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Classic Ads  All Classic Ads Vintage Collection - Magazine rare vintage collectables

Life Magazines

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Magazines didn't look like that until after World War II. The first magazines, in the 1700s, looked like....books. Magazines began as genteel soapboxes from which literate men expounded their points of view, in essay or satire. Daniel Defoe started the first English magazine, The Review, during or just after his imprisonment for criticizing the Church of England. His purpose: a statesman or man of letters offers his comment, criticism and satire to influence public taste. The audience is composed of members of the same social scene that is the subject of most of the magazine's writing. Over the course of time, readers come to depend on the regularity of its point of view.

The form of the Review set the form for British journals: four small pages, dense print, few illustrations (except some engraved borders and lettering) and most of the compelling force contained in the acerbic, airborne sarcasm of the text.

Joseph Addison, a high bred moralist and social critic, followed the form in his essays for his friend Richard Steele's Tatler. When the Tatler folded Addison created The Spectator, the most famous of the early British journals. It looked just like newspapers of the time: a daily 8 x 12-1/2" one-page paper, printed on both sides. Again tiny print, again no illustrations, and maybe half a column of classified ads. Historians consider it a magazine because instead of news, it printed comment. Each issue was written by entirely by Addison or Steele; occasionally by a friend.

Addison introduced the short informal essay and the short fiction story to English literature in his magazine. The Spectator lasted three years, but hundreds of others appeared to replace it. Colonial Americans established their magazines in the same style. Since Addison, prominent literary/art personalities use magazines as one of the most accessible vehicles of their point of view. The magazines they create are usually not popular, but can be influential.

The best and probably the most influential of American magazines was Fortune in the 1930s. Fortune was created by Henry Luce, who with partner Britton Hadden had created Time in the 20s, and who started the corporation that would later produce Life, Sports Illustrated, Money and People. Time was the original glib news magazine, and Life was designed by a series of consultants seeking the proper formula, but Fortune in the 30s was a work of art with content that happened to be the affairs of the business.

Luce was determined to create a magazine of quality for the people he called the 'aristocracy of our business civilization', and to do so he gathered the most capable and highly respected artists, writers, and photographers - among them Dwight MacDonald, Rockwell Kent, Archibald MacLeish, Margaret Bourke-White, and Thomas Cleland, who designed the original Fortune format. Several of the renowned Life photographers got their start here.

Luce developed his magazine out of the business pages of Time. Although later he would become known for his conservative politics, in the 30s his magazine had an investigative flair and liberal, if not Communist, reputation. Corporations were profiled as human, not monolithic, organizations.

In covering the industrial world, Fortune's photographers and designers created an almost hand-crafted looking magazine. It was one of the first to print high quality color illustrations; and the first to try and sell a story primarily through photographs, as Life would do later. It was printed on thick matte paper with expensive inks. It enclosed its photographs in various ruled frames, and printed them in very fine screen so that they were almost as detailed and sharp as the original prints. The confidence of Mr. Luce and his editors that they were creating something of quality is infused in every page of Fortune.

By the late 1940s quality was too expensive (ironically, it had survived through World War II). More importantly, perhaps, the idea of businessmen as an elite social force had changed somehow. They were no longer seen as the kind of people who would pay extra for a premium-quality publication. Fortune's publisher and editors remodeled the magazine in 1948. They made its format more conventional (its paper had already become glossy) and limited its content to what is normally considered business reporting. Fortune began to look like every other magazine.

This is courtesy The Well. You will find the full article here.



Josse Amman, a Swiss painter, publishes plates on the fashions of the day, with the title Gynasceum, sive Theatrum Mulierum. The Gynasceum or Theatre of Women, in which are reproduced by engraving the female costumes of all the nations of Europe. Published in Frankfort in Latin; regarded as the first fashion magazine.


The Ladies Mercury. published by John Dunton, at first monthly and then fortnightly. It concerned 'All the nice and curious questions concerning love, marriage, behaviour, dress and humour in the female sex, whether virgins, wives or widows'. It also carried an 'Answers to Correspondents' section


John Tipper publishes. The Ladies Diary or Women's Almanack. The Ladies Diary runs small ads, among them for false teeth. Later issues ran display advertising for beauty products. Until this time, the term 'advertising' referred to feature articles and reports


The Gentleman's Magazine is published by Edward Cave in England. Intended to entertain with essays, stories, poems and political commentary more details Closed 1914. Often regarded as the first modern magazine.


Lloyd's List is one of the world's oldest continuously-running journals, having provided weekly shipping news in London since 1734


Andrew Bradford printed American Magazine and Benjamin Franklin printed General Magazines, first magazines in the colonies.


Saturday Evening Post was launched, ushering in an era of general interest magazines.


Sara Joseph Hale began editing the Lady's Magazine, first women's magazine.


Railway Gazette founded


Fox Talbot produces photographs from negatives


Punch launched in London; inspired by French magazine Charivari


Herbert Ingram launches The Illustrated London News with 32 woodcuts on 16 pages. It cost 6d. See website


Economist founded to campaign for free trade


First WH Smith railway bookstall

Illustrated London News publisher Herbert Ingram starts a daily newspaper, The London Telegraph

Illustrated London News depicts the Christmas tree of Albert and Queen Victoria, so popularising an idea that had been seen as a Germanic import


The Field launched (now the oldest title in IPC's stable)


Illustrated London News published Christmas special with colour cover produced using coloured wood blocks. Selling 130,000 copies a week - 10 times the daily sale of The Times 

Colored News is first paper to use colour: closes after a month


Great Moral History of Port Curtis, Australia's first comic


Harper's Weekly introduced visual news with Civil War illustrations.

