Ican only say,” Luce wrote late in March 1923, “that Vol 1 No 4 will be published and that Vol 1 No 5 may or may not be published.”1
For a moment following the publication of the first issue, optimism ran high. Grasping at the compliments they received from friends and colleagues, seizing on the rapid sale of the inaugural issue in a few Manhattan locations, Luce, Hadden, Larsen, and their colleagues began to believe that Time might indeed be an overnight success. But those illusions vanished quickly. In the end the first issue sold nine thousand copies, a little more than a third of their projections. This was partly a result of the staff’s inexperience, as illustrated by the incompetent mailing of subscription copies of the first issue. But half of the five thousand newsstand copies were returned unsold as well. Nor was the critical reception encouraging. “The first issue of TIME,” Luce wrote disconsolately, “has received extraordinarily little praise.” For the next weeks and months the Time staffers worked simply to stay alive, “watching the mail-bag with maternal care” to see if enough subscription income would arrive each week to allow them to keep going, and praying “for courage to face the daily—in fact hourly disappointment.” In the meantime their initial capitalization—just short of one hundred thousand dollars—was dwindling fast, and everyone recognized that substantial additional investments were unlikely until the magazine began to prove itself.2
At one point Luce and Larsen sat down “to see what was the worst we could expect in the next three weeks,” and they concluded that there was “no limit to the extent of the immediate catastrophe!—Not when people are already writing in at the rate of over 100per day, telling us to cancel their trial subscriptions.” As he usually did when faced with difficulties, Luce shrouded himself in gloom and self-reproach. He was, he wrote to Lila, doomed to be a “second-rater.” And he claimed that he was resigned to the failure. “I really don’t believe I care what happens in April,” he wrote at the end of March. “I shall be more than happy to be April’s fool.” Worst of all “a lot of people who have bought the thing think it is the most terrible of all terrors.” But as in other times of anxiety, he also strove to maintain hope. “We have not begun to realize our aspirations in the making of our paper,” he wrote Nettie McCormick, with more optimism than he actually felt. “But the testimony of thousands of readers every week & in every state of the Union seems to indicate that we are on the right track.” After Condé Nast, the famously successful publisher of Vanity Fair and Vogue, invited Luce and Hadden to meet with them, Luce wrote brightly that the invitation—designed, they assumed, to satisfy the publisher’s curiosity—meant that the “big fellows are beginning to realize we exist.” He was grasping at straws.3
All the members of the staff braced themselves for the daily struggle—the struggle to write, edit, and produce the magazine; to keep up with the bills despite minimal funds; to wrest payment from their charter subscribers. “It was just like pulling teeth to get the $5 bills in,” Luce later recalled. In March they received slightly over eleven thousand dollars in subscription income, and in April more than seventeen thousand dollars. But whatever optimism this healthy increase produced was shattered in May, when income dropped to just over ten thousand dollars. “With any luck,” Luce noted sardonically, “one day we will have $5,000 on deposit.” Advertising income was also minimal. “From the advertising world as a whole,” their first annual report frankly observed, “Time has met with a cold reception…. Advertisers are human. It was years before evolution was generally accepted as a theory.” Inside the office they were less philosophical. Luce and his new (and first) advertising director, E. R. Crowe, were battling constantly—Crowe calling Luce amateurish, Luce accusing Crowe of extravagance. Crowe left angrily after only a few weeks of publication, returning his shares of TIME Inc. stock and, as Luce later recalled, saying “the hell with you.” There were other casualties as well. Hadden was unhappy with John Franklin Carter, one of the new writers, and dismissed him after a few weeks, leaving the editorial operations seriously undermanned. Luce, who was already fully occupied with the magazine’s precarious business operations, had to pitch in. (Carter went on to become a successful columnist, writing as “the Unofficial Observer.”)4
Little by little, however, Time’s fortunes improved—not so much as to erase the anxiety, but enough to create some realistic hope. Word of mouth was drawing new subscribers to the magazine, slowly increasing circulation. “I think,” Luce wrote in May, “that two weeks from now I will be saying with some light degree of definiteness that TIME will in all probability at least outlive the summer, and that if it can do that there may be hope for it.” His spirits brightened considerably in June, when he was invited to give a short speech at the Yale commencement as a representative of recent distinguished alumni. “Feeling fit as fiddle and ‘morale’ is very high,” he wrote after the event. “The speech is of absolutely no importance … except as a soothing reassurance that our classmates cannot point the finger of scorn at us.”5
Having resisted paying to publicize the magazine in the early months, Luce and Hadden now decided to use some of their precious dwindling capital to take out advertisements in prestigious but relatively inexpensive magazines such as Harper’s, the Atlantic, Century, and Literary Digest. They seemed to help. Circulation began a slow but steady rise and averaged 18,500 over the second half of the year—more than twice where they had started, even if little more than half of their projections. They ended the year with a little over $36,000 in the bank and another $9,500 still owed them by subscribers and advertisers. They had spent more than half their initial capitalization to stay afloat, but they had feared much worse. Time, Hadden wrote optimistically at the end of 1923, “has grown from an idea into an established institution” and “has gradually been accepted by an increasing number of people as part of their weekly reading.” But the boasting was, they realized, to some degree premature. The charter subscriptions were set to expire in February, and they knew that to survive they needed a healthy renewal rate. Once again they waited nervously each day for the mail to gauge their success. In fact renewals were strong, and new subscribers were continuing to sign up as well.6
According to their initial agreement, Luce and Hadden were scheduled to trade jobs each year, alternating between running the business and editing the magazine. Early 1924 was Luce’s turn to be editor. But the switch did not occur. Both men realized that Hadden had little interest in or talent for business matters, and Luce—who in other circumstances might have insisted on the trade anyway—decided that the time was not right. Despite the improvement in Time’s health by 1924, Luce remained appropriately worried about survival. “Oh, we were in too much trouble … too much trouble,” he later recalled of his decision to stay where he was.7
By mid-1924 they were becoming more confident. Over the next nine months they raised an additional fifty thousand dollars from the original stockholders, “quite easily” according to Luce, in return for more stock. They were even willing to consider expansion. Henry Seidel Canby, their onetime Yale instructor, was now the editor of the struggling Saturday Review of Literature. He approached Time and proposed a partnership, which Luce and Hadden were, as Luce later put it, “nervy enough” to accept. Saturday Review moved into offices in Time’s inelegant building, contributed to the rent, and shared other expenses. Larsen in return helped them more than double their subscription base. The editorial life of the Review remained largely autonomous, but the partnership gave Time more visibility and, perhaps as well, an entry point into the Review’s small but elite readership. Time’s circulation grew even more rapidly in the second half of the year, so much so (to seventy thousand a week) that the magazine registered its first profit at the end of 1924 (a modest $674, but a tremendous advance from the heavy losses in 1923).8
Launching Time and tending it during its perilous early months was an enervating job. Luce worked constantly, maintaining only the most minimal social life and even seeing very little of his family when they were still in New York. Often he returned home after everyone else was asleep and left in the morning before anyone was awake. In the summer of 1923 the family moved out of Manhattan to a summer house (which Harry never visited) in upstate New York for a few weeks, after which his mother and Sheldon returned to Beijing (joining Emmavail, who was working at the YWCA there). Later that fall his sister Elisabeth returned to Wellesley, and his father embarked on another arduous round of fund-raising in the Midwest. Harry remained in the city, so busy that he seemed almost oblivious to his family’s dispersal. With the family apartment in Morningside Heights now gone, he lived for a time in a room at the Yale Club and then moved downtown to a spartan and less expensive room (“four walls and a door, and a very fine desk,” as he described it) on Stuyvesant Street, to be nearer the office. He was accustomed to a frenzied life, and the pace of work—exhausting as it must have been—did not often seem to bother him. Quite the contrary, in fact, for despite his frequent complaints about the grim fortunes of his enterprise, he loved the battle. “Doing something, getting something done, … finding a way out of a difficulty, … just the ‘game’ of it,—that … is the ‘kick’ I get out of it all—whatever it is, now, or in the future.” And yet this period of intense preoccupation with the magazine coincided with a period in which he was desperately attempting to sustain what at times seemed to him a hopeless romance.9
The struggle for Time was, in fact, crucially connected—in Luce’s mind at least—to his struggle for, and sometimes with, Lila. Harry remained infatuated with her and was constantly fearful that she might give up on him. At the same time he worried that the woman he loved might not be wholly compatible with the life he envisioned for himself. By now he and Lila had known each other for more than three years and had developed a very serious relationship. They had quietly and informally agreed to marry. But the marriage, at least in Harry’s mind, remained far from certain, since Lila’s family—in particular her somewhat imperious stepfather, Frederick Haskell, a prominent Chicago banker—remained skeptical. Haskell questioned the suitability of a young man with little money and an uncertain career: “a person of no importance,” as he put it. His views were no secret to Harry, who wrote Mrs. McCormick that his prospective stepfather-in-law was “apparently convinced that I am thoroughly worthless.”10
The relationship, with the exception of the few months Harry had spent working in Chicago, had been—and remained—mostly epistolary. Harry wrote long impassioned letters to Lila every two or three days, often rushing to Penn Station late at night to get them onto the last train to Chicago. Lila wrote frequently in return, less often than Harry but with equal affection. They had pet names for each other: Lila was “Tod,” and Harry was “Chuck.” More often they used gushing terms of endearment—“Beloved,” “Dearest,” “Carissima,” “Angel,” “Beautifulest,” “Totally adored.” And yet they rarely saw each other. Lila traveled occasionally to New York with Mrs. Haskell, but even then Harry found it hard to see her, both because he was busy at work and because, when he was free, Lila’s vaguely hostile mother had often made plans that excluded him. For a while they took to meeting in Washington, where Lila went occasionally to see friends. But even these infrequent, furtive visits came to a sudden halt in late June when Lila sailed with her mother for a summerlong sojourn in Europe—a trip perhaps designed to encourage her to forget about Harry.11
Despite her constant reassurances Harry could not help but fear that Lila’s love was incomplete and unreliable, and he rarely hesitated to share his anxiety with her. He believed, or at least claimed, that his love had begun earlier, and was deeper than hers. He insisted, for example, that he had fallen in love with Lila in Rome in 1920 “at first sight,” but that Lila did not then reciprocate. Even three years later he continued to search for reassurance. “I am desperate to find out whether or not you love me,” he wrote her in Europe in July, not long after reading Lila’s own impassioned assurances that she did. He could not help worrying about how Lila’s mother might be turning her daughter against him, and he wrote—perhaps preemptively—of the financial uncertainty about which he felt certain Mrs. Haskell was warning her daughter. He begged her to “reconcile yourself to the fact that for a little while you have got a lover who cannot play that role [the successful provider] as it ought to be played.” When Lila wrote that he should be satisfied with knowing she loved him, Harry continued to fret. “When it’s this job and that job, and get up and rush to the office, and hear this bad news and that bad news, … and get a bad lunch, and find this gone wrong and ‘must do that,’ and catch the subway and be late for dinner, and this must be done tonight, and now let’s get to bed, and start all over again tomorrow—Well, Tod, it’s not in me to maintain through all that drab and wretched business the calm and philosophical confidence of the idealist whose feet are planted upon the bases of the universe and whose right hand upholds the footstool of the throne of God.” The grandiose rhetoric could not disguise his terrible mundane anxiety.12
