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For other uses, see Life (disambiguation).

Life was an American magazine that ran regularly from 1883 to 1972 and again from 1978 to 2000. During its golden age from 1936 to 1972, Life was a wide-ranging weekly general interest magazine notable for the quality of the photography.

Life began as a humor magazine with limited circulation. Time owner Henry Luce bought the magazine in 1936, solely so that he could acquire the rights to its name, and launched a major weekly news magazine with a strong emphasis on photojournalism. Life was published weekly until 1972, as an intermittent "special" until 1978, and as a monthly from 1978 to 2000.

After 2000, Time Inc. continued to use the Life brand for special and commemorative issues. Life returned to regularly scheduled issues when it became a weekly newspaper supplement from 2004 to 2007.[1] The website life.com, originally one of the channels on Time Inc.'s Pathfinder service, was for a time in the late 2000s managed as a joint venture with Getty Images under the name See Your World, LLC,.[2] On January 30, 2012, the LIFE.com URL became a photo channel on Time.com.[clarification needed][1][3]

When Life was founded in 1883, it was developed as similar to the British magazine, Punch. It 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, illustrators and cartoonists of its era, including Charles Dana Gibson, Norman Rockwell and Jacob Hartman Jr. Gibson became the editor and owner of the magazine after John Ames Mitchell died in 1918. During its later years, the 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 resembling a traffic light, appended to each review: green for a positive review, red for a negative one, and amber for mixed notices.

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. Life was so popular that President Harry S. Truman, Sir Winston Churchill, and General Douglas MacArthur all had their memoirs serialized in its pages. 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.

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 14, 1945, as they celebrated Victory over Japan Day in New York City. The magazine's role in the history of photojournalism is considered its most important contribution to publishing. Life was wildly successful for two generations before its prestige was diminished by economics and changing tastes.


Humor and general interest magazine[edit]

A cover of the earlier Life magazine from 1911

EditorGeorge Cary Eggleston
Former editorsRobert E. Sherwood
CategoriesHumor, General interest
PublisherClair Maxwell
Total circulation
First issueJanuary 4, 1883; 135 years ago (1883-01-04)
Final issueNovember 1936 (1936-11)
CountryUnited States
Based inNew York City, New York, U.S.

Life was founded January 4, 1883, in a New York City artist's studio at 1155 Broadway, as a partnership between John Ames Mitchell and Andrew Miller. Mitchell held a 75 per cent interest in the magazine with the remainder by Miller. Both men retained their holdings until their deaths.[4] Miller served as secretary-treasurer of the magazine and was very successful managing the business side of the operation. Mitchell, a 37-year-old illustrator who used a $10,000 inheritance to invest in the weekly magazine, served as its publisher. Mitchell created the first Life name-plate with cupids as mascots; he later drew its masthead of a knight leveling his lance at the posterior of a fleeing devil. Mitchell took advantage of a revolutionary new printing process using zinc-coated plates, which improved the reproduction of his illustrations and artwork. This edge helped because Life faced stiff competition from the best-selling humor magazines Judge and Puck, which were already established and successful. Edward Sandford Martin was brought on as Life's first literary editor; the recent Harvard University graduate was a founder of the Harvard Lampoon.

The motto of the first issue of Life was: "While there's Life, there's hope."[5] The new magazine set forth its principles and policies to its readers:

"We wish to have some fun in this paper.... We shall try to domesticate as much as possible of the casual cheerfulness that is drifting about in an unfriendly world.... We shall have something to say about religion, about politics, fashion, society, literature, the stage, the stock exchange, and the police station, and we will speak out what is in our mind as fairly, as truthfully, and as decently as we know how."[5]

The magazine was a success and soon attracted the industry's leading contributors.[6] Among the most important was Charles Dana Gibson. Three years after the magazine was founded, the Massachusetts native first sold Life a drawing for $4: a dog outside his kennel howling at the moon. Encouraged by a publisher who was also an artist, Gibson was joined in Life early days by such well-known illustrators as Palmer Cox (creator of the Brownie), A. B. Frost, Oliver Herford and E. W. Kemble. Life attracted an impressive literary roster too: John Kendrick Bangs, James Whitcomb Riley and Brander Matthews all wrote for the magazine around the start of the 20th century.

Mitchell was accused of anti-Semitism at a time of high rates of immigration to New York of eastern European Jews. When the magazine blamed the theatrical team of Klaw & Erlanger for Chicago's grisly Iroquois Theater Fire in 1903, a national uproar ensued. Life's drama critic, James Stetson Metcalfe, was barred from the 47 Manhattan theatres controlled by the Theatrical Syndicate. Life published caricatured cartoons of Jews with enormous noses.

Life became a place that discovered new talent; this was particularly true among illustrators. In 1908 Robert Ripley published his first cartoon in Life, 20 years before his Believe It or Not! fame. Norman Rockwell's first cover for Life, Tain't You. was published May 10, 1917. Rockwell's paintings were featured on Life's cover 28 times between 1917 and 1924. Rea Irvin, the first art director of The New Yorker and creator of the character "Eustace Tilley", got his start drawing covers for Life.

