Appreciating all that makes America special

Americana: Life Magazine

During its peak in the 1940s, Life had reporters and photographers in all theaters of World War II, and brought the war home to America. By the 1950s, more people got their news from TV, and Life became more of a celebrity magazine. Uploaded by

While there was an earlier (and a later) incarnation of Life magazine, this honor goes to the Henry Luce version (as in Time-Life) published weekly starting in 1936 and ceasing in 1972. Noted for its photojournalistic style, the articles were typically long on pictures, short on text. Not that literature was ignored, though; Life serialized Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea in 1952, along with his novella that came to be called The Dangerous Summer.

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Perhaps at no time was Life more important to America than during World War II. The magazine had reporters and photographers in all theaters of the war, and their stories and pictures brought the war home to ordinary Americans. At its peak, it sold 13.5 million copies per week.

As more people got their news from television, circulation figures for newsmagazines tumbled in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and despite numerous gimmicks (such as reducing the cover price from .25 to .19), Life eventually ceased weekly publication. It was resurrected as a monthly, then as a Sunday newspaper insert, but the magic was gone. Still, it provided Americans of an entire generation their graphic look at world events, and its photo library is still available for advertising and editorial uses.


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