Ravages of War in Kaiser Wilhelm’s face

July 15, 2014
Germany’s leader, Kaiser Wilhelm - The Ravager

Germany’s leader, Kaiser Wilhelm, with his moustache and military uniform, at the start of World War I. He is described as ‘The Ravager’

This postcard depicts Germany’s leader, Kaiser Wilhelm, with his flamboyant moustache and military uniform, at the start of World War I. He is described as ‘The Ravager’ and there appearss to be a tear falling from the right eye. It is when the card is turned upside down that ‘The Ravages of War’ he was responsible for are made clear.

The postcard turned upside down reveals the 'Ravages of War'

The postcard turned upside down reveals the ‘Ravages of War’ with the moustache becoming an imperial eagle

His nose and moustache become an eagle with a crown above its head – the German imperial symbol – atop a marble column. The falling tear has become a lion – a symbol for Britain – which is trying to climb the column to reach the eagle. And the lower eyelashes now spell out the names of the first Belgian cities that fell to the Germans – Liège and Namur.

The eyelashes spell out  Liège and Namur

The eyelashes spell out the names of the first Belgian cities that fell to the Germans – Liège and Namur

Both cities had been ringed with forts by 1892 and the Battle for Liège was the first engagement of the war. It began on 5 August 1914 and lasted until 16 August when the last fort surrendered. The attack on Belgium drew the British into the war. German troops then turned their attention to the forts around Namur on 20 August, bombarding them with heavy artillery, including the massive Big Bertha (a 420mm siege howitzer). Belgian forces withdrew and the city was evacuated and left to the attackers on 23 August. Magazines at the time such Punch referred to the Belgiums as steadfast in standing up to the Germans but ultimately being flattened by its might – ‘plucky little Belgium‘.

So the card was probably produced in the autumn of 1914. Like Alfred Leete’s famous Your Country Needs You cover from London Opinion, it was a visceral reaction to the war.

Turning back to the card, the detail on the Kaiser’s tunic portrays Belgian troops in front of a church facing cannon fire. One side of the collar depicts a German soldier bayoneting a mother in front of her child. The other side shows a line of troops firing on a fleeing family. The chinstrap depicts three lions.

The helmet shows two French armies with a smaller British force. The helmet’s ‘dome’ turns into howitzers firing at a dove that is falling from the sky, with an explosion to one side and a burning house on the other.

Deatail of moustache as imperial eagle

The nose and moustache become a German imperial eagle on a column, which a British lion is trying to climb. Part of the helmet shows British and French troops

The card was issued as part of the ‘Dainty’ series (probably from Britain’s first mass-producer of postcards, E.T.W. Dennis) and has an unclear signature at the bottom right: possibly Victor Edmunds Pickup.

Postcard was issued as part of the ‘Dainty’ series (probably from Britain’s first mass-producer of postcards, E.T.W. Dennis) and has an unclear signature at the bottom right: possibly Victor Edmunds Pickup

Postcard was issued as part of the ‘Dainty’ series (probably from Britain’s first big postcard printer, E.T.W. Dennis) and has a signature at the bottom right: possibly Victor Edmunds Pickup

Most British magazines and postcards did not show out-and-out brutality, instead hinting at illegal actions with slogans such as ‘Remember Belgium’ but French magazines certainly did.

Japanese airmen fly Kamikaze into Britain

June 29, 2014
Photograph from the June 1937 issue of Popular Flying showing the two airmen at Croydon airfield at the end of their flight from Japan

Popular Flying magazine (June 1937 issue) showing the two Japanese airmen at Croydon aerodrome at the end of their record-breaking flight from Japan

 

 

 

 

 

Britain and Japan were allies during the first world war. British shipyards had built most of Tokyo’s fleet at the turn of the century, and they were still allies in the 1930s. So, the arrival of two Japanese airmen at Croydon airfield at the end of a record-breaking 10,000 mile goodwill flight from Japan to celebrate the May coronation of King George VI was a cause for celebration in 1937. Popular Flying magazine – edited by ‘Biggles’ author WE Johns – set the tone in its June issue:

‘The end of a great flight. Masaki Jinuma and Kenji Tsukagoshi, the Japanese airmen, arriving at Croydon in their delightfully named aircraft ‘Divine Wind,’ after flying the 10,000 miles from Tokio in 94 hours’

‘Divine Wind’ does indeed sound charming – until you see the Japanese for the name on the side of the aircraft – Kamikaze.

