Today marks the 100th anniversary of the first issue of TIME. Co-founders Henry Luce '16 and Briton Hadden '16 published the magazine's inaugural issue on March 3, 1923 (read about the process on TIME's website). They met at Hotchkiss, first as rival editors of The Hotchkiss Record and Hotchkiss Literary Monthly, and ultimately as friends who shared a love of journalism. Read an article from our archives below to learn more about their time on campus, the launch of TIME, and the magazine's many connections to Hotchkiss.
This article first appeared in the May 2003 edition of Hotchkiss Magazine
Hotchkiss: Where Time Began
By Erin Reid P’01,’05
“There’s a picture in my mind … of an army camp in the last war; of two underaged second lieutenants, Brit Hadden and Harry Luce – two shavetails, two second looies doing training duty down in Camp Jackson, South Carolina. It was sickeningly hot that summer, but it cooled off a little at night. One night Brit and I were walking back to our barracks through the vast, sprawling camp. At each step, our feet sank ankle-deep into the sand. But we ploughed on for hours – and talked and talked. For many months we hadn’t either of us talked about anything except artillery, mess, inspection – and Saturday night when we went to town and smoked a cigar. Here we were talking about ‘that paper’ – about something we would do – cross our hearts – some day … I think it was on that walk that Time began.”
Twenty-five years later, Henry (Harry) Luce ’16 told this story at a dinner celebrating TIME’s 20 anniversary; Briton Hadden ’16 was by then deceased. But the relationship between Hadden and Luce began long before that hot summer evening.
The founders met at Hotchkiss; it was the beginning of an association that would make an indelible mark on American journalism and the American media. They were, at first, rivals. Harry Luce had assumed control of Hotchkiss Literary Monthly, and Brit Hadden was the editor of The Hotchkiss Record. The two boys were opposites in many ways, yet similar in that they were both self-assured and that they both loved journalism.
Henry (Harry) Luce ’16
Luce had spent the first part of his life in Tengechowfu, China, the son of Presbyterian missionaries. He was enrolled in a British boarding school at Chefoo (Yantai), a strict and rigorous place where Yankees were ridiculed and errors resulted in a flogging. He had been afflicted by a chronic speech defect, possibly the result of a bad tonsillectomy. But, he learned to do well in his studies to avoid potential punishment. An independent, contemplative, and intellectually precocious 14-year-old, Luce left China for Connecticut, and Hotchkiss.
For a time, Luce wanted to be a missionary like his father and would occasionally quote scripture from the Bible. He was active in the St. Luke’s Society, the School’s Christian association. The boys ran the weekly meetings in the Chapel, and Luce often took the podium to lead the meetings. As well as hymns and prayers, there was a topic of the evening, and it was not uncommon for a young Luce to deliver stimulating and often contentious remarks on a particular topic, including life at Hotchkiss.
Luce attended Hotchkiss on scholarship. The School was a very different place back then, and only the scholarship boys were assigned jobs, such as waiting tables, cleaning classrooms, and working in the library and chapel, to help meet their expenses. Everyone knew who was on financial aid and who was not. In 1916, Luce wrote, “When I came to America, I found more snobbery in two weeks than I had hoped to find in two decades.” Then Headmaster Dr. Huber G. Buehler wrote to Luce’s father that same year, “I think it important that you should know that for sometime we have not been satisfied with Harry’s attention to detail in connection with some of his duties… For example, he is charged jointly with another boy with keeping the library room in good order, filing periodicals, picking up stray paper, books, etc… I myself went to the library on several occasions and was annoyed each time to find a drawer full of books left carelessly open.” That same day, this future icon in American journalism was banished from the “Care of the Library” to “Bissell Hall Lights” for the remainder of the school year.
Luce was at the top of his class academically his first year at Hotchkiss, and he was elected to the boards of St. Luke’s and the Record. He earned a spot on the Forum Literary Team and the Forum Debating Team. By now, he had mastered his speech defect for more formal speaking, so much so that he won the Alumni Oratorical Contest. As a senior, Luce became editor-in-chief and had totally revamped the periodical, the Literary Monthly, by adding more illustrations and a joke column. The Lit was unique for a school publication of that time; it featured many advertisements, poetry, and stories written by Luce himself.
