Sadly In an age of computers, market research and tight budgets few magazines approach the the level of quality and creativity embraced in years past. Early popular magazines often featured beautifully rendered cover art usually reserved for more esoteric, "fine art" publications today.
Fortune Magazines from the 30s, 40s and 50s are arguably some of the best examples of magazine design to date. The illustrators who's work graced Fortune's covers reads like a who's who among fine and graphic artists. Much of this cover art still appears modern today, some 60 or 70 years after they were originally conceived.
Fortune, a global business magazine, was the brain child of Henry Luce. The magazine was launched in February 1930, four months after the Wall Street Crash of 1929. Briton Hadden, Luce's partner, was skeptical but Luce went forward with it after Hadden's sudden death, also in 1929. The first issue cost $1 at a time when the Sunday New York Times sold for only 5¢. Previous business publications were little more than stats and numbers printed in a single color. Fortune was over-sized, employed expensive printing techniques and included dazzling photography. The acclaimed photographer Walker Evans served as Fortune's photography editor from 1945 until 1965.
During his career Luce launched and closely supervised a stable of magazines that transformed journalism, including; Time, Life, Fortune and Sports Illustrated. With the addition of radio projects and newsreels, Luce created one of the first multimedia corporations.
Henry Luce was born in 1898 in Tengchow, China and died in 1967. His father was a Presbyterian missionary in China. Luce was educated in various Chinese and English boarding schools and was sent to the United States at the age of 15 to attend the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut followed by Yale College.
Luce met Briton Hadden, his future business partner at Hotchkiss. The two continued to work together at Yale, with Hadden as a chairman and Luce as managing editor of The Yale Daily News. After being voted "most brilliant" of his class at Yale, he briefly parted ways with Hadden to embark on a year of studies at Oxford University. During this time he worked as a cub reporter for the Chicago Daily News. In 1921 Luce rejoined Hadden to work at The Baltimore News.
Both at the age of 23, Luce and Briton quit there jobs at the Baltimore News in 1922 and formed Time Inc. Having raised $86,000, the first issue of Time was published on March 3, 1923. Luce remained editor-in-chief of all his publications until 1964, several years before his death.
Click here to learn more about Henry Luce on Wikipedia and click here to learn more about Fortune Magazine. Click here to see some Fortune's magazine covers threw the 1950s.
Below is a photo from 1954 of Luce with his wife Clare Boothe Luce, a famous playwright and politician. The photo is compliments of The Library of Congress, via Wikipedia.
Below is a March 1948 edition of Fortune magazine. Click here to view the listing in our store.