The word was originally used in Japanese folk lore with reference to the supposed divine wind that blew on a night in August 1281, destroying the navy of the invading Mongols.

In 1937, China and Japan were again at war – and that conflict would merge into the second world war after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941. in October 1944, fanatical kamikaze suicide pilots began deliberately crashing their aircraft into allied ships in the Pacific. In all, 47 Allied vessels  were sunk by kamikaze attacks, and about 300 damaged for the loss of 3,000 kamikaze pilots. About one in six planes hit a target.

A Japanese website has a painting of the aircraft, a Mitsubishi Ki-15 Karigane, which served as a reconnaissance plane and light bomber. Parts of the text read:

The exploit led to international fame for the aircraft and was accomplished between 6th and 9th April 1937. The flight was timed to mark the coronation celebrations on 12 May. The plane was the type’s second prototype, which was given the civil designation of J-BAAI for the occasion and named Kamikaze With Masaaki Iinuma as pilot and Kenji Tsugakoshi as navigator, the aircraft flew from Tachikawa to London in 94 hours, 17 minutes and 56 seconds, covering 15,353 km in a net flying time of 51 hours 17 minits and 23 seconds, at an average speed of 160.8 km/h. The flight was sponsored by the daily paper Asahi-Shinbun.

Popular Flying magazine was published on the 22nd of each month by C. Arthur Pearson from its offices in Covent Garden, Tower House in Southampton St, just off The Strand in London. It cost 6d an issue. Pearson’s magazines were owned by Newnes, which later merged into IPC. The printer was Williams, Lea & Co at Clifton House in Worship Street. Other articles described aerodrome holidays, flying over Britain and air holidays abroad. The cover is by Howard Leigh, who illustrated many of the Biggles books.

Popular Flying magazine cover June 1937

Popular Flying magazine cover June 1937

 

 

 

 

 

Oz and Dennis tycoon Felix Dennis dies

June 23, 2014

Felix Dennis, 1960s Oz editor and the man who made Maxim the world’s best-selling men’s magazine died on Sunday. The world will be a less colourful place.

Charlie Bibby's portrait for the FT of Felix Dennis withour his trousers

Charlie Bibby’s portrait for the FT of Felix Dennis without his trousers

Read the obituaries at the Guardian and Financial Times. The Guardian shows Dennis in his ‘throne’ but the FT’s Charlie Bibby picture is much more fun because Dennis has no trousers on.

Also see Lunch with the FT from 2008 and 20 questions for Dennis. The point of being rich? ‘It gives me the time to write poetry, plant trees and commission sculptures.’

Goalen – the super model face of the 1950s

June 13, 2014
super model - mannequin - Barbara Goalen

Sunday Times Magazine celebrates the style of 1952, as personified by super model Barbara Goalen (30 January 1977)

Model – or rather ‘mannequin’ in the teminology of the day – Barbara Goalen was chosen by the Sunday Times Magazine as the personification of the style of 1952.

The issue marked changes in ‘Britain at Work’ over the 25 years since Queen Elizabeth’s coming to the throne in 1952 in an article titled ‘The New Elizabethans’ (30 January 1977).

In that year, Goalen had been part of a 40,000-mile world tour over four weeks to promote British fashions and exports.

Goalen was born on the first day of 1921 and died in 2002. She was renowned for her wasp waist and her aloof looks.  Her measurements were 33 inches (for her ‘charlies’ in her own words), 18-in waist and 31-in hips; she tipped the scales at under eight stones.

Goalen’s modelling face was marked by arched eyebrows and she was the ideal mannequin for Dior’s New Look – ‘mink and diamonds’.

Despite her international success, she would be the leading super model in today’s terms, Goalen gave up modelling in 1954 when she married Nigel Campbell, a Lloyd’s underwriter. In the 1960s, she gave out fashion advice in the pages of the Daily Telegraph.

The National Portrait Gallery has four  photographs of Goalen ranging from 1949 to 1952, by Norman Parkinson (one with Wenda Parkinson, Parks’ wife since 1947) and John French. A fourth image from Keystone Press shows Goalen next to a portrait of herself by James Proudfoot.

