing editor, Time Inc. (1978-2009) By the time I arrived, the so-called bar cart was a copy boy who would come around on Tuesdays and give each senior editor two bottles of liquor and a couple bottles of wine for that week’s closing nights. You could go into a senior editor’s office on a Thursday or Friday night for a drink, but you𠆝 be crazy to, because the senior editor would ask, “So, how’s the story going?”

Walter Isaacson Time political correspondent Time managing editor CNN chief executive officer (1979-2003) There were gentlemen writers and editors and women researchers who stayed up late and often had affairs. People just stayed in the office and would make drinks, or people would go out to long dinners. You felt like you were in some movie version of an elegant magazine.

Peter Castro Deputy managing editor, People managing editor, People en Español (1987-2014) The first time I was on the 34th floor, where the executive offices were, I thought I was in some part of the Pentagon. Everything was shiny. Everything was marble.

Kevin Fedarko Reporter, staff writer, Time (1991-1998) In the Time & Life Building, the offices on the inside — the offices that do not have windows — those were offices for junior-level people. And the offices on the outside of each floor, the ones with the windows, were for the writers and the editors. But the remarkable thing is that the majority of the researchers and fact checkers were women, and the majority of the editors and writers were men.

Rumblings of Change

Time Inc. had a strict pecking order and a largely white patriarchal office culture that was slow to adjust to the changes happening in the world beyond its walls.

Nancy Gibbs Researcher, staff writer, editor in chief, Time (1985-2017) They had brought in female writers and editors in the early �s — Maureen Dowd and Alessandra Stanley and Michiko Kakutani and Susan Tifft, many of whom did not stay very long. But they also began to hire male fact checkers, partly with the notion that it might turn the fact-checking slot into a more entry-level boot camp position than an entirely service profession.

Maureen Dowd Reporter, staff writer, Time (1981-83) I came in at the end of a culture where the editors and writers were overwhelmingly male and the researchers were overwhelmingly female. The researchers were still known then as “the vestal virgins.” Torrid affairs abounded and several of the top male editors had been married multiple times, the last time to much younger researchers or secretaries. I remember one of my bosses being angry when he found out that his office couch was being used for late-night trysts. One night, I was in my New York apartment and the phone rang. It was a researcher I had an acquaintance with — a beautiful, sexy young woman who had been tangled in office liaisons. She said she was going to walk to the East River and jump in. I talked her out of it but it added to my sense that the culture was warped.

The culture was so “Mad Men,” even at the height of the feminist movement, that my boss felt free, when we worked late closing the magazine on Fridays nights, taking all the young male writers out to dinner at the steakhouse downstairs without a thought that they were walking past the offices of the only two women in the hall — me and my friend, the late Susan Tifft. Susan, a staunch feminist, confronted the boss. But we never did get to that steakhouse.

Janice Min Staff writer, senior editor, People assistant managing editor, InStyle (1993-2002) There was a late-night closing process and it never got any better. Part of that process was having largely female fact-checkers — known, at People, as reporters — go down to Cité and drag wasted senior male editors to sign off on their copy. That was absurd, that whole nature of women trying to corral men into behaving.

Margaret Carlson White House correspondent and columnist, Time (1988-2005) Time basked in its maleness. It wasn’t a hostile environment. It was just a male environment and an Ivy League environment. It was a big deal when I got the column — the first woman columnist. They ran a story about it in The Times. Really? How could that be a story in 1994?

Martha Nelson Founding editor, managing editor InStyle Managing editor, People editorial director, Editor-in-Chief, Time Inc. (1992-2012) Was I ever propositioned by my colleagues? Of course I was. But I was also lucky to be supported by powerful men: Henry Muller, Lanny Jones and John Huey in particular. Few people understood that Huey, the “good old boy” from the South, was a feminist ally who supported my career and that of many other women

Dimitry Elias Leger Staff writer at Fortune and People (1999-2002) I first joined Time Inc. as an intern at SI for Kids in 1996. Among the many editors I met across the building was Roy Johnson Jr., and he became my mentor. All the black staffers knew each other — there weren’t that many of us.

Roy S. Johnson Jr., Reporter, senior editor, assistant managing editor, Sports Illustrated senior editor, Money editor-at-large, Fortune (1978-81 1989� 2003-2006) I was excited that my first job would be at Sports Illustrated. The second wave of African-Americans experienced things in corporate America that our predecessors were unable to experience. And we were prepared and we were unprepared. I went to a predominantly white middle school and high school. I went to Stanford. White people didn’t scare me. There were many times that I was reminded that I was a rarity in those hallways, but I never felt like I didn’t belong. Others might have thought that, but I really didn’t give a damn what they thought.


'Forgot' tells about the other founder of Time

Young eager scholar of 28, Isaiah Wilner got advanced degrees in history from Yale. About a year before he moved from New Haven, Conn., to New York City, a historical topic burst into his mind.

The idea for "The Man Time Forgot: A Tale of Genius, Betrayal and the Creation of Time Magazine" germinated while he was standing in the Briton Hadden Memorial Building, 202 York St. in New Haven, where he had worked as an editor at the Yale Daily News.

"On the top floor, Hadden's dusty portrait presides over the wood-paneled boardroom. The painting is dimly lit by a frequently burned-out old lamp. Hadden sits in his shirtsleeves and a green eyeshade. I was interested in his expression — a sideways, mysterious smile."

So said Wilner during a phone conversation from New York City.

"I started looking up his editorials — he was quick and sharp," said Wilner. "The plaque said he 'created a new form of journalism.' You could see from his writing that he had a lot to do with what became Time magazine. I was captivated by it. I wondered why so few people had heard of him."

Soon Wilner was reading not only Hadden's writing, but that attributed to Henry Luce, the other half of the team that founded Time magazine in 1923 before either had arrived at the age of 25. Of particular interest was the fact that Luce and Hadden, who had been students together at Yale, had personalities diametrically opposed to each other.

"These guys were a perfect partnership," said Wilner, "except that the tension in that partnership contained the seeds of its demise. I wrote an essay about Hadden for a class on the art of biography taught by John Lewis Gaddis."

The next year, Wilner sent his essay to Walter Isaacson, then Time's managing editor and one of Benjamin Franklin's biographers. Isaacson turned the key that unlocked the Time archives for Wilner, and his exciting project took off.

Wilner found the people at Time's corporate archives to be very cooperative. "They have hundreds of interviews on file there, and they have kept Hadden and Luce's letters in perfect condition."

Wilner found Hadden to be "a Promethean figure with many original ideas and only six years to develop them (before he died of a mysterious illness). But today almost no one knows anything about Hadden. Going through their papers revealed that their families loved them deeply. They felt when they were very small that these boys were going to do well."

The research was so rich with material that "it grabbed me," said Wilner. "When I read the oral history reminiscences I really got excited. Hadden and Luce had an intellectual friendship, a meeting of the minds. I think they loved each other. Their partnership gives us a new take on the '20s. F. Scott Fitzgerald talked about 'the lost generation' — but Hadden and Luce were go-getters."

Wilner discovered that Hadden was the creative member of the team, while Luce was the financial mind and the promoter. "The title — 'The Man Time Forgot' — just popped into my head. When I told my mother, she said I should write that one down. Don Wooten, from Cleveland, drew the caricature of Hadden on the jacket. It's a brilliant likeness because it showed his sense of humor. The photos of Hadden show him standing in exactly the same way, shoulders squared, advancing almost like a boxer into the ring."

Wilner found that Hadden slept little because he was so driven. He started getting some release by going out to drink at night. When he got sick, he could not slow down. He was embarrassed to be sick. He was something of the permanent child.

"Thornton Wilder, the writer, said Hadden 'was never less than magnanimous, burning himself up, but always a prince."'

It is Wilner's belief that "Hadden's relationship with girls was peculiar. The speculation itself keeps us from getting the right answer. We may never know. He had problems with intimacy, but there is no evidence that he was gay. He always communicated great energy. He had a forceful personality."

