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November 23: Life Magazine

November 23, 2015

11-23-36The first edition of the weekly Life magazine was published on this date in 1936, with five pages of photographs by Alfred Eisenstadt, a refugee from Nazi Germany. The cover price was 10¢, and the cover photograph of the Fort Peck Dam in Montana, a Works Progress Administration project, was by Margaret Bourke-White (whose father was Jewish). Life’s circulation jumped from 380,000 copies for the first issue to more than one million within four months. Other regular contributing photographers during the magazine’s four decades of enormous success included Robert Capa, whose photographs of the D-Day invasion were mostly ruined in a darkroom accident at the magazine; Leonard Freed, who documented segregation and racism; Cornell Capa, who covered Israel’s Six-Day War; Philippe Halsman, who took photographs of jumping celebrities, including Marilyn Monroe and Salvador Dali; and Eliot Elisofon, Fritz Goro, Dmitri Kessel, Ralph Crane, Yale Joel, Ralph Morse, David E. Scherman, and Bernard Hoffman, among others. Yet an earlier version of the magazine — founded as a satirical journal in 1883 by illustrator John Ames Mitchell — was accused of anti-Semitism and often published cartoons showing Jews with enormous noses.

“To see Life; to see the world.” —The magazine’s motto