Fortune Prospectus, September 1929, Volume One, Number Zero
The following is a letter written by Time co-founder Henry Luce to advertisers in September 1929 proposing a new magazine called Fortune. It was included in a prototype issue, “Volume One Number 0.” The first official issue of Fortune, dated February 1930, followed soon after.
Men who advertise are forever seeking the ideal medium for their story… . How would the advertising man build the Ideal Super-Class Magazine, strictly from the viewpoint of the advertiser who seeks effectively and economically to reach the greatest concentration of wealthy and influential people?
First, his Ideal Super-Class Magazine will be surpassingly beautiful. It will be so richly illustrated and so distinguished in appearance that it will be instinctive to turn the pages. And having turned the pages, his reader will discover the editorial content of such arresting vitality that, were it but mimeographed on cheapest newsprint, he would still pay dearly for it.
And the Ideal Super-Class Magazine’s price ($10.) will be a barrier so high that only the reader both enthusiastic and well-to-do will vault it.
Here then will be the ideal advertising investment for the seller of art objects and expensive jewelry, for the maker of automobiles, yachts, motor boats and planes, for the travel advertiser, and for the manufacturer of every high-grade product that goes into the building and equipping, furnishing and provisioning of the wealthy home. The financial advertiser will find here the most effective and economical method for keeping his prestige green in circles where prestige counts for most.
WHAT SHOULD IT BE ABOUT?
Its subject? Plainly the Ideal Super-Class Magazine must deal with something which is a month-in-month-out major interest of the greatest possible proportion of the wealthy and influential. The subject must lend itself ideally to the moulding of a magazine of predominant influence in American life. And there must be concreteness and particularity about the subject. Also it must be increasing rather than decreasing in its importance as compared with other subjects. And finally, since the United States is our field, we must find something which is (like government and empire building to the British) a distinct expression of the American genius.
THE SUBJECT? BUSINESS.
Certainly it is a commonplace that “Our best men are in Business”. We know too that Business has come out of the Smoking Car during the last 75 years and walked boldly in to sit down in the Dining Room, where every year it has become a more welcome guest. It cannot be questioned that most wealthy people find the large civilization-moulding operations of industry and finance of fascinating and vital concern to them. For their stake in the industrial order is the largest; and their pride of achievement is deeply genuine. Today, for every snob who looks down on “trade” there are a hundred people of wealth and education who base their family’s claim to fame on the membership in it of a railroad builder, an organizer of a communication system, a wizard of high finance, a designer of skyscrapers, a genius of corporation law. Who doubts it? Here is a subject of extraordinary vitality, whose significance becomes more apparent with each reorganization of industry, each new combination of interests.
Since Business then is the subject of the Ideal Super-Class Magazine, from the start it will concern not only advertisers of all that the wealthy and their homes require, but also the sheet steel and copper pipe fabricators, the enterprising bank which offers its facilities to Industry, the advertising agency and management corporation, builders and engineers, machine and factory and office equipment makers — and whoever else must have prestige and acceptance with the directing heads of Business.
The need of Big Business for a distinguished and de luxe monthly magazine, vividly portraying, interpreting and recording the Industrial Civilization, is apparent. It offers the Publisher an opportunity to fill the most conspicuous gap in the entire publishing range.
When it comes, properly edited, it will be an answer to advertisers’ vision of the Ideal Super-Class Magazine. For two years it has been coming. In January, 1930, it will be here. Its Name: FORTUNE, because it concerns itself with that which conditions the fortunes of every man. Its Price: $10-a-year, $1-a-copy. Its Purpose: “To reflect Industrial Life in ink and paper and word and picture, as the finest skyscraper reflects it in stone and steel and architectural design.”
THE ADVERTISING MANAGER HAS PREVAILED UPON THE EDITORS TO ISSUE A FEW COPIES OF THIS DUMMY, THE FOURTH OF TEN STEPS IN THE PUBLISHERS’ PROGRAM FOR THE ARTISTIC AND MECHANICAL EVOLUTION OF FORTUNE. IT WILL GIVE ADVERTISERS SOME HINT OF WHAT FORTUNE VOL. 1 NO. 1 WILL BE LIKE WHEN IT APPEARS JANUARY, 1930.