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Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

TIME Magazine at 100

Henry Luce’s flagship has outlived the century it shaped, but for how much longer?

TIME 100 Summit 2019
(Photo by Brian Ach/Getty Images for TIME)

When it passed Week #5150 on March 3, TIME magazine became that rarest of species in the ever-obsolescent media age: a venerable centenarian. To be sure, it no longer marches on at the sprightly clip of its youth. Staggers on, according to some critics, would better describe the nonagenarian pace of its dotage. Slackened tempo notwithstanding, what a remarkable, unprecedented odyssey through the decades it has been.

Henry Luce’s TIME—and, during the century’s middle decades, also LIFE—dotted the landscape everywhere. If you are in your 60s or older, you grew up with TIME. Remember all those copies at hand in every newsstand rack, in every school library, in every doctor’s and dentist’s office, on seemingly every family coffee table? It became an ingrained habit, if you had a spare moment, to flip through these magazines. Half-consciously, you thumbed the pages until your eye rested on a news report or feature or book review that caught your eye. At the height of its prominence, it was nothing less than a guidebook to breaking events, a digest for social and political literacy, a compendium of “What Every Informed Person Needs to Know.” No other magazine before or since has ever matched the cachet of a TIME cover story. (Quiz question: Which headliner has received the most TIME covers? Answer: Richard Nixon, having topped out at 40, according to Statista. He is followed by Ronald Reagan at 37 and Donald Trump at 35. Hillary Clinton leads the women’s list with 23.)