Barbara Goalen on the cover of the general interest weekly Illustrated in 1953

Barbara Goalen on the cover of the general interest weekly Illustrated (29 August 1953)

The cover of Illustrated here shows an image from the shoot chosen by the Sunday Times Magazine. (There is a certain irony here in that the advent of free Sunday supplements sparked by the Sunday Times, was a big factor in killing off the general interest weeklies such as Illustrated.) Illustrated headlines Goalen as modelling the ‘London Look’. Inside, two photographers are credited, Peter Waugh and David Olins. (Some websites have identified the photographer as Richard Avedon, but this seems unlikely.)

Illustrated rival Picture Post also featured Goalen cover on its cover in 1952, in this case with a photo by John French.

 

Kitchener – this is not a poster!

May 29, 2014
Daily Mail's Event magazine with its Ralph Steadman article

Daily Mail’s Event magazine with its Ralph Steadman article that mistakenly identifies a poster as the original London Opinion cover

Whatever the faults of the Daily Mail, it exhibits a sense of history in the logo it carries on its ‘answers to readers questions’ page. The logo is based on the original title for the magazine that founded the Daily Mail dynasty back in 1888: Answers to Correspondents on Every Subject under the Sun, founded by Alfred Harmsworth.

Logo from the present-day Daily Mail - based on a magazine title from the 1880s

Logo from the present-day Daily Mail – based on a magazine title from the 1880s

As Answers, this became a massive success, building on the pioneering George Newnes’s Tit-Bits, for which Harmsworth had worked, to help establish British magazines as the first truly mass media. Answers claimed to answer questions sent in by readers directly by post, and those of general interest were published. Answers was a such a success that it was the foundation of a magazine and newspaper empire, the likes of which the world had never seen. Alfred and his brother Harold went on to found both the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror, then buy up both the Sunday Observer and the Times and become lords Northcliffe and Rothermere. Alongside the newspapers, the Harmsworth’s Amalgamated Press (later Fleetway) became the largest periodical publishing empire in the world. Viscount Rothermere rules the roost at today’s descendant, the Daily Mail & General Trust.

London Opinion 1914

The original magazine cover – this is NOT a poster!

So it’s no surprise that the paper is running a series to mark World War One, including an 80-page souvenir issue of its listings section, Event. Pride of place in the May 4 edition was a feature by the brilliant Ralph Steadman, whose father fought in that war and was injured three times. Steadman interprets Alfred Leete’s famous Kitchener image and the article make reference  to its original appearance as a London Opinion cover – but then shows one of the early London Opinion posters in the centre of the spread rather than the magazine cover!

The error adds to half a century of no less an august body than the Imperial War Museum (which was given the artwork by Leete) getting it wrong; Picture Post using the artwork in 1940 and again referring to it only a poster; and biographers such as  Philip Magnus adding to the confusion. Even the British Library captions the cover as a poster in an article by the historian Professor David Welch. To cap it all, the Royal Mint makes no reference to Leete even as it copies his artwork for a commemorative coin!

The full story of Alfred Leete’s cover illustration for London Opinion is told in the book, The Amazing Kitchener Poster.

At last, a history of magazines

May 28, 2014
grub_street_book_cover

The jacket of ‘Grub Street’ shows George Newnes’ ‘Strand’, with its long-lived George Haité cover design, on an iPad

There has long been a gap when it comes to books about magazines in that there has been no substantial history of the industry. That is not to say there are no books that include elements of that history, but the academics Howard Cox and Simon Mowatt are the first authors to take on the complete story, at least for consumer magazines, with Revolutions from Grub Street.

The book takes as its starting point the days of Grub Street – once a real street in London’s Moorfields that by 1630 had given its name to an area where hack writers lived. Grub Street was ‘much inhabited by writers of small histories, dictionaries, and temporary poems’, according to Samuel Johnson in his Dictionary of 1775, and is today Milton Street.

Dr Johnson and his fellow hacks aspired to move closer to the publishers that employed them, in the centre of the printing and publishing industry around St Paul’s Cathedral. By 1882, Fleet Street had taken over as a shorthand for the ‘whole spirit of the English Press’. Johnson himself moved to Gough Square at the north end of Wine Office Court, an alley that runs from Fleet Street up the side of Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub (rebuilt in 1667, having been burnt down the year before in the Great Fire of London).