In ruminating on what was most profound about his study of the men who started Time, Wilner said, "Reading Time was an eye-opening experience. It really shaped my identity as a storyteller. Hadden's writing style was so informative, yet it was also wildly entertaining. He was a master of narrative, and he helped me see the possibility of bringing history to life today."


The History of LIFE Magazine, LOOK Magazine, and Birth of Photojournalism

LIFE Magazine and LOOK Magazine would both debut in the mid 1930’s. Magazines into the 1930’s, led by Saturday Evening Post, presented attractive covers with some artwork inside highlighting the text which formed the basic information being sold to the public. LIFE Magazine and LOOK Magazine would bring photojournalism to the public of the day and leave a legacy of pages of history for us to devour inside every old issue today. Born of a similar time they would both die in the same period as well (though LIFE Magazine was quickly resurrected). Their histories are an interesting and in the beginning an intersecting story.

There were others, but LIFE and LOOK would be the two major picture magazines of the era,
popularizing photojournalism in America, and as such are the two most highly collected today. The magazines were popular enough in their time to be saved by many people–Grandma may even have a stack in her basement to get you started. This makes them common enough that most collectors are able to target a complete run.

April 7, 1952 issue of LIFE Magazine featuring Marilyn Monroe Henry R. Luce (1898-1967) founded Time Inc. with Yale classmate Briton Hadden (1898-1929) in 1922 after hatching the idea in officer’s training during World War I. The first issue of TIME Magazine was dated March 3, 1923 (the history of TIME is covered in detail elsewhere on this site). Luce and Hadden launched other magazines, such as the Saturday Review of Literature, but it was not until after Hadden’s death that Time Inc. would launch their next major publication, Fortune, a business magazine, in February 1930. As the 1930’s progressed the idea of a picture magazine became forefront in Luce’s mind (though there are varying opinions of how it got there).

LIFE Magazine had been a humor magazine founded by Harvard alumni in 1883. This explains those pre-1936 issues of LIFE that you sometime see for sale–they have nothing to do with Luce or Time Inc. However by the mid-1930’s circulation of LIFE had fallen to about 70,000 and Luce acquired the name for $92,000. LIFE Magazine as we are mostly familiar with it debuted with Volume 1, Number 1 dated November 23, 1936.

Other than subject the key component to photojournalism is the photographer. Luce hired a crop that would prove legendary. The first issue of LIFE credited
Margaret Bourke-White, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Peter Stackpole, and Thomas McAvoy in the masthead and they would soon be joined by Carl Mydans and a host of others . Bourke-White had the honor of the cover photo, the Fort Peck Dam, on that inaugural issue.

Gardner “Mike” Cowles, Jr. had no publishing experience, but he did have an idea. That idea was for his own picture magazine called, LOOK, which he would develop a dummy copy of and solicit the opinion of Henry R. Luce about. Luce took a look at Cowles project and then showed him his own mock-up of LIFE. The men decided that the magazines wouldn’t pose a direct threat to one another with LIFE Magazine being a news-centered weekly intended for a better educated audience than the planned monthly LOOK Magazine which would cater more to the common interest through illustrated features. Luce even offered to invest $25,000 in the launching of LOOK.

The first issue of LOOK Magazine hit newsstands soon after LIFE’s debut with an issue dated February 1937. It was so well-received that by April it went from being a monthly to a bi-weekly publication. Both magazines were early successes in terms of circulation.

But LIFE was losing money from the beginning. With 80,000 subscribers in 1938, plus 1,000,000 single-copy newsstand sales at just 10 cents per issue, expenses were not being covered. In other words, the more issues that they sold the more money that they would lose. LIFE Magazine would push itself over the top through the controversy surrounding a film called “Birth of a Baby,” which had been banned in New York. LIFE published a five-page article including dozens of frames from the controversial film–this issue of the magazine was itself banned in 33 U.S. cities in what turned out to be a huge publicity boon for Luce.

February 1937 issue of LOOK Magazine -- Volume 1, Number 1 Meanwhile LOOK was suffering it’s own problems in the late 1930’s. Circulation, which had topped 2 million in October 1938, had sharply declined by July 1939. LIFE had established itself as the leader in the picture magazine field as the first of its kind, plus it’s gains from the “Birth of a Baby” publicity. At the same time, in response to the success carved out by both LIFE and LOOK Magazines, several other picture magazines had launched, most notably Pic in 1937, and the competition took its toll on LOOK.

After some deliberation, Mike Cowles hired himself the top circulation experts available and had his magazine on the way to profits within a year. In 1946 Cowles married Fleur Fenton who involved herself quite a bit with the magazine’s affairs as an associate editor. By 1948 circulation of LOOK Magazine topped 3 million.

LIFE Magazine had established itself as the war magazine during World War II by offering serious coverage of events complete with trademark photos and even original artwork that they commissioned from top U.S. artists. From time to time they’d still show their lighter side with features such as the famous Veronica Lake article which trumpeted the troubles that a Peek-A-Boo hairstyle could cause while working in a factory.

The photojournalism of LIFE and LOOK flourished in the fifties, but both were in steep decline by the late 1960’s. Cowles would view television as the major villain contributing to the demise of his LOOK Magazine. Founder of Time Inc. Henry R. Luce would die in 1967, which certainly couldn’t have helped LIFE’s fortune. By 1969 the issues were growing smaller and LIFE Magazine was again losing money. Competitor Saturday Evening Post would fold in February 1969 and LOOK was in a lot of trouble itself before finally calling it quits with their last issue dated October 19, 1971. LIFE Magazine would hold on for just over one more year, ceasing publication themselves with the December 23, 1972 issue, their special double-issue Year in Pictures edition.

LIFE Magazine was back as soon as 1973 publishing two special issues each year from 1973 through 1977 before returning as a monthly in 1978, but for collectors it’s that grand initial run from 1936-1972 which interests us. LIFE and LOOK Magazine are affordable collectibles, with even key issues usually running no more than $100 in nice shape and most available for just $4-$6 in average condition. The covers as well as the lavishly illustrated contents assure that both magazines will be collected by others in the future as well.


Henry R. Luce and the Rise of the American News Media

by JAMES L. BAUGHMAN

He stood just over six-feet tall, had pale blue eyes and, in his early forties, receding sandy-colored hair, just starting to gray. Although he chain-smoked cigarettes, he rarely drank or ate to excess. Such moderation combined with an overabundance of nervous energy kept him trim. Aside from a habitual seriousness of expression, his most distinctive features were bushy eyebrows. If not so overwhelming as those of such famous contemporaries as labor leader John L. Lewis and Attorney General Frank Murphy, the beetle brows were the physical characteristics that those meeting him for the first time invariably noticed immediately. Newcomers might note, too, odd speech patterns, such as speaking too quickly, his mind racing ahead of his words, or sometimes, a stammer, due to a boyhood speech defect.

In the late 1930’s, he was America’s single most powerful and innovative mass communicator. During the preceding decade and a half, with several other young men fresh from the nation’s Ivy League colleges, Henry Robinson Luce had started distinctive and popular magazines. Taken together these publications provided a more gripping and coherent view of the world than was to be found in similar periodicals and daily newspapers. They had also transformed Luce’s company, Time Inc., into a substantial concern. Luce and his partner had raised eighty-six thousand dollars to start their first magazine, Time, in 1923. In 1941, the revenues from Time, and other Luce enterprises reached forty-five million. (1)

Although up to one out of every five Americans might look at a Luce periodical during a given week, his magazines in 1940 commanded greatest favor among journalists and the middle class. More correspondents in Washington read Time than any other magazine there and elsewhere many admired and modeled their own work after Time’s peculiar and omniscient mode of news writing. It commanded an audience well outside the federal city. Younger, better-educated members of the middle class had begun to consider Time required reading. Their wealthier neighbors not only took Time, but Fortune, Luce’s lavishly illustrated business monthly.

