One of the hallmarks of the newsmagazine format that Henry Luce and Briton Hadden created in 1923 was a penchant for telling stories through people. Carlyle defined history as "the biography of great men." Similarly, Luce and Hadden's TIME showed that journalism, the rough draft of history, could illuminate momentous events by profiling the gifted and powerful personalities who helped shape them. Nowhere more so than in TIME's selection of a Person of the Year, which has been a highlight since 1927. These iconic figures--statesmen, visionaries, tyrants, unexpected heroes like New York City Mayor RUDY GIULIANI--were singled out because they put a stamp on their world and expressed the great themes of their times. The vivid fascination and significance they represent can be appreciated in a multimedia exhibition, "TIME's Person of the Year at 75," which has traveled to three U.S. cities in the past year and is on view in Chicago through Jan. 5. Open the following pages for a sampling of the absorbing, inspiring and provocative figures featured in the exhibition.
1928 WALTER P. CHRYSLER The son of a Kansas locomotive engineer, Chrysler learned about cars by taking them apart and reassembling them. He showed the same ability with companies. By the end of 1928 his innovative Chrysler Motors was turning out not only its namesake models but also Plymouths, Dodges and DeSotos, mounting a challenge to automotive giants Ford and General Motors. Chrysler, wrote TIME, "had become one of the chief U.S. industrialists." But he was not through building. In this same year he announced plans for the 77-story Chrysler Building, whose graceful Art Deco structure remains one of the signature profiles of the Manhattan skyline.
1937 GEN. AND MME. CHIANG KAI-SHEK He was the leader who had unified most of China under a reformist government. She was a daughter of the eminent, Western-oriented Soong family who became his effective propagandist in the U.S. Though they had been forced to flee the Japanese invasion in 1937, TIME saluted them for forging a Chinese "national consciousness.
1938 ADOLF HITLER Hitler was the first malign figure to be selected as POY, and his evil only grew during the next several years. Hitler's ruthless domination of Europe was, said TIME, "the greatest threatening force that the democratic, freedom-loving world faces today." The 1938 Munich pact confirmed it: he won a hands-off promise from Britain and France, and the stage was set for his pursuit of World War II.
1947 GEORGE C. MARSHALL Named POY first as a man of war--in 1943, when he was Chief of Staff of the Army--Marshall was chosen again as a man of peace: the Secretary of State who conceived the Marshall Plan, which promised to underwrite the economic recovery of postwar Europe's democracies. Through his bold scheme, said TIME, "the U.S. people, not quite realizing the full import of their act ... took upon their shoulders the leadership of the world."