His relationship with Lila was almost certainly the first serious romance of his life, and at times he seemed—at least in writing—utterly besotted, writing page after page of impassioned statements and restatements of his love. But as the level of commitment grew, Harry also began trying, in effect, to “improve” Lila. This was visible at times in small and inconsequential ways: his graceless references to her misspellings (“By the way, you might spell the great man’s name [Sam Insull] correctly!”); his blunt corrections of minor factual mistakes (“Tuchuns [Chinese military governors] have nothing to do with bandits … either etymologically or socially”); and his complaints about the brevity, superficiality, or, as he saw it, condescension of her messages. (“Don’t treat me like a pitiable dachshund with one leg shot off, but like a live animal!”)13
But his criticisms were also visible in larger ways. He chided her for her frivolousness, and for a while lectured her about spending too much time playing bridge. He balked at times at Lila’s aristocratic prejudices, sometimes by mildly ridiculing her (“We are having turkey hash. It’s very unByronic & besides I know you despise anything so plebeian”), and sometimes by challenging her, as if to test her loyalty. “Some time ago you spoke scornfully of the ‘flats’ your young married friends inhabit,” he wrote almost tauntingly at one point. “Well, you shall see, as soon as we can afford anything even as good as that—pop! We shall be in it.” In fact the relative claims of status and achievement were a frequent source of discussion between them. “Some people,” he wrote pointedly, “do attach great importance to comfort, to eminent respectability, etc…. Other people believe that these things, while very desirable, are not to be compared in value to other things. The corollary of the former belief is that there is no immortality and that therefore no one will even know whether it was not just as important to attend the right party and have a ‘good time’ as it was to attend the right church and love ‘justice.’” On another occasion he accused Lila of not valuing his work. “I think you care a great deal more for the kudos (fame etc) or the general results which personally accrue to me out of it than for the actual doing of it, and I care just the other way around.”14
Harry was right about Lila, at least in part. She was a vivacious, even flirtatious young woman who was immersed in the whirl of society and who—as Harry perceptively noted—lived “for the entire crowd.” She was preoccupied with the trappings of the upper class: its social conventions, its material expectations, its style, its values. She loved things—furniture, clothes, houses, jewelry—and continued to do so throughout her very long life. She cared a great deal about appearances and looked to Harry not just to be successful but also to be socially presentable, which at times he still was not. He often dressed badly (“dashed in and bought a suit, all ready made so that it probably fit about as well as a pair of pajamas,” he once wrote her); he had almost no awareness of his physical surroundings (he once described his residence to her as “two beds, four chairs, and a table”); and he was not yet wholly comfortable—and perhaps never fully became so—in Lila’s elite social world because he did not like, and was not good at, small talk and gossip. In some ways it was hard to see how someone as serious and intense as Harry had found himself drawn to Lila—and vice versa.15
And yet a large part of Lila’s appeal to Harry had always been that she provided things he himself did not have. Despite his protestations, he shared her aristocratic aspirations, coveted her social position, and envied her family’s wealth. These were not his only ambitions, of course, but they were far from the least important. His own social life, limited as it was, was securely rooted in the world of his wealthy friends from Hotchkiss and Yale. He spent weekends in the summer of 1923, a summer in which he never visited his family in their own modest summer quarters, playing tennis and attending dinners at the country homes of people in his “circle.” As much as he tried at times to resist the values and prejudices of the world of the wealthy, he found himself drawn to them—to their assumptions of entitlement, to their camaraderie, to their willingness to express and even defend positions that might shock people outside the circle. For Luce, at least, this was still a predominantly male world; and through his late-night conversations with his upper-class friends, he labored to find a social philosophy of his own—one that seemed to change almost weekly but was always at least to some degree in opposition to his understanding of Lila’s worldview. When she wrote him about the value of the aristocracy, he subtly chided her by hinting that she did not understand what the aristocracy really meant. He parroted for a time the views of his English colleague, Thomas Martyn, citing Martyn’s pompous statement that if the Duchess of Devonshire thought him ill-mannered, “I shouldn’t care twopence.” But if “the man who sells newspapers in front of my club should fail to respond heartily to my ‘Good morning,’ I should be upset for a week.” This was evidence, Harry claimed, of the “undeveloped” American sense of “what it is to be aristocratic.” And yet on another occasion, apparently after an evening of conversation with his Skull and Bones colleagues, he wrote to Lila very differently, but again implicitly chidingly, about her modest charitable work in Chicago: “Don’t kid yourself into believing that you really sympathize or ‘feel for’ the poor people…. I make no pretense about the poor…. My claim to virtue is that at least I don’t pretend to sympathize with them.” And even though he rarely expressed, and often fiercely criticized, racial and religious prejudice, he continued occasionally to fall unthinkingly into the casual bigotry of the upper class of his time, referring, for example, to his physician as “the Jewboy doctor” who lived in a “swank Jew apartment on Riverside.”16
The summer of 1923 was a hard one for Luce, despite the slowly rising fortunes of Time. His family had left the city. Lila was in Europe. He was living in a depressing room. And he was beset by bad news. One of his friends from Yale, Harry Davison, had been diagnosed with tuberculosis and had been rushed off to the West, where the dry climate was supposed to help with recovery; Luce was aware that tuberculosis was often fatal and was distraught—in part, no doubt, because Davison was an important Timesupporter and a member of its board of directors. (Davison eventually recovered fully.) He learned that one of his Chefoo friends, the Englishman Harold Burt, with whom he had traveled in Europe in 1920, had committed suicide. He reproached himself bitterly for not having contacted him recently: “Suppose he had received a cheerio letter from his nursery companion,” he lamented. But the greatest blow was probably the death of Nettie McCormick, Harry’s unwavering patron and surrogate parent since his childhood. Only days before her death he had written her warmly about his relationship with Lila and his hopes that she would attend the wedding (not mentioning that he was still not entirely confident that it would occur). The letter never reached her and was returned unopened. Days later he was in Chicago serving as a pallbearer at her funeral.17
These worries and losses, combined with his lonely stressful life in New York, made him even more obsessive in the way he thought and wrote about his relationship with Lila. His own anxiety contributed to his complaints about her behavior and values, his efforts to improve her, and to his fears that he would lose her. It also brought to the surface a clearly harbored but seldom expressed darkness in his understanding of his life. In an uncharacteristic letter to Lila in the fall of 1923 he described himself as “sick at heart” and laid out for her an “egoistic parade of my troubles”—a litany of resentment, ambition, envy, and insecurity. He described life in America, from his earliest days at Hotchkiss, as a grim “struggle for existence,” made all the more difficult because of a series of injustices: “the disgrace [a family divorce] which disrupted my mother’s family” and cut him off from his distinguished (distant) cousin Elihu Root; his paternal grandfather’s financial setbacks and failures; his own father’s demeaning existence as a fund-raiser (“begging for money for which he got no credit”); and his realization that the McCormick family—and even his beloved patroness, Nettie McCormick—had, as he put it, “played me for a sucker,” making him think he was in effect a member of their family when he was in fact “the poor well-deserving protégé” who had become not a family member but a family project. (He was not mentioned in Mrs. McCormick’s will. Unsurprisingly, the estate passed on to her own sons.)18
The great, redeeming event in this dark narrative of his life was, as he saw it, his election to Skull and Bones, a “trifle,” he conceded, but an “honor that I probably took in with absurdly ludicrous seriousness,” not because of the friends he made or the connections he acquired, but because of its validation of him as a man of importance. Receiving an honor so coveted by so many others—“nice boys with nice families … wanting that so badly” and not getting it “for one reason—because I got it”—was “as evil and human a delight as probably even Mr. Satan had, but I had it and I couldn’t but have it.” But Skull and Bones was far from enough. Harry needed to achieve it all—the wealth, the fame, the influence that others had been handed by birth but that he would have to acquire by sheer effort. “The main thing is to win and nothing is justified except in that perspective…. I have got to rise to the ordinary level of the ordinary upper-class bourgeois. Then and only then can I begin the great march, the great knight-erranthood, of achieving my knighthood, my rank among the good and faithful.” A few days later he wrote again—perhaps afraid that he had revealed too much—and asked Lila not to take the letter seriously. “Don’t think about it much. I don’t think about it. If I did, I would have been beaten long ago.”19
All of this—the ambition, the resentment, the fear of failure—made his still-uncertain marriage into a kind of lifeline. He loved Lila, to be sure, but he also needed her both as validation of his rise to respectability and as an entrée into the social world he coveted. As her return from Europe approached, his letters became more ardent. “You can think of this pilgrimage to the boat [to mail a letter to Lila] as a pentecostial [sic] march to the shrine of you, there to confess—everything!” And to his great delight, Lila too—despite having spent months with her mother away from Harry—became more impassioned as their reunion drew near. “Paris looked so appealing,” she wrote of her last days before returning to America, “and [the city] reproached me sadly for being so anxious and glad to leave her.” Later she wrote emotionally, “I cannot understand why Heaven rewards one of its most impractical miserable sinners with a husband who is among the most capable men of his generation on this continent. May Heaven make up the deficiency on my side and thus reward you.” Lila’s arrival in New York, and her obvious joy at being reunited with Harry, seemed to dispel his remaining doubts. Having kept an almost morbid secrecy about their relationship for over three years, he now began to talk openly about it. Lila, in turn, started spending more time in New York, and more unchaperoned time with Harry. Her family even seemed to warm up to the prospect of their marriage, perhaps in part because of the signs of Time’s progress and because Harry began paying himself, at Frederick Haskell’s insistence, more than five thousand dollars a year. Early in the fall they announced their engagement, and for the next several months—until the wedding day, December 22, 1923—they were awash in the details of planning the event, the honeymoon, and their home together after they were married.20
The wedding itself reflected none of the doubts that Lila’s family had once expressed about the marriage. It was a lavish Chicago social event, painstakingly orchestrated by Lila’s mother. The ceremony was conducted jointly by the Haskells’ parish minister and Harry’s father. It took place in the same enormous church that Harry had often attended with Nettie McCormick. His sister Beth was there as well, but the rest of his family—his mother, Sheldon, Emmavail—were far away in Beijing. The distance from his family was not only geographical. The pious Emmavail had ceased communicating with Harry months before and was talking sternly to her parents and siblings about her disapproval both of the marriage and of the values that she believed lay behind it. Harry was saddened but resigned. “Write me about Vail if you want to,” he said dismissively in a letter from the Homestead resort in Virginia, where he and Lila spent a brief honeymoon. His mother seized on this cool reference as an excuse to forward the letter to Emmavail, noting plaintively in the margin that “in his real heart, Harry does care about you and he wants your welfare and happiness. This is the 2d time he has asked about you…. Harry knows the real from the false in life—& I do believe he and Lila will not become like the idle rich.”21