The most read of any Luce publication in 1940 was his latest creation, Life. Published weekly, Life introduced its readers to photojournalism. Life used pictures to accomplish what Time labored to achieve with words: offer a compelling summary of the week. In barber shops and beauty parlors, on trains and in two million homes, Americans thumbed through the glossy-paged picture magazine. Pollster George Gallup discovered, according to one Time correspondent, “that the biggest publicity break a movie can get is a two-page layout of stills in Life,” – better, indeed, “than a page-one news break in all U.S. newspapers.” (2)

More and more Luce found acknowledgements of his rank as a minister of information. At his Hyde Park home President Roosevelt was sufficiently annoyed by Time’s coverage of election night 1940 to demand a correction. The writer’s details were all wrong, the president complained, and yet the story had been written in the “know-how” style characteristic of Time that persuaded the reader of its veracity (3). A year later, Luce loomed in a screen biography based on one of Luce’s failing rivals, newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst. Only two decades earlier, as Luce and Briton Hadden began planning Time, Hearst published newspapers in virtually every major American city. He was widely regarded as the nation’s most powerful and dangerous publisher. Citizen Kane, however, showed Hearst’s empire in decline and a new one emerging: Time Inc. “With the breaking up of the old personal newspaper empires,” Business Week reported later, “Henry Robinson Luce comes as close to being Lord of the Press as America can now produce.” (4)

The Missionary, 1940-1967

Had Luce died in 1940 he would have been remembered for his inventions. Instead, he lived another thirty-seven years and came to be hated, even after his death, for his prejudices. Until the late 1930s, Luce’s publications could convey contradictory points of view. Liberals and radicals at Fortune and Time swiped at capitalism and imperialism one foreign affairs editor at Time could not disguise an infatuation with fascism. More frequently, Luce’s magazines seemed merely smug. All of this started to change as Luce himself turned his attentions more toward public affairs. It was perhaps inevitable. Born in China, the son of an American missionary educator, Luce regarded journalism as a “calling,” a positive, educative force. Then, too, his father’s career had symbolized to his son America’s potential for good works. The son’s material success reaffirmed a boyhood appreciation for capitalism. Starting in 1940, Time Inc. publications at times deliberately presented the news in ways that revealed Luce’s preoccupations. The magazines continued to summarize events in typical Time fashion, but after 1939 they regularly ridiculed opponents of certain policies Luce advocated. The intellectually dishonest or simply mediocre champions of Luce’s causes more likely obtained good coverage. Years of editorial cleverness were now being used to promote the foreign policies of Henry Luce. “No restraint bound him,” recalled one of his correspondents, “in using his magazines to spread the message of his conscience.” (5)

Luce’s concern for the world began with the Second World War. Like many members of the Eastern Establishment – an informal collection of publishers and political and financial leaders – Luce viewed the early victories of Nazi Germany with alarm. No longer, Luce argued, could America afford her traditional isolation from the world. Even if Britain stopped Hitler, Luce correctly surmised, the war would leave her too exhausted to play the great world power. Americans had to be made to accept the “inevitable”: armed intervention to save Europe and a new postwar order dominated by the United States – Luce called it the American Century.

Luce’s vision of America hegemony still faced obstacles. Some powerful conservative elements within the Republican party and some newspapers, most notably the Chicago Tribune, fiercely opposed Luce’s new imperialism. Abroad, the Soviet Union began late in the war to assert its own will over Eastern Europe. Even before the disintegration of the U.S.-Soviet alliance. Luce’s magazines, in 1944 and 1945, started to question Russia’s intentions for the postwar world. Stalin, like Hitler, seemed bent on upsetting a balance of power favorable to the United States.

Once again Luce’s magazine framed news stories to leave little doubt that America must face up to this new aggressor. In the 1950s, Time Inc. publications fostered a consensus enveloping and deadening discussions of American foreign policy. Critics of America’s containment of the Soviet Union – on the left and right – were brutally handled, and every confrontation with the Communist world and even the neutral block celebrated. Luce himself told a Senate committee in June 1960, “I do not think there can be a peaceful co-existence between the Communist empire and the free world.” (6)

The Costs of Commitment

Luce’s magazines had been attacked sine the 1930s. Time’s initially unusual style pained some critics Life appeared to make too many compromises to achieve greater circulations. In the 1950s and 1960s, such criticisms increased both periodicals were accused of cultivating “middlebrow” cultural tastes and Time, of highly prejudiced political reporting, presented as objective synthesis. Time, remarked one former editor, “is the most successful liar of our time.” (7)

Nevertheless, it was Luce’s close association with a vigorously anti-communist foreign policy that cost his reputation dearly. Luce became, wrote Joseph Epstein, “a great grey eminence whom everyone, with tar brush in hand, painted black.” (8) No other publisher of his rank had offered, in his own words, such resolute calls for American hegemony. And to those in the late 1960s outraged over the cost of that globalism in Vietnam, Luce and his magazines bore much of the responsibility. “The Lucepress had led, not followed, the nation into war,” biographer W.A. Swanberg wrote. Luce stood guilty of “manipulating 50 million people weekly.” (9)

Such appraisals can be misleading. Most Americans did not regularly read a Luce magazine in a given week, far more were likely to scan a daily newspaper and listen to a radio newscast than to examine an issue of Life. Nor did every subscriber absorb whole the arguments in all the articles in each issue. Luce’s publications alone did not frame or structure readers’ view of the world for many, they served as supplements to friends and neighbors, newspapers, and broadcast news services. These other voices, in turn, often echoed Luce. By the late 1940s, virtually all the popular press shared his hostility toward the Soviet Union. But not all advocated what came to be Luce’s moralistic approach to foreign policy. Nor were Harry’s ardent views on China found in every national and local news service. Nevertheless, rival mass communicators had come to accept the fundamental premises of the American Century.

Then, too, Luce’s role was most often limited to that of a publicist, not an initiator, of policies. When the Roosevelt administration refused to place him on a special commission reviewing postwar economic policy, he could only publish, as opposed to participate in, its determinations. Later in the decade, his lobbying for China, under siege from Communist insurgents, went largely unheeded until it served the political needs of Republicans in Congress they and Luce then watched helplessly as the United States abandoned any attempt to save China from the Communists. In the 1950s and 1960s, Luce received more attention from both Republican and Democratic presidents. Yet they approached him after making decisions, not before. Luce served as an information minister, not foreign secretary.

The Press Revolutionary

To note the limits of Luce’s power and the representative nature of his opinions is not to diminish the importance of his journalism. His most severe critics would blame him for what he argued. Too conveniently of self-servingly they ignore how many not on Luce’s payroll shared his basic assumptions about the Cold War. It is not, then, so much what information he conveyed as how he did it. Time and Life, and to a lesser extent Fortune and “The March of Time,” helped to change the practices of American journalism. Luce and his collaborators deliberately sought to create new ways of relaying the news. And by succeeding, Luce helped to alter the profession forever.

