To capture the "struggle, excitement, romance, wealth and power" that he attributed to the world of business, Henry Luce created a new magazine to handle the overflow of Time's Business section (Swanberg). He considered titles like "Power" and "Tycoon," but settled finally on "Fortune." Luce established a business magazine at the onset of the United State's shocking economic turn for the worse despite inopportune timing because, like most of his colleagues, he viewed the economic slump as a temporary downturn. Luce's assurance came from his absolute faith in the link between business and America. He once offered an alternative to Calvin Coolidge's "The business of America is business," saying, "I think I can improve on that: the business of business is America" (Time/Luce). Fortune's main audience included business executives and the well-to-do, who favored a positive reporting tone -- especially on business items. Their optimism, however, was not unconditional, nor did Fortune remain wholly unaware of the national crisis. As the Depression persisted, Fortune "had to adjust its approach to address the gnawing questions of its cause, effect, and remedy" (Sass). Throughout, Fortune would operate on the mission statement found in its prospectus: "Business is the greatest single common denominator of interest among the active leading citizens of the U.S. . . . Fortune's purpose is to reflect Industrial Life in ink and paper and work and picture as the finest skyscraper reflects it in skill and architecture" (Peterson). |
In 1929, when Luce was still forming his ideas for the new magazine, he saw photographs of an industrial steel-mill that he greatly admired. He sent for the artist, and thus began his professional relationship with Margaret Bourke-White. In conversation with Bourke-White, Luce explained the goal of his magazine, where "pictures and words should be conscious partners" to explore business and "modern industrial civilization" from every angle (Swanberg). Sass argues that instead of following the format of other business magazines, full of stark data and analysis (and occasionally a current or industry event), Fortune drew from artistic publications like Camera Work or Vanity Fair (which you may investigate further on the Xroads site), as well as German illustrated magazines and the French publication, "Vu" (Newhall). The New Yorker was popular then as it is now, also supporting the artistic trend in American magazines. While Luce began his project with Bourke-White, whose aesthetic style was integral to Fortune's reputation for fine photography, but a wide range of photographers whose work appears in these successive pages helped give the magazine depth and complexity.