Back in New York, Harry and Lila settled in an apartment on Fifth Avenue, a place considerably better than the dreary “flats” that Lila had claimed her newly married friends occupied. They could afford to do so, and to hire a maid to help them, because of financial assistance from Lila’s family. Harry valued the home because it made Lila happy and because it served as a sign of his own ascent. But he paid little attention to the organization and running of the household, for within less than a week after his marriage he was again working almost unceasingly—making his absence from family life an enduring part of their marriage. (“I do wish you would come home in time for dinner these days & at least stay till after breakfast,” Lila pleaded resignedly three years after their wedding.)22
The improvement in Time’s performance in 1924 dispelled much of the panic that had characterized the magazine’s first year, but the business was not yet on sound footing. As circulation grew, problems of production and distribution became more serious. Luce and Larsen were particularly frustrated by the New York City post office, through which all issues of the magazine were mailed to subscribers. “In New York,” one member of the staff recalled, “we were nothing but a pamphlet, and we got put on a train when they didn’t have anything else to do with the space.” The hope was that all readers would get the magazine on the same day; but given the delivery problems, many Time subscribers received one issue after the next issue had already been printed. Luce soon came to believe that the only solution was to move operations out of New York.23
He and Hadden had been considering moves almost since the first days of the magazine. Throughout 1923 they seriously explored a move to Washington, D.C., in part because of the reportorial advantages of being in the nation’s capital (although for a magazine that as yet did no reporting, this was hardly a decisive factor); in part because Luce liked the city and knew that Lila did too; and partly because they recognized that there were significant financial advantages to being outside New York. The Washington idea quietly died in late 1923, Luce and Hadden finally agreeing that “our organization was still too rickety to move.” A year later, however, the idea of moving seemed to Luce a way to rescue, not threaten, the business.24
Early in 1925 Hadden and Larsen, to Luce’s considerable chagrin, took six weeks off for a trip to Europe. During (although not necessarily because of) their absence Luce redoubled efforts to find an alternative site for the magazine and soon settled on Cleveland, Ohio, in part because it was a major industrial city and cultural center, one of the most important cities in the Midwest. But it was also because of the Penton Press, located in Cleveland, which offered to print the magazine at a significantly reduced cost. Penton also offered office space in its building for a modest rent. The move, Luce claimed, would save the company twenty thousand dollars a year and would, in effect, give everyone a raise by placing them in a city with much lower living costs than New York. It would also give Time better access to its subscribers, both because of its location closer to the center of their circulation base and because the local post office was much more hospitable to the magazine than was the Manhattan one. By the time Hadden and Larsen returned, the decision to move was almost irrevocable. Larsen did not protest, but Hadden balked, although Luce always insisted he had kept him informed of the plans by mail during his absence. Hadden’s reluctance was almost wholly personal. His family, his friends, indeed his life, were deeply tied to the city. Unlike the newly domesticated Luce, he thrived on New York’s late-night social world and its tolerance of iconoclasts. At times Hadden seemed to regard moving to what he considered a provincial city in what he called “the sticks” as a kind of death. He argued so strenuously with Luce that they eventually adjourned to a nearby hotel to continue their heated debate away from the rest of the staff. But Hadden had no answer to Luce’s case for the financial advantages of moving and finally, if grudgingly, agreed.25
For a company later known as a place that treated staff unusually well, the move to Cleveland was harsh, even brutal, to the small community of Time employees. Luce and Hadden announced the move with little advance notice, terminated all employees, and then gave them two days to move to Cleveland. Once there they were rehired, but in most cases with no help in financing the move—except for the young women of the research team, who were provided with chaperones and hotel rooms until they could find more permanent lodging. Despite the difficulties—dictated by the magazine’s still-parlous financial condition—the vast majority of editorial employees followed the magazine to Ohio. (A significant exception was Thomas Martyn, the English “aristocrat” whom Luce so admired. Martyn resigned in anger when told that the company would not reimburse him for the costs of moving. In 1933 he became the founding editor of Newsweek.) The advertising staff stayed behind in New York, as did the Saturday Review, which—disgruntled at what it considered the poor service it was receiving from its distant partners—soon severed its ties with Time. (Luce later considered the loss of the Saturday Review a serious mistake.)26
For Luce, relocating to Cleveland was part of the process of building the kind of family life that—never having had such a life himself—he imagined was the American norm. He and Lila rented a comfortable apartment in the affluent suburbs, bought a car, hired a servant, joined the country club, and happily entered the social world of the local gentry. Their first son, Henry III (named for Harry’s father but always called Hank), was born in April 1925, shortly before the move. Both parents believed that this “more friendly,” “hometown-like” city would be a good place to raise a child and to improve their own social standing. In New York, Time was still a small, obscure operation. But in Cleveland it was considered a significant institution, and it made Luce a prominent figure in the community.27
Hadden, however, hated Cleveland. Reluctant to move there in the first place, he began unhappy and became progressively more so. Separated from family and friends, he lived in a room in a downtown club and developed an awkward social life with the unmarried male members of the magazine staff, conducted mostly late at night in downtown speakeasies. When sober, Hadden was usually able to hide his contempt for the city. But late at night, after hours of drinking, he would often ride around town in his used Chevrolet shouting, “Babbitt!” at Clevelanders he passed on the street. He traveled to New York almost every week as soon as the magazine went to press, then returned a few days later to edit the next issue. “I have been here 44 weeks,” he said after his first ten months in Cleveland, “and made 36 trips back to New York.” After a little more than a year in Cleveland, he finally agreed to switch jobs with Luce—Harry to serve as editor and Brit to manage the business. Hadden made no secret of his motives. He knew that the business affairs of the magazine would allow him to spend even more time in New York.28
For the sake of the magazine, however, Hadden did make some efforts to ingratiate himself with Cleveland. He published an article in the Clevelander, a local Chamber of Commerce magazine, in which he praised the resources of the city, thanked the local newspaper staffs for their help to the magazine, and even insisted, somewhat hypocritically, that Cleveland did not have the “blatant, back-slapping, ‘booster’ style of city salesmanship that makes one blench [sic] as he reads the Babbitt books.” And he accurately cited the principal attraction of the city to Time—its location at the geographical center of the magazine’s subscriber base. “Time is here to stay,” he said, as he continued to maneuver to get out. “We like Cleveland.”29
Hadden and Luce tried to raise their profiles in the community by introducing a Time quiz to local Chamber of Commerce audiences. The exercise was, Harry said at one such event, an antidote to the ennui that many people felt about their “specialized selves,” a way of reintroducing them to the “multiple selves” they remembered from their youths. The quiz tested the audience’s knowledge of current news as reported in Time. The tests were well received, and Luce and Hadden repeated them for a while in other Midwestern cities (as well as printing them in the magazine and using them as radio promotions). But they tired of the device quickly and dropped them after a few months.30
Whatever the tensions and conflicts created by the move to Cleveland, it played a critical role in the evolution of Time. In a period in which the magazine’s finances remained precarious, the relocation saved the company substantial costs and facilitated much more effective distribution to their growing subscriber base. Far more important, being in Cleveland enabled Time to achieve something seemingly mundane that was in fact essential to its survival: a second-class mail permit, which would allow the magazine to get first-class mail treatment at reduced rates. In the past only newspapers had received this service. Luce had tried in vain to secure the permit in New York, arguing that Time was a “weekly newspaper.” But without a proven track record, and without influential supporters, he had been unable to make progress. In Cleveland, however, Time became a project behind which the entire commercial community rallied. (It was, Hadden ungraciously explained later, because “there was nothing else going on in that town.”) The city government, the Chamber of Commerce, the local post office, individual businessmen, and several Ohio congressmen were all eager to help what they saw, correctly, as an institution that could bring luster and profits to Cleveland. With their help, both in Cleveland and in Washington, Time received the permit in early 1927. “It was,” Luce wrote his directors, “the single greatest piece of good fortune that has ever come Time’s way.” Even years later he continued to believe that this one event “made all the difference.” By mid-1927, less than two years after the move to Cleveland, circulation had risen to more than 130,000, and advertising income was also increasing. Time was now making a modest but growing profit.31
As the business grew stronger, however, the attractions of Cleveland grew fainter—despite the enormous boost the community had given to Time’s growth. In June 1927 Harry and Lila left on a long-promised monthlong trip to Europe, in some ways, a deferred honeymoon. When they returned in July they discovered that Hadden had persuaded almost the entire staff and the members of the board of directors to support moving back to Manhattan. It would, he argued, allow Time to become “the authoritative, up-to-the-minute, all-seeing newsmagazine that it has never been.” It cannot have been lost on either of them that this sudden reversal paralleled almost exactly the decision to move to Cleveland in the first place, taken by Luce while Hadden had been traveling in Europe two years earlier. Luce was not as enthusiastic about leaving as Hadden was. He and Lila had grown comfortable in Cleveland, although they too sometimes showed signs of boredom with the city. Lila was often in Chicago, leaving Harry alone at times for several weeks; and Harry was often in New York—less often than Brit was, but enough to suggest at least a measure of restiveness. He occasionally complained about their isolation. “Are we lost in the Midwest?” he half-jokingly asked at one point on noticing that they had received fewer Christmas cards than they had gotten in New York. In the end, though, this move was a business decision, just as it had been in 1925, and there was no longer a compelling business reason to stay where they were—particularly once Luce struck a deal with R. R. Donnelley, a reputable Chicago printing company that offered to produce the magazine, thus preserving the geographical advantage of sending Timeout from the Midwest. Luce may also have been at least partially persuaded by Hadden’s argument that being in Cleveland robbed Time of energy, of direct access to news, and of the stimulus of competition. And he may have felt, as Hadden certainly did, that Time was beginning to outgrow Cleveland. In any case, Luce said later, “Hadden was so determined to get back to New York that there was no use arguing.” The move occurred abruptly within just a few weeks of Luce’s return from Europe. In late July Hadden threw a party at the Rowfant Club, where he had been living, to celebrate Time’s departure, a party so rowdy that he was asked to resign from the club the next day. By August 1 the circulation staff (with the exception of Larsen) had moved to Chicago, and everyone else was back in New York.32
Returning to New York far more prosperous than they had been when they left, both Hadden and Luce traded up. Brit, who had lived in Brooklyn Heights with his parents before moving to Cleveland, now moved into a large apartment on East Tenth Street, which he shared with two friends. Harry and Lila leased a spacious town house on East Forty-ninth Street in Turtle Bay.
