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Session:         Page of 824

JFE
Interviewee: Andrew Heiskell
Interviewer: Jessica Holland
Date:
Place: New York City

Q:

Okay, why don't we start with discussion of your early days at Life and your memories of John Shaw Billings.

Heiskell:

Well, I started Life in May of 1937, and the magazine had been launched at the end of November in 1936 under the first managing editor. Obviously, the first managing editor, John Shaw Billings, who, by the way, had as a grandfather the man who became the first director of the New York Public Library, and created the whole cataloguing system that dominates the--John was large, unflappable, very well organized man. He had been drafted in to the job with only two weeks of notice, preparation. John Martin had been working on the experimental issues of Life. John Martin was somewhat, shall we say, not totally responsible, and at the last moment Harry decided he better put in somebody who knew what he was doing, who would make sure the magazine went to press. John was just the right man for that. He's the only managing editor I've ever known, and I've known an awful lot of them who really believed that a job could be done, a job of editing a magazine between 10:00 and 5:00 in the afternoon. No reason for his staying on after five o'clock.

He would sit at his desk and call up stories. That means photographs, and he would riffle through the photographs at high



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