Fleet Street came to embody the publishing industry because it led to where printing had been established. Wynkyn de Worde had moved Caxton’s printing press to set up a print shop in Shoe Lane after the latter’s death in about 1500. The site is marked by a plaque at the livery hall of the Worshipful Company of Stationers (itself rebuilt after the Great Fire) on Ave Maria Lane, near St Paul’s.

Cox and Mowatt have written a densly-referenced but brisk summary of almost 400 years of magazine-making, of clear interest to academics and researchers in business and strategy. Both authors specialise in business history and Cox wrote The Global Cigarette for OUP. They collaborated on a  paper, ‘Networks, Relational Assets and the Internationalisation of Consumer Magazine Publishing‘, the theme of which contributes to this book. They describe how magazine publishing companies developed from the Grub St era by exploiting developments, first in letterpress printing on exemplars such as the Family Herald, and then powered machinery, to meet the demand for popular reading matter from an expanding, and more literate, population.

Penny weeklies and sixpenny monthlies leapt at the opportunity provided by illustrations, famously by Punch and Illustrated London News with their upmarket fare for the middle classes. In 1881, came the publishing sensation of George Newnes’ Tit-Bits, which used innovative journalistic and marketing techniques to help establish strategies for the million-selling popular weekly. Alongside Arthur Pearson and Alfred Harmsworth, these magazine publishers evolved into the massive press baronies of the 20th century that made Fleet Street famous across the world. Grub Street concludes by charting events since the mid-20th century three-way merger that created the giant IPC, and the factors through to the present day that saw it lose its near-monopoly position – but it and its rivals run into the challenge of today’s digital competition.

The book bases its story on events in company structures and the development of the unions, as well as technology. It is weaker on the influence of specific titles and individuals; for example, Stefan Lorant (Pictorial Weekly, Lilliput and Picture Post) is barely mentioned (and his name is mis-spelt). Also, it has a limited scope, focusing on mainstream consumer publishers and rarely touching on trade magazines, newspaper supplements and contract magazines.

However, Grub Street will  at last enable course leaders on magazine journalism and publishing courses to address a gaping hole in their syllabuses.

Revolutions from Grub Street: A history of magazine publishing in Britain by Howard Cox and Simon Mowatt, Oxford University Press, 288 pages, £35

 

 

 

Magazines for collectors at London book fair

May 27, 2014

I was at the London International Antiquarian Book Fair in Olympia on Saturday and saw magazines for sale on several stands – most prominently Biblioctopus offering a set of the 75 Holmes stories in the Strand for £55,000.

But even £55,000 is peanuts if you want to get your hands on the two Holmes stories, A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four, that predate the Strand. Scarlet was published in Beeton’s Christmas Annual of 1887. This is one of the rarest magazines in the world and probably the most expensive. (The wife of the publisher Samuel Beeton, was the Mrs Beeton of cookery book fame.) In 2007, a repaired but complete copy of the Beeton annual sold for $156,000 at Sotheby’s in New York.

The Sign appeared in Lippincott’s Monthly, a US magazine, in the February 1890 edition, which was published in both London and Philadelphia. (Lippincott’s also published Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray in its July 1890 issue.)

Neither story was particularly successful and it took George Newnes and his groundbreaking  Strand to make a household name of Sherlock Holmes with the short stories, starting with The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes in its launch issue of 1891.

My visit to the antiquarian book fair came about because of the boom Magforum is seeing in the level of interest in collecting magazines. In the past year, Magforum’s collecting page has established itself as the most popular of the site’s 200 pages, pulling in 1700 visits last month. It is the top Google result to searches such as “collecting magazines”. Two years ago, the page was not even in the top 10. So, I’m seeing big growth in interest in collecting magazines.

Ebay has driven the boom and both buyers and sellers have moved upmarket – as have the prices. Ten years ago, copies of Town could be had for £5; five years ago it was £10; now, the starting price is a tenner and many fetch £100. It’s a similar story with all the classic titles – and fans of the everything from the latest celeb such as Benedict Cumberbatch to the Man from Uncle prepared to pay £133 for a cheap 1966 magazine are continually pushing up the prices of all sorts of titles.

