Look (American magazine)

Last updated
Actress Anne Gwynne, a 1939–1940 model for Catalina Swimwear, was featured on the January 30, 1940 cover of Look.
First issueFebruary 1937 (1937-February)
Final issueOctober 19, 1971
Company Cowles Media
Country United States
Based in Des Moines, Iowa
ISSN 0024-6336

Look was a biweekly, general-interest magazine published in Des Moines, Iowa, from 1937 to 1971, with more of an emphasis on photographs than articles. A large-sized magazine of 11 in × 14 in (280 mm × 360 mm), it was a direct competitor to Life, which began publication months earlier and ended in 1972, a few months after Look shut down.



Gardner "Mike" Cowles, Jr. (1903–1985), the magazine's co-founder (with his brother John) and first editor, was executive editor of The Des Moines Register and The Des Moines Tribune . When the first issue went on sale in early 1937, it sold 705,000 copies. [1] [2]

Although planned to begin with the January 1937 issue, the actual first issue of Look to be distributed was the February 1937 issue, numbered as Volume 1, Number 2. It was published monthly for five issues (February–May 1937), then switched to biweekly starting with the May 11, 1937 issue. Page numbering on early issues counted the front cover as page one. Early issues, subtitled Monthly Picture Magazine, carried no advertising. [3]

The unusual format of the early issues featured layouts of photos with long captions or very short articles. The magazine's backers described it as "an experiment based on the tremendous unfilled demand for extraordinary news and feature pictures". It was aimed at a broader readership than Life, promising trade papers that Look would have "reader interest for yourself, for your wife, for your private secretary, for your office boy". [4]


From 1946-70, Look published the Football Writers Association of America College All America Football Team and brought players and selected writers to New York City for a celebration. During that 25-year period, the FWAA team was introduced on national television shows by Bob Hope, Steve Allen, Perry Como, and others.

Its January 24, 1956, article "The Shocking Story of Approved Killing in Mississippi", included murder confessions from J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant, who had been acquitted in 1955 of killing 14-year-old boy Emmett Till. [5] [6]

Circulation peak

Look Building on Madison Avenue in New York Look-building.jpg
Look Building on Madison Avenue in New York

Within weeks of its debut, more than a million copies were bought of each issue, [7] and it became a biweekly. By 1948, it sold 2.9 million copies per issue. [8] Circulation reached 3.7 million in 1954, [9] and peaked at 7.75 million in 1969. Its advertising revenue reached its highest point in 1966 at $80 million. [10] Of the leading general-interest, large-format magazines, Look had a circulation second only to Life and ahead of The Saturday Evening Post , which closed in 1969, and Collier's , which folded in 1956.

Look was published under various company names: Look, Inc. (1937–45), Cowles Magazines (1946–65), and Cowles Communications, Inc. (1965–71). Its New York editorial offices were located in the architecturally distinctive 488 Madison Avenue, dubbed the "Look Building", now on the National Register of Historic Places.

KGB defector Yuri Bezmenov, regarding the October 1967 Russia Today issue, said: "From the first page to the last page, it was a package of lies: propaganda cliché[s] which were presented to American readers as opinions and deductions of American journalists. Nothing could be [further] from [the] truth." [11] He goes on to explain exactly how the Look reporters were compromised. [12]

Look ceased publication with its issue of October 19, 1971, the victim of a $5 million loss in revenues in 1970 (with television cutting deeply into its advertising revenues), a slack economy, and rising postal rates. Circulation was at 6.5 million when it closed. [10]


French publisher Hachette brought back Look, the Picture Newsmagazine in February 1979 as a biweekly in a slightly smaller size. It lasted only a year. Subscribers received copies of Esquire to fulfill their terms.

The Look Magazine Photograph Collection was donated to the Library of Congress and contains about five million items. [13]

After the closure, six Look employees created a fulfillment house using the computer system newly developed by the magazine's circulation department. [14] The company, CDS Global, is now an international provider of customer relationship services.