Charles Dana Gibson dreamed up the magazine's most celebrated figure in its early decades. His creation, the Gibson Girl, was a tall, regal beauty. After appearances in Life in the 1890s, the image of the elegant Gibson Girl became the nation's feminine ideal. The Gibson Girl was a publishing sensation and earned a place in fashion history.

This version of Life took sides in politics and international affairs, and published fiery pro-American editorials. Mitchell and Gibson were incensed when Germany attacked Belgium; in 1914 they undertook a campaign to push the United States into the war. Mitchell's seven years studying at Paris art schools made him partial to the French; there was no unbiased coverage of the war. Gibson drew the Kaiser as a bloody madman, insulting Uncle Sam, sneering at crippled soldiers, and shooting Red Cross nurses. Mitchell lived just long enough to see Life's crusade result in the U.S. declaration of war in 1917.

Following Mitchell's death in 1918, Gibson bought the magazine for $1 million, but the world had changed. It was not the Gay Nineties, when family-style humor prevailed and the chaste Gibson Girls wore floor-length dresses. World War I had spurred changing tastes among the magazine-reading public. Life's brand of fun, clean and cultivated humor began to pale before the new variety: crude, sexy and cynical. Life struggled to compete on newsstands with such risqué rivals. A little more than three years after purchasing Life, Gibson quit and turned the decaying property over to publisher Clair Maxwell and treasurer Henry Richter. Gibson retired to Maine to paint and lost active interest in the magazine, which he left deeply in the red.

In 1920 Gibson selected former Vanity Fair staffer Robert E. Sherwood as editor. A World War I veteran and member of the Algonquin Round Table, Sherwood tried to inject sophisticated humor onto the pages. Life published Ivy League jokes, cartoons, flapper sayings and all-burlesque issues. Beginning in 1920, Life undertook a crusade against Prohibition. It also tapped the humorous writings of Frank Sullivan, Robert Benchley, Dorothy Parker, Franklin Pierce Adams and Corey Ford. Among the illustrators and cartoonists were Ralph Barton, Percy Crosby, Don Herold, Ellison Hoover, H. T. Webster, Art Young and John Held, Jr.

Life had 250,000 readers in 1920[citation needed], but as the Jazz Age rolled into the Great Depression, the magazine lost money and subscribers. By the time Maxwell and Editor George Eggleston took over, Life had switched from publishing weekly to monthly. The two men went to work revamping its editorial style to meet the times, and in the process it did win new readers. Despite all-star talents on staff, Life had passed its prime and was sliding toward financial ruin. The New Yorker, debuting in February 1925, copied many of the features and styles of Life; it recruited staff from its editorial and art departments. Another blow to Life's circulation came from raunchy humor periodicals such as Ballyhoo and Hooey, which ran what can be termed "outhouse" gags. In 1933 Esquire joined Life's competitors. Life struggled to make a profit in the 1930s when Henry Luce purchased it, Luce kept the name for his new plans and sold the contents and subscription list to Judge.[7]

Announcing the death of Life, Maxwell declared: "We cannot claim, like Mr. Gene Tunney, that we resigned our championship undefeated in our prime. But at least we hope to retire gracefully from a world still friendly."[citation needed]

For Life's final issue in its original format, 80-year-old Edward Sandford Martin was recalled from editorial retirement to compose its obituary. He wrote:

"That Life should be passing into the hands of new owners and directors is of the liveliest interest to the sole survivor of the little group that saw it born in January 1883.... As for me, I wish it all good fortune; grace, mercy and peace and usefulness to a distracted world that does not know which way to turn nor what will happen to it next. A wonderful time for a new voice to make a noise that needs to be heard!"[5]

Weekly news magazine[edit]

Cover of the June 19, 1944, issue of Life with Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. The issue contained 10 frames by Robert Capa of the Normandy invasion.

Editor-in-chiefEdward Kramer Thompson
FrequencyWeekly (1936–1972)
Monthly (1978–2000)
PublisherHenry Luce
Total circulation
First issueNovember 23, 1936; 81 years ago (1936-11-23)
Final issueMay 2000 (2000-05)
CompanyTime Inc.
CountryUnited States
Based inNew York City, New York, U.S.

In 1936 publisher Henry Luce paid $92,000 to the owners of Life magazine because he sought the name for his company, Time Inc. Time Inc. sold Life's subscription list, features, and goodwill to Judge. Convinced that pictures could tell a story instead of just illustrating text, Luce launched Life on November 23, 1936. The third magazine published by Luce, after Time in 1923 and Fortune in 1930, Life developed as the photo magazine in the U.S., giving as much space and importance to images as to words. The first issue of Life, which sold for ten cents (worth $1.76 today), featured five pages of Alfred Eisenstaedt's photographs.