Briton Hadden ’16
Hadden grew up in Brooklyn. His father died in 1906, when he was 8. He had aspirations to become a professional baseball player, yet early on, revealed talent as a journalist. He prized spirited writing and argument, and he was both cynical and flamboyant, and a bit eccentric. Hadden struggled with French, failing the course his first year at Hotchkiss. He was happiest outside of the classroom, yet required reading at Hotchkiss left a great impression on him, and he particularly enjoyed Greek. The Iliad, with its descriptive phrases using sentence constructions not used in American English at the time, fascinated him, and he imitated its style in his writing.
Senior year, Hadden was elected editor-in-chief of the Record. It had a lively editorial column addressing a number of issues under his editorship, often in a flippant or cynical manner. Hadden was fascinated by numbers and heavy statistics, and questioned the lengthy journalistic style of the time. This was reflected in the Record under his leadership; in the fall of 1915, Hadden added a new feature, a vivacious column condensing the week’s news. Hadden had decided that the Record would now be a semi-weekly publication. He wrote, “Beginning with today’s issue … a special column will be reserved for an article dealing with current events of the week. The purpose [will be] to present a condensed report of the important happenings of the week to those of us who do not find time to read the detailed accounts in the daily papers.”
Meanwhile, the editor-in-chief of the Lit had continued to impose his own changes to the rival publication. It sported a new cover and a new illustrated section, but perhaps the biggest change was that the Lit would feature contributions from prominent Americans. The cover boasted that the Lit was “The ‘Better’ Magazine.” This competition escalated as the year progressed. Hadden wrote, “We are well aware that ‘the “better” magazine’ means a magazine which aims to be ‘better’ than itself in each successive issue. At the same time, however, we still fear that the slogan might readily be misinterpreted by an outsider as meaning better than any other magazine. Since this ambiguity does exist, we recommend the use of the blue pencil in this connection. The claim ‘First in the Prep School World’ is especially uncalled for.”
From Rivals to Friends
Yet the rivalry between Luce and Hadden had begun to grow into friendship. At graduation in 1916, the major prizes went to the athletes. Luce defended his friend and himself in the final issue of the Lit that year: “To run a semi-weekly, six-page newspaper – outside of study hours – and to have not more than one typographical error a fortnight, and to have a keen, clear, pointed editorial to each issue as we had during 1915-16, we say that there is no harder job in the entire Hotchkiss School – no football game that ever will demand more ‘guts’ than this. And [casting the convention of modesty to dust] we say that to publish a monthly magazine with 300 pages of, at least, fairly good attempts at stories, articles and verse, to make these pages have any semblance of an appeal to the fellows in school, and to pay nearly 200 electrotypes – this we submit is no tea-parlor, silk-sock, poetically temperamental game.” The summer of their senior year, they both went their separate ways. Luce went to work for a Massachusetts daily newspaper, the Springfield Republican, and Hadden went to summer in the Hamptons.
Many boys of the Hotchkiss Class of 1916 headed for New Haven and Yale that fall, including Hadden and Luce. They had a common goal: both desperately wanted to make the staff of the Yale Daily News. Both joined in the competition and earned a spot, but in January 1918 it was Hadden who became chairman of the publication.
Hadden and Luce volunteered for the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps at Yale, and eventually the Yale R.O.T.C. unit was shipped off to Camp Jackson. Neither of these commissioned second lieutenants made it overseas. Their military careers were cut short by the Armistice, and both were back on the Yale campus in January 1919 for the second semester. With publication suspended in the fall of 1918, the Yale Daily News went back to press in February 1919. Upon graduation, Briton Hadden was voted “most likely to succeed,” “hardest worker” and the man who had “done the most for Yale,” and Henry Luce graduated with “Honors of the first rank” (summa cum laude). Once again, they parted, but only temporarily; they were destined to meet again.
With the presidential conventions monopolizing the news, Hadden went to San Francisco to watch the Democrats nominate James M. Cox. Luce attended the Republican convention where Warren G. Harding was nominated. Both were equally disgusted with the outcome.