Notable staff photographers and illustrators

Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick was a staff photographer for Look before starting his feature-film career. Of the more than 300 assignments Kubrick did for Look from 1946 to 1951, more than 100 are in the Library of Congress collection. All Look jobs with which he was associated have been cataloged with descriptions focusing on the images that were printed. Other related Kubrick material is located at the Museum of the City of New York. [15]

James Karales

James Karales was a photographer for Look from 1960 to 1971. Covering the Civil Rights Movement throughout its duration, he took many memorable photographs, including the iconic photograph of the Selma to Montgomery march showing people proudly marching along the highway under a cloudy, turbulent sky. [16]

Norman Rockwell

Beginning in 1963, Norman Rockwell, after closing his career with the Saturday Evening Post, began making illustrations for Look.

See also

Related Research Articles

<i>Life</i> (magazine) American magazine

Life was an American magazine published weekly from 1883 to 1972, as an intermittent "special" until 1978, and as a monthly from 1978 until 2000. During its golden age from 1936 to 1972, Life was a wide-ranging weekly general interest magazine known for the quality of its photography.

<i>Star Tribune</i> Minneapolis, Minnesota, US newspaper

The Star Tribune is the largest newspaper in Minnesota. It originated as the Minneapolis Tribune in 1867 and the competing Minneapolis Daily Star in 1920. During the 1930s and 1940s Minneapolis's competing newspapers were consolidated, with the Tribune published in the morning and the Star in the evening. They merged in 1982, creating the Star and Tribune, and it was renamed to Star Tribune in 1987. After a tumultuous period in which the newspaper was sold and re-sold and filed for bankruptcy protection in 2009, it was purchased by local businessman Glen Taylor in 2014.

<i>Ladies Home Journal</i> American magazine

Ladies' Home Journal was an American magazine published by the Meredith Corporation. It was first published on February 16, 1883, and eventually became one of the leading women's magazines of the 20th century in the United States. From 1891 it was published in Philadelphia by the Curtis Publishing Company. In 1903, it was the first American magazine to reach one million subscribers.

Photographers of the American Civil War

The American Civil War was the most widely covered conflict of the 19th century. The images would provide posterity with a comprehensive visual record of the war and its leading figures, and make a powerful impression on the populace. Something not generally known by the public is the fact that roughly 70% of the war's documentary photography was captured by the twin lenses of a stereo camera. The American Civil War was the first war in history whose intimate reality would be brought home to the public, not only in newspaper depictions, album cards and cartes-de-visite, but in a popular new 3D format called a "stereograph," "stereocard" or "stereoview." Millions of these cards were produced and purchased by a public eager to experience the nature of warfare in a whole new way.

Gordon Parks African American artist

Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks was an American photographer, musician, writer and film director, who became prominent in U.S. documentary photojournalism in the 1940s through 1970s—particularly in issues of civil rights, poverty and African-Americans—and in glamour photography.

<i>The Des Moines Register</i> newspaper published in Des Moines

The Des Moines Register is the daily morning newspaper of Des Moines, Iowa.

A weekly newspaper is a general-news or current affairs publication that is issued once or twice a week in a wide variety broadsheet, magazine, and digital formats. Similarly, a biweekly newspaper is published once every two weeks. Weekly newspapers tend to have smaller circulations than daily newspapers, and often cover smaller territories, such as one or more smaller towns, a rural county, or a few neighborhoods in a large city. Frequently, weeklies cover local news and engage in community journalism.

<i>Marie Claire</i> womens magazine

Marie Claire is an international monthly magazine first published in France in 1937, followed by the UK in 1941. Since then various editions are published in many countries and languages. The feature editions focuses on women around the world and several global issues. Marie Claire magazine also covers health, beauty, and fashion topics.

Arthur Rothstein American photojournalist

Arthur Rothstein was an American photographer. Rothstein is recognized as one of America's premier photojournalists. During a career that spanned five decades, he provoked, entertained and informed the American people. His photographs ranged from a hometown baseball game to the drama of war, from struggling rural farmers to US Presidents.

Fleur Fenton Cowles was an American writer, editor and artist best known as the creative force behind the short-lived Flair magazine.

Cowles Media Company (1935–1998) was a newspaper, magazine and information publishing company based in Minneapolis, Minnesota in the United States. The company operated Cowles Business Media, Cowles Creative Publishing, and Cowles Enthusiast Media units.

