TIME White House

See Air Force One’s Transformation Over 70 Years

The US Air Force recently announced a Boeing 747-8 would soon replace the current Air Force One — but from FDR to Obama, U.S. presidents have long flown in style

Huge gray warships used to be the primary way the United States showed its flag around the world. But there was only one problem with that: such flag-waving was limited to seaports, and the vessels’ bristling guns carried a decidedly military message.

In recent decades, the United States of America has waved its flag from the tail of Air Force One, the modified passenger plane that ferries the President and key pieces of his entourage around the globe. Its gleaming fuselage, with its white and light-blue livery, declares the American chief executive is in town, tending to the nation’s business.

Unlike warships, it can deliver the President to any city with a decent airport, at home or overseas, inland or otherwise. And its weapons—defensive in nature, consisting of electronic jammers, designed to thwart attacks, and flares fired from the plane to divert heat-seeking missiles—are hidden from public view.

Read next: Check Out the President’s New Airplane

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TIME Books

A Creepy, Tragic Formula for Commercial Success

Edgar Allan Poe
Engraved portrait of author Edgar Allan Poe, circa 1830 Archive Photos / Getty Images

Jan. 29, 1845: Edgar Allan Poe’s 'The Raven' is first published

The plot of “The Raven” is one of the most familiar in American literature: A bereaved scholar, mourning his lost love, is driven insane by grief (and a talking raven). The storyline must have been similarly familiar to Edgar Allan Poe, who seemed to be living a version of it, sans talking bird. What wasn’t familiar to the debt-plagued poet was the success that followed its publication.

After it appeared in New York’s The Evening Mirror on this day, Jan. 29, 170 years ago, “The Raven” became an overnight sensation, and so did Poe. He went from perpetual bankruptcy — according to a Jill Lepore profile of the poet that ran in The New Yorker in 2009, he lived on bread and molasses and was occasionally reduced to begging for change on the street — to a brief stint of relative financial security. Within a month, the poem was reprinted 10 more times. By the end of the year, Poe had published two new books, one a collection of short stories and the other of poems.

Poe, whom TIME called in 1930 “a morose genius who wrote horrible stories magnificently,” claimed to have written “The Raven” based on careful calculations to maximize its commercial success, Lepore reports. He concluded that gothic tales with spooky, supernatural elements sold best — so that’s what he wrote.

But it could also be argued that he wrote what he knew. As TIME’s 1934 review of two Poe biographies noted, “Tragedy visited him early and often, [and] did nothing to thicken an already abnormally thin skin.” He loved and lost an endless string of women, beginning with his mother, who died when he was 2. The love of his adolescent life — an older woman, the mother of a schoolmate — “died insane” when he was 15, according to TIME. An unsurprisingly macabre teen, Poe spent much of his time at her grave.

Unlike the narrator of “The Raven,” Poe managed to move on from this early tragedy, and was engaged to be married by the time he left home to attend the University of Virginia. When he returned, his fiancée was engaged to someone else. Finally, when he was 27, he married his 13-year-old cousin. By the time “The Raven” was published, his child bride was dying of tuberculosis.

Commercial ruse or not, it’s hard to read “The Raven” and not picture Poe, burdened by the accumulated grief of a lifetime of loss, flinging wide his chamber door and finding “darkness there and nothing more.”

Read TIME’s full 1934 review of two Poe biographies, here in the archives: Poor Soul

TIME Teenagers

‘Wow, Quel Babes!': American Teenagers in Paris in the 1950s

They scorned frog legs, drank Coca-Cola and studied Parisian charm. LIFE photographer Gordon Parks captured their carefree European lives, and experienced a new kind of freedom there, as well

LIFE proclaimed it “one of the world’s foremost colonies of displaced persons.” Its denizens, the magazine said, were a peculiar people who loved adventure, yet preferred “their own way of life.” They spoke their mother tongue among themselves, but sometimes fractured the local language with such abandon that natives risked being “startled by a bilingual ‘Wow, quel babe!'” In fact, locals thought this boisterous clan was “a little crazy,” in large part because they drank “so many Cokes.” The mad colonists were members of that most exotic of tribes: American teenagers. Numbering about 150, they had been transported to France mostly thanks to their fathers’ jobs.

