Historical Echoes: Fed Chairman or Rock Star? When Arthur Burns Made Rolling Stone
Arthur Burns, Federal Reserve chairman between 1970 and 1978, made the October 21, 1976, issue of Rolling Stone magazine, but not the cover—sorry, Dr. Hook! This bicentennial issue had a special feature, “The Family,” comprised of, according to the introductory material, seventy-three photographic portraits of “a broad group of men and women—some of whom we had never heard of before—who constitute the political leadership of America,” taken by renowned photographer Richard Avedon. If you’re old enough to remember these important people, a look through this issue is an exciting “trip” back in time.
Burns’ portrait, which can also be viewed on the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s website as part of its photograph collection, appears on page 84. (The museum has acquired many of the portraits that appeared in the Rolling Stone issue.) Other portraits also available on the Met website are Cesar Chavez (United Farm Workers organizer), Shirley Chisholm (congresswoman), Bella Abzug (congresswoman), Ralph Nader (consumer advocate), George H. W. Bush (when he was CIA director), and Ronald Reagan (former governor of California before he became president). On the same site, you can see an overview of many of the portraits (they end after the picture of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the fourth page).
The only texts to accompany the article are biographical summaries obtained from Who’s Who (the editors decided that the “portraits speak for themselves”). The one for Burns is one of the longest of the seventy-three, due to an extensive list of degrees, honorary degrees, positions, appointments, awards, and publications—and too long to reproduce here.
Burns also made the cover of Time magazine—twice. He appeared on June 1, 1970, where he’s “facing an economy on the brink,” and on August 16, 1971, with caricatures of Burns and George Shultz trying to literally hold up a sagging graph of the economy.
The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York or the Federal Reserve System. Any errors or omissions are the responsibility of the author.