Morley Cowles Ballantine American editor

Elizabeth Morley Cowles Gale Ballantine, known as Morley Cowles Ballantine, was an American newspaper publisher, editor, philanthropist, and women's rights activist. Scion of an Iowan newspaper publishing family, she and her second husband, Arthur A. Ballantine, purchased two Durango, Colorado newspapers in 1952, which they merged into The Durango Herald by 1960. The couple also started the Ballantine Family Fund, which supported arts and education in Southwest Colorado. After her husband's death in 1975, Ballantine took over the chairmanship of the family-owned publishing company, continuing to produce a weekly column and editorials. She received many journalism awards and several honorary degrees. She was inducted into the Colorado Business Hall of Fame in 2002 and was posthumously inducted into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame in 2014.

<i>The American Home</i>

The American Home was a monthly magazine published in the United States from 1928 to 1977. Its subjects included domestic architecture, interior design, landscape design, and gardening.

Downe Communications was a publishing company founded by Edward Downe, Jr. that produced several popular magazines and provided subscription fulfillment services from 1967 to 1978.

John Cowles Sr. American businessman

John Cowles Sr. was an American newspaper and magazine publisher. He was co-owner of the Cowles Media Company, whose assets included the Minneapolis Star, the Minneapolis Tribune, the Des Moines Register, Look magazine, and a half-interest in Harper's Magazine.

The Register and Tribune Syndicate was a syndication service based in Des Moines, Iowa, that operated from 1922 to 1986, when it was acquired by King Features to become the Cowles Syndicate affiliate. At its peak, the Register and Tribune Syndicate offered newspapers some 60 to 75 features, including editorial cartoonist Herblock, comic strips, and commentaries by David Horowitz, Stanley Karnow, and others.

James H. Karales was an American photographer and photo-essayist best known for his work with Look magazine from 1960 to 1971. At Look he covered the Civil Rights Movement throughout its duration, taking many of the movements memorable photographs, including those of the formation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his family. Karales's single best known image is the iconic photograph of the Selma to Montgomery march showing people proudly marching along the highway under a cloudy turbulent sky.

Gardner Cowles Sr. (1861–1946) was an American banker, publisher, and politician. He was the owner of The Des Moines Register and the Des Moines Tribune.

Gardner Cowles Jr.

Gardner "Mike" Cowles Jr. (1903–1985) was an American newspaper and magazine publisher. He was co-owner of the Cowles Media Company, whose assets included the Minneapolis Star, the Minneapolis Tribune, the Des Moines Register, Look magazine, and a half-interest in Harper's Magazine.


  1. "Pictorial Magazine Prints First Issue", The Washington Post , January 6, 1937, p. 3.
  2. "Ads to Look", Time , November 8, 1937.
  3. ""Look is Born"". Archived from the original on 2011-04-27. Retrieved 2008-10-02.
  4. "Look Out", Time, January 11, 1937.
  5. Huie, William Bradford (January 1956). "The Shocking Story of Approved Killing in Mississippi". Look Magazine. Archived from the original on February 8, 2017. Retrieved March 11, 2017.
  6. "Emmett Till murderers make magazine confession". History. Retrieved 2020-05-09.
  7. Look (advertisement), The Washington Post, March 31, 1937, p. 15.
  8. Look (advertisement), New York Times, June 8, 1948, p. 16.
  9. "Shake-up at Look", Time, January 11, 1954.
  10. 1 2 "Cowles Closing Look Magazine After 34 Years". The New York Times. 1971-09-17. p. 1. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved 2019-11-29.
  11. Dissident, Useless (2008-11-25). "Useless Dissident: Interview with Yuri Bezmenov: Part Two". Useless Dissident. Retrieved 2016-03-05.
  12. GBPPR2 (2011-01-20), Yuri Bezmenov: Deception Was My Job (Complete) , retrieved 2016-03-05
  13. Library Congress, Look Collection: Background and Scope.
  14. "Good Idea Grows out of Tragedy", Des Moines Register, October 26, 1997, pp. 1G–2G.
  15. Library of Congress, Look Collection: Background and Scope
  16. James Karales, Photographer of Social Upheaval, Dies at 71

Further reading