Luce’s formula involved little more than cleverly summarizing the week’s news in print (Time) or pictures (Life) in ways that left the readers with a concise, entertaining, and frequently inadequate version of an event or trend. Complex “running” stories were simplified. Normally, the Time entry emphasized “personality.” Time, in fact, invented the newsmagazine “cover story,” usually on an individual as metaphor for what was or should be happening. “Knowing,” if irrelevant, details flavored an entry. Above all, Time, Life and Fortune stories possessed “omniscience,” an all-knowing point-of-view. Often Luce’s journalism offered little but the illusion of information. Readers, knowingly or not, surrendered to Time writers the right to sift through facts. Some subscribers wanted Time and other Luce publications to “mediate” information for them. Working in business increasingly dependent on national and international events, they sought a succinct or “efficient” view of the world. Other readers experienced a crisis over information ineffective newspaper subscribers, ones whose inability to absorb the news left them with a fear of inadequacy. The whole realm of knowledge, of government, technology and business, had expanded and complicated life. Although more Americans had gone to college than ever before, most institutions of higher education at the turn of the century had begun to abandon the idea that the whole of human endeavor could be understood. An increasing number of college students, like Luce and his classmates at Yale, had begun to “concentrate” in certain fields. Work itself became more focused, with people accordingly less aware of more things. To this ignorance, Luce and his partner, Briton Hadden, consciously played. Time would summarize and explain trends not only in politics and diplomacy, but in the arts and sciences, clearly, cleverly, knowingly. Analyzing a 1934 radio program that assessed literature and the theatre, historian Joan Shelley Rubin saw Swift’s Premium Hour fulfilling a similar function. The programs “did not pretend to provide literary analysis or to teach the audience to arrive at its own critical judgements. Their function was instead to create in the listener the sense that she or he was ‘in the know’ about the arts.” (10) The Olympian Time writer would similarly determine what a weekly news item “meant.” “The dream,” a former Time writer observed, “was that an external truth exists this week and can be expressed in 500 words by a talented writer after he had read the week’s New York newspaper clippings.” (11)

In time, Luce’s formula of the directed synthesis could be seen in competing news services: in radio and television news reports, in an increasing number of newspaper columns and analyses. His legacy thus concerns a transformation of American journalism form information to synthesis, and another episode of what Raymond Williams has called “the long revolution,” the centuries-long struggle, first through literacy, to gain access to the printed word, and then , through new mass media, to achieve a mastery of a more complicated order. The most successful mass media managers devised forms that rendered a more complex and crowded world comprehensible. By succeeding, the mass communicator created a harmony, whereas individual experience or physical isolation might only have fostered faction or worse – to the purposeful Luce – disengagement. (12)

Because Luce’s publication sought to create and control a national consensus, he chose his causes more carefully than some detractors have admitted. Most of the time he looked to others within the establishment or government, or to commentators like Walter Lippmann, before committing his publications. Deeply ambitious, he hated to lose. “He could, and often did, mount sustained campaigns,” wrote William F. Buckley, Jr., “but the goals were carefully chosen, and above all they were realizable. Luce had an aversion to lost causes.” (13)

Luce’s career, then, took two stages. The first and more vital involved the evolution of new types of information media, the news magazine, the thoughtful business periodical, the photoweekly. By the very late, 1930s, these inventions had become innovations, popular and profitable. At this point, the publisher began to assume an interest in public affairs. Although still a publisher, never a politician, Luce became a “public man,” more concerned about presidential politics, world affairs, and the quality of life of the American middle class. For him, this second act was more frustrating. Not until his last years did he overcome a restlessness about his works, his country, even his personal life. Yet he never lost the confidence he had as a young man that his journalism could inform millions and hold the modern state together.


Here’s How the First Fact-Checkers Were Able to Do Their Jobs Before the Internet

At TIME Magazine’s 20th anniversary dinner, in 1943, the magazine’s co-founder Henry Luce explained to those gathered that, while “the word ‘researcher’ is now a nation-wide symbol of a serious endeavor,” he and co-founder Briton Hadden had first started using the title as part of an inside joke for a drinking club. “Little did we realize that in our private jest we were inaugurating a modern female priesthood &mdash the veritable vestal virgins whom levitous writers cajole in vain,” he said, “and managing editors learn humbly to appease.”

Luce’s audience nearly 75 years ago is not the only group to wonder about the origins of fact-checking in journalism, though the casual sexism of the 1940s would no longer fly. Today, especially amid concern over so-called “fake news” and at a time when it may seem inconceivable that checking an article would be possible without the Internet, it remains a natural question: How did this journalistic practice begin?

And, as it turns out, that story is closely linked to TIME’s past.

First Facts

In the years between 1923, when TIME’s first issue was published, and Luce’s speech, journalistic fact-checking had gone from a virtually unknown idea to standard practice at many American magazines. (These days, journalistic practices aren’t necessarily country-specific &mdash Der Spiegel, for example, is known for having one of the world’s biggest fact-checking departments &mdash but that wasn’t the case a century ago, and this particular kind of checking was an especially American phenomenon.)

Of course, well before any separate job of “fact-checker” existed, editors and reporters would have had their eyes out for errors &mdash but it was around the turn of the 20th century, between the sensational yellow journalism of the 1890s and muckraking in the early 1900s, that the American journalism industry began to really focus on facts. The professionalization of the business included codifying ethics and creating professional organizations. And, as objective journalism caught on, ideals of accuracy and impartiality began to matter more than ever.

Publications in the first two decades of the 1900s did have operations intended to make them more accurate, like the “Bureau of Accuracy and Fair Play” that was started by Ralph Pulitzer, son of Joseph Pulitzer, and Isaac White at the New York World in 1913. The bureau was focused on complaints, looking &ldquoto correct carelessness and to stamp out fakes and fakers.&rdquo They would keep track of who was making errors, to catch repeat offenders. At the time, the idea was termed a &ldquonovel departure&rdquo by an industry publication, but it still concentrated on reprimands and apologies rather than preventing those errors from making it to print.

So, while it’s always difficult to say what the absolute first instance of something was, especially given that fact-checking is an internal function that doesn’t get much publicity when it’s done well, TIME emerged as a leader when the magazine began hiring people specifically to check articles for accuracy before publication. They weren’t called fact-checkers at first. (Though, appropriately enough, there was a period during which Luce and Hadden had considered calling their new magazine Facts.) The New Yorker &mdash long renowned for its checking process &mdash only started publishing in 1925, and didn’t start rigorous checking until 1927, according to Ben Yagoda&rsquos About Town, following the publication of an egregiously inaccurate profile of the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay. Newsweek started in 1933.

Perhaps the earliest published use of the phrase “fact-checker” can be found in an ad for TIME in a 1938 issue of Colliers, which mentions the expansion of “its researchers and fact-checkers from ten to twenty-two.”

TIME’s first fact-checker was Nancy Ford. She’d worked at Woman’s Home Companion and in early 1923 was hired as a secretarial assistant as Luce and Hadden got their new publication started. Her job at first was to mark and clip interesting articles from newspapers for the magazine’s writers, but soon the task expanded to verifying basic dates, names and facts in completed TIME articles. Ford and her colleagues &mdash all women &mdash were encouraged to challenge the initially all-male staff of editors and writers, a must for the process to work. “The fun was that you could say what you thought,” she recalled in an oral history interview conducted in the 1950s, “and didn’t have to be respectful.”

Ford left after several grueling months of work, but the job didn’t end with her. At the end of the year there were three researchers.

Getting the Job Done

At first, the New York Public Library was Ford’s main source of information. She would call the Public Library&rsquos Information Desk for &ldquoalmost anything,&rdquo and was regularly there until it closed. And when it was time for the magazine to go to the printer each week, she and other necessary staff would pile into a taxi with their checking materials to head over to the press, on 11th Avenue (&ldquoDeath Avenue&rdquo to the TIME staff). In the early days that meant lugging a copy of Who&rsquos Who and the World Almanac, some of Hadden’s own books, a dictionary, a thesaurus and a Bible, along with relevant newspaper clippings. They stayed at the printer’s late into the night, hashing out rewrites, filling in holes and checking the last details. Ford &ldquolearned all the tricks of checking by phone from Eleventh Avenue,&rdquo and while the “girls,” as they were called, were usually dismissed earlier than the men, that often meant a 3:00 a.m. or 4:00 am departure.

Another of the fascinating resources on the early fact-checking process comes in an unusual format: poetry.

