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Guide to the Henry R. Luce Papers
1894-2004 (bulk, 1932-1967)
 MS 3014

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400


New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Aleksandr Gelfand

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on October 04, 2018
Description is in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Administrative History

Henry R. Luce (hereafter HRL) directed that all his files before 1933 be thrown out when his new secretary, Corinne Thrasher, arrived and found them unmanageable, leaving a relatively small number of records in his papers prior to the 1930s. Upon his death in 1967, HRL's remaining files and those of his personal assistants were reviewed item by item and divided into records classified as personal and business. Records classified as business became part of the Time Inc. archives while those considered personal became part of the Henry R. Luce papers. In the initial division the personal papers included correspondence pertaining to HRL's outside interests and activities, family correspondence and personal correspondence with outsiders, as well as photographs and financial records. Some of his files during the division were given to the Library of Congress with copies of the more prominent records retained in his papers. The arrangement of the papers was partially determined by the needs of Robert Elson who was given the task of writing a corporate history of Time Inc. Between 1967 and early 2000s additional materials were added to the collection.

(The above note was based on information found in Series I, folder "Files and Personal Papers of HRL.")

Biographical Note

Henry Robinson Luce (hereafter HRL) was born on 3 April 1898 in Tengchow (currently Penglai), China to Presbyterian missionaries Reverend Dr. Henry Winters Luce (1868-1941) and Elizabeth Middleton Luce (1870-1948). HRL spent the first 14 years of his life in China, apart from a visit to the United States in 1906-1907. He attended Chefoo School, a British run preparatory institution in northern China. In 1912, when he was 14, HRL travelled to England to briefly study in St. Albans School, before returning to the U.S. and entering the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut the following year.

In 1916 HRL began attending Yale University where he served as managing editor of the Yale Daily News and actively contributed to other university publications. A member of the Yale ROTC Field Artillery Unit, he left college to train army recruits during World War I and was discharged as Second Lieutenant at the end of 1918. Returning to Yale, he graduated in 1920.

Following graduation, HRL spent a year studying history at Oxford University, coming back to the United States in 1921 to take a job as a cub reporter at the Chicago Daily News and then the Baltimore  News. HRL quit his job in 1922 to concentrate on the creation of a "news-magazine" with Briton Hadden, a classmate from Hotchkiss and Yale. Together they formed the company Time Incorporated (later changed to Time Inc.) and published the first issue of their magazine, TIME, in New York in 1923.

On 22 December 1923 HRL married Lila Ross Hotz (1899-1999), the couple having two sons: Henry Luce III in 1925 and Peter Paul Luce in 1928. After briefly moving to live in Cleveland, Ohio in 1925, along with the publishing operations of TIME, HRL moved back to New York in 1927. Following Hadden's death in 1929, HRL became the sole head of Time Inc., launching additional ventures throughout the 1930s, including FORTUNE in 1930, THE MARCH OF TIME radio series in 1931 (and short film series in 1935), and LIFE in 1936. HRL divorced Lila Hotz in 1935, marrying Clare Boothe Brokaw (1903-1987), a playwright and former managing editor of Vanity Fair, the same year.

As a prominent publisher, HRL corresponded with a large number of individuals, including politicians, educators, and businessmen. He traveled extensively, both nationally and internationally, and was frequently invited to speak before professional, academic and church groups. In the early years of World War II, as a member of the Century Group, HRL advocated providing assistance to Great Britain, envisioning an expanded global role for the United States after the conclusion of the war. His vision was laid out in his best known article "The American Century," published in LIFE in 1941.

HRL's increasing interest in politics and world affairs led to his involvement in the 1940 presidential campaign where he served as one of the driving forces promoting the candidacy of Wendell Willkie, the Republican running against Franklin D. Roosevelt. He also led a concerted campaign to provide aid to China under the aegis of the United China Relief. After the war, HRL travelled extensively throughout Europe, Asia and the Middle East, advocating a tough stance against Communism. As a potent force in the Republican Party, HRL and his wife were early supporters of Dwight D. Eisenhower's candidacy for the presidency in 1952 and after the election, Clare Boothe Luce was appointed ambassador to Italy. As a result, HRL opened an office in Rome, splitting his time between Italy and the United States from 1953-1956. In 1954 he launched SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, in addition to his work at Time Inc, HRL was continuously involved in various charities related to the Presbyterian Church, Yale, and China, in addition to being a director, trustee, member, and sponsor of a large number of organizations. Becoming convinced that peace in the world could only be achieved by following the rule of law, he became a strong advocate for that concept. After marking the 40th anniversary of TIME in 1963, he retired from Time Inc. the following year. HRL continued to lecture and travel, as well as staying up-to-date with matters related to Time Inc. after his retirement until his death on 28 February 1967 in Phoenix, Arizona.

(The above note was based on various sources including, among others, Robert T. Elson, Time Inc: The Intimate History of a Publishing Enterprise, 1923-1941; Robert T. Elson,  The World of Time Inc: The Intimate History of a Publishing Enterprise, 1941-1960; Curtis Prendergast and Geoffrey Colvin,  The World of Time Inc: The Intimate History of a Publishing Enterprise, 1960-1980; Alan Brinkley,  The Publisher: Henry Luce and His American Century; and documents in the collection.)