Ruptures, piles and Edwardian advertising paranoias

February 8, 2015
A long list of of Edwardian ailments from the classified advertising in Photo Bits magazine of 1902

A long list of of Edwardian ailments from the classified advertising in Photo Bits magazine of 1902

Rupture. Piles. Hair destroyed. Sleeplessness. Too stout. Fits. Drunkenness. The list of ailments bedevilling the Edwardians was endless to judge by just this one page of classified advertising from Photo Bits magazine in 1902.

In fact, the very concept of manhood was in doubt, at least that’s what’s suggested by the book about trying to cure the ‘general weakness, premature and acquired diseases’ of men.

Of course, it’s a strategy that underlies advertising to this day – create a problem in people’s minds so you can sell a product to cure it, from dandruff to bleeding gums, dry skin to greasy hair, slow computers to burglary.

Photo Bits magazine adverts for ways to improve your Edwardian moustache

Photo Bits magazine adverts for ways to improve your Edwardian moustache

The adverts I particularly like are the ones for moustaches, with their neat engravings bringing to mind an irritating, opera-singing character from a much more modern advert. These Edwardian adverts for ‘hair forcing’ treatments promised ‘strong military moustaches in a few weeks’ and that they would prevent baldness. So, send for your bottle of Forceline, HairsutVitaline or Pomade Don Cossack today!

Photo Bits was a slightly risqué weekly aimed at men that described itself as: ‘Up to date. Bright. Sketchy. Smart. Witty. Pictorial. Pithy. Original. Spicy.’

According to the British Library page on film magazinesPhoto Bits (Brunswick Publishing, later Phoenix Press) became Photo Bits and Cinema Star (New Picture Press) for a year in 1923, when it switched its name to Cinema Star and Photo Bits. In 1926, it was incorporated with London Life magazine.

Film, TV and radio magazines history

Leete, Kitchener and the pointing man

February 6, 2015

Alfred Leete’s Kitchener poster was the subject of great debate last year with James Taylor’s book suggesting it might never have existed, but The Amazing Story of the Kitchener Poster proved that thesis wrong by uncovering pictures of the poster on display during the Great War (a book I wrote with Martyn Thatcher).

We also discovered an image that Leete might have seen of a pointing man used in advertising. Now, I’ve unearthed two more pointing figures, one that Leete very possibly saw, and one that he undoubtedly did see.

The first is this one, a pointing man in an advert for The Power Within from Pearson’s magazine (June 1907). I don’t know if Leete was a contributor to Pearson’s at this time, but it was a big illustrated monthly and he would probably have had an eye on it – he certainly did covers for Herbert Jenkins’ Mrs Bindle series in the magazine in 1921. So this advert has to be considered a possible inspiration for Alfred Leete’s Kitchener image. Note the way the word ‘you’ is picked out just below the man’s hand.

A pointing man in an advert from Pearson's magazine (June 1907)

A pointing man in an advert from Pearson’s magazine (June 1907)

The second image that he probably did see is this one:

The pointing man from an advert in London Opinion magazine, 17 September  1910

The pointing man from an advert in London Opinion magazine, 17 September 1910

Why am I so sure Leete will have seen these? Because Leete was an established illustrator on the magazine by 1910, regularly doing covers as well as drawings inside. Also, there is the illustration below in that very same issue of London Opinion – note his signature to the bottom right. When the war came along, he was in the right place to dash off the ‘Your Country Needs You’ image for the magazine cover.

Drawing by Alfred Leete in the same issue of London Opinion

Drawing by Alfred Leete in the same issue of London Opinion

 

A different type of magazine marketing

January 26, 2015

It’s January 1940. the Second World War is four months old, but the conflict still seems far away for most people in Britain. The next few months would see the Germans move into Scandinavia and sea battles at Narvik, but Dunkirk was five months away, the summer would bring the Battle of Britain fought in the air – and then the bombing Blitz on British cities in December. Meanwhile, at Woman’s Fair, an Odhams women’s weekly filled with American fiction and illustration, the war has hit home with the price of paper – an imported commodity from Scandinavia and Canada – shooting up.

The editor bemoans in a whimsical article, ‘We are going up':

Paper has become about as precious as gold and we’ve been wondering whether we should make Woman’s Fair smaller or ask you to pay a tiny proportion of wartime paper costs. We don’t believe you’d like a smaller Woman’s Fair and so instead we’re making it a penny more. Your February issue will cost 7d.

The editor of Woman's Fair blames wartime paper costs for the magazine's price rise

The editor of Woman’s Fair blames wartime paper costs for the magazine’s price rise

All supplies from Scandinavia were soon lost and soon the German U-boats would be hounding Britain’s convoys, where food and weapons no doubt took precedence over paper for magazines.