In the late 1920s, a Time Inc. employee named Edward D. Kennedy began to poke fun, in verse form, at the company’s inner workings. Many of his writings are still preserved in the company’s archives. For all their jabs, they also capture some of the difficult nature of the work, especially for the checkers, as well as the prevailing sexism of the time. Kennedy’s poem “The Genii” lampoons the particularities of TIME writers, who were known for their wordplay and boisterous style (Kennedy mimics it for the poem, opening with: “Who writes for TIME a genius is”) and includes a few nods to the female checkers tidying up after reckless writers: &ldquoIf substance fails, if fact eludes, / Out of the air he picks it&mdash / If obviously foolish, why / The girls will probably fix it.&rdquo

Another Kennedy poem parodies the extreme demands of TIME’s first managing editor, imagining him asking the researchers to “Call up God and ask if we can get a picture.”

An August 1927 memo from Hadden further reveals the details of the editorial workflow of the time, including the process of checking, who was responsible for what and when it should happen. The checker would put a dot over each word once she’d confirmed its accuracy &mdash first red ones for facts checked from authoritative sources like reference books, then black dots when a fact was sourced to a newspaper and finally green dots for uncheckable words or ones that a checker accepted on the author&rsquos authority. Facts were to be &ldquored-checked&rdquo whenever possible. Anything that couldn’t be verified meant querying the author to hammer out the way a sentence should read, though later official guidelines mandated a demure or ladylike tone when doing so. “Carbons,” files containing copies of each version of the story and all the material used to check it, would be kept on file and handy for 13 weeks then filed away for at least a year. That terminology is still used at the magazine to this day.

Women’s Work

By the 1930s, becoming what was then simply called a “checker” was a relatively well-established next step for young women graduating from college. For example, Content Peckham (pronounced, as she would say, &ldquolike an adjective&rdquo) applied to TIME to be a researcher after graduating Bryn Mawr. &ldquoIt was just the thing to do&mdasheverybody applied at TIME and Vogue,&rdquo she later recalled. She started as a science and medicine researcher in 1934, later becoming chief of research and the third woman to be on the masthead as a “senior editor.”

The women’s jobs were twofold. In the first part of the week they would do background research, finding interesting details and supporting material for articles that someone else would write. Peckham called it “the process of surrounding a story.” Once the article was written and edited, the researcher would circle back around and make sure every detail that made to the final version was correct. (Peckham noted, however, that training could be a matter of trial and error: when first she arrived, she was told about the dots system, but not how to actually check the words she was sorting.)

But, though the checkers’ jobs still centered on minute facts, the meaning of what it meant to be correct was shifting. According to Peckham, it was Patricia Divver &mdash head of the TIME research department in the early 1940s &mdash who made TIME’s fact-checking a more holistic, thorough process. “She was the first who taught her staff to worry not only about the correctness of the separate facts but whether what the facts said in aggregate added up to sense,&rdquo said Peckham.

That broad view meant increased responsibility and authority for the checkers. In addition, the coming of World War II put immense pressure on them to get breaking news right. For example, Germany invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, a Friday, leaving the staff with nearly two dozen pages of text to check by that Monday. And if things went wrong, no matter where the error had come from, the checker was on the line. Weekly errors reports detailed the mistakes made, excoriating the (lower-paid) woman doing the checking rather than the male writer on the piece.

It was not until 1971, after the women at Newsweek filed a complaint with the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over the sex-segregation of the magazine’s jobs, that TIME&rsquos research manual was re-written and researchers were renamed reporter-researchers. The job of fact-checking was subsequently opened to men, and by 1973 TIME had managed to hire and keep four men on the job.

Future Facts

In the decades that followed, for a variety of reasons, not least of which were the economic ones, the job shifted again. At some publications, the responsibility for accuracy began to shift primarily to the writers, as the number of jobs for people who were solely researchers or fact-checkers shrank. (TIME kept its fact-checking operation. Since the mid-1990s writers have been asked to take on checking responsibilities and checkers have been asked to do more reporting.)

But recently, a new sort of fact-checking has been the object of public attention, as articles and websites devoted to analyzing the factual accuracy of politicians’ statements have become their own genre. “What’s different is the mission,” says Lucas Graves, senior research fellow at Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism and author of a book on the subject, Deciding What’s True. The point of magazine checking is to prevent embarrassment and eliminate errors before a piece goes live, whereas the new political fact-checking usually devotes its attention to careful analysis of an error someone else has made.

“The emergence of political fact-checking is gradual, it has its roots in the 1980s but the genre has become much more codified and standardized over the last decade,” says Graves.

In the wake of the deceptive ads that populated 1988’s presidential race, “a lot of journalists felt they hadn’t done a very good job of covering that race, because they mostly let those claims go unchallenged,” he says. By the mid-2000s, hindsight on coverage of the run-up to the Iraq War compounded the feeling that it was necessary to check what politicians said.

The Internet became an important medium for news and non-journalists started using it to do their own public fact-checking. Fact-checking sites like Snopes (which originally focused on urban legends) and Smoking Gun started in the 1990s, and in 2003 the full-time political checking site FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, started its operation. Soon others would follow them into the political fact-checking arena.

The new fact-checking is its own task, but it shares some of the essential beliefs that led the original “girls” of the 1920s and 󈧢s to make journalistic history.

“We don’t trust ourselves at all,” Leah Shanks Gordon, then head of TIME’s research staff, told the Chicago Tribune in 1983. “We must not assume that we know anything.” By the 1980s, the TIME staff were checking about 2.5 million words a year with only about 250 errors a year, mainly details like titles or dates.

Still, the idea that human error could be entirely eliminated wouldn’t pass muster with a good fact-checker, anyway.

On the occasion of TIME’s 25th anniversary in 1948, the editors wrote on the constantly moving target of fact-checking, and its impossibility: &ldquoAll the facts relevant to more complex events, such as the devaluation of the franc, are infinite they can&rsquot be assembled and could not be understood if they were. The shortest or the longest news story is the result of selection. The selection is not, and cannot be ‘scientific’ or ‘objective.’ It is made by human beings who bring to the job their own personal experience and education, their own values. They make statements about facts. Those statements, invariably involve ideas.”

&ldquoAll journalists (even the women at the well) select facts,” the editors continued. “The myth, or fad, of ‘objectivity’ tends to conceal the selection to kid the reader into a belief that he is being informed by an agency above human frailty or human interest.”


Briton Hadden - History

A man of missionary zeal and limitless curiosity, Henry Robinson Luce deeply influenced American journalism between 1923, when he and the late Briton Hadden founded Time The Weekly Newsmagazine, and 1964, when he retired as head of one of the world&aposs largest and richest publishing empires.

Mr. Luce created the modern news magazine, fostered the development of group journalism, restyled pictorial reporting, encouraged a crisp and adjective-studded style of writing and initiated the concept of covering business as a continuing magazine story.

In the process, the tall, lean man with heavy eyebrows grew to be one of the nation&aposs wealthiest men, rose to a position of vast and pervasive economic, political and social influence and helped shape the reading habits, political attitudes and cultural tastes of millions. Nonetheless, he tried to remain inconspicuous as a public figure. In private his manner of living was notably inconspicuous.

"We tell the truth as we see it," Mr. Luce once explained when his magazines took sides on controversies. And he was accustomed to urge his editors to make a judgment. He believed that objectivity was impossible. "Show me a man who claims he is objective," he told an interviewer, "and I&aposll show you a man with illusions."

To a remarkable extent during the peak of his total involvement with his magazines--Time, Fortune, Life and Sports Illustrated--the judgments and opinions that were printed reflected the focus of Mr. Luce&aposs own views--and these encompassed virtually every facet of human endeavor.

He was a stanch Republican, a defender of big business and free enterprise, a foe of big labor, a steadfast supporter of Chiang Kai-shek, an advocate of aggressive opposition to world Communism. He was also an Anglophile, but he believed that "the 20th century must be to a significant degree the American century."

Admired and Criticized

As with many who achieve eminence, Mr. Luce was lauded by those he benefited he was cursed by those who felt injured by him and, sometimes, even by those men whose careers he had made.