When LIFE dispatched Gordon Parks, a rising star among its staff photographers, to document the tribe’s rites and rituals in the early 1950s, teenagers were still a new and somewhat puzzling phenomenon. Earlier generations of human beings had not, of course, skipped the ages between 12 and 20. But few societies had recognized an intermediate step between childhood and adulthood. “Teenage” was an idea that emerged slowly in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as child labor declined, schooling lengthened and marriage came later and later. The very word entered common speech only in the 1940s. In 1952, when LIFE ran its story on the young Yanks of Paris, it was still spelling “teen-ager” with a hyphen.

Parks’ photographs captured the sports, gossiping and parties that made up a large part of the teenagers’ daily lives. Many captured them in the Paris of the American imagination—on a streetcar in front of the Arc de Triomphe, at a sidewalk café on the Champs-Élysées and in the jazz club that occupied the “shadowy cellar” of the Théâtre du Vieux-Colombier.

The portraits that Parks made of the youth were miniature character studies. In all of the photographs, Parks’ presence is undetectable. It was as if his pictures made themselves. Readers could easily believe that they were privy to the teenagers’ most private moments.

LIFE’s sly, knowing text (the reporter was not named) pretended to reassure readers that Paris had not corrupted the teenagers by turning them into young Frenchmen and -women:

Neither boys nor girls think much of frogs’ legs, but they know every place in Paris that makes hamburgers and hot dogs and, while having a snack at a sidewalk café, are inclined to dream of the corner drugstore.

Among many cliques in Paris teen-age society, the best known is a group of girls, 15 to 18 years old, who named themselves the ‘Horrible Six’ when they got together early in the 1950 school term. They have a strict code of dress … Sloppy shoes are not tolerated, bobby sox are taboo. Girls must diet if dumpy, and chipped nail polish is forbidden.

By every girl’s admission, the goal is to keep the dates coming in Paris, build charm for college years in the U.S. and ultimately lead to a nice, home-grown marriage to the right man. Right now the girls don’t think that he’ll be a Frenchman.

Parks went on to become one of LIFE’s most celebrated photographers. His claim to greatness as a photographer rests on the many photo essays that he produced on the pressing issues of poverty and injustice. But Parks, like the magazine he worked for, had many sides. He loved the trappings of success—the travel, the nearly unlimited expense account and the salary that catapulted him into the upper middle class. Like all of LIFE’s photographers, he could produce compelling pictures of hard news in the morning, and light-hearted frivolities in the afternoon.

The years that Parks spent in Paris were a turning point in his life. He was one of many African-Americans, from writers and musicians to cabbies and cooks, who experienced a freedom in the city that they had never found in the United States. He described this critical period in his 1990 memoir, Voices in the Mirror:

I needed Paris. It was a feast, a grand carnival of imagery, and immediately everything good there seemed to offer sublimation to those inner desires that had for so long been hampered by racism back in America. For the first time in my life I was relaxing from tension and pressure. My thoughts, continually rampaging against racial conditions, were suddenly becoming as peaceful as snowflakes. Slowly a curtain was dropping between me and those soiled years.

“I was moving through centuries of history, and not unaware of the possibility of its help in shaping my future. Being a part of it was like feeling at once young and old.”

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.


A Black Captain America Is Nothing New

As Americans watch events unfold on their television screens, stereotypical understandings of African Americans too easily shape our understandings of current events

History News Network

This post is in partnership with the History News Network, the website that puts the news into historical perspective. The article below was originally published at HNN.

If you’ve been paying any attention to comics recently, you probably know that Captain America is now black. (Even if you are not an avid reader, the new Cap has certainly drawn a good deal of attention in the wider media, too.) While the monetary motives behind Marvel’s decision to make such a dramatic change are not hard to guess—gin up some publicity, increase sales, set up the inevitable and lucrative return of the original Cap Steve Rogers down the road—the transition to a black Cap also reflects the continuing struggle with race in America today.

Such race swapping is hardly new to comics. The 1970s and 1980s saw this approach adopted at Marvel, where black versions of Iron Man, Goliath, and Captain Marvel appeared, while rival DC introduced a black Green Lantern. Comics have deployed this tactic with increased regularity since the 1990s as part of an effort to diversify their stable of heroes. In addition to (often temporarily) black versions of Superman, Captain America, Firestorm, and Mr. Terrific, the end of the twentieth century saw a Latino Blue Beetle and a Chinese Atom. More recently, DC re-introduced Wally West, the Silver Age Flash’s white kid sidekick, as an African American and Marvel debuted a new teenage version of Ms. Marvel: the Muslim American Kamala Khan. The new Captain America—Sam Wilson, previously The Falcon—is but the latest iteration of a decades-long pattern of diversity through race-swapping, an approach to multiculturalism that has often foundered, as Wilson’s history and current story arc suggest.

