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The knowledge practices of Fortune magazine: leadership, numeracy and poetry, 1930–1945

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Fortune magazine, with its first issue in February 1930, was a luxury item for the Great Depression, expensive, extravagantly written and ornately illustrated. The second title in Henry Luce’s publishing empire set out to reinvent business reporting. In its first two decades, it laid claim to innovation with the corporation story, surveys of popular opinion and with expert round tables. Drawing on archival records I will reconstruct the working relations between editors, writers, artists, researchers and the ever present editor-in-chief Luce. I will contrast Fortune’s reporting with the evolving repertoire of social representation of 1920 and 1930s North America, notably Cornelia Stratton Parker’s ‘Working with the Working Woman’ at Harper’s Magazine, Survey Graphic, and the Farm Security Administration’s photojournalism. I argue that Fortune’s documentary gaze extends a heroic imaginary of industry to all quarters of social life in the Great Depression.

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science series.

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