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Making Fortune, a business magazine during the Great Depression.

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Fortune magazine with its first issue in February 1930, was a luxury item for the Great Depression, expensive, extravagantly written and ornately illustrated. The second title in Henry Luce’s publishing empire set out to reinvent business reporting. Drawing on archival records I will reconstruct the working relations between editors, writers, artists, researchers and the ever present editor-in-chief Luce. I will contrast Fortune’s reporting with the evolving repertoire of social representation of 1920 and 1930s North America, notably Federal funded art, Harper’s magazine, Nation, Survey Graphic, and documentary photography books. I argue that Fortune’s reporting of industrial capitalism was a counterpart to what William Denning has called the “Cultural Front”. Fortune blended business and industrial subject matter with the aesthetics and techniques of the “Cultural Front”, patronizing its artists, while maintaining a distance from its politics. The magazine provided a compelling alternative account of living in the Great Depression. It testified to the rise of a scientific and sophisticated managerial class that permeated all aspects of industry, trade, marketing and politics.

This talk is part of the Darwin College Humanities and Social Sciences Group series.

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