Life The Week I Was Born

Google has digitized every issue of Life magazine and made each issue available for online viewing, all from the comfort of your computer. I thought it would be fun to look at the issue that hit the stands the week I was born.

I used to run an in-house advertising agency for a company that sold electronic equipment. By “run” I mean that, for the most part and excluding a short amount of time that I had an assistant, I wrote the copy, drew line art, composed and pasted up mechanicals for ads and catalog pages and oversaw the printing. So looking at the ads in this issue and seeing how wording, page composition and graphics have changed was a big part of my perusal pastime. In advertising, the goal is always to entice the viewer to buy the advertised product. But it is interesting to see how the manner in which that goal is reached has evolved over the years.

Life magazine was famous for its photography and this issue is full of photos. It was enjoyable to see a photo of a much younger Queen Elizabeth on page 33. The photo montage of customers trying out the new escalator in a bank in Chile and headlined “Scares from Moving Stairs” on page 67 reminded me that my late grandmother always refused to use escalators because she was convinced her foot would be caught and mangled in the moving steps. Finally, the “Vassar 40 Year Reunion” photo spread beginning on page 135 is like seeing little slices of time.

The cover of my birth week issue of Life shows the crew of the USS Constitution on her decks. It’s an important moment in our country’s history, to be sure, but when I was growing up my favorite issue of Life was the one dated March 11, 1966 with Adam West as Batman on the cover. I wish I still had the copy I talked my mom into buying for me, but it is long gone.

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