Archive for the ‘women’s magazines’ Category

Louis Wain, schizophrenia and cats’ eyes

March 22, 2014
Louis Wain's schizophrenic cats eyes from Home Notes 1899

Louis Wain’s schizophrenic cats eyes from Home Notes 1899

Louis Wain was famous to Victorians as ‘the man who drew cats’. There is a theory that Wain had schizophrenia and that the development of the illness can be seen in his cat drawings. It was not until 1924 that his sisters had him committed to a mental hospital, but this rarely seen sketch from the popular women’s weekly Home Notes in 1899 shows that he had a thing about cats’ eyes even at the height of his powers.

Family Herald – ‘The World’s Premier Weekly Magazine’

March 22, 2014
Family Herald title from 1935

Family Herald title from 1935

‘The World’s Premier Weekly Magazine since 1842′ is the grandiose claim still made in 1935 below the title of Family Herald Magazine almost a century after its launch.

Quite a claim for a magazine that had seen launches such as Home Chat, Home Notes and Woman’s Own in that time. What justifies the hyperbole?

Family Herald was a pioneer of the fiction-based penny women’s weekly formula when it was launched by the publisher George Biggs. The secret of its success was that its production was mechanised – from typesetting through printing to binding. With mechanisation came speed – and labour disputes because Biggs employed women workers – but ultimately high volume sales. By the middle of the 19th century, it was claiming a sale of 300,000 a week and was one of the best-selling cheap weeklies. The price went up to 2d – but stayed at that level till it closed in 1940.

The grand claim is based on the word ‘premier’, meaning ‘first in importance, rank, or position’. In 1935, it could hardly make the claim of the highest sale and its production values would have looked cheap in the extreme against the like of Newnes’ Woman’s Own, which called itself ‘The family favourite’ (and ‘the world’s finest weekly paper’ when it switched to colour gravure in 1937). However, its standing in the world of magazines was well established and its pioneering history could justify the claim, which, not being based on an objective statement, such as sales or number of pages, was difficult to challenge.

Family Herald cover 1935

Family Herald 1935: illustration and the blue ink were limited to the cover in its 20 newsprint pages

Despite its claim, by 1935 Family Herald was on its last legs, running to 20 pages on newsprint with the only colour being the use of blue ink for all the matter on the front. There was no advertising to speak of and very little illustration except on the cover. It was published by the Family Herald Press in Crane Court off Fleet Street, and printed at Yorkshire Printing Works in York. It was a technological pioneer when it founded but had stuck to letterpress technology with its poor reproduction of images – and photograph-friendly gravure was in the ascendency at this stage. Family Herald would close in 1940 with the advent of paper rationing.

Heroines of the Western Front

November 17, 2013
Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisholm on the cover of Home Chat in 1918.

Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisholm on the cover of Home Chat in 1918 wearing one of the many medals they were awarded. The ‘heroines’ or ‘Madonnas’ of Pervyse were world famous

Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisholm were volunteer nurses who worked on the front line in Flanders with Belgian troops for most of the First World War – the only women working on the Western Front. Though their hospital was against British regulations, they carried on regardless, were lauded by the press and dubbed the ‘heroines of Pervyse’, hence their place on the cover of Home Chat, the best-selling women’s weekly of the time. Chisholm was just 18 when she volunteered with her motorcycling friend for the Flying Ambulance Corps. Once in Flanders, they set up their own, unofficial, first-aid station in the cellar of a collapsed house in the village of Pervyse. Their dug-out so close to the front was against regulations, but they carried on regardless, were lauded by the press and dubbed the ‘heroines of Pervyse’.

Knocker and Chisholm broke the rules to do their job, as did other pioneering women such as Edith Cavell, a nurse who was executed, and Flora Sandes – the only British woman soldier of WWI.

In 1915, Knocker and Chisholm were decorated twice by the Belgians. They were credited with saving thousands of lives and, as the only women working on the Western Front, were ‘les madones de Pervyse’ to the troops (the ‘madonnas’ nickname came from a shrine over the entrance to their dug-out). They toured Britain to raise funds for supplies and an ambulance.  The tragedy of their relationship was that … Read more

Magazines at war

Women in the First World War

London Opinion magazine and the Kitchener poster

Hearst tests out online shops

December 19, 2012

Hearst International president Duncan Edwards has described the various online shopping experiments the company is running to the FT’s Vanessa Friedman. There have been many such attempts by publishers, Happy, for example was a shopping magazine and website from Northern & Shell in 2005.  

  • ShopBazaar in the US is a website linked to Harper’s Bazaar that allows uses to buy products mentioned in the monthly fashion magazine. Condé Nast has competing efforts from Lucky and Allure.
  • In Japan, there is an Elle magazine shop. This is independent of the magazine and has broken even after about two years. Monocle has its own shops selling branded goods as well as a website.
  • In China, Hearst has an Elle site that links to different vendors, but brings buyers back to a common check-out.

