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The Fascinating History Of The 5 Greatest Magazines Ever

Updated on December 2, 2012

Magazines. Why does anybody read them anymore? After all, we have the internet and so many nifty electronic devices at our fingertips-- we can look up anything we need with just one click.

My thought on the subject is that there still is nothing like holding a magazine in our hands, flipping through the pages and even hearing the sound of them as they turn. America loves her magazines! The glossier, the better! Small ones. Big ones. We love them all.


Magazines have quite a legacy and many have been intricately involved in history itself. If you are a boomer, you'll remember Life Magazine's rivoting covers when President John F. Kennedy was shot and the weeks following with funerals, captures, arrests and murder. The photos were larger-than-life. Life got the moon landing, too. You'd think their photographers were right there on the moon with them!

How about when mom and dad--or grandma and grandpa--asked if the Reader's Digest had come yet? That magazine has been a great institution that it was almost as popular as watching Lawrence Welk and the Ed Sullivan on Sunday night! We are still saying "I'll give you the Reader's Digest version" of something or other. That magazine has made its impact.

The Saturday Evening Post may predate our readership's memories but it's covers are so famous that we still see them framed as works of art. Norman Rockwell's paintings were so real that you felt like you were in them yourself. Every detail precise, full of warmth and often humor. There even is a museum in Stockbridge Massachusetts dedicated to his many works, many of them first seen on the cover of this great magazine of years gone by.

And then there is the elegant one--downright elegant in its depth of impact both visually and in richness of content: National Geographic. Though its beauty can be well-captured on screen, I cannot imagine NOT holding this magazine in hand at some time or other. Its photos in glossy print can take your breath away.

Lastly, we have Time Magazine. Time gave us the Man of the Year and, once in a while, more than one of them! Their cutting edge reporting of the news is quoted with authority over and over again throughout the world! Time's voice has impact.

Life Magazine April 1982
Life Magazine April 1982 | Source


Life Magazine was born in 1883 as a joint venture between two partners: John Ames Mitchell and Andrew Miller. Life was originally designed to be lighter in humor with an attempt to brighten up everyday life. It became popular from the start.

The height of the magazine's popularity lasted from 1936 through the 1960's. It's approach to journalism took a more serious turn as World War II began and leading straight through the Vietnam War. Pictures with deep emotional impact graced it's pages, gripping in content. Excellence in photojournalism and "Life" became synonymous terms. Often you would hear it said "that picture could make Life magazine!" Only the best of the best could make Life.

The final regularly printed issue of Life went on the stands in March of 2007. Since then, Life has developed a stellar online presence at featuring the same cutting-edge photography and content that we've grown to love.

Saturday Evening Post

The Saturday Evening Post was first published by Samuel Keimer in 1726 under the title "The Pennsylvania Gazette". It has been said the Benjamin Franklin was intimately involved in the cultivation of the post into a publication of substantial readership.

The Saturday Evening Post's fictional stories were endearing to many people and some written in serial format. The magazine closed its doors in 1969, due to a steady decline in readership. Much later, in 1982, The Benjamin Franklin Literacy and Medical Society purchased rights to the magazine and restarted it as a periodical concentrating on health and medicine. More recently, they've broadened their content to appeal to a wide range of reader interests.

Above all, though, it's greatest claim to fame remains the marvelous covers--all inspiring, many by artist Norman Rockwell. Check out these PRESIDENTIAL COVERS for a little trip through US history.

Free Background Images from National Geographic

Beach Lightning
Beach Lightning | Source
January 1945 Issue National Geographic Magazine
January 1945 Issue National Geographic Magazine | Source

National Geographic

National Geographic, whose motto is "Inspiring people to care about the planet since 1888", is easily recognized by its trademark yellow border edging the front cover. Adorned with amazing photography of nature and the most unique people and architecture of the world, National Geographic is a treasure chest of learning and imagery. School teachers over the years have readily accepted donations of National Geographic's to keep as reference materials for their classrooms.

In addition to the print edition, National Geographic has a strong online presence where they generously share their breathtaking images as desktop backgrounds --free for your use with a click of the mouse.

Reader's Digest

The Reader's Digest was founded in 1922 by a veteran of World War I, DeWitt Wallace. While recovering from wounds sustained in battle, he conceived the idea of collecting a variety of stories, condensing some, and printing them with other items of interest and humor appealing to the average American family. The magazine has grown and gained in popularity over the years to now reaching over 40 million readers over the world. Also known for it's cutting edge, contest-marketing-strategy "The Reader's Digest Giveaway", the Reader's Digest is a household word and still going strong today.

Time Magazine: Man of the Year

Time Magazine is the largest news magazine in the world, boasting a readership of over 25 million. It's first issue came out on March 3, 1923. It's creators were Briton Hadden and Henry Luce. Time Magazine is perhaps best known for the Man of the Year depicted on their covers.

The first Man of the Year was Charles Lindbergh in 1927. The Man (or person) of the Year does not necessarily have the distinction of being a hero. They do have the claim to fame of having impacted the world in some great way. Adolph Hitler, John F. Kennedy and Queen Elizabeth II all have had the honor, as well as Dr. Martin Luther King. Who has had the honor not just once, not just twice but three times? George W. Bush! He was named along with his father as co-Men of the Year in 1990 and again by himself in 2000 and 2004.

List of all of the Men of the Year.