In planning the weekly news magazine, Luce circulated a confidential prospectus, within Time Inc. in 1936, which described his vision for the new Life magazine, and what he viewed as its unique purpose. Life magazine was to be the first publication, with a focus on photographs, that enabled the American public,

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 that men love and many children; to see and take pleasure in seeing; to see and be amazed; to see and be instructed...[8]

Luce's first issue cover depicted the Fort Peck Dam in Montana, a Works Progress Administration project, photographed by Margaret Bourke-White.[9]

The format of Life in 1936 was an instant classic: the text was condensed into captions for 50 pages of photographs. The magazine was printed on heavily coated paper and cost readers only a dime. The magazine's circulation skyrocketed beyond the company's predictions, going from 380,000 copies of the first issue to more than one million a week four months later.[10] The magazine's success stimulated many imitators, such as Look, which was founded a year later in 1937 and ran until 1971.

Luce moved Life into its own building at 19 West 31st Street, a Beaux-Arts architecture jewel built in 1894. It is considered a building of "outstanding significance" by the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission. Later Life moved its editorial offices to 9 Rockefeller Plaza.


Luce selected Edward Kramer Thompson, a stringer for Time, as assistant picture editor in 1937. From 1949 to 1961 he was the managing editor, and served as editor-in-chief for nearly a decade, until his retirement in 1970. His influence was significant during the magazine's heyday, which was roughly from 1936 until the mid-1960s. Thompson was known for the free rein he gave his editors, particularly a "trio of formidable and colorful women: Sally Kirkland, fashion editor; Mary Letherbee, movie editor; and Mary Hamman, modern living editor."[11]

In August 1942, writing about labor and racial unrest in Detroit, Life warned that "the morale situation is perhaps the worst in the U.S. ... It is time for the rest of the country to sit up and take notice. For Detroit can either blow up Hitler or it can blow up the U.S."[12] Mayor Edward Jeffries was outraged: "I'll match Detroit's patriotism against any other city's in the country. The whole story in LIFE is scurrilous ... I'd just call it a yellow magazine and let it go at that."[13] The article was considered so dangerous to the war effort that it was censored from copies of the magazine sold outside North America.[14]

When the U.S. entered the war in 1941, so did Life. By 1944, of the 40 Time and Life war correspondents, seven were women: Americans Mary Welsh Hemingway, Margaret Bourke-White, Lael Tucker, Peggy Durdin, Shelley Smith Mydans, Annalee Jacoby, and Jacqueline Saix, an Englishwoman. (Saix's name is often omitted from the list, but she and Welsh are the only women listed as part of the magazine's team in a Times's publisher's letter, dated May 8, 1944.)[15]

Life was pro-American and backed the war effort each week. In July 1942, Life launched its first art contest for soldiers and drew more than 1,500 entries, submitted by all ranks. Judges sorted out the best and awarded $1,000 in prizes. Life picked 16 for reproduction in the magazine. The National Gallery in Washington, D.C. agreed to put 117 entries on exhibition that summer. Life, in its patriotism, also supported the military's efforts to use artists to document the war. When Congress forbade the armed forces from using government money to fund artists in the field, Life privatized the programs, hiring many of the artists being let go by the Department of Defense (DOD). On December 7, 1960, Life managers later donated many of the works by such artists to the DOD and its art programs, such as the United States Army Art Program.[16]

The magazine hired Robert Capa, the distinguished war photographer. A veteran of Collier's magazine, Capa accompanied the first wave of the D-Day invasion in Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944. A mishap at the Life photography darkroom ruined dozens of Capa's photos which he had taken during the beach landing. The magazine wrote in the captions that the photos were fuzzy because Capa's hands were shaking. He denied it, and later poked fun at Life by titling his war memoir Slightly Out of Focus (1947). In 1954, Capa was killed after stepping on a landmine, while working for the magazine covering the First Indochina War. Life photographer Bob Landry also went in with the first wave at D-Day, "but all of Landry's film was lost, and his shoes to boot."[17]

Each week during World War II, the magazine brought the war home to Americans; it had photographers in all theaters of war, from the Pacific to Europe. The magazine was imitated in enemy propaganda using contrasting images of Life and Death.[18]

In a notable mistake, in its final edition just before the 1948 U.S. presidential election the magazine printed a large photo showing U.S. presidential candidate Thomas E. Dewey and his staff riding across San Francisco, California harbor entitled "Our Next President Rides by Ferryboat over San Francisco Bay". Incumbent President Harry S. Truman won the election.[19]

On May 10, 1950, the council of ministers in Cairo banned Life from Egypt forever. All issues on sale were confiscated. No reason was given, but Egyptian officials expressed indignation over the April 10, 1950, story about King Farouk of Egypt, entitled the "Problem King of Egypt". The government considered it insulting to the country.[20]

Life in the 1950s earned a measure of respect by commissioning work from top authors. After Life's publication in 1952 of Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, the magazine contracted with the author for a 4,000-word piece on bullfighting. Hemingway sent the editors a 10,000-word article, following his last visit to Spain in 1959 to cover a series of contests between two top matadors. The article was republished in 1985 as the novella, The Dangerous Summer.[21]

In February 1953, just a few weeks after leaving office, President Harry S. Truman announced that Life magazine would handle all rights to his memoirs. Truman said it was his belief that by 1954 he would be able to speak more fully on subjects pertaining to the role his administration played in world affairs. Truman observed that Life editors had presented other memoirs with great dignity; he added that Life also made the best offer.