Edwards reckons that ‘On average, of the 1,000 users who visit an esite from a magazine, only one converts into a buyer.’

These experiments in ‘monetising’ magazine brands leave Friedman feeling ‘queasy’ because of the blurring of the lines between editorial and commercial activities but some would argue the line was crossed many years ago by the big fashion magazines.

Popper and the illustrated magazine

December 17, 2012
Paul Popper photo on cover of Eve's Journal

Paul Popper photo on cover of Eve’s Journal

Magazines just go on and on. Quite how many titles have been published in the past 300 years I don’t know and Eve’s Journal, discovered by Jane Audas in the National Ar Library is yet another new one on me. Jane reckons the cover is by Paul Popper – the Czech photographer who founded Popperfoto  (now part of Getty).

By coincidence, the magazine below came up on my eBay searches. At first I thought it was an annual from Weekly Illustrated  (run by another European emigre Stefan Lorant, who would go on to found Lilliput and Picture Post) but in fact this was published by Hutchinson – and edited by Paul Popper.

























Heroism behind romantic fiction

November 12, 2012

Romantic fiction in some people’s eyes (usually people who have never read one) is a lower form of literary life. But a 5-part series on BBC Radio 4 last week put the life of Mary Burchell, who worked as a writer from the 1930s into the 1980s in a new light.

Burchell was the pen-name of Ida Cook and in ‘The Righteous Sisters’, Jane Purcell told the story of how Ida and sister Louise not only campaigned for Jewish refugees but travelled around Europe as opera buffs to help smuggle money and goods and help people escape from the clutches of the Nazis in the years running up to World War II. The fees from Ida’s writing paid for their exploits.

In the 1950s, Mary Burchell’s stories appeared in Woman’s Illustrated and then Woman’s Day when the former closed. She wrote 125 novels for Mills & Boon into the 1980s. In an unusual move for the time, the magazine stories were illustrated by photographs, rather than illustration. It was always the same photographer – Follett. Anybody know who Follett was?

The Fantastic Fiction website lists her works and has a photograph. You can still hear the 5-part series on the BBC Radio 4 iPlayer.

Books about magazines

July 10, 2012

When you’re writing a book, you end up researching and reading a lot of books. One place I looked is Google Books to see who might be quoting and so writing about magazines.  A search for “Magforum” suggests that no fewer than 73 books mention the site. However, like most Google searches these days, this one does not do what you want it to do and seems to return some results because they are books mentioned BY Magforum or are also about magazines!

Nevertheless, I know the following mention Magforum, some because I’ve lent them magazines for photography or provided quotations; others list Magforum as a general resource; and others quote from Magforum as a reliable source of evidence or to build an argument.

Among the many nice things said is this quote by Branded Male: Marketing to Men by Mark Tungate (Kogan Page, 2008): ‘The splendidly comprehensive’ in his chapter on men’s magazines.

Several books on culture, gender and sexualisation quote Magforum’s pages on men’s magazines and women’s magazines, including:

And the property magazine pages on Magforum are recommending for global investors: ‘Magforum lists all magazines published in the UK, together with circulation figures and some pithy comments on reliability. The site is put together by hand and the editor, Tony Quinn … processes everything’, says Colin Barrow in The Global Property Investor’s Toolkit 2007-2008: A Sourcebook for Successful Decision Making (John Wiley, 2008). Obviously a man who recognises the results of a lot of hard work.

Of course, Magforum is a big source for people in the magazine industry, academics and students. Some of the books that use it as such are:

More eclectic users of Magforum include:

Finally, I don’t know what this means, buy, heh, it must be good! I’d be grateful for a translation:

Bewertung crossmedialer Verflechtungen im Medienkonzentrationsrecht: Eine rechtsvergleichende Untersuchung unter besonderer Berücksichtigung Deutschlands, Großbritanniens sowie der Entwicklung in der EU by Harald Bretschneider (Peter Lang, 2010)

Eagles, comics and magazines at the V&A’s NAL

May 21, 2012

Comics blog Cor Blimey! has visited the Eagle-era comics exhibition at the V&A and his review starts off cool but warms up.

The Eagle exhibition was mounted by Marc Ward of the National Art Library, which is housed at the V&A – but, despite its size, is easy to miss! The NAL has a very easy to search catalogue - you can just search on periodical names for example – which is useful not only for planning what to see but also for checking dates, publisher (even if they do not have a particular item).

They have complete runs of magazine such as Vogue and while it’s biased towards fashion and design titles, has issues across a range of areas, including international titles It’s a reference only collection but worth becoming a reader if they’ve got what you want.

