The images go back as far as the 1850s.
Life documented the most important events of the era, as well as daily life. For those of us growing up with Life magazine, it would come every Tuesday, like clockwork, full of articles with some text and a lot of great photos. Many of the great photographers worked for it — the Google announcement cites Alfred Eisenstaedt and Margaret Bourke-White.
What was important for us was that it was always interesting, and always covered the most important events.
And, unlike TV, it’s images could be savored, and kept.