Virtually no one viewed him temperately, yet admirer and critic respected his business accomplishments, his ingenious brain, his insatiable curiosity, his editorial prescience. For example, he anticipated an American appetite for tersely packaged news, for the photojournalism of Life magazine and for the easy-to-grasp pictorial essay on such topics as "The World We Live In," "The World&aposs Great Religions" and "The Human Body."

Mr. Luce was not gregarious, especially convivial or given to mixing with those he considered his intellectual inferiors. "He lived well above the tree line on Olympus," one of his editors remarked.

After his formal retirement, however, Mr. Luce tried hard to unbend, but his fund of small talk was usually exhausted after a few moments of pleasantries.

Attempting to explain the difference between the dour Mr. Luce and the puckish Time magazine, a friend said:

"Time is a side of Luce called forth by the magic of the written word."

The Luce enterprises, which had an annual revenue of $503-million in 1966, were started on an $86,000 shoestring in 1923 by Mr. Luce and Mr. Hadden. The two, schoolmates at Hotchkiss and Yale, had for a long time discussed the idea of getting out a weekly magazine capsulizing the news for readers who wanted a condensed account of events.

"People in America are, for the most part, poorly informed," the prospectus for Time declared. This attitude, and its implication that something ought to be done about it, was one of the keys to Mr. Luce&aposs conception of himself as an evangel. It was an attitude ingrained from earliest childhood, as was his tendency to evaluate many issues in moral terms.

He was born April 3, 1898, in Tengchow, China, the son of the Rev. Dr. Henry Winters Luce, a poor but socially well-connected Presbyterian clergyman and teacher, and Elizabeth Root Luce, a former Young Women&aposs Christian Association worker. Harry, as the boy was known throughout his life, was the first of four children.

Serious minded and precocious, Harry Luce learned Chinese before he spoke English and composed sermons for boyhood diversion. The household was run on Spartan lines, even though Mrs. Cyrus H. McCormick, widow of the millionaire inventor, was a family friend and benefactor.

The son adored the father, a filial piety to which students of the editor-publisher traced his religious impulses, him moralities and his zealous approach to life. The son also developed a vigorous attachment to things Chinese, and all his life he regarded himself as an expert on China.

After attending a strict British boarding school at Chefoo, where caning was the practice, Harry came to the United States at 15 to attend Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Conn., on a scholarship.

He amassed a top academic record, wrote verse, edited the school&aposs literary monthly and became assistant managing editor of the weekly paper. Most fateful of all, he became friendly with young Briton Hadden, the paper&aposs managing editor.

Shared Journalistic Interest

The youths shared a deep interest in journalism and a judgment that too many people were ignorant of the world about them and ought to be enlightened.

The young men went to Yale, where both were editors of The Daily News. They graduated in 1920, with time out for military service in World War I. Mr. Luce, a Phi Beta Kappa, was voted "most brilliant"" in the class and Mr. Hadden "most likely to succeed."

After brief study at Oxford, Mr. Luce returned to the United States and went to work for The Chicago Daily News as a legman for Ben Hecht. He migrated from Chicago to Baltimore for a reporter&aposs job on The News, where he was reunited with Mr. Hadden.

In their spare time, the youthful reporters, developed plans for a weekly news magazine, at first to be titled Facts, but then called Time, and put together the prospectus, which pledged that the publication would have "a prejudice against the rising cost of government faith in the things which money cannot buy, a respect for the old, particularly in manners."

The prospectus also told how the new magazine would differ from Literary Digest, then the reigning newslike weekly. "The Digest, in giving both sides of a question, gives little or no hint as to which side it considers to be right," Mr. Luce and Mr. Hadden said. "Time gives both sides, but clearly indicates which side it believes to have the stronger position."

Mr. Luce and Mr. Hadden quit their Baltimore jobs in early 1922 to sell stock and get their publication under way. The task took a year, with 72 investors, mostly from Wall Street, chipping in $86,000 toward their $100,000 goal.

The first issue, dated March 3, 1923, divided the week&aposs news into 22 departments in 28 pages. Eighteen persons were listed on the first masthead, 11 of them Yale alumni. The circulation manager was a Harvard man, Roy E. Larsen, who is now chairman of the executive committee of Time, Inc. He and Mr. Luce and Mr. Hadden paid themselves $40 a week.

The articles in the first issues were recast chiefly from The New York Times by nimble writers. By the flip of a coin, it was decided at the outset of Time that Mr. Luce would manage its business affairs while Mr. Hadden would run the editorial side. It was Mr. Hadden who fathered the idiosyncratic style by which the magazine became famous.

Two elements of that style--the inverted sentence and the double epithet--were borrowed from "The Iliad," "The Odyssey" and "The Aeneid." Homer and Virgil, however, might have been awe-struck by the license Mr. Hadden and his writers took: "fleet-footed Achilles" became "beady-eyed," or "jut-jawed," or "snaggle-toothed" or "haystack-haired."

The Homeric sentence, "Brazen were the walls which ran this way and that from the threshold to the inmost chamber," was transformed into the Hadden-Luce-Time sentence, "To Swanscott came a lank, stern Senator, gray-haired, level-browed."

Time&aposs carly motto was "Curt, Clear and Complete."

It contained an abundance of telescoped words, such as "GOPolitics," "cinemaddict," "socialite," "Freudulent" and such an archaicism as "moppet" for child.

"Tycoon," from the Japanese taikun, meaning prince, was liberally applied to men of success. Action verbs were the mode, and the dictionary was ransacked for alternatives to the verb "said." The saucy style was considerably toned down after Wolcott Gibbs wrote a merciless parody of it in a Profile of Mr. Luce for The New Yorker magazine in 1936.

The sketch contained two sentences that have become a part of the literary folklore: "Backward ran sentences until reeled the mind" and "Where it will all end, knows God!"

Planned Business Journal

When Time began to show a profit in 1927, Mr. Luce and Mr. Hadden started Tide, a magazine for the advertising business, which they sold in 1930. Meantime, in 1929, Mr. Luce devoted himself to planning Fortune, which was to exemplify the thesis that "business is obviously the greatest single denominator of interest among the active leading citizens of the USA. . .the distinctive expression of the American genius."

Also in 1929, Mr. Hadden died of a streptococcus infection, and the editorial and business aspects of Time, Inc., shifted to Mr. Luce. The two men, oddly, were never intimate social friends, although they always rallied to each other&aposs support.

Publication of Fortune began in 1930. The magazine looked luxurious, cost the then high price of $1 a copy and contained excellent art. In its first year it printed articles critical of some large corporations, including the United States Steel Corporation, but it eventually won acceptance for its perceptive reporting and for its major stories on technological change and life in the executive suite.

Writers for Time and Fortune have included such noted social critics as Archibald MacLeish, John O&aposHara, Stephen Vincent Benet, James Agee and Dwight Macdonald.

Not all of Mr. Luce&aposs writers agreed with him or with his principles, but they found his generous pay scales and his early friendly attitude toward the American Newspaper Guild irresistible.

Bought Architectural Forum

In 1932 Mr. Luce purchased a trade publication, Architectural Forum, a reflection of his own interest at the time in architecture. Twenty years later it gave rise to House & Home, which specialized in home building. The Forum, the largest magazine in its field but an economic loser, was discontinued in 1964. House & Home was sold that year to McGraw-Hill, Inc.

The most spectacularly popular of all Luce publications was Life magazine, started in 1936. Its announced purpose was:

"To see life to see the world to eyewitness great events to watch the faces of the poor and the gestures of the proud."

It brashly and splashily published photographs of statesmen in unguarded moments, soldiers fighting to the death, babies being born, policemen clubbing strikers and models in the almost- nude. There were gaudy layouts of surgical procedures and panoramas of nature. Later, there were essays and memoirs, heavily pictorialized, and editorials on what was called "the American Purpose."