By the end of 1927 Time had finally become what Hadden had somewhat presumptuously called it at the end of 1923: “an established institution.” The magazine was not yet the great national, and even international, phenomenon it would eventually become, but it was stable, profitable, and increasingly popular. The company started the year with more than $154,000 in cash, twice the amount of a year before. Advertising revenue, which had been almost negligible in the first year or so, now exceeded subscription revenue, which itself had increased dramatically as circulation rose above 170,000.33
The magazine itself had changed less profoundly than had its finances, but it too had evolved in a number of ways. The look of the magazine was only slightly different from what it had been in 1923. Photographs, rare in the first few issues, became common by 1924, although their tiny size tended to limit them to portraits. In 1926, after the move to Cleveland, the familiar red border appeared on the cover—made possible by the use of coated stock, which also permitted the printing of color advertisements on the inside and back covers. Issues became fatter, less because of an increase in editorial content, which the editors determinedly kept more or less steady, than because of the growth in advertising. Time was a reasonably attractive magazine by the standards of its era, but somewhat staid. Its three narrow columns and its unvarying typeface—a layout that changed relatively little for more than forty years—made it look more like the serious newspapers that Luce and Hadden sometimes scorned than like the youthful, somewhat sassy magazine it aspired to be.34
The basic structure of Time remained largely unchanged as well. The relentless “departmental” organization, the disciplined brevity, the reliance on borrowed sources, and the commitment to giving readers a comprehensive view of the week’s news that could be read in less than an hour all survived the transition from precariousness to success. Not everything stayed the same, of course. Some of the sillier features of the first years gradually fell away: the “imaginary interviews” with historical figures, the “Comings and Goings” of celebrities, the pompously opinionated “Point with Pride” and “View with Alarm” columns, the news “quizzes” that had begun in Cleveland. So did some of the rote reporting dictated by the magazine’s format. News of state governments and foreign nations, for example, became more selective and more reflective of the importance of events and less dutifully in response to the need to fill up all of the magazine’s “departments.”
The more significant changes were a result less of shifts in philosophy than in the character of the editorial process. From a magazine written by a small group of young, like-minded, Ivy League men working inhumanly long hours under tremendous pressure, Time slowly became a publication produced by a large staff of professional writers, few of them any longer friends and classmates of Hadden and Luce, trained in what were becoming the settled conventions of the magazine. Time was not yet dispatching reporters out into the world to gather news and did not begin to do so until the 1930s. It did have a research department, which had begun with the hiring of Nancy Ford in the first months of the magazine and grew to become a large and very active part of the editorial process. (It was the only nonclerical area of the magazine to hire women, whom Hadden called “young lady assistants,” and for many years it hired only women.) On the whole, however, Time continued to rely on newspapers (above all the New York Times) and other magazines as the source of its stories—to the increasing dismay of the journalistic community, which had ignored the borrowing when Time was obscure and unknown but which sometimes complained loudly once the magazine was a success. Writing, not reporting, was the most highly valued aspect of Time’s internal culture. Partly because the stories were distillations rather than reportage, no story carried a byline, and only the most knowledgeable or observant reader could distinguish clearly among the styles of different writers.35
The emerging organizational culture actually cemented and standardized the style and tone that Hadden, in particular, had imposed upon the magazine through sheer force of will in the magazine’s early days. Most of the writers emulated his tastes—both because they feared his wrath and because they admired his brilliance and wished to absorb it. Indeed, by institutionalizing the style and tone of the early Time, the staff was also in some ways expanding and exaggerating the magazine’s peculiarities.36
The most visible and famous idiosyncrasy of Time was its language—sometimes admired, often ridiculed, never as pervasively distinctive as its critics claimed, but a defining element of the magazine nevertheless. In setting out to challenge the norms of journalism, Hadden and Luce wanted, among other things, to confront the sober and, in their view, drab language that was the lingua franca of the newspapers of their time. Time, they believed, should be not only concise but also lively, irreverent, and entertaining. Developing a distinctive literary style for the magazine was the first important step toward that goal—and a feature promoted heavily from the start in the company’s own promotional literature. “TIME has given such attention to the development of the best narrative English,” Larsen wrote grandiosely in a letter to potential subscribers, “that hundreds of editors and journalists have declared it to be the greatest creative force in modern journalism.”37
As with most other editorial innovations in the early years, Hadden took the lead—although Luce was an active partner in the effort. Both had studied Greek at Hotchkiss and at Yale; but while Luce was by far the more serious Greek scholar, it was Hadden who proposed the Iliad as a model for the language the magazine should use. He carried a tattered, heavily annotated translation with him to the office and kept a notebook filled with lists of words and phrases that would, he believed, replicate the energy and poetry of Homer. The Iliad* used such phrases as “much-enduring Odysseus,” “wine-dark sea,” “fleet-footed Achilles,” “far-darting Apollo.” Time created its own compound adjectives to describe people in the news: “flabby-chinned,” “snaggle-toothed,” “coffee-colored,” “bandy-legged,” and “trim-figured.” While the Iliad referred to “many-fountained Ida,” Time wrote of “many-towered Danzig.” In the Iliad were inverted sentences such as, “Up to his side he dashed and flanked Great Ajax tight.” Time countered with: “Up to the White House portico rolled a borrowed automobile,” or the especially clumsy: “As impossible of fair historical evaluation is [Hoover’s] two-year record as was the battle of Gettysburg at noon of the second day.” And at times the magazine provided long, irrelevant passages that directly (and inelegantly) mimicked the Iliad’s lofty language: “The pens and tongues of contumely were arrested. Mocking mouths were shut. Even righteous protestation hushed its clamor, as when, having striven manfully in single combat, a high-helmed champion is stricken by Jove’s bolt and the two snarling armies stand at sudden gaze, astonished and bereft a moment of their rancor” (an introduction to a story on the 1925 Scopes trial).38
But Hadden did not stop with the Iliad. He made exhaustive lists of other techniques that he proposed for the magazine. Occupations, origins, and personality types became titles: “Teacher Scopes,” “Governess Ross,” “Editor Mencken,” “England’s Baldwin,” “Demagog Hitler.” Middle names sprouted everywhere, whether or not the subjects in question (or anyone else) ever used them: “Herbert Clark Hoover,” “Samuel Morgan Shortridge,” “Alfred Emanuel Smith.” In 1930 a Smith College professor wrote an article in Philological Quarterly about what Lewis Carroll had once called “portmanteau words,” combinations of two distinct terms. Among his most prominent examples were words from Time: “cinemactor” and “cinemactress,” “primogenial” (to describe a pleasant young man who had inherited his father’s congressional seat). Hadden’s crudely handwritten style sheet for Time writers used other examples of this kind of vivid wordsmithing: “Broadway-farer,” “eccentrician.” In writing about Alabama senator Tom Heflin, Hadden created a verb, “to heffle,” which he defined as “to talk loud and long without saying much.” He also liked heavy-handed metaphors: “eyes big as baseballs,” “ruddy as a round full moon.” Hadden encouraged Time writers to use vivid words, whether newly invented or not. People in Time were “famed,” not “famous;” “potent,” not “powerful;” “blatant,” not “obvious.” They “whacked” rather than “struck,” “ogled” rather than “looked,” “strode” rather than “walked,” and “smirked” rather than “smiled.” They “irked,” “bumbled,” “vexed,” and “ousted.” Rhyming and alliteration were popular devices, too, as in the frequent use of “late, great” to describe recently deceased people, or the euphemism “great and good friend” to describe someone’s unmarried lover. Obituaries did not simply report but banally philosophized, with the frequent introduction: “Death, as it must to all men, came last week” to the subject of the notice.39
At times, particularly in its first years, the magazine’s language was often flip and even sophomoric. Time often began a story with an irrelevant cliché or a banal truism. In writing about the divided views of Alaskans, Time began: “Some like it hot, some like cold, and some like it in the pot nine days old.” Or, in describing a meeting between the president and a senator, “When a sharp tongue takes to soft words, good nature prospers.” On other occasions stories were introduced with what can only be called pedantry: “There is no more tragic phenomenon in this vale of tears than the deliberate perversion of an idea or philosophy out of its original meaning in order to serve the base purpose of its enemies.” But even as the magazine matured and shed some of its more egregious excesses, writers—in their effort to avoid conventionally informative leads—forced readers to wade through considerable imagery before encountering any real information. “Winter tramped prematurely out of the Northwest last week,” a 1927 story on a Labor Department unemployment report began. “A Montana stockman died in a blizzard. Minnesota lakes were skimmed with ice. Michigan had icicles…. Car radiators froze in Illinois.”