Luce had decided on a postgraduate year at Oxford, while Hadden set his sights on a job at the World, New York’s premier newspaper of the time. After sneaking in to see the editor, Hadden convinced the man to give him a job. Hadden explained that he needed a year of experience to start his own paper. The World closed its doors a few years later, but the newspaper had opened a door for a young Briton Hadden.
With his year at Oxford behind him, Luce returned to the States, where he eventually found employment at the Chicago Daily News. His tenure there was short, as was Hadden’s at the World. A classmate from Yale contacted them both. He had found himself a great position at the Baltimore News as an assistant editor, and they were looking for two more college men. Both moved to Baltimore, and with this opportunity, had the chance to work together and spend time on working on “that paper.” Three months later, they turned in their resignations and headed for New York.
Impractical as it seemed at a time when there were more than 2,033 daily newspapers and magazines in circulation, and with little to no business experience and less capital, Luce and Hadden settled in; they began by writing a prospectus for their proposed magazine.
The style of the magazine was defined in the prospectus, which took about eight weeks to complete. It further defined the idea of brief news accounting in a vastly changing world. Life had become busier; people had less leisure time for “simply keeping informed.” But this was not a totally new concept for the founders; this style had begun to reveal itself in Hotchkiss publications under their leadership. During the process of writing the prospectus, the title of the magazine emerged. They would call it TIME.
Significant progress had now been made, yet they still faced probably the biggest obstacle—$100,000 needed to launch the publication. And just as the style of the magazine was linked to their time at Hotchkiss, Yale would play a role in its launch. A Yale acquaintance introduced Luce and Hadden to his brother-in-law, John Wesley Hanes, Yale ’15, and he came up with a plan. Hanes suggested selling shares of stock, both common and preferred, in a manner that would allow them to retain 80 percent and control of the business. And Yale classmates and their wealthy families would be offered the chance to purchase shares.
On Nov. 28, 1922, with a total of $85,675 from some 74 investors, TIME was incorporated, and Luce and Hadden were in business. Time would be forever distinguished by its style and structure, a brief and comprehensive publication, which would become one of the most profitable publishing ventures in magazine history. Dated March 3, 1923, the first issue of Time featured a drawing of then Speaker of the House of Representatives, “Uncle Joe” Cannon. The magazine was divided into categories, and subscribers were treated to a mix of stories, trivia, gossip, and arcane facts. The goal was to present the facts about any particular subject, but the reader always knew where the editors stood. By 1941, revenues from TIME and other Luce enterprises reached $45 million. At the end of 2002, the publishing portion of Time Inc. (not including AOL Time Warner) reported revenues of approximately $5 billion.
The Hotchkiss connections to TIME are many. On Nov. 15, 1922, a circulation manager and later longtime president of Time Inc. named of Roy Edward Larsen was hired; he was the father of Chris Larsen ’55 and Jonathan Larsen ’57. James A. Linen III ’30 worked first as an advertising manager and then as publisher of TIME from 1945 to 1960. Strobe Talbott ’64 joined Time in 1971 as an East European correspondent. He held this position until 1973, when he became a State Department correspondent. Strobe worked in several other positions at TIME before becoming editor-at-large and foreign affairs columnist in 1989. One of the first contributors to the magazine was part-time writer and poet Archibald MacLeish ’11, and John Hersey ’32 was first a writer at TIME, and later, editor.
When Dr. Buehler died in 1924, Luce and Hadden made note of it in TIME: “His reign was historic in the development of American public schools. Coming from Gettysburg, an obscure college town in Pennsylvania, achieving his first petty distinction as an author of Buehler’s Modern English Grammar, he was suddenly elevated 20 years ago to be the supreme administrator of a new and comparatively small school. When he died, the Hotchkiss School had equals but no superiors in the land, and was one of a group of schools which boasted a pride of spirit and a social discipline comparable to the ancient schools of England.”
On Feb. 27, 1929, six years to the day after the first issue of TIME went to press, Briton Hadden died. Over the next several decades, Henry Luce would go on to establish some of the most important and significant publications of the 20th century, including Life, Fortune, and Sports Illustrated. The man who shaped public opinion and the political landscape of the American Century died of a heart attack on Feb. 28, 1967. TIME marches on.