Another book fair item that caught my eye was a nice copy of Brassai’s first book, Paris de Nuit. Sixty of his images were printed in stunning gravure in this 1933 work over 74 pages. The copy was described as: ‘Cover slightly rubbed at corners. Spiral binding intact binding.’ The price was £1650. The Belgian bookseller Deslegte was also offering a ‘very fine copy’ of Robert Doisneau and Arthur Gregor’s 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 children’s book from 1955 for £525.

London’s Harrington Books had more copies of the Strand on offer, such as a set of the first 44 bound volumes for £2,750. However, it’s complete unbound copies that fetch the best prices, such as an issue carrying Conan Doyle’s The Land of Mist for £750.

 

Louis Wain – cats, frogs and his sister

May 27, 2014
Felecie Wain illustration from Home Notes - Louis Wain's mother

Anthropomorphised frogs from Home Notes by Felecie Wain – Louis Wain’s sister

Louis Wain became famous to Victorians for his humanlike – anthropomorphised – animal drawings, particularly cats, which were widely published, as magazine illustrations, books and cards. He was ‘the man who drew cats’. The image here is from a children’s page in C. Arthur Pearson’s popular women’s weekly Home Notes in 1899, at a time when the prodigious Wain contributed at least a drawing an issue to this magazine alone. However, it is signed ‘Felecie Wain’, Louis Wain’s sister, who was also known as ‘Felice’.

Frog tableaux were popular at the time and Dickens had a small statue of sword-fighting frogs on his desk at his Gad’s Hill home when he died.

According to a Margate newsletter, Wain moved to the neighbouring seaside town of Westgate in 1894 with his four sisters and mother at the suggestion of Sir William Ingram, who lived there and owned Illustrated London News (founded by his father in 1842). Wain’s wife had recently died and Ingram also owned Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, where Wain had worked since 1882. The newsletter shows photographs of Wain’s homes and the graves of both his mother and Felecie.

The image below is a drunken Wain cat held by the V&A Museum.

Louis Wain cat out on the razzle

Louis Wain’s ‘Hallo there! We won’t go home till morning’ showing a cat out on the razzle

Hearst closure of Dutch ‘Red’ – and cash cow thinking

May 27, 2014
Heart Magazines Nederlands has decided to stop the women's lifestyle glossy magazine Red from the June 2014 edition

Heart Magazines Nederlands has decided to stop publishing the women’s lifestyle glossy magazine Red from the June 2014 edition

Big consumer groups such as Unilever have occasional culls of their brands – in 1999, it sold two-thirds of its products! The theory is that you focus your money and management on the strongest brands and sell off smaller ones. In the jargon invented as part of the Boston matrix, companies should milk the cash generated by their ‘cash cows’, to spend on their ‘stars’ and ‘question marks’, while closing down the ‘dogs’.

The decision by Heart Magazines Nederlands to close women’s monthly lifestyle magazine Red is an example of that sort of thinking. It also demonstrates the global strategy of the US parent company.

The June 2014 edition will be the last, with the Dutch press reporting that Hearst saw a lack of interest among advertisers for the glossy monthly. So, Red had become a ‘dog’. However, the Dutch subsidiary also publishes Elle, undoubtedly a global ‘star’, and the closure frees up resources for that title. More importantly, Hearst Magazines Netherlands is launching a Dutch edition of Harper’s Bazaar at the end of August. This ‘question mark’ is where the money will go.

Harper’s Bazaar was bought by Hearst in 1913 and is a core star title for the US publisher. In contrast, Red is an English licensed glossy, which was launched 10 years ago by Hachette in the Netherlands. The original Red was invented by Emap and Hachette Filipacchi as a joint venture in 1989. It coined the term ‘middle youth’ for its target market, with a focus on fashion, beauty, jewellery, interiors, food and travel, for women aged over 30.

In 2011, US group Hearst bought Hachette Filipacchi from French media group Lagardere. As a result, it changed the near century-old name of its UK offshoot, the National Magazine Company, to Hearst UK and closed veteran title She. Similarly, the Hachette name was changed to Hearst across the world. Another victim of magazine globalisation was in 2006 when Harper’s & Queen dropped the second half of its name – which had come about when Harper’s took over the 110-year-old Queen in 1970 – to match the Harper’s Bazaar name elsewhere.

At the heart of the thinking is the ability to sell the same name to international advertisers more easily.

