My Life In 50 Front Pages

me, holding my NY Times book of front pages

A large package was delivered today from the New York Times. I was puzzled. I didn’t recall ordering anything from the Times, but then again, I sometimes don’t remember if I washed my hair in the shower, a possible side-effect of achieving the half-century mark. Curious, I opened it up and found inside a large book with the following emblazoned on the cover:

Jamie Todd Rubin
Your Birthday
March 27, 1972
The New York Times

Along with the book came a note of happy birthday wishes from my parents, my brother and my sister. In this case, then, my memory hadn’t failed me. I did not order something from the Times. My family had.

I spent the next hour flipping through the pages of the book. The first 49 of them were images of the front page of every March 27 issue of the New York Times from 1972 through 2021. (Obviously, the 2022 edition was not yet out when the book was made. However, I obtained a copy of it and folded the front page into the book. I am nothing if not a compleatist.) I would include some of the more interesting covers pages here, but along with the book came this admonition from the Times:

This certifies that the accompanying product is an authorized reproduction from the New York Times. This product is for personal use only. Publication, reproduction, use in advertising or for purposes of trade is prohibited without written permission.

Instead, let me summarize some of the highlights that I discovered in this trip down memory lane.

  • 1972: “The Einstein Papers: Childhood Showed a Gift for the Abstract” by Walter Sullivan. This featured item, above the fold on the day I was born caught my eye. The Princeton University Press in an agreement with the Einstein estate planned to publish thousands of Einstein’s papers. Given my own curiousity about the universe seven years later, this article naturally caught my eye.
  • 1973: “Sir Noel Coward, Playwright, Dies at 73” by Albin Krebs. Front page below the fold when I was just a year old.
  • 1974: “Watergate Tapes Used to Question Dean Testimony” by Martin Arnold. Lead story. My two year-old self was completely unaware of this, but storm clouds were gathering in Washington.
  • 1976: “Postal Service Is Warned Mailcuts Jeopardize Aid” by Ernest Holsendolph. Sometimes, the same story repeats itself decades later.
  • 1979: Large font, 3-line heading across the top of the paper proclaims: “EGYPT AND ISRAEL SIGN FORMAL TREATY, ENDING STATE OF WAR AFTER 30 YEARS; SADAT AND BEGIN PRAISE CARTER’S ROLE”. Lead story is by Bernard Gwertzman.
  • 1982: Two items caught my eye, this year: (1) “Ground Broken in Capital For Memorial on Vietnam” by Bernard Weinraub; and (2) “Flight Continues Despite Failures of Shuttle Radio” by John Noble Wilford.
  • 1983: “Despite 1967 U.S.-Soviet Treaty, Drive for Space Weapons Goes On” by John Noble Wilford. Ah, remember those long lost days when we fretted over nuclear anihilation? Are we all glad that is a thing of the past?
  • 1985: “Goetz Balks at Facing Grand Jury As Limit on Questions Is Refused” by Marcia Chambers. Remember that short span when Bernie Goetz was a household name?
  • 1987: Two items caught my eye here as well: (1): “For Yankees’ Fans in Bronx, TV Schedule is Bush League” by Esther B. Fein. Why? “…as many in the Bronx had feared, 100 games will be broadcast exclusively on SportsChannel, the cable television company that is a stranger in almost all their homes.”; and (2) “18 Are Seized in Illegal Use of Mobile Phones” by Leonard Buder. Mobile phones? In 1987? I had no idea.
  • 1988: “Plaza Hotel Is Sold to Donald Trump for $390 Million” by Robert J. Cole.
  • 1989: Two items again this year: (1) “SOVIETS SAVOR VOTE IN FREEST ELECTION SINCE ’17 REVOLUTION” (muliple articles under the headline); and (2) “Unlicensed Mate Was in Charge of Ship That Hit Reef, Exxon Say” by Richard Mauer. Talk about throwing the mate under the bus; or in this case, the ship.
  • 1991: “Bronx Hospital Give Gay Couples Spouse Benefits” by James Barron.
  • 1995: “Labor Board Seeks Injunction Against Baseball Club Owners” by Murray Chass. This on the heels of the strike that ended the 1994 season early.
  • 1996: Two deaths noted on the front page: David Packard, 83 (of Hewlett Packard); and Edmund Muskie, 81.
  • 1997: “39 Men Dead at California Estate in Apparent Suicide” by James Sterngold. This was the lead story for this day.
  • 1998: Suddenly, beginning this year, the photos on the covers are in color.
  • 1999: Two items this year: (1) “NATO LAUNCHES DAYTIME STRIKE; MILOSEVIC RESISTING FIERCELY; TWO SERB JETS ARE SHOT DOWN” by Francis X. Clines and Steven Lee Myers; and (2) “Dr. Kevorkian Is Murderer, The Jury Finds” by Pam Belluck.
  • 2000: “Putin Wins Russia Vote in First Round, But His Majority Is Less Than Expected.” Time-travelers take note. Also on the front page, Oscar winners including Hilary Swank for Boys Don’t Cry and Kevin Spacey for American Beauty.
  • 2003: Headline across front page: “1,000 U.S. Paratroopers Open Nothern Front”
  • 2007: “ULSTER FACTIONS AGREE TO A PLAN FOR JOINT RULE” by Eamon Quinn and Alan Cowell.
  • 2009: “When Stars Twitter, a Ghost May Be Lurking” by Noam Cohen. This may be the earliest mention I’ve seen on the Times front page.
  • 2011: “She Ended the Men’s Club of National Politics” by Douglas Martin: front page obit for Geraldine Ferraro.
  • 2012: Top of the front page, right of center: “U.S. Requests Tougher Rules On Data Sales” by Tanzina Vega and Edward Wyatt. The subtitle reads, “Seeks ‘Do Not Track’ as Option Online.”
  • 2015: “Fatal Descent of Plane Was a ‘Deliberate Act,’ French Authorities Say'” by Dan Bilefsky and Nicola Clark.
  • 2020: “JOB LOSSES SOAR; U.S. VIRUS CASES TOP WORLD”. Most of the front page is a chart showing unemployment claims since 2000. 2020’s claims go from the bottom fo the page to just below the masthead.
  • 2021: Dual front page obits for writers: (1) Beverly Cleary: “Charmer of Young Readers, via Ramona and Pals” by William Grimes; and (2) Larry M. McMurtry: “Unromantic But Beloved Storyteller of the West” by Dwight Gardner.
Me, completing my 50 years of NY Times front pages with the front page of the paper from March 27, 2022.
Me, completing my 50 years of NY Times front pages with the front page of the paper from March 27, 2022.

One other thing I’ll note. The price of the weekday edition of the Times in the year I was born was 15 cents. It was forty cents, eighteen years later when I was about to graduate high school. It was fifty cents a few months before I graduated from college, 75 cents six years later in 2000, two bucks in 2010, and last year, the weekday edition was $3. The Sunday edition for March 27, 2022 was $6.

I look forward to spending more time pouring through these pages, particularly the earlier ones when my awareness of the world was still growing. This was a delightful present to receive for my birthday. The only trouble is its size. I’ll need to find a place on my bookshelves that can hold a book so large!

Written on March 19, 2022.

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  1. This looks like a fabulous present, I’m rather jealous myself. Would spend hours reading and contextualising my life at that point in time!


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