LIFE Magazine first issue cover

First LIFE magazine cover from 1936 with logo and photo of Fort Peck Dam’s spillway
by Margaret Bourke-White (© Margaret Bourke-White/TIMEPIX)

In 1936 Capt. Claude H. Chorpening had responsibility for public affairs at the Corps’ massive Fort Peck Dam project on the Missouri River in Montana. One of his tasks was to escort world-famous photographer Margaret Bourke-White (1904-1971) on assignment to photograph the project and surrounding activities for magazine publisher Henry R. Luce. Bourke-White spent several days photographing the dam, spillway, and life in the surrounding workers’ towns. While the results weren’t so pleasing to Chorpening—he thought she spent too much time on the towns, which weren’t Corps responsibility, and not enough on the project—Bourke-White did produce several stunning photos of the project itself, including one that graced the cover of the first issue of LIFE magazine, published in 1936. Although Bourke-White titled the photo, “New Deal, Montana: Fort Peck Dam,” it is actually a photo of the spillway located three miles east of the dam.

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