The Dutch Red was selling 62,167 copies an issue in 2013, and was read by 174,000 readers (NOM). In the UK, Red‘s sales are a healthy 203,354, well ahead of both Elle (172,079) and Harper’s Bazaar (111,071). So in Hearst’s global strategy it is a cash cow – though that may mean it can be starved of investment and may eventually become a dog as other titles suck out its cash. While UK editions of Red can be bought on Amazon in the US – for an eye-watering $11 – Hearst is unlikely to launch it there.

Hearst editions of Red elsewhere need to keep looking over their shoulders.

Horatio Bottomley – the swindling John Bull

May 4, 2014

Horatio Bottomley was the founder and editor of John Bull, one of the most popular magazines of the 20th century. This postcard promoting the magazine portrays Bottomley as an MP putting the prime minister Lloyd George in his place. Other members are shown consulting their copies of the magazine, including Winston Churchill. Bottomley was founding chairman of the Financial Times and twice a member of parliament – but also one of Britain’s biggest fraudsters. The magazine was the medium by which he promoted himself and his dodgy schemes, and not until Robert Maxwell did the media, in that case the Daily Mirror, help create such a monster.

Bottomley was founding chairman of the Financial Times but used it to promote his projects. He came to note in the courts in 1893 when he was able to defend his printing and publishing company, the Hansard Union, from bankruptcy and the fact that £100,000 had gone missing. In 1900, he failed to win election as an MP but won £1,000 in libel case after he was described as a fraudulent company promoter and share pusher during the campaign. The Financial Times included him in a supplement titled ‘Men of Millions’.

Bottomley’s reputation in the courts dissuaded others from taking legal action – a strategy all used by the likes of Maxwell, known as the ‘Bouncing Czech’ in Private Eye. Maxwell even published a one-off magazine backed by himself and other enemies of Private Eye, Not Private Eye, after he won a court case against the magazine’s campaigns. He survived other cases against him but became bankrupt in 1912 and so was forced out of parliament.

In 1906, Bottomley had founded John Bull with the help of Julius Elias (later Lord Southwell), managing director of the printers Odhams.  The magazine, with its belligerent stance, championing of the common man and prize competitions – including Bullets, which was akin to coming up with cryptic crossword clues – became incredibly successful once the war started.

 John Bull cover from 1917 is a good example of Bottomley

This John Bull cover from 1917 is a good example of Bottomley’s self-promotion

Such was Bottomley’s popularity in wartime that he was despatched by David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill, as an unofficial emissary, and persuaded shipwrights on the Clyde not to go on strike.  He toured the country to help recruitment and his visit to the western front was widely reported in the press. The Evening News even ran a poster saying ‘Bottomley Wanted’ to promote a story calling for him to join the cabinet and attacking the government after Haig’s offensive on the Somme failed. Such was the power of the press that Lord Northcliffe was appointed director of propaganda, his brother Lord Rothermere became air minister, and Daily Express owner Sir Max Aitken served as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and as minister for information (and in 1916 became Lord Beaverbrook). However, Bottomley never made it into government.

He was lauded in the music halls, with a 1915 song ‘Mr Bottomley – John Bull’ by Mark Sheridan.

According to the historian Niall Ferguson, ‘Horatio Bottomley’s John Bull was selling as many as two million copies by the end of the war, a figure beaten only by the new Sunday Pictorial [for which Bottomley also wrote a column for £150 a week, a massive sum that had to be personally approved by Lord Rothermere] and the News of the World.’

John Bull led to a cause célèbre in the film world when it accused the makers of what was intended to be an epic feature, The Life Story of David Lloyd George, of being German sympathisers. The Ideal Film Company sued John Bull and won the case in January 1919. Yet the film was never released, because the prints were bought – for £20,000 – by parties acting for Lloyd George. It  was lost until 1994 when it was found at the home of Lord Tenby (Lloyd George’s grandson).

Victory souvenir from John Bull made of metal from a German U-boat

Victory souvenir from John Bull made of metal from a German U-boat

The magazine also bought the Deutschland, a U-boat handed over by the Germans as part of the Armistice, and sailed it around Britain. It was broken up in Birkenhead in 1921 and the magazine sold badges that were: ‘Guaranteed to be made from metal forming part of the ex-German submarine Deutschland.’

