To better characterize aging in mice, the Jackson Aging Center carried out a lifespan study of 31 genetically-diverse inbred mouse strains housed in a specific pathogen-free facility. Clinical assessments were carried out every 6 months, measuring multiple age-related phenotypes including neuromuscular, kidney and heart function, body composition, bone density, hematology, hormonal levels, and immune system parameters. In a concurrent cross-sectional study of the same 31 strains at 6, 12, and 20 months, more invasive measurements were carried out followed by necropsy to assess apoptosis, DNA repair, chromosome fragility, and histopathology. In this report, which is the initial paper of a series, the study design, median lifespans, and circulating insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) levels at 6, 12, and 18 months are described for the first cohort of 32 females and 32 males of each strain. Survival curves varied dramatically among strains with the median lifespans ranging from 251 to 964 days. Plasma IGF1 levels, which also varied considerably at each time point, showed an inverse correlation with a median lifespan at 6 months (R = -0.33, P = 0.01). This correlation became stronger if the short-lived strains with a median lifespan < 600 days were removed from the analysis (R = -0.53, P < 0.01). These results support the hypothesis that the IGF1 pathway plays a key role in regulating longevity in mice and indicates that common genetic mechanisms may exist for regulating IGF1 levels and lifespan.