In November 1954, the actress Dorothy Dandridge was the first African-American woman to be featured on the cover of the magazine.

In 1957, R. Gordon Wasson, a vice president at J.P.Morgan, published an article in Life extolling the virtues of magic mushrooms.[22] This prompted Albert Hofmann to isolate psilocybin in 1958 for distribution by Sandoz alongside LSD in the U.S., further raising interest in LSD in the mass media.[23] Following Wasson's report, Timothy Leary visited Mexico to try out the mushrooms, which were used in traditional religious rituals.

Life's motto became[24] "To see Life; to see the world." In the post-war years it published some of the most memorable images of events in the United States and the world. It also produced many popular science serials, such as The World We Live In and The Epic of Man in the early 1950s. The magazine continued to showcase the work of notable illustrators, such as Alton S. Tobey, whose many contributions included the cover for a 1958 series of articles on the history of the Russian Revolution.

But, as the 1950s drew to a close and TV became more popular, the magazine was losing readers. In May 1959 it announced plans to reduce its regular news-stand price to 19 cents a copy from 25 cents. With the increase in television sales and viewership, interest in news magazines was waning. Life had to try to create a new form.

1960s and the end of an era[edit]

In the 1960s the magazine was filled with color photos of movie stars, President John F. Kennedy and his family, the war in Vietnam, and the Apollo program. Typical of the magazine's editorial focus was a long 1964 feature on actress Elizabeth Taylor and her relationship with actor Richard Burton. Journalist Richard Meryman traveled with Taylor to New York City, California, and Paris. Life ran a 6,000-word first-person article on the screen star.

"I'm not a 'sex queen' or a 'sex symbol,' " Taylor said. "I don't think I want to be one. Sex symbol kind of suggests bathrooms in hotels or something. I do know I'm a movie star and I like being a woman, and I think sex is absolutely gorgeous. But as far as a sex goddess, I don't worry myself that way... Richard is a very sexy man. He's got that sort of jungle essence that one can sense... When we look at each other, it's like our eyes have fingers and they grab ahold.... I think I ended up being the scarlet woman because of my rather puritanical upbringing and beliefs. I couldn't just have a romance. It had to be a marriage."[25]

In the 1960s, the magazine's photographs featured those by Gordon Parks. "The camera is my weapon against the things I dislike about the universe and how I show the beautiful things about the universe," Parks recalled in 2000. "I didn't care about Life magazine. I cared about the people," he said.[26]

On March 25, 1966, Life featured the drug LSD as its cover story; it had attracted attention among the counter culture and was not yet criminalized.[27]

In March 1967, Life won the 1967 National Magazine Award, chosen by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. The prestigious award was made for the magazine's publication of stunning photos from the war in Southeast Asia, such as Henri Huet's riveting series of a wounded medic that were published in January 1966. Increasingly, the photos that Life published of the war in Vietnam were searing images of death and loss.

Despite the industry's accolades and publishing America's mission to the moon in 1969, the magazine continued to lose circulation. Time Inc. announced in January 1971 its decision to reduce circulation from 8.5 million to 7 million in an effort to offset shrinking advertising revenues. Exactly one year later, Life cut its circulation from 7 million to 5.5 million beginning with the January 14, 1972, issue. Life was reportedly not losing money, but its costs were rising faster than its profits. Life lost credibility with many readers when it supported author Clifford Irving, whose fraudulent autobiography of Howard Hughes was revealed as a hoax in January 1972. The magazine had purchased serialization rights to Irving's manuscript.

Industry figures showed that some 96 percent of Life circulation went to mail subscribers, with only 4 percent coming from the more profitable newsstand sales. Gary Valk was publisher when the magazine laid off hundreds of staff. The weekly Life magazine published its last issue on December 29, 1972.

From 1972 to 1978, Time Inc. published ten Life Special Reports on such themes as "The Spirit of Israel", "Remarkable American Women" and "The Year in Pictures". With a minimum of promotion, those issues sold between 500,000 and 1 million copies at cover prices of up to $2.

As a monthly (1978–2000)[edit]

Starting with the October 1978 issue, Life was published as a monthly, with a new, modified logo. Although still the familiar red rectangle with the white type, the new version was larger, and the lettering was closer together and the box surrounding it was smaller.

Life continued for the next 22 years as a moderately successful general-interest, news features magazine. In 1986, it decided to mark its 50th anniversary under the Time Inc. umbrella with a special issue showing every Life cover starting from 1936, which included the issues published during the six-year hiatus in the 1970s. The circulation in this era hovered around the 1.5 million-circulation mark. The cover price in 1986 was $2.50 (equivalent to $5.58 in 2017). The publisher at the time was Charles Whittingham; the editor was Philip Kunhardt. In 1991 Life sent correspondents to the first Gulf War and published special issues of coverage. Four issues of this weekly, Life in Time of War, were published during the first Gulf War.