By 1942, publishers were cut to a ration of less than a fifth of their pre-war usage. The result was that many magazines closed, they all had fewer pages, some cut their page size and the battle was on to cram as many words on to the precious paper as possible – in the case of Woman’s Own, even starting articles on the cover.

The standard fare of the magazine was beauty, as shown by a Pathe news-reel called ‘Beautifying! Where to Put the Accent!’ The short film is based on Jean Barrie, ‘Beauty Editress’ of Woman’s Fair showing us ‘where to put the accent on our beauty’.

Marketing was important in drawing as many readers in as possible before the lack of paper supplies really bit.

'Once I was a Pretty Girl' - a poem designed to encourage subscribers to Woman's Fair magazine at the start of WW2 in 1940

‘Once I was a Pretty Girl’ – a poem designed to encourage subscribers to Woman’s Fair magazine in 1940 during the first year of WW2

At Woman’s Fair they took a creative approach with a poem, ‘Once I was a Pretty Girl':

Once I was a pretty girl
A witty girl, a city girl,
Now I’m just a pity girl’
Was poor Amelia’s cry.

‘My skin is yellow, dull and lined,
My hair a mass of tangles twined,
My sex appeal has quite declined
Won’t someone tell me why?’

‘Of course we will the secreet share,
Cried Maud and Milly, Kate and Clare,
‘You haven’t ordered WOMEN’S FAIR,
And wise girls will allow

It’s WOMEN’S FAIR that marks the trends,
That guides the feet and shapes our ends
And turns to husbands our boy-friends –
RESERVE YOUR COPY NOW!’

There’s an order form on page 61

A Pore Em’ly poem in Woman’s Fair preys on the beauty worries of its readers

A Pore Em’ly poem in Woman’s Fair preys on the beauty worries of its readers

A few pages later, the message was reinforced, again stressing the danger of becoming a dowdy woman:

Pore Em’ly
Em’ly Brown was a glamour girl,
Witht sparkling figure and hair a-curl,
And luscious teeth of mother-of-pearl’
Oh, Em’ly was delicious!

But that, alass, was in days pre-war’
And now she’s known as the Awful Bore’
Her face is one GIGANTIC poer –
So she stays at home washing dishes.

Poor Em’ly knows as well as not
Why her looks and wit have gone to pot’
For she quite forgot (may her conscience rot,
May she tear her hair in sheer despair)
She quite FORGOT – believe it or not –
To reserve her copy of WOMAN’S FAIR.

The text goes on:

MORAL: Don’t be like Pore Em’ly. The war has made us short of paper and so your newsagent will be short of your copy of WOMAN’S FAIR unless you tell him to keep you one. NOW! – ED

The attitude to readers at Woman’s Fair seems pretty cynical. And the magazine was undoubtedly put together on the cheap, buying in almost all its copy and illustrations from the US. Among the imported material was:

  • cover illustrated by Jon Whitcomb cover (where the woman seems to have a voodoo doll in her hair);
  • Lyn Arnold short story ‘Life begins in January';
  • Wilton Matthews fiction, ‘She Made His Bed’, illustrated by Jon Whitcomb;
  • ‘She’s a Treasure’ by Lester Ashwell;
  • ‘This Time it’s True’ by Gladys Taber. Illustrated by Earl Cordrey;
  • White Magic serial by Faith Baldwin.

The only prominent British illustrator commissioned was Clixby Watson, who was a regular choice for top magazines such as  Lilliput, Nash’s Pall Mall Magazine and The Passing Show as well as Woman, the leading woman’s weekly at Odhams. He also worked for advertisers, including Mars’ Spangles sweets.

Women’s monthly magazines

What about the undies?

January 19, 2015
A Woman's Own centre spread from 1939 - 'She likes undies'

A Woman’s Own centre spread from 1939 – ‘She likes undies’

Undies. When did you last see that word? It used to be used on women’s magazine covers and in headlines quite a lot. But where do you see it now? Fashion journalists in magazines were certainly not afraid to use it in 1939 – as this centre spread from Woman’s Own shows – ‘She likes undies.’

