In February of 1941, leading publisher Henry Luce penned an editorial for Life magazine in which he famously announced the dawn of an American century. “Throughout the 17th century and the 18th century and the 19th century,” he wrote in his concluding line,

this continent teemed with manifold projects and magnificent purposes. Above them all and weaving them all together into the most exciting flag of all the world and of all history was the triumphal purpose of freedom. It is in this spirit that all of us are called, each to his own measure of capacity, and each in the widest horizon of his vision, to create the first great American Century. 1

Luce’s, of course, was an urgent plea for Americans to shed their isolationism, recognize their nation’s new standing as an economic, political and technological superpower and, amid the darkness of war, embrace its burden as beacon of progress and freedom on a global stage. In that regard his editorial can be (and has been) read as a buoyant one, full of idealistic promptings for America to wield (gently) its imperial might.