As 1933 came to an end, and the seventh annual TIME Man of the Year issue approached, a reader named Charles Cassil Reynard wrote in from Hiram, Ohio, to note that his “snow-bound college town” had placed the following odds on whom the magazine would choose as the next honoree. Odds on Hitler were 6-5; odds on Roosevelt were 3-2. (The actual Person of the Year for 1933? National Recovery Administrator Hugh Samuel Johnson.)
The editor, in the letters section, responded as follows: “What Man-of-the-Year bets are other readers making?—ED.” Thus was born a long tradition that continues to this day, with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi being named Monday as the latest winner of the TIME Person of the Year Reader Poll.
Then, as now, the final decision is made by the editors — but that doesn’t mean the poll results aren’t worth reading. Over the years, especially…
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