Life magazine was a wedding gift of sorts to Mr. Luce&aposs second wife. His first marriage, to Lila Ross Hotz of Chicago, in 1923, ended in divorce in 1935. They had two sons, Henry 3d, a vice president of Time, Inc., and chief of the magazine&aposs London bureau and Peter Paul, a management consultant.

Shortly after his divorce, Mr. Luce married Mrs. Clare Boothe Brokaw, daughter of a vaudeville couple and the divorced wife of George Tuttle Brokaw.

According to an article by John Kobler in The Saturday Evening Post in 1965, Mr. Luce proposed to Mrs. Brokaw, then an editor of Vanity Fair and a fledging playwright, at virtually their first meeting by asking her how it felt to know that "you&aposre the only woman in a man&aposs life."

Purchased Title for $85,000

The new Mrs. Luce "had been advocating photojournalism ever since she knew Luce," the account stated, "and he had told her, &aposI don&apost really want more magazines, but if it pleases you we&aposll go ahead.&apos"

On their honeymoon, it was said, the couple shaped the magazine, whose title was purchased for $85,000 from the fading humor weekly.

Because Mrs. Luce had such a germinal role in the founding of Life, it was widely assumed that she exercised a great deal of direct influence over its policies and those of her husband&aposs other periodicals.

Initially, it was said, Mrs. Luce did play an open part, but she limited herself to writing bylined articles for Life after an argument with Ralph Ingersoll, a Life editor, in the magazine&aposs early years.

Mrs. Luce&aposs indirect influence, however, was reported to have been considerable. Her husband, it was said, listened to her suggestions for articles and proposed them under his own name.

In the beginning Life magazine was overly successful. Its circulation outraced its advertising revenue, although it was not until 1969 that it operated in the black.

Started &aposMarch of Time&apos

Mr. Luce&aposs final magazine venture was Sports Illustrated (the title was also purchased) started in 1954, to capitalize on what he called "the wonderful world of sport" and a more abundant leisure available to Americans after World War II.

The magazine&aposs appeal was primarily to families in the suburbs and smaller towns. Mr. Luce, previously ignorant of most sports except golf and swimming, undertook an intensive cram course in baseball, boxing and horse racing to equip himself intellectually as publisher.

Mr. Luce also had an early association with radio, starting in 1928 with promotional broadcasts from Time&aposs articles. This developed into "The March of Time." It ran for 15 years, and its narrator, Westbrook van Voorhis, achieved fame for the solemn manner in which he intoned, "Time Marches On!" the program&aposs catch phrase. The series was also adapted for a period for the movies.

At his retirement in 1964 as editor in chief of all Time, Inc., publications, Mr. Luce was the company&aposs principal owner, with a stock interest of 16.2 per cent. The market value of his holdings then exceeded $42-million and his annual dividend income was $1,263,888. All told in 1964, Luce magazines published 13 editions, weekly or monthly, with a world circulation of 13 million copies an issue.

Mr. Luce&aposs influence in communications, however, went far beyond magazines. It included production of television programs here and abroad the operation of five radio and six television stations, and the creation of a series of popular books on science and history. (Time, Inc.&aposs book division was said to have grossed $40-million in 1964.) The company also owned a 45 per cent interest in the 48-story, $70-million Time & Life Building at the Avenue of the Americas and 50th Street.

The man who nurtured the Time, Inc., enterprise from one-room simplicity to global complexity was a tall, lean man with a large head of the sort that his baldness, which began in middle life, enhanced.

His eyes were light blue, narrow and sharp under dark brows. His mouth was thin, his jaw firm.

Almost from the start of Time magazine, Mr. Luce communicated with his underlings by memorandums, of which he was a prolific composer. When he returned from trips--and he traveled incessantly--he dispatched memos that were obviously the work of a sharp-eyed observer and that often contained directives on whatever struck his agile mind as important.

When Mr. Luce stepped down as editor in chief, George P. Hunt, Life&aposs managing editor, wrote that it had been "a rigorous and rewarding experience" to have had "Harry Luce as a boss." He also described the Lucean memos:

"This comes in two forms. The long ones are neatly typewritten. The others consist of pencil scrawls on yellow pad paper, often with a newspaper clipping attached by means of an ordinary straight pin. The subjects of these memos were broad--a proposal to do a series on Greece, a critique of the latest issue of Life, a question about the latest teen-age fad, a philosophical comment on United States politics."

In politics, Mr. Luce backed Republican candidates for President in every campaign except 1928, when he supported Alfred E. Smith. He apparently also had some qualms about the Republican candidate in 1964, for Life, that year carried an editorial critical of Barry Goldwater, the party nominee. Mr. Luce voted for Mr. Goldwater, however.

Mr. Luce sometimes liked to talk with his editors in person, T.S. Matthews, formerly one of his principal editors, recalled in his book, "Name and Address."

Mr. Matthew&aposs 1960 autobiography found Mr. Luce secretive, not always aware of other people, yet a good editor and a man who could be answered back. Nonetheless, Mr. Matthews faulted Mr. Luce on the question of fairness, asserting that "the Presidential campaign of 1940 was the last one that Time even tried to report fairly."

"In 1952, when it sniffed victory in the air at long last," Mr. Matthews wrote, "there was no holding Time. The distortions, suppressions and slanting of its political &aposnews&apos seemed to me to pass the bounds of politics and to commit and offense against the ethics of journalism. The climax was a cover story on Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic candidate, which was a clumsy but malign and murderously meant attack."

Mr. Matthews reported that he had not resigned over this incident. He left the organization in the mid-fifties and subsequently wrote his autobiography.

Mr. Luce&aposs curiosity was legendary. Correspondents who drove with him from an airport to the center of a city had to be prepared for all manner of detailed questions about the sights. Some, to anticipate the cross-examination, made dry runs from the airfield to town. Once, one story has it, Mr. Luce, spotting a large excavation, asked his correspondent what it was. "That, Mr. Luce," the man replied "is a hole in the ground."

In addition to these impressions of Mr. Luce, there was a thinly distinguished portrait of him in "Death of Kings," a novel by Charles Wertenbaker, once a high-ranking Time editor. Many of Mr. Luce&aposs associates thought the portrayal unflattering.

Mr. Luce wrote little about himself for publication and was seldom quoted in his own publications. In his travels he talked to presidents, premiers, popes, cardinals, ambassadors, bankers, political leaders, industrialists, generals and admirals.

Many in Time, Inc., close to Mr. Luce were impressed by his ranging interests. Hedley Donovan, who succeeded Mr. Luce as editor in chief, recalled that his superior had "an extraordinary zeal for new ideas, not only as inspiration for new modes and vehicles of journalism but as a subject matter for journalism."

"Far from being pained by new ideas," Mr. Donovan said, "Harry Luce rejoices in them. He welcomes argument so ardently that it takes a certain amount of intellectual courage to agree with him when he is right, as is bound to happen from time to time."

This was also the impression of Gilbert Cant, a Time editor for many years, who said:

"His decisions may have been unidirectional but, by God, he thought a hell of a lot. Conversation with him was utterly maddening because he was always aware of the other side of any proposition he was stating, and he frequently tried to express both sides at once."

A belief in a Christian God animated much of Mr. Luce&aposs thinking. A man who attended church regularly and prayed before he went to bed, he contended that the United States had a "constitutional dependency on God." He often used the word "righteousness" to describe the causes he espoused.

Mr. Luce, however, was not a dogmatic Protestant. He concurred in his wife&aposs right to convert to Roman Catholicism in 1946, and he was said to respect her view of the world without adopting it for his own.

After a career as a playwright ("The Women," "Kiss the Boys Goodbye" and "Margin for Error") Mrs. Luce, also an ardent Republican, served two terms in the House of Representatives from Connecticut, from 1943 to 1947. She was appointed Ambassador to Italy by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953. Mr. Luce was in Rome with her during most of her three-year term.