In 1920, Beverley Nichols invited Bottomley to speak at the Oxford Union in support of a motion in favour of independent political parties. (Nichols became a popular writer and would go on to write a weekly column for Woman’s Own from 1946 to 1967). He described Bottomley in his book, 25:

A grotesque figure. Short and uncommonly broad, he looked almost gigantic in his thick fur coat. Lack-lustre eyes, heavily pouched, glared from a square, sallow face … It was not till he began to talk that the colour mottled his cheeks and the heavy hues on his face were lightened …

Bottomley won the motion, and Nichols records another aspect of the arrogance of the man - he was disappointed that he had not broken the record for the numbers in the audience at such debates. For breakfast next morning, he ordered, ‘A couple of kippers and a nice brandy and soda.’

Bottomley's Victory Bond club advertised in John Bull

Bottomley’s Victory Bond Club advertised in John Bull in 1919

With the end of war, Bottomley won a seat in the general election as an independent MP for Hackney South. However, the swindling of his Victory Bond Club, which was heavily promoted  in John Bull, was coming to light. Another magazine, Truth, warned its readers off the scheme and Bottomley issued several write against it, which the magazine ignored. Bottomley also threatened wholesale newspaper distributors – a tactic John Major, the Conservative prime minister, used in 1993 to prevent distribution of the New Statesman when it carried an article about a supposed affair (in 2002, Major admitted having had a four-year affair with the former Conservative minister Edwina Currie from 1984). Reuben Bigland, a printer who had been slighted by Bottomley, had tracked his activities for years and his pamphlet ‘The downfall of Horatio Bottomley: His latest and greatest swindle’ prompted the MP to sue him for criminal libel and blackmail in October 1921. He lost and, along with Odhams, was fined £1000. Bottomley tried again on the blackmail charge, and lost again.

The country turned against him, with the Times thundering out, and Bottomley was committed for trial at the Old Bailey.  The Illustrated London News reported his trial, with the verdict being its front-page illustration (3 June 1922). Bottomley was sentenced to 7 years. Mr Justice Salter said:

You have been rightly been convicted by the jury of this long series of heartless frauds. These poor people trusted you and you have robbed them of £150,000 in ten months. The crime is aggravated by your high position.

Illustrated Evening News reports Bottomley's guilty verdict

Illustrated Evening News reports Bottomley’s guilty verdict in 1922

The report made reference to the Sword of Justice seen hanging on the courtroom wall. Bottomley had earlier told the jury that it would drop from its scabbard if he was found guilty: it did not fall.

Travers Humphreys, the prosecuting barrister, had lost a John Bull lottery prosecution to Bottomley in 1914 but succeeded this time. He wrote in his memoirs:

[In 1914] he was a brilliant advocate and a clever lawyer, though completely unscrupulous in his methods … In truth, it was not I who floored Bottomley, it was Drink. The man I met in 1922 was a drink-sodden creature whose brain could only be got to work by repeated doses of champagne.

In prison, he was recognised and seems to have been popular with many inmates because of John Bull‘s tradition of backing the working man and sending parcels to prisoners of war. A story is told that a padre came to visit and found the prisoner stitching mail bags:

Ah, Bottomley, sewing?
No, padre, reaping!

After prison, Bottomley portrayed his experiences in the manner of Oscar Wilde, with a poem ‘A Ballad of Maidstone Gaol’ by ‘Convict 13′ (his prison number). He also published a book, Songs of the Cell (1928), and toured the music halls. However, he was a sad sight in his later days and died on stage at the Windmill theatre in 1932. His ashes were scattered near his house, The Dicker, in Upper Dicker, near Eastbourne.

As for John Bull, sales plummeted from something like 1m-2m to 300,000 in 1922, but Odhams was able to pull it round as a serious and responsible paper. Within a year it was back selling a million copies a week. After world war two, John Bull relaunched itself with colour, illustrated covers and a focus on fiction from writers such as Agatha Christie and Neville Shute. However, with the advent of commercial television, its sales fell, like all the general interest weeklies, and it was relaunched in 1960 as Today. In this format, it survived until 1964, when it was taken over by Weekend.

Sources

The Rise and Fall of Horatio Bottomley: The biography of a swindler by Alan Hyman, Cassell, 1972 (well indexed)

Horatio Bottomley by Julian Symons, House of Stratus, 2001 (no index)

‘How the papers went to war’, by Niall Ferguson, 27 October 1998, Independent, p15

 


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