As an example, I was in there a few weeks ago to look at Dazed & Confused. I could check what the NAL holds and a search on the main V&A website showed that Nick Knight had donated a selection of his photographs and I could look at them too – including prints of Aimee Mullins from the Fashion-Able issue. Tip: search on the surname. And, of course, the NAL holds a copy of last year’s Dazed history published by Rizzoli by Jefferson Hack with Kate Moss on the cover.

Madonna on Vogue covers

April 30, 2012

Been hammering away on the book I’m writing about the history of magazine design and looking through some old Vogue covers. How’s this for the first cover (May 1989) of Madonna in the US edition:

vogue 1989 may madonna us first

Anna Wintour was told this Madonna cover would not sell


















Fashion Indie notes that editor Anna Wintour says she was told ‘[Madonna]’ll never sell’, but, in fact, newsstand sales rose 40%. Strange that Wintour hadn’t checked with Liz Tilberis, her successor at the British sister magazine – ‘Brogue’ – which had run this cover in February:

Vogue front cover Madonna

British Vogue beat the US edition in having a Madonna front cover four months earlier





















The first cover under Liz Tilberis was of Naomi Campbell – her first appearance on the front of Vogue.

History of women’s glossies

British Vogue cover archive - search on date, model, photographer or editor, but not all covers are up

Shulman steel beneath Vogue’s nice girl veneer

April 14, 2012
Ferguson portrait of Alexandra Shulman in the FT

Ferguson portrait of Alexandra Shulman in the FT

Next weekend marks the first Vogue festival at the Royal Geographical Society in Kensington with the likes of Stella McCartney, Diane Von Furstenberg, Tom Ford, Nigella Lawson and Kirsty Young chatting before the magazine masses.

It’s an idea led by the fashion magazine’s editor Alexander Shulman, who also has a book coming out.

That’s why there have been profiles of Shulman in the Observer Magazine last Sunday and today’s FT, where Carola Long, the FT’s deputy fashion editor, has lunch with the Vogue editor.

Shulman is portrayed as down to earth, almost girl next door, with both profiles putting across the image of a woman ‘happy in Vogue’.

‘…her hair is an untamed mishmash of outgrown highlights. Her clothes are discreetly fashionable but unintimidating: a navy-blue cardigan, a knee-length patterned skirt and comfortable-looking Anya Hindmarch heels. And – shock, horror! – she eats’ gushes Elizabeth Day in the Observer mag

But the articles are so similar that you wonder whether the interviewers have just swallowed the PR line.

There are hints, though, that more is afoot. The FT piece starts talking about the choice of restaurant:

Alexandra Shulman was also expecting a little privacy but the editor of British Vogue is scarcely going undercover by nipping round the corner from her Hanover Square office to this smart new steakhouse. In bounces well-connected foodie Tom Parker Bowles (‘Is this your new haunt?’ he asks), followed by restaurant critic AA Gill (‘Hi Adrian’, ‘Hi darling’). ‘Rather more people here than I expected,’ Shulman says, jaw tense, voice dropping to a near-whisper

But does it look like a navy-blue cardigan below? She leaves the Observer interviewer and seems to change into a grey cardigan that looks, to my non-fashionista eye, like a designer job.

Alexandra Shulman. Photograph: Julian Broad for the Observer

Alexandra Shulman. Photograph: Julian Broad for the Observer

She tells the FT:

‘I’ve got to the point where I don’t judge myself [on my appearance] because that way madness lies,’ she says, convincingly. ‘I know so many people who are upset about not looking as good as they used to but you’ve got to realise that’s what happens and find something else to be interested in.’

All very nice and reasonable. She does have a go at someone, however. In the Observer:

In fact, the most pronounced change she has noticed during her time at Vogue is … the increased control exerted by PRs and celebrities. ‘Somebody like Jennifer Aniston will only do an interview with copy approval and picture approval,’ she says. ‘I’ve never had anybody on the cover, ever, who’s had copy approval and picture approval. I just don’t think it’s a proper thing if you do.

‘It’s this thing of people just basically treating you as if you’re bound to be doing something that is in some way going to be insulting to their client. I just find that so offensive.’

Who could disagree with that. But then why pick on Aniston? Could it be that the Friends actor was the preview launch cover choice of weekly fashion rival Grazia?

After reading these two pieces, I’d be wary of the PR gloss and cut to the FT quote:

If she could have her time again, she says, ‘I would have got rid of the people who didn’t want to work with me, sooner.’ It’s a hint of the steeliness that must have helped keep her at the top in a fickle industry.

What I do like, though, is the FT  portrait by James Ferguson. His cartoons always have an edge to them. In this one, she’s got her heart not just on her sleeve but all over her top. The drink is the £5.50 Virgin Mary she has at 34 Restaurant. And there’s no attempt to flatter. It’s as if he’s taken her words to heart: ‘I’ve got to the point where I don’t judge myself [on my appearance].’

Vogue profile


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