Life Magazine and Twentieth-Century America

After its appearance in 1936, Henry Luce’s photographic pictorial weekly––the first all-photographic American news magazine––became wildly popular and was found in nearly every home. It documented important world events, cultural news, sports, and daily life with the help of often-brilliant photographers, incisive writers, and perceptive editors. Today, Life is a rich and entertaining primary document, one which also reveals the gender, racial, and class biases of its time. Even the copious advertisements say much about modern life and current styles. Using text and images from Life from the Newberry’s own collection, this session examines all aspects of this seminal American publication as well as its reception and place in the popular culture of this country. We will engage topics involving history, literature, journalism, photography, and social issues. Narrated PowerPoint lectures, discussion, and activities will give us a comprehensive understanding of a magazine that promised to document American “life” itself.