Henry Luce

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Henry Luce
Luce in 1954
Henry Robinson Luce

(1898-04-03)April 3, 1898
DiedFebruary 28, 1967(1967-02-28) (aged 68)
Alma materYale University
Occupation(s)Publisher, journalist
Political partyRepublican
Lila Ross Hotz
(m. 1923; div. 1935)
(m. 1935)
ParentHenry W. Luce

Henry Robinson Luce (April 3, 1898 – February 28, 1967) was an American magazine magnate who founded Time, Life, Fortune, and Sports Illustrated magazines. He has been called "the most influential private citizen in the America of his day".[1]

Born in Shandong, China, to Presbyterian parents, Luce moved to the US at the age of 15 and later attended Yale University. He launched and closely supervised a stable of magazines that transformed journalism and the reading habits of millions of Americans. Time summarized and interpreted the week's news; Life was a picture magazine of politics, culture, and society that dominated American visual perceptions in the era before television; Fortune reported on national and international business; and Sports Illustrated explored the world of sports.

Counting his radio projects and newsreels, Luce created the first multimedia corporation. He envisaged that the United States would achieve world hegemony, and in 1941 he declared the 20th century would be the "American Century".[2][3]

Early life and education[edit]

Luce was born in Tengchow Shandong, China, now Penglai, on April 3, 1898, the son of Elizabeth Root Luce and Henry Winters Luce, who was a Presbyterian missionary.[3]

At 15, he was sent to the U.S. to attend the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut, where he tried hard to overcome his stuttering. As a scholarship student he was isolated from the upper-class boys. He was subsidized by an elderly Chicago heiress, Nancy Fowler McCormick, who favored sons of missionaries. Applying himself to study, Luce quickly became the top student. He was especially strong in languages, studying Greek, Latin, French, and German, and already knowing Chinese. He edited the Hotchkiss Literary Monthly.[4] There, he first met Briton Hadden; they became best friends.[3]

Hotchkiss was a feeder prep school for Yale University. After a summer spent working on a Springfield newspaper, Luce matriculated in the fall of 1916. He was the top freshman academically, but grades did not confer as much prestige as a staff role on the Yale Daily News. Only four freshmen were chosen by the News; they included Luce and Hadden.[5] When the U.S. entered World War I in 1917, a third of the students joined the army; the rest, including Luce, joined the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) and attended class in uniform.

Luce also joined Alpha Delta, a minor fraternity. His grades remained top-level, and every spare hour was devoted to newspaper work. Luce and Hadden were the two outstanding journalists; when the vote came in January 1918 for chairmanship of the News, Hadden beat Luce by one vote. Luce instead became managing editor and the two worked closely together and started planning their future. Meanwhile, the Army assigned them as ROTC leaders to train new recruits. The war ended before either was commissioned.

In January 1919, Luce and Hadden returned to Yale University as juniors. In May 1919, they were both tapped into the prestigious Skull and Bones secret society. Luce tried, but failed, to win a Rhodes Scholarship to University of Oxford, but he was admitted to the university and paid his way. He spent the year travelling Europe, observing the post-World War I scene closely. He returned to the United States to take a newspaper job in Chicago as a junior reporter.[6]


Nightly discussions of the concept of a news magazine led Luce and Hadden, both age 23, to quit their jobs in 1922. Later that same year, they partnered with Robert Livingston Johnson and another Yale classmate to form Time Inc.[7]

Luce, supported by Editor-in-Chief T. S. Matthews, appointed Whittaker Chambers as acting Foreign News editor in 1944, despite the feuds that Chambers had with reporters in the field.[8]

Luce, who remained editor-in-chief of all his publications until 1964, maintained a position as an influential member of the Republican Party.[9] An instrumental figure behind the so-called "China Lobby", he played a large role in steering American foreign policy and popular sentiment in favor of Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai-shek and his wife, Soong Mei-ling, in their war against the Japanese. (The Chiangs appeared in the cover of Time eleven times between 1927 and 1955.)[10]

Luce authored an editorial for Life magazine in 1941, titled "The American Century", in which he defined the role of U.S. foreign policy for the remainder of the 20th century.[9]

Personal life[edit]