While Sam Wilson’s creators undoubtedly hoped that their new hero would challenge negative stereotypes of African Americans when he debuted in 1969, their presentation of the black hero struggled to escape other tropes of blackness in America. Grounded in Harlem—as so many black heroes have been ever since—Sam Wilson was raised by a minister and a social worker, positive role models to be sure, but still little more than stock black characters. And their positive influence was limited, too, as Wilson lapsed, again stereotypically, for a while into gang life after their untimely deaths. While he ultimately chose a more heroic path as The Falcon, Wilson has historically struggled to present something really “new” for blacks in American popular culture: a truly human and fully recognized character not defined by stereotypes, either positive or negative.

Also not new in the “new” Captain America is the ethnic replacement’s struggle to measure up to the original. Such a conflict is not new to Falcon: in the 1970s, when the original Cap briefly gained super strength, Falcon’s feelings of inferiority prompted him to get his by-now characteristic wings, the black man’s first effort to “measure up” to his partner. The new Captain America’s first appearances have already established how much he remains not equal to the original. In the current crossover series Axis, the new Captain America, like several other heroes, has been “inverted” into a darker version of himself: selfish, tyrannical, and violent to the point of echoing more Marvel’s anti-hero The Punisher than the patriotic hero whose shield he bears (and now uses to break the bones and faces of his opponents)! Even in the first issue of his own title—All-New Captain America—the new Cap falls short. His white sidekick Nomad handles the iconic shield with greater dexterity, and the issue’s foe, perennial punching bag Batroc the Leaper, chafes at fighting a hero he still sees as an “errand boy” and “sidekick.” This replacement’s inferiority will only be reinforced by the inevitable return of original Cap Steve Rogers to the role, an inferiority that only complicates if not frustrates the putative aims of putting a black character in this costume.

​The inability of Sam Wilson’s creators—and readers—to imagine him unconstrained by long-held stereotypes and tropes echoes a too familiar problem in the United States today as rioting erupts in places like Ferguson, Missouri. As Americans watch events unfold on their television screens, stereotypical understandings of African Americans—long projected by the news media and reinforced by comic book characters—too easily shape our understandings of current events. While it is convenient to divide the world into progressive, peaceful, and well-intentioned blacks on one side and violence-prone looters on the other, the world is more complicated than our media and popular culture portrays. Until Americans can transcend these over-simplified understandings of our racially vexed history and society, these struggles will likely continue and our superheroes will be unlikely to save us from ourselves.

Patrick Hamilton, Associate Professor of English, and Allan Austin, Professor of History & Government at Misericordia University are currently finishing a book on race and superheroes since World War II

TIME space

How the Challenger Disaster Happened

Challenger Cover
The Feb. 10, 1986, cover of TIME Cover Credit: BRUCE WEAVER

Read TIME's original cover story about the NASA tragedy

When the Space Shuttle Challenger lifted off on Jan. 28, 1986, space flight was supposed to be safe. As TIME noted in a cover story that ran in the Feb. 10 issue of that year, NASA had spent 25 years sending Americans into space, at an average pace of about twice a year. That aura of safety was part of the reason why Christa McAuliffe, a teacher from New Hampshire, was on board, the first non-astronaut to have that privilege.

It was also part of the reason why what happened to the Challenger on that day was so shocking. As the nation watched live, “McAuliffe and six astronauts had disappeared in an orange- and-white fireball nine miles above the Atlantic Ocean,” TIME reported. “So too had the space shuttle Challenger, the trusted $1.2 billion workhorse on which they had been riding.”

What went wrong?

It was not immediately clear why things had turned sour, even as the launch procedure seemed to be going perfectly. But, as TIME explained in the diagram below, which ran with a story in that issue about how NASA was investigating the disaster, the what was a fire that started in an external fuel tank:

Challenger Diagram
From the Feb. 10, 1986, issue of TIME TIME Diagram

Read the full cover story, as well as obituaries of each of the seven crew members, here in the TIME Vault:
Space Shuttle Challenger

TIME Bizarre

13 Weirdly Morbid Vintage News Stories

What were they thinking?

