In retrospect, the best thing about the first issue of Time is that it was published at all, so that it could evolve and grow and become the magazine it is today and spawn other magazines, notably Newsweek. Volume 1, Number 1 came out on March 3, 1923. It didn't have the classic red border that has distinguished Time for most of its run, nor did it have a cover that would stand out over the years as a classic. This one features John G. Cannon.
Who? Cannon was the grand old man of Congress who was retiring at the age of 86, having served 23 terms in the House of Representatives. Imagine any magazine anywhere in the U.S. today with a first issue featuring an 86-year-old! The reason Cannon found himself on he cover was that Time had set out to tell the news through people. For many decades, the magazine's cover was just that -- the image (first artwork, later photos, too) of a single person. Still, Time didn't mince words when talking about its cover subject.
"Never did a man employ the office of Speaker with less regard for its theoretical impartiality. To Uncle Joe the Speakership was a gift from heaven, immaculately born into the constitution by the will of the fathers for the divine purpose of perpetuating the dictatorship of the standpatters in the Republican Party. And he followed the divine call with a resolute evangelism that was no mere voice crying in the wilderness, but a voice that forbade anybody else to cry out -- out of turn."
Time was co-founded by two men, Britton Hadden and Henry Luce, who had worked together previously at Yale on the Yale Daily News. Hadden died in 1929, thus making Luce's name the one that became a dominant one in the history of 20th century American media.
There were three articles that touch on areas we still think about today. In 2005, we have President Bush with a Republican congress of his own party having trouble with his political agenda. In 1923, Time said of President Harding who was in the same position:
"The wisdom of some of the most important of the President's appointments has been questioned... Nothing which has recently emanated from the White House which could be called a foreign policy has secured the united support of the President's party."
There was another occupation going on in those days, too. We have our troubles in Iraq. Back then it was France and Belgium trying to put down an insurgency by the occupied Germans of the Ruhr Valley.
"The scenes of violence have all occurred in Bochum, where the French fired upon a crowd. This action has done much to stiffen the German resistance. The total casualities over the Ruhr occupation to date are: 9 Germans killed and 13 wounded."
Finally, there was also an article entitled, "The Mexican Border." No concerns about illegal aliens back then. In 1923, with America in the grips of the Prohibition, the concern was those drinking Mexicans on our border and the booze they might serve Americans.
"Two plans for drying up the Mexican border have found their way to Washington. One is a request by the federated Clubwomen of the Imperial Valley, Cal., that Secretary Hughes 'close' the border at sundown to persons under 21 years of age, in order to protect their children. The other is a rumor from Mexico City, to the effect the government is considering establishment of a dry belt 50 miles wide, along the border. So far it is only a rumor."
The population of the United States has nearly tripled in those 80+ years since Time's beginning when it told the weekly news to a country of 110-million people. It wasn't the most auspicious beginning to a magazine, but they had to start somewhere to go some place else. This was the beginning and, again, Time was the first.