“LIFE” Magazine

“Life” generally refers to three American magazines:

  • A humor and general interest magazine published from 1883 to 1936. Time founder Henry Luce bought the magazine in 1936 solely so that he could acquire the rights to its name.
  • A weekly news magazine launched by Luce in 1936, with a strong emphasis on photojournalism. Life was published until 1972; as an intermittent “special” until 1978; and as a monthly from 1978 to 2000.
  • A weekly newspaper supplement published by Time Inc. from 2004 to 2007 and included in some American newspapers.

The Life founded in 1883 was similar to Puck and was published for 53 years as a general-interest light entertainment magazine, heavy on illustrations, jokes and social commentary. It featured some of the greatest writers, editors and cartoonists of its era, including Charles Dana Gibson, Norman Rockwell and Harry Oliver. During its later years, this magazine offered brief capsule reviews (similar to those in The New Yorker) of plays and movies currently running in New York City, but with the innovative touch of a colored typographic bullet appended to each review, resembling a traffic light: green for a positive review, red for a negative one, amber for mixed notices.

The Luce Life was the first all-photographic American news magazine, and it dominated the market for more than 40 years. The magazine sold more than 13.5 million copies a week at one point and was so popular that President Harry S. Truman, Sir Winston Churchill and General Douglas MacArthur all serialized their memoirs in its pages.

Perhaps one of the best-known pictures printed in the magazine was Alfred Eisenstaedt’s photograph of a nurse in a sailor’s arms, snapped on August 27, 1945, as they celebrated VJ Day in New York City. The magazine’s place in the history of photojournalism is considered its most important contribution to publishing.

Time Life Eisenstaedt

Luce purchased the rights to the name from the publishers of the first Life but sold its subscription list and features to another magazine; there was no editorial continuity between the two publications. Life was wildly successful for two generations before its prestige was diminished by economics and changing tastes. Since 1972, Life has twice ceased publication and resumed in a different form, before ceasing once again with the issue dated April 20, 2007. The brand name continues on the Internet and in occasional special issues.

An interesting website, if you are looking for Life photographs:  http://images.google.com/hosted/life

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