Slideshow: LIFE 75 years

Joao Costa

The very best of LIFE

In 1936, Henry Luce founded a new weekly magazine that proved an overnight sensation, presenting to readers the world in pictures. Down the decades, LIFE became famous for its war and celebrity coverage, its photo essays, and its "never before seen" shots. Today it is represented in a thriving line of books—recent ­volumes on such as Liz Taylor, Will and Kate's royal wedding, and the life and death of Osama bin Laden—and a fantastically popular Web site,, which is visited daily by a legion of fans who want to see the best historical or current pictures.

In the pages of this special commemorative book, we have all of it—the best of LIFE, from all sources, going back to 1936 and looking forward to tomorrow. And also in this special oversize volume is a complete copy of the first edition of LIFE, exactly as it appeared in 1936. It sold out overnight and has been treasured as a collectible ever since. It is fun to return not only to the stories LIFE told back then, but to the advertisements and cultural ethos of that time.

LIFE returns, too, in our book's final chapter, to our very first cover story, Margaret Bourke-White's photo essay on the shantytowns that had sprung up around the WPA Fort Peck Dam project in northeastern Montana. We talk to those who remember the time, and present new photography. In another chapter, we drop in on our colleagues at, who have been engaged in the exciting exercise of hunting in the vast LIFE photo archive for never-before-seen photos from hundreds of LIFE assignments. In these pages, a sampling of what they've found—Marilyn Monroe and Steve McQueen before they hit it big, and many others.

As with life itself, The Very Best of LIFE is a bounty, a feast and a celebration. And it is all here in this special commemorative 75th anniversary book.

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