The magazine struggled financially and, in February 1993, Life announced the magazine would be printed on smaller pages starting with its July issue. This issue also featured the return of the original Life logo.

Life slashed advertising prices 34 percent in a bid to make the monthly publication more appealing to advertisers. The magazine reduced its circulation guarantee for advertisers by 12 percent in July 1993 to 1.5 million copies from the current 1.7 million. The publishers in this era were Nora McAniff and Edward McCarrick; Daniel Okrent was the editor. LIFE for the first time was the same trim size as its longtime Time Inc. sister publication, Fortune.

The magazine was back in the national consciousness upon the death in August 1995 of Alfred Eisenstaedt, the Life photographer whose photographs constitute some of the most enduring images of the 20th century. Eisenstaedt's photographs of the famous and infamous—Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, Marilyn Monroe, Ernest Hemingway, the Kennedys, Sophia Loren—won him worldwide renown and 86 Life covers.

In 1999 the magazine was suffering financially, but still made news by compiling lists to round out the 20th century. Life editors ranked its "Most Important Events of the Millennium." This list has been criticized for being overly focused on Western achievements. The Chinese, for example, had invented type four centuries before Johannes Gutenberg, but with thousands of ideograms, found its use impractical. Life also published a list of the "100 Most Important People of the Millennium." This list, too, was criticized for focusing on the West. Thomas Edison's number one ranking was challenged since critics believed other inventions, such as the Internal combustion engine, the automobile, and electricity-making machines, for example, had greater effects on society than Edison's. The top 100 list was criticized for mixing world-famous names, such as Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Louis Pasteur, and Leonardo da Vinci, with numerous Americans largely unknown outside of the United States (18 Americans compared to 13 Italian and French, and 11 English).

In March 2000, Time Inc. announced it would cease regular publication of Life with the May issue, seven months before the century's end.

"It's a sad day for us here," Don Logan, chairman and chief executive of Time Inc., told CNNfn.com. "It was still in the black," he said, noting that LIFE was increasingly spending more to maintain its monthly circulation level of approximately 1.5 million. "Life was a general interest magazine and since its reincarnation, it had always struggled to find its identity, to find its position in the marketplace," Logan said.[28]

The magazine's last issue featured a human interest story. In 1936 its first issue under Henry Luce featured a baby named George Story, with the headline "Life Begins"; over the years the magazine had published updates about the course of Story's life as he married, had children, and pursued a career as a journalist. After Time announced its pending closure in March, George Story happened to die of heart failure on April 4, 2000.[29]

For Life subscribers, remaining subscriptions were honored with other Time Inc. magazines, such as Time. And in January 2001, these subscribers received a special, Life-sized format of "The Year in Pictures" edition of Time magazine. It was a Life issue disguised under a Time logo on the front. (Newsstand copies of this edition were published under the Life imprint.)

While citing poor advertising sales and a rough climate for selling magazine subscriptions, Time Inc. executives said a key reason for closing the title in 2000 was to divert resources to the company's other magazine launches that year, such as Real Simple. Later that year, its parent company, Time Warner, struck a deal with the Tribune Company for Times Mirror magazines, which included Golf, Ski, Skiing, Field & Stream, and Yachting. AOL and Time Warner announced a $184 billion merger, the largest corporate merger in history, which was finalized in January 2001.[30]

In 2001 Time Warner began publishing special newsstand "megazine" issues of Life, on topics such as the September 11 attacks in 2001 and the Holy Land. These issues, which were printed on thicker paper, were more like softcover books than magazines.

Supplement (2004–07)[edit]

Beginning in October 2004, Life was revived for a second time. It resumed weekly publication as a free supplement to U.S. newspapers, competing for the first time with the two industry heavyweights, Parade and USA Weekend. At its launch, it was distributed with more than 60 newspapers with a combined circulation of approximately 12 million. Among the newspapers to carry Life were the Washington Post, New York Daily News, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Denver Post, and St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Time Inc. made deals with several major newspaper publishers to carry the Life supplement, including Knight Ridder and the McClatchy Company. The launch of LIFE as a weekly newspaper supplement was conceived by Andrew Blau, who served as the President of Life. Bill Shapiro was the Founding Editor of the weekly supplement.