Mrs. Luce was nominate as Ambassador to Brazil in 1959 but she resigned before going to her post after a public quarrel with Senator Wayne Morse, Democrat of Oregon.

Mr. and Mrs. Luce maintained an apartment in New York and homes in Ridgefield, Conn., and Phoenix.


Time's 'secret genius' gets due

THE MAN TIME FORGOT: A TALE OF GENIUS, BETRAYAL AND THE CREATION OF TIME MAGAZINE, by Isaiah Wilner, HarperCollins, 342 pages, $26.95.

It seems fitting that Isaiah Wilner, a freshly minted Ph.D. in history from Yale — not yet out of his 20s — should give Briton Hadden, the man who conceived the idea for Time magazine while he was still in his 20s — his due.

For nearly 80 years, Henry R. Luce, the magazine's co-founder, a financier, and not an idea man, took the credit. Hadden and Luce had both a close and combative relationship, attended and finished Yale together — then went on to found Time magazine, which initiated a trend toward interesting and entertaining news coverage — nicknamed "Timestyle."

When Hadden slept little while working and playing so hard that his body developed a mysterious illness for which he was hospitalized, Luce went to see him nearly every day. The two could be heard quarreling all over the hospital. Then when Hadden died at the age of 31, Luce erased his name from the masthead and kept Hadden's genius and contribution to the rise of Time a secret.

As Wilner so ably points out in this David McCullough-style "interesting history," Hadden was robbed of the fame he deserved. During a strenuous intellectual enterprise that took him almost five years, Wilner sorted through never-before-published documents from the archives of Time Inc. that included a wealth of oral histories, personal letters and interviews, then wrote this book detailing his findings.

Besides Time, Hadden had given intellectual birth to Life, Sports Illustrated and Fortune magazines before his tragic, unheralded death. His intellect had much more to give. Luce lived another 38 years and gained a reputation as the most influential publisher in modern journalism.

Wilner discovered that as Time's editor, Luce delivered well over 300 speeches on many different topics, such as the economy, the Constitution, the future of China — and Time's journalistic methods — but not once did he refer to the legacy of Briton Hadden.

On May 6, 1963, a huge gathering at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York celebrated Time's 40th birthday. Some 300 of the most illustrious people in the country were there — Bob Hope and Danny Kaye, Jack Dempsey and Joe Louis, Rosalind Russell and Gina Lollobrigida, General Douglas MacArthur, Thurgood Marshall, Jackie Robinson and Casey Stengel, Jonas Salk and Clair Booth Luce (wife of Henry Luce) were some of the luminaries.

Nothing was said about the secret genius of Time magazine.

But four years later, Luce, who had deepened his interest in religion, agreed to an extended television interview — and for the first time, he spoke warmly of Briton Hadden and his role in the establishment of Time.

It's a good thing accolades were never important to his deceased partner.


About Us

Fortune drives the conversation about business. With a global perspective, the guiding wisdom of history, and an unflinching eye to the future, we report and reveal the stories that matter today—and that will matter even more tomorrow. With the trusted power to convene and challenge those who are shaping industry, commerce and society around the world, Fortune lights the path for global leaders—and gives them the tools to make business better.

Our History

Henry Robinson Luce founded Fortune magazine in 1929 in the wake of the Great Depression and the death of Yale classmate Briton Hadden, with whom he cofounded Time magazine and the Time-Fortune Corporation (later Time Incorporated) in 1922. In a 1929 prospectus for advertisers, Luce wrote that Fortune should be "the Ideal Super-Class Magazine" for "wealthy and influential people." It should be, he added, "surpassingly beautiful" and "so richly illustrated and so distinguished in appearance that it will be instinctive to turn the pages. And having turned the pages, his reader will discover the editorial content of such arresting vitality that, were it but mimeographed on cheapest newsprint, he would still pay dearly for it." Its price? $10 per year, "a barrier so high that only the reader both enthusiastic and well-to-do will vault it."

The first issue of Fortune, featuring on its cover the Roman goddess Fortuna with her wheel, was distributed to subscribers beginning in February 1930. (The magazine was not initially available on newsstands.) As with Time, Luce made himself editor of Fortune its first managing editor was Parker Lloyd-Smith and its first art editor was Thomas Maitland Cleland. Fortune's first headquarters were located in the Chrysler Building at 135 East 42nd Street in New York City it later moved to the Time-Life Building at 1271 Avenue of the Americas and Brookfield Place at 225 Liberty Street and is currently headquartered at 40 Fulton Street.

The pages of Fortune have been filled with the work of some of the world's greatest writers, editors, illustrators, and photographers. Among them: Ansel Adams, James Agee, Constantin Alajálov, John Atherton, Herbert Bayer, Lester Beal, Thomas Benrimo, Joseph Binder, Margaret Bourke-White, A.M. Cassandre, Thomas Maitland Cleland, Miguel Covarrubias, Walker Evans, John Kenneth Galbraith, George Gusti, Ernest Hemingway, Alfred Kazin, Fernand Léger, Leo Lionni, Fred Ludekens, Dwight Macdonald, Archibald MacLeish, Erik Nitsche, Miné Okubo, Antonio Petruccelli, Diego Rivera, Ben Shahn, and Charles Sheeler.

Today, Fortune is one of the world's leading business media brands and comprises a multinational monthly magazine, daily website, and conference series. It is owned by Fortune Media Group Holdings Limited, which is wholly owned by Chatchaval Jiaravanon, and published by the Meredith Corporation. It occupies offices in Beijing, Boston, Chicago, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, and Shanghai.

Our Founding Mission

An outline of Fortune's mission can be found in a sidebar calling for subscriptions in Volume 1, Issue 1 of the magazine:

"FORTUNE'S purpose is to reflect Industrial Life in ink and paper and word and picture as the finest skyscraper reflects it in stone and steel and architecture. Business takes FORTUNE to the tip of the wing of the airplane and through the depths of the ocean along be-barnacled cables. It forces FORTUNE to peer into dazzling furnaces and into the faces of bankers. FORTUNE must follow the chemist to the brink of worlds newer than Columbus found and it must jog with freight cars across Nevada's desert. FORTUNE is involved in the fashions of flappers and in glass made from sand. It is packed in millions of cans and saluted by Boards of Directors on the pinnacles of skyscrapers. Mountains diminish, rivers change their course and thirty million people assemble nightly at the cinema. Into all these matters FORTUNE will inquire with unbridled curiosity. And, above all, FORTUNE will make its discoveries clear, coherent, vivid, so that the reading of it may be one of the keenest pleasures in the life of every subscriber."

Our Editorial Standards

Fortune is committed to producing journalism that meets the highest standards of accuracy, fairness, transparency, and lawfulness. Our print, digital, and live products aim to inform, delight, illuminate, and help our readers, viewers, and attendees. We believe that our products must reflect our commitment to quality and integrity and we recognize that our reputation depends on upholding these journalistic values.

We welcome complaints about errors that warrant correction as well as suggestions for further clarification. Feedback may be directed to [email protected]. When a correction or clarification is required, we will append a note at the bottom of the article explaining the nature of the change as well as the time and date it was made. An article requiring additional context may include an editor's note at top or bottom.

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Visit our media kit for bios and photos of our editorial staff and executive leadership team. Visit our careers page for opportunities.

FOUNDER Henry R. Luce, 1898-1967

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Clifton Leaf

DEPUTY EDITOR Brian O'Keefe
DIGITAL EDITOR Andrew Nusca
SENIOR FEATURES EDITOR Matthew Heimer
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ASIA EDITOR Clay Chandler
SENIOR EDITORS AT LARGE
Geoff Colvin, Shawn Tully
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ART DIRECTOR
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Watch the video: How the Founder of Time, Fortune, and Life Magazines Molded Public Opinion (May 2022).