Henry Luce

From New World Encyclopedia

Henry Robinson Luce (pronounced "loose") (April 3, 1898 – February 28, 1967) was an influential American publisher, one of the most powerful figures in twentieth-century American journalism. He was the co-founder of Time, the innovative weekly news magazine and the founder of Life, which pioneered photojournalism, as well as Fortune magazine and several others.

Luce regarded journalism as an educative activity, and was both creative and tireless in his work to fulfill this responsibility. His publications reflected Luce's desire to educate the American public, who were otherwise ill-informed about newsworthy events, both in the U.S. and worldwide. Nevertheless, he has been rightly criticized for using this to influence the public according to his own personal views. Still, Luce was always upfront about these "prejudices" which informed his publications, arguing that neutrality was as undesirable as it is impossible. In that, as well as the first of these values, namely the belief that the world is round, taken both physically and in terms of our relationships, Luce was undeniably correct.


Luce was born in Dengzhou, China, the son of a Presbyterian missionary. He was educated in various boarding schools in China and England. At age 10, he was sent to a British boarding school at Chefoo (Yen-t’ai) on the coast, and at 14 he traveled to Europe alone.

He first arrived in the U.S. at the age of 15, to attend the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut. Luce spent his free time waiting tables after school and editing the Hotchkiss Literary Monthly, holding the position of editor-in-chief. He graduated from Yale University in 1920, where he was a member of "Skull and Bones."

Luce first met Briton Hadden, who was to become his partner in revolutionizing the world of journalism, at Hotchkiss while working on the school newspaper. The two continued to work together at Yale, where Hadden was chairman and Luce was managing editor of the Yale Daily News.

Luce recalled his relationship with Hadden:

Somehow, despite the greatest differences in temperaments and even in interests, somehow we had to work together. We were an organization. At the center of our lives—our job, our function—at that point everything we had belonged to each other.

After being voted “most brilliant” in his class at Yale, he parted ways with Hadden to embark on history studies at Oxford University for a year. He worked as a cub reporter for the Chicago Daily News after his return. In December 1921, Luce joined Hadden at The Baltimore News. In 1923 they began Time (magazine), the introduction of their weekly news magazine and the revolution of American journalism.

During the last few decades of his life, Luce was criticized for using his influential publications to advance his own political viewpoints, which were often unpopular with some Americans. One former editor criticed Time as being "the most successful liar of our time" (Baughman 2001).

Luce made many contributions to communication and created new ways of relaying the news, but also is critcized for instilling his own political agenda into his publications.


Luce had two children, Peter Paul and Henry Luce III, with his first wife, Lila Hotz. He married his second wife, Clare Boothe Luce in 1935.

According to a book by Ralph G. Martin, entitled Henry & Clare: An intimate portrait of the Luces, Henry had extended relationships with Jean Dalrymple, Mary Bancroft, and Lady Jeanne Campbell. Martin's writings, however, are considered questionable as undocumented falsehoods.

Luce died in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1967. On his death he was said to be worth $100 million in Time Inc. stock. Most of his fortune went to the Henry Luce Foundation, which his son Henry Luce III directed until his own death in 2005.


Luce was a powerful innovator in the field of American journalism. His work transformed the field of mass communication in the mid-twentieth century.

Together with Hadden, Luce began Time in 1923. Nightly discussions of the concept of a newsmagazine led the two, both aged 23, to quit their jobs in 1922. Later that same year the two formed Time Inc. Having raised $86,000 of a $100,000 goal, the first issue of Time was published on March 3, 1923. Luce served as business manager while Hadden was editor-in-chief. Luce and Hadden annually alternated year-to-year the titles of president and secretary-treasurer. Upon Hadden's sudden death in 1929, Luce assumed Hadden's position.

Luce launched the business magazine Fortune in February of 1930, Architectural Forum in 1934, and founded the pictorial pioneer of photojournalism, Life magazine, in 1936. He later began House & Home in 1952 and Sports Illustrated in 1954. Each publication added their own uniqueness to the world of print media. His two main projects of Life and Time developed a formula that would summarize the week's news in print (Time) or pictures (Life) in ways that left the readers with a concise and entertaining version of events.

In 1941 the revenues from Time and other Luce enterprises reached $45 million. However, Luce was not content with merely the publishing of news in popular form, and making money. He felt a "calling" to use journalism as an educative force. Concerned about the early victories of Nazi Germany in World War II, Luce believed that America could no longer afford an isolationist foreign policy. Instead he saw armed intervention to save Europe and a new postwar order dominated by the United States as inevitable.

Luce penned a famous article in Life magazine in 1941, entitled "The American Century," which defined such a role for American foreign policy for the remainder of the twentieth century (and perhaps beyond). In it, he urged the nation to engage in a global struggle on behalf of its values, most notably "a love of freedom, a feeling for the equality of opportunity, a tradition of self-reliance and independence and also of cooperation." Though he was never elected as secretary of state or any type of foreign secretary by the U.S. government, as a significant member of the Republican Party his views were highly influential with political leaders.

Luce, who remained editor-in-chief of all his publications until 1964, also held anti-communist sentiments, publicly stating that he did not believe that there could be peaceful co-existence between the communist empire and the democratic free world. He was an instrumental figure behind the so-called "China Lobby," and played a large role in steering American foreign policy and popular sentiment in favor of Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek and his wife Soong Mei-ling.

By the mid 1960s, Time Inc., now part of the Time Warner Inc. media empire, was the largest and most prestigious magazine publisher in the world. Luce also contributed to other forms of mass communication including radio and cinema with his The March of Time, and television, while his Time-Life Books became a major publishing house.


During his lifetime, Luce supported many programs like Save the Children, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and United Service to China, Inc. He received 19 honorary degrees as well as many awards for his journalistic innovations, business success, democratic principles, and dedication to the "American dream."

Luce believed in figures of destiny—politicians, entrepreneurs, spiritual leaders—and he put them on the covers of his magazines, bringing them to life for the general public. Like his missionary father, he saw divine providence guiding world affairs acted out by men, and yet never doubted his ability to shape the outcome. And shape the outcome of the "American century" he did.

At the time William Randolph Hearst's newspaper empire was failing, Business Week reported that "Henry Robinson Luce comes as close to being Lord of the Press as America can now produce." Upon his death in 1967, Henry Luce was remembered by Life magazine as "the most successful editor of his TIME, a great popularizer of ideas, a man who revolutionized modern journalism" (Baughman 2001).

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Baughman, James L. 2001. Henry R. Luce and the Rise of the American News Media. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0801867169
  • Martin, Ralph G. 1992. Henry & Clare: An Intimate Portrait of the Luces. Reprint edition. Perigree. ISBN 0399517812

External links

All links retrieved December 18, 2017.


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