And yet Time frequently used these same techniques to real effect, successfully drawing readers into subjects they might otherwise have overlooked, and making people and events more vivid than a more conventional story could have done. A story on the Treasury Department’s woes in 1931, for example, began: “For ten years, Secretary of the Treasury Andrew William Mellon has had fair fiscal weather. Ample taxes from a busy, thriving nation piled up whacking surpluses for him to administer. Under the sun of Prosperity, the public debt melted like a snowman in May. A happy man devoted to his job, Secretary Mellon was kept awake at night by no great problems of government finance.” Time could be pompous, irritating, pedantic, even ridiculous. But if that was all it was, it would never have succeeded. To most of Time’s large and rapidly expanding readership, even many who were annoyed occasionally by its idiosyncrasies, the magazine was also lively, witty, entertaining, and informative. Perhaps most important, Time’s language, however idiosyncratic, was consistent and homogeneous. It presented readers with a familiar and predictable experience. Time boasted often of its “cover-to-cover readers,” of whom there were many, and the magazine’s language was almost certainly an important part of the reason.40
Throughout the 1920s Hadden drilled his writers in the literary formulas he had created for Time, using his oversize pencils and his gruff, booming voice to browbeat the staff into meeting his demands. T. S. Matthews, a Time writer and editor for many years, described his own early days at the magazine as a period when “all ‘neophytes’ [Time’s word for cub writers] were expected to memorize Hadden’s invented words and phrases and to use them at every opportunity.” But many writers later recalled adopting the style less because of pressure from above than because it was so much a part of the culture of the magazine that it was almost impossible to resist. Even decades later, after years of efforts to wean reporters from some of the excesses of the original Hadden style, Matthews recalled that “the iron had so far entered our souls that the attempt at reform was never successful.” The standardization of style was sometimes stifling to serious writers. John O’Hara, the soon-to-be-famous novelist, spent a few months writing about sports for Time in the early 1920s and then fled to The New Yorker. Such defections, although usually after longer periods of service than O’Hara’s, were common for many decades. But other writers settled comfortably into the Time system, came to value its distinctive kind of writing, and remained for many years.41
“Timese” or “Timestyle”—as the magazine’s writing was often called, sometimes mockingly, sometimes affectionately—was, if nothing else, contagious, and not just within the magazine itself. Words that Time invented, retrieved from obscurity, or borrowed from foreign languages became enduring parts of modern English: “tycoon,” “pundit,” “socialite,” “kudos.” For years schools and universities reveled in producing parody issues of Time and took special delight in their mastery of Timese. “White-sweatered, good-looking friend of beauty-queen Virginia Clark, James Graham (‘Cheerleader’) Woodford strode into a … meeting breathing fire,” a University of Washington lampoon wrote in 1931. “To the stacccato blast of forty machine guns Hizzoner Pedro de Miguel took office,” a Foreign News story announced in a Naval Academy satirization of Time. Hotchkiss, Luce and Hadden’s alma mater, produced an issue of the student magazine, the Index, in Timese. Time itself encouraged some such parodies. In 1934 the White Company, a manufacturer of trucks and buses, enlisted some of the editors to help them produce a mock issue promoting the company, with a cover story on “Truck of the Year.” Even mainstream newspapers and magazines reporting on the progress of Time or on the activities of Luce and Hadden could not resist mimicking aspects of Timese in their own stories. “Birth of a new species of man of power, the tycoon, was predicted this noon by quick-speaking successful young Henry R. Luce,” a Rochester reporter noted in 1929. An Edmonton, Alberta, newspaper wrote of a Luce appearance in Banff, “No speaker for publication is pleasant, personable, energetic, ex-cub Henry Luce.” Even Harry’s own mother could not resist a gentle poke at Timese in September 1926 when she wrote him about her imminent departure from China: “As Time would say, America looms.”42
As distinctive as Time’s language, and closely related to it, were the magazine’s opinions and attitudes. Luce and Hadden had promised from the start that Time would not be a “digest of opinion,” that it would have “no axe to grind,” that it would be “objective” and “unbiased.” And in many respects, at least in the beginning, they kept that promise. Time did not clearly favor any political party, and Luce, at least, was himself unsure in the 1920s of whether he preferred Democrats or Republicans. (He and Hadden voted for Calvin Coolidge in 1924; Hadden voted for Hoover in 1928, but Luce supported Al Smith.) Unlike in later years, when Luce’s own strong views on certain issues reliably shaped—and at times distorted—reporting, Time in the 1920s and much of the 1930s only rarely took clear or sustained positions. But the magazine was nevertheless filled with opinions, even if not consistent ones. Indeed, its insistence on expressing its own views on almost everything it reported, however random and varying those views may have been, was a fundamental part of its character.43
To some degree the opinionated tone of Time was simply a literary device, much like the magazine’s eccentric language. It reflected in part the generational irreverence of those who, like Luce and Hadden, had grown up during and after World War I and had been shaped by the skepticism and impatience with pretense of their time. Hadden, in particular, continued to emulate H. L. Mencken’s talent at ridiculing almost everyone of importance. The attitudes of Time, although not its literary style, had at least some things in common with Mencken’s the Smart Set, which he edited with George Jean Nathan and called “a magazine of cleverness.”
But Time’s outlook reflected more than a generalized irreverence. It conveyed as well the elitist cultural conservatism of its principal editors and writers. On the one hand Time shared the contempt of Sinclair Lewis and others for the tastes and values of the lower bourgeoisie (or what Hadden, borrowing a term from Mencken, privately called on occasion the “booboisie”). The magazine only hinted at this contempt in its pages, knowing that its targets were, or could become, an important constituency for the magazine. But in the early years at least, there were many signs of condescension—the demeaning descriptions and nicknames assigned to people the editors considered crass and boorish, the sly anecdotes and dismissive phrases that made those they considered dull look pompous and ridiculous. (“It is the conviction of stupid people,” a Time review of an irreverent play stated, “that only that which is solemn may be profound and that to seem satirical is to be unsympathetic.”)44
Time was similarly contemptuous of the iconclasts of its own generation who sought to overturn many of the canons of traditional high culture. Hadden and Luce were as hostile to artistic revolution as they were to dull conformity. In the very first issue of Time, the editors wrote witheringly of what they considered incomprehensible books. “Lucidity is no part of the auctorial task,” the editors wrote censoriously of modernist writers. Time was particularly contemptuous of what are now considered two of the great masterpieces of the twentieth century. “To the uninitiated,” the magazine described James Joyce’s Ulysses, “it appeared that Mr. Joyce had taken some half a million assorted words—many such as are not heard in reputable circles—shaken them in a colossal hat, and laid them end to end.” Of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, the writers dismissively noted, “It was rumored to be written as a hoax.” (The article was cryptically titled “Shantih Shantih Shantih,”* after the obscure last line of the poem.) Even less radical intellectuals attracted Time’s scorn. The witty, self-consciously “clever” writers and intellectuals who populated the Algonquin Round Table were, the magazine gratuitously commented, “the supposedly elect,” “log rollers and back-scratchers,” and really little more than “clever gossips.” Modern art attracted skepticism, too. Cubism, the magazine claimed, “is in danger of itself becoming a mere convention.” In the same issue Time ran a strong defense of classical education, because “Greek and Roman thinking is the core of our culture.”45
Time was also distinctive for its fascination with powerful men and women. “People just aren’t interesting in the mass,” Luce once said. “It’s only individuals who are exciting.” For decades, beginning with the first issue, virtually every cover of Time carried a portrait of an important man or, on rare occasions, woman (and once, in 1928, a basset hound, to draw attention to the Annual Dog Show of the Westminster Kennel Club in New York). The magazine chose a “Man of the Year” every January beginning with Charles Lindbergh in 1927. (There were only two “Women of the Year” in Time’s first fifty years—Wallis Simpson in 1937 and Queen Elizabeth II in 1953). Cover portraits—black-and-white drawings and photographs at first, gradually replaced by color images starting in 1929—became a signature feature of the magazine. For decades being selected for the cover of Time came to seem to many readers (and increasingly to the editors themselves) a very high honor. The magazine in fact attracted considerable criticism when on occasion it chose controversial or reviled people for the cover—for example, Al Capone in 1930 (smiling and elegantly dressed), which one reader called “an outrage to public decency”—as if the selection was by itself a sign of approval. But cover subjects were overwhelmingly people of relatively conventional distinction and respectability. Major public figures—statesmen, business leaders, generals, and the royalty of the worlds of art, entertainment, and sport—were the staples. Although most subjects were American, the Anglophilic Hadden and Luce included a heavy representation of English figures and a scattering of people from other nations. The profiles of cover subjects could be breathlessly admiring or, on occasion, bitingly critical, but they almost always had a heightened level of judgment and descriptive detail. (Time’s distinctive language could burnish a reputation as easily as it could tarnish one.) Cover stories were usually preoccupied with power, and so it was not surprising that the magazine focused on the world’s most powerful men. In the magazine’s first half century Stalin appeared on the cover twelve times, Roosevelt, Churchill, Franco, and Mussolini eight each, Hitler seven, and Chiang Kai-shek ten.46
The covers themselves were only symbols of Time’s deeper commitment to the role of powerful people in history. The opening passage of every issue was an account of the president’s week, no matter how trivial his activities. Receiving tickets to a World Series game that the president had no intention of attending was as newsworthy as signing legislation. Accepting the honorary presidency of the Camp Fire Girls attracted as much attention as his consideration of American membership in the World Court. The trivia of a president’s vacation—leasing a country house, getting “caught in a sodden, drenching shower” during a walk, celebrating a son’s birthday—could occupy columns of text. Presidents were also, almost by definition, men of great virtue. Warren Harding, although “not a superman” like Theodore Roosevelt or Woodrow Wilson, was “important and successful as the embodiment of the American ideal of humility exalted by homely virtues into the highest eminence.” Coolidge, too, was a man of “genuine humility” and “flinty integrity,” who had developed a deep “kinship with his people.” Herbert Hoover, even at his lowest moments, was “a high-minded, able, industrious, conscientious individual who is devoted to his country, to the art of Government, to children,” with “unbounded faith in himself.” Only when Franklin Roosevelt entered the White House did Time begin to abandon its reverential tone.47
Like many Americans the Time editors were fascinated by Mussolini and by his apparent success in bringing order and stability to the usually chaotic politics of Italy. He was, the magazine noted, the “all-powerful,” “virile, vigorous” “autocrat of all the Italians,” a “miniature Napoleon.” The fascination was often indistinguishable from admiration—something Time also shared with many Americans, including many fellow journalists, in the 1920s. Mussolini, Time wrote, was a man with “remarkable self control, rare judgement, and an efficient application of his ideas to the solving of existing problems.” He was a person “of high moral integrity with a magnetic personality.” Looking back over 1925, Time concluded that there was “no doubt” that Mussolini had “worked wonders for Italy in the last year,” and that he deserved “unstinted praise and congratulations.” Time was, however, far from the most admiring journalistic chronicler of Mussolini. The Hearst papers were highly sympathetic (“He is a marvelous man,” Hearst himself said after being flattered by Mussolini in an interview). The long-serving New York Times Rome correspondent, Anne O’Hare McCormick, consistently idealized him. The Saturday Evening Post ran idolatrous stories throughout the 1920s. Timegradually darkened its view of Mussolini in the late 1920s and beyond, as his regime grew more brutal and militaristic, but the magazine was never as appropriately critical in those years as were at least a few other journals, among them Hadden’s former employer the New York World.48
While Mussolini frequently seduced the editors of Time, Stalin had no such effect. To be sure, Stalin was of great interest to Time, as all great and powerful men were. But in most cases the magazine had great difficulty concealing its contempt. Time’s view of the Soviet Union itself—unencumbered by almost anyone’s firsthand experience of Russia—was clouded in orientalist mystery. It was a “weird and mystic land, whose soul is steeped in the mysterious, the fire of whose eyes is sometimes fanatical, and whose life breath has been impregnated with flesh-creeping legends.” Stalin himself was a reflection of the darkness and mystery that characterized his nation: a man shrouded by a “taciturnity without beginning, without end.” The editors of Time, again like most Americans, understood him as the principal exponent of a radicalism they both detested and feared. Although the great “red scare” of 1919–20 was a largely discredited memory by the mid-1920s, hatred of bolshevism (as opposed to exaggerated fears of internal subversion) remained intense, even feverish. Soviet Russia was, Time noted, the self-proclaimed “graveyard of capitalism.” It was the enemy of Christianity, conducting an “anti-Religion crusade.” And it was a revolutionary power, whose “frankly avowed purpose is to foment in every land ‘The World Revolution of the World Proletariat.’” “Dictator Stalin,” as Time routinely called him, was a “coldblooded man of deeds” with a “mask of oriental ruthlessness.”49
The tenor of Time’s coverage of the world outside the United States was reasonably consistent with the attitudes of Luce and Hadden. But it reflected even more the views of one man: Laird Goldsborough, the talented and controversial Foreign News editor from 1925 to 1938. Goldsborough—five years younger than Luce and Hadden—came to Time almost immediately after his graduation from Yale, and he quickly solidified his power within the editorial staff through his virtuosity in writing the Foreign News section—almost entirely by himself—punctually and cleanly every week. In the pressurized world of the Time newsroom, causing no problems was a tremendous asset. Very early in his tenure, he became one of the few members of the staff whose copy Hadden, Luce, and later managing editors rarely edited in more than minor ways. And if Goldsborough frequently expressed views that were more vigorous or extreme than Hadden and Luce might have liked, they usually accepted that as the price of his skill and efficiency. (In any case Goldsborough’s views were infrequently very far from their own.)
