10 of the Greatest ‘Life’ Magazine Covers of All Time

This week, 76 years ago, Life magazine published its first issue of the pictorial journal since folding as a weekly humor publication during the Great Depression. Publisher Henry Luce was already editor-in-chief of Time and wanted to create a magazine that didn’t just talk about the news. He wanted people to live it through stunning photographs. The prolific publisher wrote a prospectus for Life (then titled The Show-Book of the World) with poet Archibald MacLeish, and it’s the perfect way to set the mood for our gallery of the magazine’s best cover images.

“To see life; to see the world; to eyewitness great events; to watch the faces of the poor and the gestures of the proud; to see strange things — machines, armies, multitudes, shadows in the jungle and on the moon; to see man’s work — his paintings, towers and discoveries; to see things thousands of miles away, things hidden behind walls and within rooms, things dangerous to come to; the women that men love and many children; to see and to take pleasure in seeing; to see and be amazed; to see and be instructed; Thus to see, and to be shown, is now the will and new expectancy of half of humankind. To see, and to show is the mission now undertaken by a new kind of publication… ”

These are a few of our favorites. What about yours?

October 15, 1971

“The new site is Florida, but the air is pure old Disney,” Life’s article began, showcasing 1,500 Disney employees ready to welcome visitors to the newly opened Walt Disney World. The Magic Kingdom’s sister site — Disneyland in Anaheim, California — had opened 16 years prior, but the Sunshine State boasted an 18-story Cinderella Castle (more than double the size of Cali’s) and 27,500 acres of land to play on. The issue also included a pull-out poster of the park so people wouldn’t “feel like a stranger in paradise.”