The First-ever Issue of Travel + Leisure Reveals How Much Has Changed in 50 Years

T+L celebrates its golden anniversary this year, so we're taking a look at the first issue that set the tone for 50 years of travel coverage.

1971 numbers collaged with photos from Travel+Leisure's First Issue
Photo: Photo Illustration by Mariah Tyler

You have to wonder what they were thinking. Around 50 years ago, the editors of a magazine called Travel & Camera made a big leap forward, embracing not just photography but the entire world. They'd cover food, wine, fashion, hotels, cruises, beaches, cities, hiking, skiing, just about anything that anybody would do for fun. They'd need a new name, Travel & Leisure, and a new look for that magazine.

And so there they are, two lovers in some '70s swimsuits, walking down the black sand beach of Kalapana, on the island of Hawaii.

Cover and Ed Note from Travel+Leisure's First Issue in 1971
Photo Illustration by Mariah Tyler

It's probably not the most memorable cover T+L has ever done, but it does capture something of an eternal truth: Hawaii is awesome. And most of us would love to hop on a flight there right now.

Looking back with the benefit of 50 years, most of what that inaugural issue has to say holds up pretty well. There's lots of advice, plenty of tried-and-true destinations, and just enough adventure to get you dreaming about places you never even considered. Here's what Cranston Jones, the editor in chief for the first two issues, had to say in his introductory note:

"Because the leisure horizons are so rapidly expanding, we have changed our title from Travel & Camera to the more encompassing Travel & Leisure, and enlarged our format. Among our new regular contributors you will find Temple Fielding, the leading U.S. guidebook writer, with his latest travel tips. Eugenia Sheppard, who previews all the collections here and abroad, will answer that question bedeviling to women: what's right to wear where. Red Smith will roam the field, reporting on sport. And Michael Field, author of All Manner of Food, will draw on his and his wife's broad travel experience (and their own kitchen) to tell you how to re-create at home those marvelous dishes you discovered abroad. Pierre Salinger, from London, will keep you up-to-date on the European scene."

That cover story about Hawaii was a big one, by Clare Boothe Luce, who'd served in the House of Representatives and as U.S. Ambassador to Italy under President Eisenhower. Having built a home in Hawaii, she wrote about whether or not the islands had been overly commercialized, coming to the perhaps predictable conclusion that they hadn't. Ironically, the story is followed by a profile of Trader Vic Bergeron, the restaurant entrepreneur who, Judson Gooding writes, "has done more to spread the twin gospels of Polynesian food and Pacific island hospitality than anyone since the Kamehameha kings of Hawaii."

A spread from Travel+Leisure's First Issue in 1971

Elsewhere, the Irish author and critic Seán Ó Faoláin (credited as Sean O'Faolain) wrote about the hill towns of Tuscany and Umbria: "These provinces, with the crumpled, corrugated, and widespreading valleys, are broken on every horizon by breasting hills nippled by hill towns, red-roofed, brick brown, or stone gray. Their slopes, sometimes dark with cypresses, are more often dusted by olive groves, all of them blessedly restful." Assisi, Montepulciano, Orvieto, and San Gimignano were some of his favorites in the country that 50 years later would be named T+L's Destination of the Year. (Alongside the feature on Italy is a two-page guide to driving in the country by writer Ian M. Keown. "Benzina (gasoline) is a whopping 80 cents a gallon," Keown warns.)

Closer to home, photographs of the ski scene in Aspen reveal a passion among skiers for bright prints and tall chapeaux by Aspen Hattie; a portrait of Stein Eriksen, in a tall green turtleneck and yellow jacket, is pure early-'70s fashion goals. Then there's the time-capsule photo of the light-up disco floor at "Frederico's, in the venerable Hotel Jerome, the place where it's at late at night." North of the border, writer-photographer John Jay visits the Bugaboos in British Columbia for some blissed out heliskiing — proof that adventure travel has long been a popular way to duck crowds and come home with bragging rights.

The outmoded era of the very first issue does come through in a few spots, particularly in the ads. American Express travelers cheques were big — not only because they were popular in the '70s but also because American Express was publishing and mailing the magazine to its card members. (Today, T+L is owned by Meredith Corporation.) Other ads offer a glimmer of what was once hot: The Lincoln Continental, Zenith's Chromacolor TV, Bell & Howell's latest Super 8 camera, and Brut, the cologne, which at that time was still "Brut by Fabergé." There's also a small clip-out ad from Alitalia, inviting readers to ask for more details on the airline's two-week package "from $371."

A spread from Travel+Leisure's First Issue in 1971

Another sign of the times? Most of the stories in the issue were written by men, with the exception of that Hawaii feature by Boothe Luce; a story by Eugenia Sheppard, the magazine's fashion editor; and an item by Suzanne Wiedel, an associate editor. (The first woman to lead T+L, Pamela Fiori, took over as editor in chief in 1975.)

Yet much of what's in the issue feels as relevant today as it did then. A "Readers' Gallery" page showcases two photos from Alfred Mudge, presumably a one-time subscriber to Travel & Camera. The two contributions show the spires of the Duomo of Milan as well as the scene in the square below; they were shot "using a Pentax and Plus X film," a caption says. These days, our readers are more likely to shoot with iPhones and digital cameras, but they're as keen as ever to share their photos — and their travel memories — with the world in the pages of T+L. Some things never change.

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