Goldsborough was a strange, almost romantic figure. Partially disabled from childhood as a result of an accident, he walked with an elegant, gold-headed cane that was almost a part of his personality. His partial deafness added to his image of intimidating aloofness. He was an ardent admirer of Europe—its traditions, its culture, its aristocracy. He was skeptical of the modernist trends of his time. He was supremely confident in his own strongly held attitudes and opinions. He had a taste for luxury, and in later years, during his extensive travels in Europe, he strained even Time’s legendarily generous expense accounts.50
His deep conservatism, both cultural and political, intensified his loathing of bolshevism, which shaped almost everything he wrote. His admiration for Mussolini, sometimes lavish, sometimes grudging, was primarily a result of his hatred of communism and Stalin, to which Italian fascism and Mussolini seemed a preferable if perhaps flawed alternatives. In the 1930s few American journalists were more hostile to the Republican cause in the Spanish civil war than was Goldsborough, who, not entirely inaccurately, associated it with communism. And few were more friendly to Franco, whom—like Mussolini—he viewed as a bulwark against bolshevism. Although Goldsborough expressed only contempt for Hitler, he failed to recognize the extent to which the Nazi regime endangered the world, and never showed much concern about the deteriorating condition of German Jews. He was not usually overtly anti-Semitic, but he clearly shared the belief of many Americans and Europeans that there was a special connection between Jews and radicals. In the mid-1930s he gave particularly virulent voice to this assumption in his attacks on French premier Léon Blum, who headed the nation’s first Popular Front government. Blum was a man of the Left but not himself a communist. According to Goldsborough, however, Blum’s “emphatic Jewishness makes the No. 1 French socialist thoroughly at home in Moscow.” He consistently referred to him as “Jew Blum” and claimed that he was “fired with religious fanaticism” (by which Goldsborough meant the combination of what he claimed was Blum’s ardent Jewishness and his hatred of fascism).51
On at least one issue, however, Time was well ahead of many contemporaries: its interest in the question of race. Time was not a crusader for racial equality, to be sure, and it had its share of offhanded racial slurs. (Among the many absurd new words Hadden invented, and probably the most offensive, was “blackamoron,” to describe an African American criminal or villain.) But frequently during the 1920s, and indeed throughout most of its long history, Time used its opinionated style to draw attention to racial injustice. In an era in which African Americans were routinely described demeaningly and condescendingly, Time self-consciously chose to treat them with respect. They often used the title “Mr.” and “Mrs.” when referring to black men and women, a practice rare in most American newspapers and virtually unknown in the South. This did not escape the notice of many white Southern readers, who protested angrily to no avail. (“Would Mr. Henderson himself care to be styled plain ‘Henderson,’” Hadden replied curtly to a letter from a white Southerner complaining about the “glorification of the Negro.” In fact Time rarely used the title “Mr.” for white subjects either, which led Luce to comment years later that Hadden was being “a little devilish.”) With uncharacteristic sobriety, Time reported in its first issue on a demonstration in Washington: “In dignified and quiet language, two thousand Negro women of the Phillis Wheatley Y. W. C. A. protested against a proposal to erect at the Capitol a statue to ‘The Black Mammy of the South.’” 52
In Time’s early years, the most compelling racial issue for black Americans was lynching, frequent in the 1920s and into the 1930s, but largely ignored by many of the major organs of journalism. Time consistently reported lynchings in harsh and telling detail. “James Scott is dead,” the magazine noted at the end of a lurid account of a lynching in Missouri. “He was put to death by the premeditated violence of yokels who believe in their gross way that they were maintaining the honor of the race that bred them. What they did, some people call murder; others, lynching.” For many years Time was among the very few white publications that kept a running tally of lynchings each year.53
Hadden, a man of many prejudices, may have focused on lynchings and other egregious acts of racism more because of his contempt for the white “yokels” responsible for them than because of any real identification with the cause of racial justice. Luce, although himself no crusader on this issue, was somewhat more cosmopolitan both in background (given his youth in China) and his outlook, and his record over many decades of reporting and commenting on race was evidence that his commitment to this issue, although limited in many ways, was nevertheless sincere.54
More important than Time’s many idiosyncrasies—its language, its opinions, its attitudes, its youthful impetuosity—was its format: Because above all else Time was, and wanted to be, a practical digest of the news. From its first imaginings in the dreams of Hadden and Luce at Yale, to the choice of its name as a symbol of its purpose, to its founding as an institution that synthesized reporting done by others, the magazine considered its principal purpose to give busy people an efficient and thorough account of the world’s news in a brief, readable, and organized way. Timeadvertised itself in many forms, but nothing was more consistent than its promise to save people valuable time while keeping them well informed. One striking example was a foldout postcard distributed to potential subscribers in 1925 that presented what it called a “play in three acts.” It featured a character named “Busy Man,” sitting disconsolately in his living room surrounded by discarded newspapers: “I bought this mass of printed matter to find out what is going on in the world,” he complains, “but it’s no use! I am not abreast of the news in anything outside of my business.” His wife, “Busy Woman,” agrees. A knock on the door signals the arrival of a third character, “TIME,” who presents to them “a new idea in journalism. In my twenty-six pages is every fact of significance in all those newspapers and periodicals on your floor.”55
Hadden and Luce came to the conclusion that saving busy people time could be a successful and lucrative enterprise almost instinctively—without market research (which remained a very primitive science in the 1920s) or any other kind of systematic evidence. But even had they been able to use the more sophisticated marketing tools of a later era, they would likely have reached the same conclusion; for Time magazine was almost perfectly designed to respond to several of the most important social changes of its era. Among those changes were the increasing pace of modern life, the growing nationalization of commerce, and the need of middle-class people to know much more about the nation and the world. At the same time there was growing pressure on many professional people to devote more hours to their jobs. Finding opportunities to educate themselves even minimally about what was happening outside their own communities was becoming difficult, particularly since the volume of information that people believed they needed to know—and the vast variety of publications that attempted to convey that information to them—had become nearly overwhelming. The success of Time was, to a large extent, a result of its editors’ understanding of how eager many Americans were for something that would identify and organize for them the important information of their day.56
Time was not alone in recognizing the growing demand for digests of information and knowledge aimed at the new middle class. Harvard University had helped launch this trend shortly before World War I with its successful “Harvard Classics,” which claimed to provide readers with an efficient condensation of great literature and thought throughout history. Purportedly assembled by Harvard president Charles W. Eliot himself, the “five-foot shelf of books” promised a “reading course unparalleled in comprehensiveness and authority.” A supplementary volume guided readers through the volumes in a way that the editors claimed would allow them to educate themselves in fifteen minutes a day. In 1922, only a year before the first issue of Time appeared, DeWitt and Lila Wallace launched the Reader’s Digest, which offered condensed information from many sources—books, newspapers, and other magazines, carefully edited and packaged for readers who did not have the time or inclination to read widely or thoroughly. (Unlike Time the Reader’s Digest paid most of the publications from which it drew its material and usually attributed its stories to their original sources. Also unlike Time, it did not synthesize from multiple sources and made no claim to originality in what it published.) By the mid-1930s the Digest’s circulation was over one million, still well over Time’s.
Time was also a response to the nationalization of American culture—and eventually a contributor to that nationalization. The era following World War I saw a rapid standardization in the way many Americans lived, worked, and understood the world. In Sinclair Lewis’s famous 1922 novel Babbitt, the central character, George F. Babbitt, points to this change in a speech to the Real Estate Board of Zenith (the mythical city, apparently modeled on Cincinnati, in which the novel takes place):
I tell you Zenith and her sister-cities are producing a new type of civilization. There are many resemblances between Zenith and these other burgs, and I’m darn glad of it! The extraordinary, growing, and sane standardization of stores, offices, streets, hotels, clothes, and newspapers throughout the United States shows how strong and enduring a type is ours.
