Rewind: Looking Back at 90 Years of Iconic Newsweek Covers
This month, Newsweek celebrates a significant milestone: our 90th birthday. Since the magazine’s first issue went to press in February 1933, readers have given us their time and their trust, and we have worked hard to live up to that legacy.
To people across America, and later around the globe, Newsweek brought reports of war and economic upheaval, of scientific progress and startling social changes, documented through the images of our vintage covers. Notable newsmakers, from FDR to Einstein, were a staple of those early covers, along with stories about cultural pivot points, from the end of Prohibition to the start of the baby boom.
Reporters and editors then, as now, were driven by curiosity, eager to examine the world that was changing around them. They were also risk-takers. In 1963, the magazine dispatched 40 researchers to conduct 1,250 interviews for a special report on the Black experience in America. The next year, Newsweek was ahead of the pack in putting The Beatles on its cover—even if the essay itself missed the mark. (“Sartorially they are a nightmare …musically they are a near disaster,” said the story.)
Washington Post publisher Phil Graham, who bought Newsweek in 1961, described journalism as a “first rough draft of history.” Our archives confirm that. Newsweek‘s must-read coverage of a fast-evolving world continued through the space program and the women’s movement; Vietnam and 9/11; the Watergate tapes and the Clinton sex scandal and impeachment.
The world we cover today is no less complicated—and perhaps even more divided. In this environment, our mission statement reflects who we are and aim to be going forward: Newsweek speaks to—and listens to—readers across the political and cultural spectrum. We are committed to journalism that is factual and fair. We believe good-faith debate is in the public interest, and we welcome diverse views and voices to the search for common ground.
Our covers over the past 90 years reflect that commitment, as the selection that follows shows. —Dev Pragad, Newsweek CEO
The first issue of Newsweek cost a dime and featured seven stories on the cover, one for each day of the week. Coverage focused on the era’s key developments, from the rise of Nazism to the end of Prohibition and the genius of Albert Einstein.
War and the economy dominated coverage, as Hitler pressed on, Germany eventually surrendered and the nation recovered from the Depression, buoyed by FDR’s New Deal. By decade’s end, a new trend emerged: the baby boom.
Newsweek covers documented political movements from the rise of McCarthyism to the fight against segregation. Plus: TV became part of the mainstream (who didn’t love Lucy?) and a queen who would rule for 70 years was crowned.
The era’s tumultuous events included the growth of the civil rights movment, the first warnings about smoking and assassinations that left us horrified and heartbroken. There were upbeat moments too: mod fashion, moptops and a moon landing.
Newsweek‘s award- winning “Nixon Tapes” cover was an icon of the Watergate era, a time also defined by surging activism (antiwar, plus women’s and gay rights). The Bunkers became family, and we cheered for cultural heroes and antiheroes alike.
“Bush suffers from a potentially crippling handicap—a perception that…he is, in a single mean word, a wimp,” Newsweek famously wrote. Other cover- worthy events: the AIDS epidemic, the Tianamen Square massacre and the first woman in space.
Words that still ring true: “In death Diana may well loom as large—if not larger—than she did in life,” Newsweek‘s wrote. Other big moments captured on the cover: Mandela’s release, Anita Hill‘s accusation, OJ’s arrest, the Clinton sex scandal and more.
The new millennium brought “electoral limbo” over the 2000 vote, immortalized by the split-face cover of George W. Bush and Al Gore and, in 2001, the horror of 9/11. Bookending the decade: the election of the first Black U.S. president.
Everything old is new again. Newsweek cover subjects of the prior decade are back in the news: GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley, NBA point record holder Lebron James, gun control. Also noteworthy: the killing of Osama bin Laden.
It’s not everyday that a prince—now king— writes exclusively for you. HRH Charles’ 2022 essay on climate change was a change of pace in a decade so far dominated by the pandemic, Ukraine war and Trump’s legal woes. Lizzo helped too.