And in Woman’s Fair in its January 1940 ‘Wishful thinking’ editorial for the new year: ‘We are going to stop hoarding old evening dresses and decrepit undies and make instead the beauteous evening gala outfit on page 24.’ At the end of the 1940s, here are undies as the topic for the main cover line above the title on Woman’s Pictorial:

Woman's Pictorial magazine from 1949 with the cover line: 'Beutiful undies to make and embrioder'

Woman’s Pictorial magazine from 1949 with the cover line: ‘Beautiful undies to make and embroider’

But note that these were the days when fashionable women made their own. I can’t see such an article causing Woman’s Own to go flying off the shelves today. Fashions change and it seems that reliable, cheap undies from Marks and Spencer tempted women away from their sowing machines. By 1991, the Times could inform us: ‘And we know that Margaret Thatcher gets her undies at M&S. “Doesn’t everybody?” she asked a television reporter.’

The full Oxford English Dictionary defines undies as meaning ‘Articles of girls’ or women’s underclothing’. In support, it quotes:

  • 1906. Punch 30 May: ‘She’d blouses for Sundays, And marvellous “undies” concocted of ribbons and lace.’
  • 1920. Arnold Bennett, the Woman editor and novelist, in his book Our Women: Chapters on the Sex-discord: ‘You have only to reflect … upon the astonishing public importance given to what are delicately known as “undies”.’
  • 1939. Arthur Ransome in Secret Water: ‘Go on, Bridgie. Off with your things. Undies too.’ (Doesn’t sound like it’s from one of his Swallows and Amazons children’s books!)
  • 1967. Crime writer Nicolas Freeling in one of his Van der Valk books, Strike Out Where Not Applicable: Arlette … knows I’m not just belting off for the afternoon because of the black undies.

But that OED definition needs rewriting because undies are for men these days, as the Christmas clash of the male models shows:

David Gandy has claimed victory over David Beckham in the battle of the undies – and even made the astonishing claim that his underwear range has single-handedly saved Marks & Spencer (Mail on Sunday, 18 January 2015)

Undies meaning men’s underwear is a trend that goes back to at least 1993, when the Evening Standard talked about a company ‘that makes men’s undies’ and there was an ‘offer’ in another newspaper that year, the a Daily Star: ‘Buy a pair of Gazza’s undies.’

However, a quick flick through the newspaper cuttings suggests the word is these days much more likely to appear in the Sun than a broadsheet. While the ever-so-posh Lucia van der Post was quite happy to talk about undies for How to Spend It, the Financial Times glossy magazine, the FT put the word in quotes last year in a column by David Tang; almost as if it’s not quite a safe word to touch for its tycoon columnist (a sense suggested in that ‘delicately known as’ phrase from Arnold Bennett in 1920):

A stay at a flash hotel in Miami last year had us in a suite of rooms with a huge art-deco style bathroom, beautifully decorated in black and white, but with nowhere to sit or put one’s ‘undies’

‘One’s undies.’ Now that’s a really rare phrase.

What’s a magazine worth – Autocar

January 14, 2015

A Magforum reader asks – I have a complete copy of a 1916 Autocar magazine in good condition, any idea what it is worth?

Autocar magazine from 1907

Autocar magazine from 1907 – colour covers did not come in until the 1920s

Copies of Autocar tend to sell on eBay for £10-£30, including postage. 1916 will be before it used colour covers and the front will be semi-display advertising. It’s a wartime issue, which are rarer because of paper rationing and there may be war interest. So I’d guess at the upper end of the range. Some useful Ebay.co.uk searches:

Notice that I don’t use the word ‘magazine’ in the search – because some listings don’t; I don’t specify the books and magazines category because some people list them under cars or collectables or vehicle parts; the use of the quote marks ensures the separate words ‘auto car’ are excluded.

Among the results:

  • The top-value single copy from the third search was for a September 1910 issue at £29.50, including postage, on a buy-it-now.
  • There were about 20 results above £20. These were pre-WW2 issues, except for one – a 1963 copy featuring a Jaguar E-type road test. They were buy-it-nows or had a starting price at £19.99 + postage.

When it comes to listing the magazine, leave out words that people don’t search on in the main description such as: dated, the (though can be useful for some other searches, such as The Face), for the year. In the photographs, be sure to show good adverts in the issue – though there may not be any bigger than half-page in a 1916 issue – as well as the main articles.

Car magazines at Magforum

Charlie Hebdo: will you buy it?

January 13, 2015
Defiant pencil from the Charlie Hebdo homepage

Defiant pencil from the Charlie Hebdo homepage

Charlie Hebdo has raised its print run tomorrow to a massive 3 million copies – probably 60 times its normal run – with copies being distributed far beyond their normal scope. And it has a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed on the cover.

Will you buy a copy?

I will, because the past week has been a historic one in the history of journalism and magazines. However, without such a professional impetus, the answer is not straightforward. While I have bought copies of Charlie Hebdo in the past, it has always seemed to me that it is an extreme magazine with editorial values that I could not share. It has been censored by the likes of Apple iTunes. And last week it came up against an even more extreme entity, in the form of extremist Islamists.