To Babbitt this was the great accomplishment of middle-class culture (and to Lewis, one of its great failures). It represented the creation of a common, national, middle-class worldview; a reorientation of interest among middle-class people away from their local communities and toward national issues, events, and institutions. It represented as well a new kind of consumerism, born of prosperity and urbanization, reflecting the more secular, pleasure-seeking culture of the modern middle class—what a Time advertising circular called “a younger generation accustomed to things of beauty and convenience.” The standardization of culture for such people was a result of many things, among them commercial radio (born in 1920) and movies (elevated in importance in the 1920s by the great urban movie palaces and, beginning in 1927, sound). But Time played a modest role as well. With the exception of the national wire services, whose stories were filtered through local newspaper editors with their own interests and tastes, Time—which even in its early, frail years had subscribers in every state—was for a while the only genuinely national news organ. No newspaper had a reach very far beyond its own city. Radio news in the 1920s consisted of an announcer reading headlines a few times a day. Newsreels were not yet prominent. Even with its relatively modest circulation in the 1920s, Time established itself as an important force in journalism if for no other reason than that it reached men and women in all parts of the country and promised to rescue them from isolation and provincialism and prepare them for the cosmopolitan world. “Can you afford to be labelled as a man from Main Street?” an early advertising leaflet asked potential Time subscribers. “Can you afford to be a man from Main Street? Civilization moves forward on a thousand fronts,—business, art, politics, science, religion. You have only to ignore it, and you slip back again centuries in time. But can you afford to live in the dark ages?”57
Luce, Hadden, and the other founders of Time did not expect (and in the beginning did not particularly want) a vast circulation. They were, they believed, creating a “quality” magazine, aimed at a relatively elite readership—the busy professional people who had largely inspired them to imagine their great project. Their target audience was wealthy, educated men and women, “modern-minded by environment and education.” They solicited subscriptions at first from the alumni of Ivy League universities, from the members of elite men’s clubs and country clubs, from directories of corporate board members, from buyers of the Harvard Classics, and from people listed in social registers and in Who’s Who. Time boasted of the eminent bankers, industrialists, and politicians (among them Franklin D. Roosevelt) who were early subscribers to the magazine. But the more important characteristic of its readership, at least for advertisers, was its relative youth (“70% of TIME’s subscribers are under 46,” the company boasted) and its wealth. “Our subscribers,” they claimed, “are overwhelmingly classifiable as … potent business & professional leaders, … younger business and professional men, already influential but still climbing the ladder—definitely en route for greater fortune and influence … [and] Wives of Business & Professional men.” In a nation characterized by “a hundred temperaments and a hundred degrees of wealth and class,” one Time advertisement argued, “our success is the result of hitting the fancy and imagination of America’s most important and interesting class—the Younger Business Executive—young in years—young in spirit and young in outlook.”58
During its early struggles the Time staff drew a perverse satisfaction from what they considered the “exclusiveness” of their circulation. It was, they believed, a kind of club: a group of like-minded people in tune with the sensibilities and opinions of the editors. (“One reader on a train would see someone else reading Time,” Luce once said, “and that would be enough to serve as an introduction.”) Time readers, they claimed, constituted a “colony” filled with “men and women who have in common a desire to know and comprehend the news … a distinctive unit … set apart from all other magazine readerships.” This profile was a useful advertising device. But the leaders of Time genuinely believed it to be true, and they based that belief in part on the extensive, if unscientific, surveys they frequently did of their readers. In 1928, shortly after the return of the company to New York from Cleveland, Time mailed out a questionnaire, whimsically titled “Do You Own a Horse?,” to ten thousand subscribers and received more than four thousand responses, which constituted about 3 percent of the readership. It reinforced all the assumptions the circulation and advertising departments had been claiming. Ninety percent of the respondents were under sixty-five years old. More than 80 percent were “plainly of the executive and professional class,” 27 percent were officers and directors of “companies other than their own,” and 62 percent owned stocks and bonds. More than half of Time’s surveyed subscribers had servants, and a quarter had more than one. More than 40 percent were members of country clubs. A third had traveled to Europe, and another quarter planned to do so. And nearly 11 percent of respondents actually did “own a horse.” For several years in the 1920s and early 1930s—before circulation grew so large that the economic base of readers could not easily be characterized—Time was ranked in some surveys first among magazines in the wealth of its subscribers, a position later occupied for many decades by The New Yorker. Time, a 1928 advertisement grandly claimed, “has built up the greatest, the largest, the soundest quality circulation in the history of U.S. publishing.”59
Hadden liked the idea of Time readers as a distinctive, elite “club,” and he came to believe that circulation should not rise much above 250, 000. Anything more might dilute the quality of the subscriber base. Luce imagined a much larger readership. Shortly after the publication of the first issue, Luce wrote desperately to Lila asking her what her distinguished stepfather thought of the magazine. “His approbation [would be] a very valuable piece of evidence,” he said, because of his wealth, his stature, and his “maturity and stability.” If Time could “get by” men like that, “we can later broaden down and catch the rabble of George F. Babbitts etc.” (Frederick Haskell apparently did not respond.)60
• • •
The return to New York, for which Hadden had fought so strenuously, did not for long relieve the boredom and restlessness that had plagued him in Cleveland. Friends and colleagues commented frequently on his apparent unhappiness, his almost frantic search for stimulation and excitement, and his erratic and sometimes self-defeating behavior. Shortly after the move, Hadden ceded the editorship of Time to Luce. Rotating jobs had been part of their plan from the beginning, but—except for Hadden’s brief absence from editing in 1926, to allow him to spend more time in New York—neither man had really pushed to keep their initial agreement. To Hadden editing Time had been a kind of passion, and no other activity related to the magazine had been remotely as satisfying to him. That he agreed to give it up in 1928 was almost certainly a sign of boredom, a search for a new and different challenge. “He wasn’t only losing his interest in Time,” Luce claimed years later. “There didn’t seem to be any other interest that was absorbing him.”61
Although Hadden was ostensibly taking over the business side of the company, he spent relatively little energy dealing with the routine tasks that Luce had overseen for so long—circulation, advertising, production, staff management. Instead, he often came into the editorial offices late at night and reedited copy that Luce had already approved. He also began searching for other creative projects that might relieve what he quickly came to consider the tedium of his new job. In 1927 Time had begun producing a small house organ that it somewhat whimsically called Tide and that mimicked Time’s format and style. It was distributed free to potential advertisers as a kind of promotional brochure. Soon after leaving the Time editorship, Hadden decided—despite considerable skepticism from Luce and other colleagues—to transform Tide into a real magazine about advertising for paid subscribers. It quickly grew from a small pamphlet into a substantial-looking magazine, with a cover almost identical to Time’s (although with a blue, not a red, border) and with “departments” not unlike those in the newsmagazine. Tide rarely received letters, so Hadden and his fellow editors wrote them themselves, attributing them to invented people (a practice Hadden had occasionally employed in the early years of Time). For a while Hadden devoted himself to Tide with something like the same energy and enthusiasm that he had given to the launch of Time. But he was not content for long. Tide did not flourish in the way Hadden had hoped. In its first two years, its circulation never reached five thousand and it had only fifteen hundred paid subscribers. (The company sold it in 1930, and it became a modestly successful independent enterprise of the advertising industry that survived until 1959.) In any case a small advertising journal was not enough to satisfy Hadden, and he indicated his frustration by starting to run articles in Tide gratuitously attacking the very advertisers—including important Time clients—to whom the magazine was appealing. (“When a preacher turns commercial writer and applies the smug platitudes of his old calling to his new job,” he wrote of a prominent automobile-advertising executive, “he should be hailed with raucous laughter.”) In his restlessness Hadden also began thinking of new projects for the company. He devoted a page in his notebook to his ideas for expansion: “bus mag, spt mag, aviation mag, secy mag, letter mag, TIME monthly, women’s mag, daily newspaper,” and many others.62
In the meantime Luce threw himself into the editing of Time. He was a more efficient and organized editor than Hadden. He created a schedule for writers and editors, held regular meetings, had an organized staff critique of each issue every week. (“Don’t hesitate to flay a fellow-worker’s work. Occasionally submit an idea,” he wrote.) He was also calmer and less erratic. Despite the intense loyalty Hadden inspired among members of his staff, some editors and writers apparently preferred Luce to his explosive partner; others missed the energy and inspiration that Hadden had brought to the newsroom. In any case the magazine itself—whose staff was so firmly molded by Hadden’s style and tastes—was not noticeably different under Luce’s editorship than it had been under Hadden’s. And just as Hadden, the publisher, moonlighted as an editor, so Luce, now the editor, found himself moonlighting as publisher, both because he was so invested in the business operations of the company that he could not easily give them up, and also because he felt it necessary to compensate for Hadden’s inattention.63
Outside the office the hard, wild life that Hadden had been leading for years grew harder and wilder. Friends began to note a change in him—he was, one friend later recalled, “increasingly nervous and irritable and hard to get along with. He wanted desperately to have a good time, and yet nothing seemed to give him pleasure.” He complained frequently of boredom and drove those around him to join his frantic search for diversions. Always a heavy drinker, he gradually became a self-destructive alcoholic. He stayed up late, gave or searched for parties almost every night. He began to participate in, or provoke, brawls for which he was periodically arrested and spent nights in jail. He seemed to dread returning to his apartment to sleep alone, which suggested that his boredom and wildness was in part a result of loneliness. He would arrive at work many mornings bleary-eyed, having gotten only a few hours of sleep—and sometimes none. Hadden had many friends but few intimates. His “ferocious” temperament, one of his longtime colleagues later wrote, hid an uneasiness with normal personal relations, a profound shyness. He had few serious relationships with women and sometimes appeared to be a misogynist. (In 1926, when a member of Time’s board proposed appointing a woman director, Hadden replied dismissively that “women are notorious for their inability to see things in perspective, their tendency to exaggerate, their desire to live in a fool’s paradise…. They are conspicuously deficient in such fundamentals as sense of humor, fairmindedness, good sportsmanship and sense of responsibility.”) He seemed to many people to be having trouble in general adjusting to adulthood. (A lifelong passionate baseball fan, he began participating in a youth baseball league in Central Park, even though it was restricted to players under eighteen. He tried to hide his mustache whenever park officials walked by.) According to a later (and unverifiable) account by one of his friends, Hadden began to disappear periodically for days and even weeks, once traveling to a farm in Indiana, on another occasion working on a tugboat, prompting Luce to send staff members out to find him and bring him home.64
Luce had little contact with Hadden any longer outside the office. He spent evenings with his family (his second son, Peter, was born in 1928) or at the kind of establishment social functions that Hadden scorned. At work the relationship between the two partners was rapidly deteriorating. Their friendship had always been a complicated and competitive one, and there had been many periods of tension between them over the years, but the problems had rarely lasted very long. By the late 1920s, however, their ability to recover from disagreements appeared to be eroding. Hadden seemed both contemptuous and envious of Luce—scornful of his bourgeois lifestyle at the same time that he yearned for some kind of stability of his own. In 1926 Yale awarded Luce an honorary M.A. degree—a significant honor for so young a man—for “distinguished accomplishments in a novel and worthy field of journalism.” Luce, of course, was thrilled, although he recognized the effect this would have on Hadden, who might rightly have considered himself an equally plausible candidate. Harry happily attended the Yale commencement with members of his family, in-laws, and friends. But he did not invite Hadden and did not even tell him that he was receiving the degree. Hadden learned of it through reports from others and deeply resented the fact of the award and Luce’s failure to inform him of it.65
Henry Winters Luce, an aspiring missionary, and Elisabeth Root, a YMCA worker, marry in Scranton, Pennsylvania, in 1897. Less than a year later, they were en route to China.
The Luces occupied this home in Tengchow through the first years of Harry’s life. Elisabeth Luce sits on the porch with Harry, Emmavail, and a Chinese nurse. They shared the house with another missionary family.
Henry W. Luce and his four children posed for this portrait in the family’s second home in Wei Hsien, approximately 1912. From left to right: Rev. Luce, Harry, Sheldon, Elisabeth, and Emmavail.
Henry R. Luce in China at three or four, posing imperiously in a chair that his father had used as a child.
Young Harry in 1914, on a farm in Colebrook, New Hampshire, during a summer vacation from Hotchkiss.
Luce (left) and Brit Hadden (right) at Hotchkiss in 1916, inseparable friends and rivals.
Luce in uniform in 1917, a cadet at Yale. A few months later, he and Hadden were transferred to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, where they spent the rest of the war training infantry.
Lila Hotz, the alluring Chicago socialite whom Luce met in Rome on New Year’s Eve 1920 and who became Luce’s first love and first wife. Luce was attracted to her both because of her warmth and energetic charm and because of her social distinction and family wealth. She is pictured with the couple’s boys Hank (right) and Peter Paul.
