Fortune's Bold Forecast
Stocks may have crashed, but industry soared on the magazine's covers.
OBJECT: Fortune magazine
DATE: April 1934
Fortune, America's first serious business journal, debuted in February 1930, four months after the stock market had crashed. But founder Henry R. Luce believed that entrepreneurs' hopes (and dollars) would be buoyed by a smart publication, one that celebrated the new economy of industry and machines. His genius was to make the magazine a work of art.
Luce positioned Fortune at the intersection of commerce and culture. He hired world-class writers and commissioned artists to illustrate the covers. Their fine lithographs captured the transition from agrarian to urban America and put a spotlight on architecture, just as tall buildings began to rise.
Skyscrapers, smokestacks, and machine-shop gears take on the elegant geometries and abstractions of art deco, the prevailing art movement of the time. Some artists, such as Antonio Petruccelli (1907–1994), were regulars. Petruccelli contributed 25 Fortune covers including the April 1934 issue, which shows a composition of sawmill blade and cut log that raises lumber to a new aesthetic. (The cover story, “Bunyan in Broadcloth,” focused on the Weyerhaeuser empire.) Fortune's December 1937 issue portrayed Manhattan's high-rise temples of business as ornaments on a pyramidal Christmas tree.
By May 1941, front-cover celebrations of architecture made way for the depiction of a tent city for troops. Then, as now, the nation was at war. With the benefit of hindsight, the orderly rows of canvas shelters foreshadowed the coming of suburbia and a peacetime housing boom.
The price of architectural history: Vintage issues of Fortune are available for $35 and up from an online dealer such as www.oldimprints.com, or $8 to a recent bidder on eBay.