In the earlier days of TIME, the magazine ran a weekly round-up of local news items of note — and, as we pointed out earlier this month, it’s proof positive that funny flubs and weird happenings have always had the ability to go viral, albeit at a slightly slower pace than they do today.

But that “Miscellany” column, in the 1920s and ’30s, wasn’t just a repository of the benignly strange. On a regular basis, it also featured deaths and killings (and, as seen above, freak accidents that result in mere permanent blindness) that we can only hope weren’t meant to be funny. Here are a few of the strangest, most macabre items we could find.

TIME Hollywood

How To Be A Spy, According to Groucho Marx

As shows like The Americans captivate today's viewers with dramatic takes on espionage, a look back on a lighter approach to the genre

The spy is having a moment in television. Tonight, The Americans, the FX show about two KGB spies posing as stars-and-stripes-loving suburban Americans, returns for a third season. Premiering Feb. 5, NBC’s Allegiance will follow the CIA agent son of a former Soviet spy. From State of Affairs to Homeland, viewers can’t seem to get enough of the wigs and fake mustaches and regular brushes with death.

Tracing TV history back to the 1950s, every decade had its go-to secret agent men (and they were mostly men). In that decade it was Shadow of the Cloak’s Peter House and Biff Baker, U.S.A.’s titular character. In the ’60s and early ‘70s it was Maxwell Smart (Get Smart) and Jim Phelps (Mission: Impossible). Ever since the Cold War first captured Americans’ fears, it also captured their imaginations. And as potential spy rings are revealed in present times–just this week three Russian citizens were charged with espionage in New York City–the possibility of spies among us is not just old-fashioned paranoia.

Some of these shows have taken pains to mimic actual spy tactics as closely as possible. The creator of The Americans and producers of State of Affairs are former CIA officers. Sixty years ago, I Led 3 Lives and Behind Closed Doors based episodes on real cases, Law and Order-style, and received federal approval before airing. Ex-spy advisors and government approval have meant that these shows can, on the one hand, come fairly close to accurate portrayals, while still, on the other hand, refraining from revealing anything too sensitive.

Plausibility was not, however, a concern for Groucho Marx, whose commitment to absurdity was as fervent as Americans creator Joe Weisberg’s is to verisimilitude. Appearing in LIFE in April 1946 to promote his forthcoming movie (with brothers Harpo and Chico), A Night in Casablanca, Marx offered the only take on espionage that could be expected of him: an utterly facetious one.

Pulling the kind of careless stunts that would have The Americans’ Philip and Elizabeth shipped back to the motherland for treason, Marx’s “How to Be a Spy” would have been more honestly titled, “How to Fail Your Country and Give Away All Your National Secrets.” Marx’s modus operandi is one of comfort and leisure: Chewing on a cigar, seducing women, peering through keyholes at half-dressed ladies, his spying, LIFE wrote, “is generally done in pleasant surroundings.”

The movie itself, the twelfth of the brothers’ 13 films, focused not on Soviets but on a Nazi war criminal–WWII had ended less than a year before, and it would be another year until President Truman would announce his strategy for the containment of Communism. A Night in Casablanca was meant to spoof the spy genre at large, and its parodic take would become increasingly rare for a period of time as the Red Scare became, to many, increasingly scary.

Photographer Bob Landry took the pictures in the spread, but Marx crafted the scenarios and the captions. As LIFE explained:

The Marxian machinations which resulted from his study are presented here. All incidents and commentary were devised personally by Mr. Marx in his capacity as Marx the Master Spy. More than that, all research is offered free to the Office of Strategic Services as Mr. Marx’s contribution to national security.

Safe to assume they respectfully declined.

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

TIME health

Was Iceland Really the First Nation to Legalize Abortion?

Satellite image of Iceland Planet Observer / Getty Images / Universal Images Group

The oft-cited law was passed 80 years ago, on Jan. 28, 1935

Ask the Internet which country was the first to legalize abortion and you’re likely to find some confusing answers, many of which point in one direction: Iceland.