The first offices of Time Inc. were above a retail store in a building on East Seventeeth Street in New York City. It was the first in a series of constantly moving and expanding headquarters for the magazine. This picture was taken some years later by Margaret Bourke-White, the first staff photographer for the company.
Brit Hadden was only twenty-five when this photograph of him was taken shortly after the publication of the first issue of Time magazine. Despite his sober pose, he was a lively, engaging, volatile young man of great brilliance, whose relationship with Luce was both extremely close and extremely competitive.
The first issue of Time magazine, in March 1923. The line drawing of the powerful Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Joseph Cannon was the first in a long tradition of portraying people on the cover. Soon after the magazine’s debut, it acquired its trademark red border, and a few years later it began using color portraits created by a group of artists commissioned by the magazine.
Luce promised that Fortune would be the most beautiful magazine ever published. Whether or not it achieved that goal, its design was undeniably impressive—and expensive—as was the magazine itself. The first cover, in February 1930, designed by Thomas Cleland—who had also chosen the typefaces and other design elements—showed a “wheel of fortune,” a symbol of the magazine itself and of the precariousness of fortune in the first year of the Great Depression.
Some of the successful early editors and writers of Fortune in the 1930s: Clockwise from top left: Ralph Ingersoll, managing editor; Archibald MacLeish, Luce’s most admired writer; Dwight Macdonald, a talented young reporter who claimed to loathe his job; and James Agee, also unhappy at Fortune but reluctant to give up the salary. By the end of the 1930s, all of them had left. None of them had any previous experience in business writing, but Luce considered that an advantage—as in many ways it was until the group began to disband.
Margaret Bourke-White was the first woman to be hired full-time at Time Inc. as a photographer—and for that matter, the first woman to serve outside the clerical and research staffs at the company. She was intrepid, and eager for the world to know it—as this dramatic photograph of her perched with camera on a parapet of the Chrysler Building far above Manhattan illustrates.
Laird Goldsborough was Foreign News editor of Time from the late 1920s to the late 1930s. He was a brilliant and efficient writer with a big personality, and he towered over his colleagues even while writing often and favorably of Mussolini and bitterly criticizing the antifascist forces in the Spanish Civil War. Luce began easing him out shortly before the beginning of the war.
The first cover of Life magazine, 1936, featuring a dramatic Margaret Bourke-White photograph of the Fort Peck Dam in Montana. The picture’s monumentality drew immediate attention to the new magazine and helped make it an immediate, sensational success. Bourke-White was the first great celebrity among Life photographers, but she was soon accompanied by a large retinue of equally talented (and in some cases equally famous) colleagues.
Luce looks over possible photographs for Life, flanked on the left by John Shaw Billings, the first managing editor of Life, and on the right by Daniel Longwell, the most energetic champion of the new magazine and eventually Billings’s successor as managing editor.
Harry and Clare became great celebrities—partly as a result of the marriage of these two famous people, and partly because their marriage coincided with the runaway success of Life. They are shown here debarking the Queen Mary after a trip to Europe in 1938.
Luce’s fascination with Wendell Willkie exceeded all but a few of his many political infatuations. He used his magazines zealously (and perhaps recklessly) to promote Willkie’s cause—including this Life cover a few weeks before the 1940 presidential election.
Harry and Clare walk with Madame Chiang Kai-shek through a reverent group of Chinese near Chungking, in a 1941 visit. The crowd was organized by Kuomintang leaders to impress Luce, whose influence was important to the regime. Their hosts were not disappointed by their treatment in Luce’s magazines.
An important event of Luce’s 1941 visit to China was his first meeting with Theodore H. White. The much younger “Teddy” and the famous and powerful “Harry” struck up a close friendship that cooled several years later when White turned against Chiang Kai-shek, a man whom Harry continued to revere.
One of the many covers Time devoted to Chiang Kai-shek. In this one, he is accompanied by Madame Chiang, as “Man & Woman of the Year” in 1938.
After a long and frustrating period during which Roosevelt forbade publishers from visiting the war zones, Luce finally made his way to the Pacific front in June 1945. Harry Truman, the new president, overruled Roosevelt’s ban. Luce is shown here on the left, along with Time’s managing editor, Roy Alexander, a Brooklyn Eagle reporter, and General Henry Larsen.
During the war years, with Clare in Washington as a member of the House of Representatives from Connecticut, Harry began a serious and relatively public affair with Jean Dalrymple, a theatrical publicist and producer four years Luce’s junior. For a time, Luce talked of divorcing Clare and marrying Jean. But after Ann Brokaw’s death, he gradually broke off the relationship.
Ambassador and Mr. Luce on vacation with Joseph P. Kennedy in 1956. Harry’s unusual costume suggests his general discomfort with leisure.
Whittaker Chambers joined Time Inc. as a book reviewer, and rose to be the controversial editor of Foreign News, in which he relentlessly denounced the Soviet Union and communism. The Alger Hiss case, which began in 1948 and revealed Chambers’s past life as a Soviet spy, led to his departure from the company.
Luce took advantage of his connection to the American embassy in Rome by traveling widely in Europe and hosting distinguished visitors. He is shown here escorting Winston Churchill in a 1955 visit.
Luce’s growing interest in the importance of leisure in American life led him to support the creation of a sports magazine, a project many of his colleagues at first disdained. But because of the energy, commitment, and talent of Sidney James (left), most of Luce’s colleagues soon came to support the project. James, Luce, and Sports Illustrated publisher Harry Phillips pose in 1954 in front of a blown-up cover of the magazine’s first issue, August 16, 1954—a photograph of a baseball game in Milwaukee.
Luce’s warm relationship with Dwight D. Eisenhower was one of the most rewarding of his life, and the only time he had an intimate friendship with a sitting president. Time was so sympathetic to Eisenhower that both the magazine’s editors and many of its readers sharply criticized the coverage, to no avail.
Luce was an ardent supporter of the Vietnam War, and in the 1950s a great admirer of Ngo Dinh Diem, president of South Vietnam. The American Friends of Vietnam, modeled in some ways on earlier organizations supporting Nationalist China, attracted the support of many prominent figures. Luce presides here in 1959 over a meeting of the organization, with Diem seated next to him, waiting to speak.
In the late 1950s, Luce began a passionate affair with Lord Beaverbrook’s young granddaughter, Lady Jeanne Campbell, which drew him into another painful battle with Clare. Eventually, the affair—which Luce at one time had hoped would lead to marriage—ended.
Luce’s warm relationship with Eisenhower left him with an intensified interest in other important politicians. He was particularly drawn to John Kennedy, whom he had known through John’s father for years. Kennedy is seen here walking through the Time-Life building in 1960, during his presidential campaign, after an interview with the Time Inc. editors.
Forty-one years after Luce cofounded Time Inc., he finally handed control of the company over to Hedley Donovan, a former Fortune editor whom Luce himself chose to succeed him. They are shown here during a lavish celebration of the transition in 1964.
But the unhappiness was not all on one side. Harry, too, was growing resentful of Brit—of his erratic behavior, of his impatience with organization and detail, and of what Luce sensed was his greater charisma and influence within the organization. “This Hadden-Luce yoke is certainly galling,” he wrote Lila late in 1927. “The differences between us are so great—However I don’t see any way out which seem better than struggling through with it…. This letter should be torn up pronto.” Most of all, he resented Hadden’s contemptuous dismissal of Luce’s ideas. Harry disliked Tide, thought it a serious mistake, but did not try to obstruct it. Beginning in mid-1928, however, Luce began developing a plan of his own for a business magazine. He encountered firm opposition from Hadden (even though “bus mag” was the first item on Brit’s own expansion list). Time was still too fragile, Hadden argued, to launch another magazine—a concern that apparently had not occurred to him when he himself launched Tide. Luce might well have concluded that Hadden was balking because he wanted to block Harry from developing a magazine that Brit had not initiated.66
Before the move to Cleveland, when Hadden had been living at home with his parents, there had been at least some structure to his life. On his own, first in Cleveland and now back in New York, his behavior began to spin out of control. Given his boredom, his restlessness, his apparent depression, and his deep exhaustion, it was not a great surprise to anyone that by late 1928 he was beginning to flag. In December he complained to a friend who had come by to visit, “I’m not well. I don’t know what’s the matter…. I just don’t seem to have any ambition and I feel weak.” He was, one of his colleagues recalled, “just dragging himself to the office. He would come in for most of the week, then phone and say he wasn’t well.” An office assistant warned Luce, “You’d better look after Hadden, or he’ll be dead. He must be really sick.” One day he left the office early claiming he needed rest. He never returned.67
Unable to recover from a flu, very likely because of his exhaustion, he also developed a strep infection and was hospitalized in Brooklyn. A few years later he could easily have been cured. But in the absence of sulfa drugs and antibiotics, doctors had a limited range of treatment—which mostly consisted of blood transfusions. Luce and others on the Time staff donated blood several times, and Harry visited Brit as often as he could, although doctors, worried about Hadden’s “nervous condition,” barred visitors for many days at a time. Luce sent regular bulletins to the Timestaff with reports from the doctors, none of them encouraging. By mid-January, Hadden had grown so weak that he could no longer even write (and had to dictate a will, which he then signed feebly with an X). When Harry talked with him about what was happening at Time, Brit became confused, unable to recall anything about the magazine’s recent successes, and was surprised to learn that Herbert Hoover was now president. He was beginning to tell visitors, Luce among them, that “I won’t get well.” Harry had come to fear that too, and in late January, he wrote Manfred Gottfried and implored him to return to the magazine and take over as editor, explaining, as Gottfried wrote in his diary, that “Brit is ill unto death with streptococcus.” On February 27, 1929, in the middle of the night, six years to the day from the publication of the first issue of Time, Hadden died.68
Despite the rift that had developed between them, Luce was stunned and distraught. “I don’t know how I’ll get along without him,” he said to colleagues. And how could he have felt otherwise? He and Brit had been friends, rivals, allies, antagonists—but whatever else they were, they had been inseparable and essential partners since they had met at Hotchkiss in 1913. Luce certainly realized that his life would never be the same again.69
Time marked Hadden’s death with a black-bordered notice in the magazine’s Milestones department—after abandoning an overwrought effort by Hadden’s cousin and Time editor, John S. Martin, to write a major obituary. “Death came last week to Briton Hadden,” the notice began, in classic Hadden style. “Creation of his genius and heir to his qualities, Time attempts neither biography nor eulogy…. To Briton Hadden, success came steadily, satisfaction never.” A week later the magazine departed from its usual format and ran a full page of letters on the back page containing tributes to Hadden. There was another change in format as well. At the top of the Time masthead, there was now only one name: Henry R. Luce.70
*Hadden likely used a translation by Samuel Butler, the most commonly used English text of the early twentieth century.
*From a Hindu prayer for peace.