This version of Life retained its trademark logo but sported a new cover motto, "America's Weekend Magazine." It measured 9½ x 11½ inches and was printed on glossy paper in full-color. On September 15, 2006, Life was 19 pages of editorial content. The editorial content contained one full-page photo, of actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and one three-page, seven-photo essay, of Kaiju Big Battel. On March 24, 2007, Time Inc. announced that it would fold the magazine as of April 20, 2007, although it would keep the web site.[1][3]

Special issues[edit]

Life appears in special issues on notable occasions, such as Bob Dylan on the occasion of his winning the Nobel Prize in Literature, in 2016, and Paul at 75, in 2017.[citation needed]

Partnership with Google[edit]

On November 18, 2008, Google began hosting an archive of the magazine's photographs, as part of a joint effort with Life.[31] Many images in this archive had never been published in the magazine.[32] The archive of over 6 million photographs from Life is also available through Google Cultural Institute, allowing for users to create collections, and is accessible through Google image search. The full archive of the issues of the main run (1936–1972) is available through Google Book Search.[33]

Online presence[edit]

Life's online presence began in the 1990s[34] as part of the Pathfinder.com network. The standalone Life.com site was launched March 31, 2009 and closed January 30, 2012. Life.com was developed by Andrew Blau and Bill Shapiro, the same team who launched the weekly newspaper supplement. While the archive of Life, known as the LIFE Picture Collection, was substantial, they searched for a partner who could provide significant contemporary photography. They approached Getty Images, the world's largest licensor of photography. The site, a joint venture between Getty Images and Life magazine, offered millions of photographs from their combined collections.[35] On the 50th anniversary of the night Marilyn Monroe sang "Happy Birthday" to John Kennedy, Life.com presented Bill Ray's iconic portrait of the actress, along with other rare photos.

The film, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, starring Ben Stiller and Kristen Wiig, portrays Life as it transitioned from printed material toward having only an online presence.[36] Life.com is now a redirect to a small photo channel on Time.com. Life.com also maintains Tumblr[37] and Twitter[38] accounts and a presence on Instagram.


Notable contributors since 1936 have included:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ abc"Time Inc. to Close LIFE Magazine Newspaper Supplement" (Press release). TimeWarner. March 26, 2007. 
  2. ^Keith J. Kelly (23 September 2008). "Time Inc. And Getty Images Team Up To Renew Life Title". The Huffington Post. New York Post. Archived from the original on 2008-09-25. Retrieved 8 October 2013. 
  3. ^ ab"End comes again for 'Life,' but all its photos going on the Web". USA Today. New York. 2007-03-26. 
  4. ^"Full text of "The miscellaneous reports: cases decided in the inferior courts of record of the state of New York"". Archive.org. Retrieved 2012-01-15. 
  5. ^ abc"Life: Dead & Alive". TIME. October 19, 1936. 
  6. ^http://www.oldmagazinearticles.com/search_list.php?search=Life_Magazine
  7. ^Frank Luther Mott. A History of American magazines, 1865-1885 (1938) p 556.
  8. ^LIFE in 2012: The Year in 12 Galleries. Retrieved September 24, 2015
  9. ^French, Alex. "The Very First Issues of 19 Famous Magazines". Mental Floss. Retrieved 12 August 2013. 
  10. ^"Pictorial to Sleep", Time, March 8, 1937.
  11. ^Dora Jane Hamblin, That Was the 'Life', New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1977, p. 161.
  12. ^"Detroit is Dynamite". Life. August 17, 1942. p. 15. Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  13. ^Mansfield (Ohio) News Journal, August 17, 1942.
  14. ^"Letters to the Editor". Life. September 7, 1942. p. 12. Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  15. ^Prentice, P.I. (8 May 1944). "A Letter From The Publisher". Time. p. 11. 
  16. ^Marian R. McNoughten. "The Army Art Program"(PDF). A Guide to the Stude and Use of Military Histor. 
  17. ^The Great LIFE Photographers, Thames and Hudson, paperback ed. 2009, ISBN 978-0-500-28836-8, p. 294
  18. ^"Life and Death propaganda". Psywar. March 30, 2011. Retrieved September 25, 2014. 
  19. ^Abels, Jules, Out of the Jaws of Victory, New York: Henry Holt and Company (1959), p. 261.
  20. ^"Life magazine is banned in Egypt after publishing an unflattering article about King Farouk". South African History Online. Retrieved November 27, 2013. 
  21. ^Michael Palin, "Michael Palin's Hemingway Adventure", PBS, 1999.
  22. ^Joaquim Tarinas. "ROBERT GORDON WASSON Seeking the Magic Mushroom". Imaginaria. Retrieved January 15, 2012. 
  23. ^"Medicine: Mushroom Madness". Time. June 16, 1958. Retrieved May 7, 2010. 
  24. ^life.time.com
  25. ^"Our Eyes Have Fingers", Time, December 25, 1964.
  26. ^The Rocky Mountain News, November 29, 2000, page 1.
  27. ^Life Magazine. "LSD - Cover". Psychedelic-library.org. Retrieved 2010-04-20. 
  28. ^"Time Inc. to cease publication of Life magazine". CNN. March 17, 2000.
Cover art for Life, 27 January 1910 issue, illustration by Coles Phillips
1922 cover, "The Flapper" by F. X. Leyendecker
Cover of the September 13, 1948, issue of Life with Marshal Josip Broz Tito
Henri Huet's photograph of Thomas Cole featured on the cover of Life, February 11, 1966

“Odessa,” she said, referred not just to her lineage but also to a transformative trip she took there in 2008 with her father. In a sense, it was a place that had always separated them — it embodied a language, a regime and a past that she could never share. Her father fled Ukraine in 1980 when he was 28, and he vowed never to return. Even in America, old habits, like his KGB-induced skepticism of the police lingered. Malis said that during her childhood in Trumbull, Conn., near New Haven, he would close the living-room blinds whenever he wanted to discuss anything “sensitive,” like summer travel plans or family finances. The city loomed large in her father’s consciousness when Malis was growing up. She once asked why there was no fleck of green anywhere in their house — not in the wallpaper, pictures, dishes, throw rugs — and her mother explained that it was because the color reminded him of painful early years spent in the army.

