76 years ago this week when this magazine hit the newstands, it was called Vol. I , No. 1. The exact day of release was February 17, 1933.
Although both Time and Newsweek have become virtually indistinguishable to the average reader these days, both had a different cover philosophy when they started. Originally, Time was always that red-border with the famous person inside (at the beginning, always a photo). Newsweek, in contrast, was about the week in news. On this first cover, for example, you'll see seven pictures, each one representing a different day of the week. Monday started off with a speech by Adolf Hitler before 15,000 in Berlin's Sports Palace where he declared "the German nation must be built up from the ground anew." On Wednesday, for example, Franklin Roosevelt's election in the electoral college was certified by Congress. Clearly, these were monumental times for this new magazine: Hoover was out of office this week, Roosevelt was in -- and across the Atlantic, the Nazis were consolidating their grip.
What you won't find inside is a single word about how this is a new magazine. It pretty much just hits the ground running. The so-called "Front Page" -- page one -- has this headline: "Easing Burdens of Debut and Foreclosure." The first words Newsweek ever wrote are as follows:
"The spectre of the auctioneer stalks throughout the land, haunting debtors in city, town and country. Next to life itself, a home is man's most prized possession. To save it, rugged individualism has grown gregarious, and harried citizens are banding against foreclosure. Some are violent, grimly taking the law into their own hands."
The last word in this issue, by the way, was an article about Islam, in Turkey, where Arabic had just been officially banned.
Something I found particularly interesting in this issue, however, was commentary on the subject of democracy -- in Germany where it was under attack by Hitler, and in the United States where it was far less important than surviving the Great Depression.
The article, "A Blank Check for Roosevelt: Congress Proposes, Weighs, Then Delays Grant of Extraordinary Powers to the Next President", actually begins with a quote from Alfred E. Smith, delivered in New York the previous week. It's a whopper:
"In this depression we are in a state of war. The only thing to do now is to lay aside statutes, and do what a Democracy must do when it fights. During the World War we wrapped the Constitution of the United States in a piece of paper, put it on the shelf and left it there until the war was over."
That's quite a statement. The one that followed by James M. Cox a few days later hit the same point.
"We are at war with forces that threaten to destroy our civilization. We are a democracy. While we reflect on its virtues, it has many shortcomings. One is that in time of stress it cannot re-adjust to conditions as rapidly as necessary."
Meanwhile, over in Germany, the newly appointed Chancellor Adolf Hitler was singing a similar tune, showing up for that Sports Arena rally in his brown Nazi uniform, "banked by blazing Nazi banners." He argued for a "break" with a "rotten brand of Democracy" and asked the German nation to "give us four years' time and then pass your judgment." Most people assumed this meant that even if the elections went badly, Hitler and his cabinet would cling to power.
Newsweek chose to print a baby picture of Hitler (it's there on the left) on its photo page which, honestly, is a very strange editorial choice. It also filed a gossipy little piece about "Hitler and Frau Wagner Coupled in Romance."
"But anyhow, one of Frau Wagner's relatives says the family wouldn't be surprised to see Adolf and Winifred married "at some later date."
It's an odd read, like "Entertainment Tonight" covering the rise of fascism with bubbly enthusiasm.
Still, there's a lot of content in this magazine, crammed into its slender first volume. As a time capsule into the way we were, it's a great read.