See all finding aids in this repository

Table of Contents

Print / View Finding Aid as Single Page

New-York Historical Society logo

Guide to the Time Inc. Life Editorial Records
 MS 3009-RG 9

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

New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Holly Deakyne, Samantha Brown, Melanie Rinehart

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on June 11, 2021
Description is in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Historical Note

For the majority of Time Inc.'s existence, the company maintained a strict separation of editorial from the publishing and business side of each magazine, colloquially called the separation of "church" (editorial) and "state" (publishing). Editorial includes the editors, researchers, and art department. The editorial side reported up to the editor-in-chief and the publishing/business side reported up to the corporate business executive which was the president prior to 1960 and the chief executive officer after. Henry Luce structured Time Inc. this way so that the business side could not (in theory) influence the editorial content of the publications. For example, the advertising sales people could not interfere with a magazine's decision to run an article on the dangers of cigarette smoking, even though it might mean losing millions of dollars in tobacco ads.

Time Inc. published the first issue of Life on November 23, 1936. In the initial proposal to the board, the specifications were that it would be the same size as the  Illustrated London News, printed on shiny paper with around 200 high-quality photographs recording significant current news events including detailed captions. Because the suggested price would be 10 cents per issue, the initial title was  Dime, The Show-Book of the World. According to Elson, staff and charter subscribers were asked to submit other names, and the title  Life was suggested by both cofounder Henry Luce's wife Clare Luce and Time Inc. president James Linen's father. Since the name was already in use by another publication, Luce purchased it in order to acquire the rights.

The first staff members in 1936 were Luce as managing editor with John Martin as an alternate, Daniel Longwell as picture editor, Alfred Eisenstaedt and Peter Stackpole as staff photographers, and Mary Fraser as copy chief.

For financial reasons, Time Inc. suspended production of Life as a weekly magazine in December 1972, but began planning a revival almost immediately. The Magazine Development department published the first  Life special in 1973 as a newsstand magazine followed by nine more. Time Inc. revived  Life as a monthly in 1978. In 2000, publication was again suspended, but revived in 2004 as a newspaper supplement. In 2007, Time Inc. completely ceased printing of  Life and created a website for images from the collection.


Elson, Robert T. 1968. Time Inc.: The Intimate History of a Publishing Enterprise, 1923-1941. New York: Atheneum.

Hooper, Bill. Email to Holly Deakyne, 10 June 2016.

Prendergast, Curtis, and Geoffrey Colvin. 1986. The World of Time Inc.: The Intimate History of a Changing Enterprise, 1960-1980. New York: Atheneum.

Time To Stop Publishing Life Magazine, Will Keep It Online. U.S. News. CNBC, 26 March 2007.