On that trip back, Malis paid for her father’s plane ticket and arranged their accommodations, and they were both surprised to find him just as lost as she was in the streets of Odessa. Her laconic father was more talkative, though, in his native tongue. He was strangely calm visiting his father’s grave but became choked up when he showed her the tracks where he caught the train that whisked him out of the city one panicked night so long ago. Above all, Malis said, typing “Odessa” every time she logged in to her computer was a reminder of the true epiphany she carried home: that getting closer to something — her father, this city — didn’t make it smaller or more manageable. “It actually just brought their complexity and nuance more into focus,” she said.

At least as interesting as the amount of thought Malis had packed into this one six-letter word was the fact that she was telling me it all. I confessed to her that I loved “Odessa” as a password. At the same time, I worried that her office’s techies might not share my affection, given that their first rule is to avoid choosing passwords with personal significance. Malis pointed out that we break that rule precisely because secure passwords are so much harder to remember. Our brains are prone to mooring new memories to old ones, she said. I added that I thought the behavior spoke to something deeper, something almost Cartesian. Humans like, even need, to imbue things with meaning, I suggested. We’re prone to organizing symbols into language.

Malis gave me an inquisitive look. So I continued: We try to make the best of our circumstances, converting our shackles into art, I said. Amid all that is ephemeral, we strive for permanence, in this case ignoring instructions to make passwords disposable, opting instead to preserve our special ones. These very tendencies are what distinguish us as a species.

These special passwords are a bit like origami, I suggested: small and often impromptu acts of creativity, sometimes found in the most banal of places. Malis seemed to agree. She nodded, shook my hand and left.

Asking strangers about their passwords is a touchy proposition. Push too hard, and you come off as a prospective hacker. Go too easy, and people just rant about how much they hate passwords. Still, it’s not every day that you stumble across a conversation topic that teaches you new things about people you’ve known for years.

I discovered, for example, that my father — a recently retired federal judge and generally a pretty serious guy — derived his passwords from a closeted love for goofy, novelty songs from the late ’50s and early ’60s (“The Purple People Eater,” “Monster Mash”).

The “4622” that my wife uses in her passwords was not just the address of her own father’s childhood home but also a reminder of his fragility and strength. Apparently when the former 270-pound football standout, a scholarship athlete and the pride of his working-class neighborhood in west Tulsa, was a small boy, he had to sing his home address (“4622 South 28th West Avenue”) in one full breath rather than try to say it normally; otherwise, his debilitating stutter would trip him up.

My young son revealed that his password was “philosophy,” because, he said, several years earlier, when he created it, he took secret pride in knowing the meaning of a concept that big. The disclosure had an interesting echo for me, because one of my first childhood passwords was a play on “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny,” an evolutionary theory from a high-school biology class that I found especially captivating. (The hypothesis, now unfashionable, posits that the physical or intellectual development of each individual passes through stages similar to the developmental stages of that individual’s species or civilization.)

I asked Andy Miah, a professor of science communication and digital media at the University of Salford in England, for his thoughts on passwords, and he offered an anthropological outlook. Keepsake passwords, he suggested, ritualize a daily encounter with personal memories that often have no place else to be recalled. We engage with them more frequently and more actively than we do, say, with the framed photo on our desk. “You lose that ritual,” Miah said, “you lose an intimacy with yourself.”

For some people, these rituals are motivational. Fiona Moriarty, a competitive runner, told me that she often used “16:59” — her target time for the 5,000 meters in track. Mauricio Estrella, a designer who emailed me from Shanghai, described how his passwords function like homemade versions of popular apps like Narrato or 1 Second Everyday, which automatically provide its user with a daily reminder to pause and reflect momentarily on personal ambitions or values. To help quell his anger at his ex-wife soon after their divorce, Estrella had reset his password to “Forgive@h3r.” “It worked,” he said. Because his office computer demanded that he change his password every 30 days, he moved on to other goals: “Quit@smoking4ever” (successful); “Save4trip@thailand” (successful); “Eat2@day” (“it never worked, I’m still fat,” Estrella wrote); “Facetime2mom@sunday” (“it worked,” he said, “I’ve started talking with my mom every week now”).

Keepsakes also memorialize loss or mark painful turning points. Leslye Davis, the New York Times reporter who produced the video series that accompanies this article online, said that “stroke911” was her original Facebook password because she happened to create her page on the same day that her cousin had a stroke. My friend Monica Vendituoli’s keepsake was “swim2659nomore” — a reference to a career-ending shoulder injury in 2008 that prevented her from hitting the 26.59-second qualifying time in the 50-yard freestyle she needed for a championship meet in high school. But the effect of typing this password had shifted over the years, she added. What started as a mourning ritual, she said, was now more a reminder of how “time heals all.”