It’s true that, 80 years ago, on Jan. 28 of 1935, Iceland’s “Law No. 38″ declared that the mother’s health and “domestic conditions” may be taken into consideration when considering whether to permit doctors to perform an abortion. And, according to the 1977 book Abortion by Malcolm Potts, Peter Diggory and John Peel, that law stuck for decades.

However, there are a lot of caveats to that “first” label. For one thing, abortion spent centuries as neither illegal nor legal, before becoming formally legislated, which happened in the 19th century in many places. Iceland, then, was the first Western nation to create what we might now recognize as a common modern abortion legalization policy, with a set of conditions making the procedure not impossible but not entirely unregulated.

Some other nations that passed abortion laws before Iceland’s (like Mexico, for example) also included conditions, like rape, under which it would be permitted. And, as Robertson’s Book of Firsts clarifies, the Soviet Union had actually legalized abortion, on demand, more than a decade earlier. The difference was that (a) the Soviet law didn’t last, as that nation underwent a series of regime changes, and (b) the conditions for legality were different. Though abortion was later strictly limited in Russia, legalization was apparently no small thing when it was first introduced.

As TIME reported on Feb. 17, 1936:

A not entirely enthusiastic participant last week was Dictator Joseph Stalin at the celebration by massed Communist delegations from all over Russia of the tenth anniversary of the founding in Moscow of the Union of the Militant Godless. This unprecedented Jubilee of Godlessness could only be compared to that celebrated by Bolsheviks in honor of the tenth anniversary of the Legalization in Russia of Abortion.

TIME Science

When Mushroom Clouds Were All the Rage

Atomic Bomb Test, Nevada
Capturing an atomic explosion at a test site in the Nevada desert in 1957. Interim Archives / Getty Images

Jan. 27, 1951: The first atomic bomb is detonated at the Nevada Test Site in Nye County, Nev.

The mushroom clouds that appeared over the Nevada desert were a spectacular tourist attraction — at least initially.

After the first nuclear device was detonated at the Nevada Test Site on this day, Jan. 27, in 1951, atomic fever swept across the nation, bringing waves of visitors to Las Vegas, an ideal vantage point from which to see the clouds rising above the test site 65 mi. away. “At week’s end the Atomic Energy Commission cautiously confirmed the fact that the first atomic explosion had taken place in its new 5,000-sq.-mi. testing ground on the remote and barren plateau northwest of Las Vegas known as Frenchman Flat,” TIME reported in the Feb. 5, 1951, issue. “It was the first atomic explosion in the U.S. since the historic test at Alamogordo in 1945.” The 12 years during which the site averaged one explosion every three weeks was a boom time for Vegas, which nicknamed itself “Atomic City” and sponsored “Miss Atom Bomb” beauty contests, adorning winners with mushroom-cloud crowns.

The Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce printed calendars listing detonation times and suggestions for the best viewing locations. According to the PBS history show “American Experience,” many tourists watched the bombs go off from the Sky Room at the Desert Inn hotel and casino, but others picnicked as close to the test site as they could get.

One lucky group of newscasters was allowed to broadcast the explosion of a 31-kiloton bomb — dubbed the “Big Shot” — from the edge of Nevada’s Yucca Lake, 10 mi. from ground zero. One reporter, per PBS, narrated the experience in majestic terms: “A fantastically bright cloud is climbing upward like a huge umbrella… You brace yourself against the shock wave… Then, after what seems like hours, the man-made sunburst fades away.”

Residents of St. George, Utah, therefore, considered themselves exceptionally fortunate: they had a front-row seat for nearly every blast that rocked the desert. According to a TIME, parents in this tiny town, just downwind of the test site, regularly woke their children before dawn and brought them to a hilltop where they could watch the mushroom clouds rise with the sun.

“When a pinkish-red cloud drifted over St. George hours later, the parents were not frightened,” TIME reported. “After all, the Atomic Energy Commission had assured them that ‘there is no danger’ from radioactive fallout. Some parents even held Geiger counters on their children and exclaimed in wonder as the needles jumped.”

By the time that story was published, in 1979, an alarming number of the children who had once watched the bombs burst in St. George had died of leukemia. Others developed thyroid cancer as adults. Awe over the A-bomb’s pyrotechnical power had been replaced by a better-informed fear of its dangers, and the test site had moved its nuclear operations underground.

Read the original report on the first atomic explosion, from the Feb. 5, 1951, issue of TIME, here in the TIME Vault: “A Kinda Flash”

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