From its founding in 1937 until the early ’70s, Life Magazine — the first American weekly picture magazine — was the most popular rag in the country. But it was not without its competitors: 1937 also marked the founding of Look Magazine, run by Des Moines Tribune editors and brothers Gardner and John Cowles.
Derided as “barber shop reading” in the ’40s, Look — known for its large-scale photographs and very short articles — lacked the high aspirations and self-seriousness of Life. At the time of its launch, Time described the magazine as having “reader interest for yourself, for your private secretary, for your office boy — a magazine mostly for the middle class and for ordinary lives.”
Look had sold 3.7 million issues by the mid 1950s, but the biweekly went out of print in 1971 (a year before Life) and largely faded from historical consciousness. This month, a new book, The Forgotten Fifties, celebrates the magazine’s heyday. Mining the publication’s archives from the Library of Congress, James Conaway compiled photographic highlights that include rare shots of Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, and Jackie Kennedy, as well as photographs by a young Stanley Kubrick — who began his career as a staff photographer at the magazine in the late ’40s.
Click through the slideshow for a sentimental journey back through the ’50s, including beauty pageants, lingerie models, and inflatable swimming pools.