These personal tributes vary widely, I found. Stuck on a tarmac last year, I sat next to a chatty man who, judging by his expensive watch and suit, seemed to have done well for himself. We made small talk about our jobs, and eventually I told him about my interest in passwords. After a long, silent look out the window, he turned to me and said that he typically uses “1060” in his passwords. This was his SAT score, he explained. He liked reminding himself of it, he said, because he took a certain private satisfaction in how far he had come in life in spite of his mediocre showing on the standardized test.

I got an email from a college student, Megan Welch, 21, who described having been trapped several years earlier in a relationship with a physically abusive boyfriend. She recounted how he routinely spied on her email. When she tried to change her password, he always either guessed or got her to tell him the new one. “I was so predictable,” she said. After finally deciding to break up with him, she used for her new password the date of her decision, plus the word “freedom” — a deviation, she said, from the cutesy words that had been her norm. In being uncharacteristic, her password became unhackable; it was at once a break from her former self and a commemoration of that break.

Keepsake passwords are so universal that they are now part of the fabric of pop culture. I noticed, for instance, that on Showtime’s “Dexter,” the main character (a blood-spatter analyst for the police by day, vigilante serial killer by night) forgot his work computer’s password. He was soon visited by the ghost of his adoptive father, Harry, who killed himself after witnessing Dexter’s violent tendencies. The visit reminded Dexter of his password (“Harry”) and the viewer of the longevity and depth of his personal torment.

Googling for more examples, I came across Jack Donaghy, Alec Baldwin’s character on the NBC sitcom “30 Rock.” He convinced himself that a high-school crush still had feelings for him after he learned that her voice-mail code, “55287,” stood for “Klaus,” the name Jack used in the high-school German class they took together. I found George Costanza from “Seinfeld” nearly driving his girlfriend mad, and maybe even killing a guy, by refusing to share his A.T.M. password, “Bosco,” a reference to George’s weakness for the chocolate syrup.

But perhaps the most bizarre one I found was Jerry Seinfeld’s A.T.M. code — “Jor-El.” On the simplest level — as the episode explained — this was the name of Superman’s Kryptonian father. It served as a nod to the fictional Jerry’s love of the comic-book character. But in digging a bit further, I found that the real-life Jerry’s father was of Eastern European-Jewish descent, and his first name was Kalman, a.k.a. Kal. This is why one of the actor’s two sons, born long after the episode was made, has Kal as his middle name. Though most people know Superman as Clark Kent, his Kryptonian name is Kal-El. What Jerry hid in his PIN looped between fact and fiction, past and present; and comic book, sitcom and real life.

I loved the Seinfeld password story because it was so convoluted that in retelling it I could barely follow it myself. Its circularity inspired a certain awe in me — the way you might feel when you first see an optical illusion by Escher. That got me thinking about the intricate and self-referential patterns famously described in Douglas R. Hofstadter’s 1979 classic “Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid.” The book is a beautiful and personal musing on how we mold both language and our sense of self from the inanimate material around us.

I wondered if there might be some (modest) parallel between what I saw in keepsakes and the elaborate loops in music, math and art that he described in his book. Like a fractal running through human psychology, maybe we have a tendency not just to create keepsakes but to create ones with self-referential loops in them.

So I called Hofstadter to get his take. He was reserved but intrigued. I suggested that many of these passwords seem to be quiet celebrations of things we hold dear. Hofstadter concurred. His primary password, he said, was the same one he has used since 1975, when he was a visiting scholar at Stanford. It consisted of a sentimental date from his past coupled with a word problem.

“Might there be something deeper at work in these password habits and in the self-referential loops you studied?” I asked.

Some of these patterns we discover, Hofstadter said, others we create. But above all, “we oppose randomness,” he said. “Keepsake passwords are part of that.”

The Internet is a confessional place. With so little privacy, passwords may soon be tomorrow’s eight-track player, quaintly described to our grandchildren. Ten years ago, Bill Gates announced during a tech-security conference in San Francisco that “people are going to rely less and less” on passwords, because they cannot “meet the challenge” of keeping critical information secure. In recent years, there has been a push for machines to identify us not by passwords but by things we possess, like tokens and key cards, or by scanning our eyes, voices or fingerprints. This year, for example, Google purchased SlickLogin, a start-up that verifies IDs using sound waves. iPhones have come equipped with fingerprint scanners for more than a year now. And yet passwords continue to proliferate, to metastasize. Every day more objects — thermostats, car consoles, home alarm systems — are designed to be wired into the Internet and thus password protected. Because big data is big money, even free websites now make you register to view virtually anything of importance so that companies can track potential customers. Five years ago, people averaged about 21 passwords. Now that number is 81, according to LastPass, a company that makes password-storage software.

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