Atlantic Monthly in US begins to accept advertising


Congress gave discount postal rates to magazines.


Gilbert Grosvenor introduced photographs in National Geographic


Ida Tarbell wrote muckraking series on Standard Oil in McClure's.

"Tarbell moved to Paris in 1891 where she researched and wrote for several American publications. S.S. McClure, editor of McClure's Magazine in which Tarbell published 19 articles, noted: "Capitalists, workingmen, politicians, citizens -all breaking the law, or letting it be broken. Who is left to uphold it?.... There is no one left; none but all of us." He hired Tarbell in 1894, and in 1904 she documented the rise of John D. Rockefeller's monopolistic Standard Oil Company and its unfair business practices.   Coined "muckrakers" by Theodore Roosevelt, Tarbell and others unearthed the wrongdoings and abuses by corporations. Muckraking, so named because it uncovered dirt, was a major part of journalism from 1902 to 1912.   But Roosevelt didn't fully support it. Said Tarbell: "Theodore Roosevelt ... had become uneasy at the effect on the public of the periodical press's increasing criticisms and investigations of business and political abuses."   Tarbell and her fellow journalists persisted, which led to reforms, such as anti-trust laws..." From the Christian Science Monitor, March 16, 1999

DeWitt and Lila Wallace founded Reader's Digest


Henry Luce and Briton Hadden founded Time, the first news magazine

Short profile of Henry Luce by Alan Brinkley

Essay about Time's values written by Walter Isaacson.


Harold Ross founded The New Yorker and introduced the modern personality profile


First classy men's magazine, Esquire, started.


Henry Luce founded Life and coined the term photojournalism. From an essay about the history of Life:

Though the weekly LIFE's life span covered only 37 years, it is impossible to think of any other magazine that had such an extraordinary impact. The weekly LIFE brought the world home to readers in a way they had never seen or experienced before. "Experienced" is the crucial word. A great picture is not merely seen, it demands an emotional response. LIFE created such responses countless times for millions of readers--and continues to do so to this day.   Henry Luce's description of the magazine's mission, written in 1936:  
To see life; to see the world; to eyewitness great events; to watch the faces of the poor and the gestures of the proud; to see strange things -- machines, armies, multitudes, shadows in the jungle and on the moon; to see man's work -- his paintings, towers and discoveries; to see things thousands of miles away, things hidden behind walls and within rooms, things dangerous to come to; the women men love and many children; to see and to take pleasure in seeing; to see and be amazed; to see and be instructed...

Photo essay from articles about the Beatles


Overside general magazines, including Life, folded as advertisers moved to network television.


Hugh Hefner introduced modern question-answer format in Playboy.


Resurgence of men's magazines in UK, with launch of King and Penthouse joining Town, Esquire and Playboy, and Vogue starting 'Men in Vogue' section


Launches of Rolling Stone and New York Magazine in US. Former started as fanzine inspired by Jagger's band (seen on cover 19 times) 

Cigarette advertising banned on UK television



1936 November 23 - Life MagazineIt’s hard to imagine a time when LIFE didn’t exist. But before its inception, there was simply nothing like it in America . Up to then, published photos had been posed and static. But in the early thirties a marvelously portable 35mm camera was developed that could take pictures of almost anything under the sun, and Henry R. Luce and his colleagues at Time Inc. made plans to use it for an entirely new publishing venture. Their project, shrouded in secrecy, emerged full-blown in November 1936, and journalism was forever changed.

A weekly until December 1972, then in semiannual special reports, and since 1978 as a monthly, LIFE has been the publication that has chronicled and provoked America ’s passions, the publication said to bear the magazine world’s most world-famous logo.

Though the weekly LIFE’s life span covered only 37 years, it is impossible to think of any other magazine that had such an extraordinary impact. The weekly LIFE brought the world home to readers in a way they had never seen or experienced before. “Experienced” is the crucial word. A great picture is not merely seen, it demands an emotional response. LIFE created such responses countless times for millions of readers–and continues to do so to this day.

Most magazines are built around editors and writers, but LIFE has historically been built around photographers. Being a LIFE photographer is one of the most glamorous jobs in the profession, and it attracts the best in the world. To support the photographers, LIFE has always assembled a conglomeration of special talents and trained them to meet the magazine’s many special needs: reporters who work with photographers to line up a story, writers who can cram the necessary information into text blocks and short captions, picture editors, designers, art directors and department editors. All of them with one aim: pictures, pictures, pictures. But LIFE of course does more than present discrete photographic moments. The magazine was also a pioneer when it came to telling stories in still images. LIFE, in effect, created the photo-essay.  

Although LIFE ceased publication as a magazine in 2000, that did not mark the end of one of America ’s most beloved institutions. In 2001 LIFE began publishing again in the form of LIFE books, soft and hardcover books on topics ranging from the tragic events of September 11, 2001 , to the history of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. All the books are filled with the great photography and meaningful writing that made LIFE magazine an American institution.


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