Sinea Pies is a freelance writer who writes frequently on HubPages, GVParent Magazine, WebAnswers and her own website: Ducks 'n a Row. Her new blog, Puppies-Puppies, will debut sometime in 2013. Like the Puppies-Puppies FB fanpage and you'll be the first to know when it launches!


Submit a Comment
  • Sinea Pies profile imageAUTHOR

    Sinea Pies 

    4 years ago from Northeastern United States

    You are very welcome. These magazines hold many fond memories for me !

  • suzettenaples profile image

    Suzette Walker 

    4 years ago from Taos, NM

    Great hub! I have read and still do read these magazines today. With the exception of the Saturday Evening Post, of course. I became a Norman Rockwell fan from the covers of the Saturday Evening Post. These magazines are the anchor of magazine writing in the U.S. Your explanation of these magazines is well done. Thanks for sharing!

  • Sinea Pies profile imageAUTHOR

    Sinea Pies 

    6 years ago from Northeastern United States

    Ah yes, those naughty boys with the National Geographics. I vaguely remember one cautious teacher cutting out the revealing pics so that there were no sights to see! :) Thank you so much for the many nice votes.

  • tillsontitan profile image

    Mary Craig 

    6 years ago from New York

    Many memories in each of those magazines. The beauty of the photographs...whether shocking or loving. I agree with you Sinea, there's nothing like holding them in your hand.

    I just sold my copy of Life (with JFK) at a flea market...ran out of room to store it. Those of us, old enough, also remember boys flooding to Nat Geo to "look at the pictures" when we were kids.

    Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

  • Sinea Pies profile imageAUTHOR

    Sinea Pies 

    7 years ago from Northeastern United States

    In celebration of President's Day, Saturday Evening Post has highlighted their many "Presidential Covers". A nostalgic trip through US history. Link added to this hub.

  • Sinea Pies profile imageAUTHOR

    Sinea Pies 

    7 years ago from Northeastern United States

    Thanks, suzettenaples, for the vote up and interesting. When Life printed their "last" issue, I think a lot of people in the US went into a funk. We all so loved the amazing photos that captured our times. Nice thing, they have a great website and occasionally make a surprise appearance, even today. Wish it were more often.

  • suzettenaples profile image

    Suzette Walker 

    7 years ago from Taos, NM

    I enjoyed reading this hub and the background info on these magazines. I have read all of them during my lifetime - I know, I'm dating myself - but they really do represent the best journalism in America. I still read Time, National Geographic and Reader's Digest.

    I did read The Saturday Evening Post until it closed in l969. The short stories and Norman Rockwell paintings and sketches were always superb.

    I do remember the Life magazine spread and photos of the JFK assassination and funeral. They are imprinted forever in my mind. Good hub - voted up and interesting!

  • Sinea Pies profile imageAUTHOR

    Sinea Pies 

    7 years ago from Northeastern United States

    Thanks Kathleen Cochran. You know, there are so many good ones out there it was hard to decide what to spotlight. I agree, sometimes the big news magazines can seem a little skewed.

  • Kathleen Cochran profile image

    Kathleen Cochran 

    7 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

    Great Hub from a magazine lover. I started to take exception to Time - I've preferred the coverage in US News and World Report. But Man of the Year is hard to argue with for impact on society. Up and interesting.

  • Sinea Pies profile imageAUTHOR

    Sinea Pies 

    7 years ago from Northeastern United States

    Waleeds, thanks for the vote UP! I appreciate it so much.

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    thanks for sharing such a useful information Sinea, actually i have recently applied for the Saturday Evening Post, the worst thing about these magazines is that their response may take couple of months or even more than that! i'm still awaiting. Voted Up.

  • Sinea Pies profile imageAUTHOR

    Sinea Pies 

    7 years ago from Northeastern United States

    Me too! Great memories!

  • Kris Heeter profile image

    Kris Heeter 

    7 years ago from Indiana

    I agree - these are the best. I still have found memories of older Saturday Evening Posts from the '50's in the bedroom I stayed in at my grandparents when I was young. The magazines were 20 years old then and I loved looking through them as a kid! And National Geographic was my favorite as a kid.

  • Sinea Pies profile imageAUTHOR

    Sinea Pies 

    7 years ago from Northeastern United States

    Thanks Prairieprincess. I did the same thing. Life Magazine was inspiring!

  • prairieprincess profile image

    Sharilee Swaity 

    7 years ago from Canada

    When I was in high school, I always grabbed the Life Magazine copy as soon as it came in, because the photos were incredible! I did not realize that Life now had a dot com presence. Very interesting. This is a wonderful hub. Thank you!

  • MonetteforJack profile image


    7 years ago from Tuckerton, NJ

    You reminded me about my subscription. I like Reader's Digest a lot, but because I've been on the move so often, I had to stop subscribing. Wherever I am in America, I am thankful to any LIBRARY because they have the magazines you mentioned and more. Good to know about the timeline of these magazines, too. Thanks! Voted up!

  • Sinea Pies profile imageAUTHOR

    Sinea Pies 

    8 years ago from Northeastern United States

    Thank you SO much, thelyricwriter. Isn't the photo from National Geographic breath taking? How do they do that!?!

  • thelyricwriter profile image

    Richard Ricky Hale 

    8 years ago from West Virginia

    Useful, awesome, interesting and up! 1883? I didn't know Time was established then. What a cool and interesting article. Then 1888 for National Geographic. That is awesome. I would have never imagined. This is a great idea, very unique. Great work.


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