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History of Time Magazine Part 1

About the history of Time magazine, the founding and publishing.

PROBING THE PERIODICALS

TIME MAGAZINE

History: In the late winter of 1922, two young Yale University graduates, Briton Hadden and Henry Robinson Luce, rented the parlor floor of an old house at 141 East 17th Street in New York for $55 a month, bought some tables and chairs for a total of $48.70, and sat down to write a prospectus for a new weekly newsmagazine to be called, after considerable reflection, Time.

Granted, there were already several such periodicals in existence, but the Literary Digest, for example, was fat and verbose, and Hadden and Luce were convinced that busy professional men did not have time to pore over it every week. There was a real need for a magazine that would present all the important events of the week in concise and lively prose. As for point of view, well, busy Americans also did not have time to ruminate over which side of an issue might be the right one, so the editors would do that for them. Surely keeping America informed required presenting not just the news, but what the news meant.

Henry R. Luce--Harry to his friends--had been born and brought up in China, where his parents were Presbyterian missionaries. America was a distant homeland of unparalleled promise and beneficence to him, a vision he never relinquished and would insist on perpetrating in varying ways in each of the publications that later emerged from his empire. He and Briton Hadden--Brit to his friends--were classmates and rivals at Hotchkiss School and later at Yale, where they held the two top positions on the Daily News. When America entered W.W. I, they turned the college paper into a propagandist sheet promoting intense patriotism. By the time they left Yale, both had been tapped for the prestigious senior society Skull and Bones, and Luce had also made Phi Beta Kappa. These achievements were not ends in themselves, but were, along with Yale connections, the keys that would open doors in the world of power and influence for two young men who were long on ideas and ambition, but short on funds.

The first issue of Time appeared on Mar. 3, 1923, after more than a year of editorial preparation and attempts to raise $100,000 that had been only partially successful. The staff included as part-times poets Stephen Vincent Benet and Archibald MacLeish. Volume I, No. 1, was 28 pages long, 6 of which were advertisements, and it dealt with, among other matters, the French occupation of the Ruhr Valley, the famine in Russia, and the pros and cons of Prohibition in America. By the time December rolled around, the magazine was doing well enough that Luce felt he could risk supporting a wife, and he and Lila Ross Hotz, a beautiful Chicagoan, were married.

In the beginning, the editorial responsibilities fell chiefly to Hadden, while Luce was in charge of fiscal affairs. It was Hadden who evolved the famous Time-style, reasoning that the way to keep the reader interested was to turn bare fact into embellished fact--not, of course, so embellished as to become fiction, but close. Events recorded in Time invariably had beginnings, middles, and ends, with a little suspense woven in wherever possible. People never just said something; they always murmured, muttered, or mumbled; buzzed, barked, blared, or bloomed; snorted, shrieked, screeched, squealed, or squawked. And they were never just people, either; they were gentle-spirited or sourvisaged, trim-figured or large-paunched, keen-brained or flabby-chinned (which really meant flabby-minded). If Time liked them, they marched or strode; if not, they shuffled, straggled, shambled, plodded, lumberred, barged, swaggered, wobbled, or slouched. Their middle names were spelled out in full, particularly when they sounded somewhat amusing. It was all a bit eyebrow-raising, but it was also circulation-raising, so who could argue?

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