The Luce Memorial Chapel at Tunghai University in Taiwan

Luce met his first wife, Lila Hotz, while he was studying at Yale University in 1919.[11] They married in 1923 and had two children, Peter Paul and Henry Luce III, before divorcing in 1935.[11]

In 1935, he married his second wife, Clare Boothe Luce, who had an 11-year-old daughter, Ann Clare Brokaw, whom he raised as his own. He died in Phoenix, Arizona in 1967. At his death, he was said to be worth $100 million in Time Inc. stock.[12] Most of his fortune went to the Henry Luce Foundation, where his son Henry III served as chairman and chief executive for many years.[11]


He died in Phoenix, Arizona on February 28, 1967, at age 68. At his death, he was said to be worth $100 million in Time Inc. stock.[13] Most of his fortune went to the Henry Luce Foundation, where his son Henry III served as chairman and chief executive for many years.[11]


He was honored by the United States Postal Service with a 32¢ Great Americans series (1980–2000) postage stamp.[14] Luce was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame.[15]


  1. ^ Robert Edwin Herzstein (2005). Henry R. Luce, Time, and the American Crusade in Asia. Cambridge U.P. p. 1. ISBN 9780521835770.
  2. ^ Editorial (1941-02-17) The American Century, Life Magazine
  3. ^ a b c Baughman, James L. (April 28, 2004). "Henry R. Luce and the Rise of the American News Media". American Masters (PBS). Retrieved June 19, 2014.
  4. ^ Brinkley, The Publisher: Henry Luce and his American Century (2010) p. 35.
  5. ^ Brinkley, pp. 54-57.
  6. ^ Brinkley, pp. 61–63, 70–83.
  7. ^ Warburton, Albert (Winter 1962). "Robert L. Johnson Hall Dedicated at Temple University" (PDF). The Emerald of Sigma Pi. Vol. 48, no. 4. p. 111. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 15, 2016. Retrieved October 13, 2016.
  8. ^ Brinkley, The Publisher: Henry Luce and his American Century (2010) pp. 322–93
  9. ^ a b "Henry R. Luce: End of a Pilgrimage". Time. March 10, 1967
  10. ^ "Time magazine historical search". Time magazine. Archived from the original on June 30, 2012. Retrieved June 19, 2014.
  11. ^ a b c d Ravo, Nick (April 3, 1999). "Lila Luce Tyng, 100, First Wife of Henry R. Luce". The New York Times. Retrieved January 16, 2018.
  12. ^ Edwin Diamond (October 23, 1972). "Why the Power Vacuum at Time Inc. Continues". New York Magazine.
  13. ^ Edwin Diamond (October 23, 1972). "Why the Power Vacuum at Time Inc. Continues". New York.
  14. ^ "Henry R. Luce". US Stamp Gallery. April 3, 1998.
  15. ^ "Appendix O- National Business Hall of Fame Laureates" (PDF). Junior Achievement Inc. Retrieved December 30, 2019.

Further reading[edit]

  • Baughman, James L. "Henry R. Luce and the Business of Journalism." Business & Economic History On-Line 9 (2011). online
  • Baughman, James L. Henry R. Luce and the Rise of the American News Media (2001) online
  • Brinkley, Alan. The Publisher: Henry Luce and His American Century, (Alfred A. Knopf, 2010) 531 pp. online
  • Brinkley, Alan. What Would Henry Luce Make of the Digital Age?, Time (April 19, 2010) excerpt and text search
  • Elson, Robert T. Time Inc: The Intimate History of a Publishing Enterprise, 1923–1941 (1968); vol. 2: The World of Time Inc.: The Intimate History, 1941–1960 (1973), official corporate history. vol 1 online also vol 2 online
  • Herzstein, Robert E. Henry R. Luce, Time, and the American Crusade in Asia (2006) online
  • Herzstein, Robert E. Henry R. Luce: A Political Portrait of the Man Who Created the American Century (1994). online
  • Morris, Sylvia Jukes. Rage for Fame: The Ascent of Clare Boothe Luce (1997).
  • Swanberg, W. A., Luce and His Empire, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1972.
  • Wilner, Isaiah. The Man Time Forgot: A Tale of Genius, Betrayal, and the Creation of Time Magazine (HarperCollins, 2006).

Primary sources[edit]

  • Luce, Henry. The ideas of Henry Luce ed by John Knox Jessup, (1969) online

External links[edit]