Do you agree with the statement today from the cartoonist who drew tomorrow’s cover: ‘There is no “but” when it comes to freedom of speech’? Even though another staff member has pointed out that: ‘We are not obsessed by Mohammed more than the Pope or [former French president] Nicolas Sarkozy.’

Charlie Hebdo exists to bait its targets by word and image, and to push the boundaries of what is allowed in print. But most newspapers and magazines would not go there. This can become an unequal battle being waged by highly literate – and after the revenue comes in tomorrow, well-resourced – journalists. What form of response is there for many of their targets? Muslim groups have tried to stop the magazine’s attacks by using the law, but from what I have read, have failed. However, the magazine was banned when it attacked Charles de Gaulle after his death. This does raise the issue of whether all people are equal before the law.

If you hold up a sign saying ‘Je Suis Charlie’, what are you supporting? Free speech? The right of Charlie Hebdo to carry on baiting Muslimists and its other targets? The 17 victims of the gunmen last week? If you buy a copy tomorrow, what will you be supporting then?

Charlie Hebdo highlights US ‘moral fundamentalism’

January 12, 2015
the flag flown on US warships for the duration of the US 'war on terror'

This is no cartoon – it’s the flag flown on US warships for the duration of the US ‘war on terror’. Shame about the missing apostrophe

This image may look like a cartoon, but it is in fact the flag currently being flown on US warships. As Graham Bertram at Flags.net explains:

This historical naval jack has been re-introduced for the duration of the war against terrorism. It replaces the traditional US naval jack which is dark blue with 50 white stars, arranged as in the national flag.

The flag was adopted in 2002 on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York. The secretary of the US navy ordered all warships to raise the Revolutionary War jack with its rattlesnake – a symbol of resistance to the British dating back to the late 1700s – and the motto ‘Don’t tread on me’ to mark the ‘war on terror’. September 2014 marked the 12th year the historic jack has been flown.

I was reminded of the image with all the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, many showing illustrations of ‘weaponised’ pens and pencils. And much of the commentary has been about war – or avoiding one – as so many people take sides after last week’s brutal killings. In all, 17 people lost their lives. Today, France has put 10,000 troops on to the streets to guard potential targets as well as an extra 5,000 police. Yesterday, 3.7m people across France took to the streets to show solidarity with the victims.

This week’s print run of Charlie Hebdo has been raised from its usual 50,000 or less by a factor of 20 – to a million. Truly an example of war-like mobilisation. French newspapers have chipped in with office space and computers and the cash comes from a €60m fund for digital publishing innovation set up by Google at the behest of the French government after demands from publishers that the US search engine company pay for displaying their news in its results.

There’s a certain irony here in a US company being dragged in to fund a French satirical graphic magazine because one of the biggest US companies has spent years censoring such titles to such an extent that the director of the Comics Art Museum in Brussels dubbed Apple ‘fundamentalists of globalised morality’. A blog at the gallery explains:

In the summer of 2013, Apple, one of the most modern companies in the western world, imposed a ban on the online sale of some 1,500 Franco-Belgian comic strip albums for reasons of ‘pornography’. Needless to say, the pornographic nature of these albums is entirely questionable and exists mainly in the eyes of the fundamentalists of globalised morality.

Roman graphic novel Murena by Jean Dufaux and Philippe Delaby

Roman graphic novel Murena by Jean Dufaux and Philippe Delaby

The publisher, Dargaud, was forced to censor its own artwork and produce an edition of Les épines by Jean Dufaux and Philippe Delaby for sale on Apple’s iTunes, alongside the usual edition for sale in Franco-Belgian bookshops.

J.C. de la Royère, the museum’s curator, said that as ‘a great defender of freedom of expression’, he was ‘more than happy to join the fray by exhibiting the complete version of Les épines by Jean Dufaux and Philippe Delaby’.

Such ‘bandes dessinées’ (drawn strips) have been popular since the 1960s in France and Belgium. I first came across them when I dodged into a bookshop on the Left Bank in Paris to avoid a riot in the street! My eyes were popping as I rifled through titles such as Metal Hurlant (Heavy Metal, editions of which have been published in English in the US for many years now). The strips portrayed sex and violence – beyond anything in underground magazines in Britain that I had seen – and it was in one of these that I first saw the work of Swiss illustrator HR Giger, who a few years later would burst on to the world stage with his designs for the creatures and spaceships in Ridley Scott’s Alien.

The irony has also not been lost on the web newspaper  The Daily Dot, which has commented on ‘The hypocrisy of Facebook and Apple supporting Charlie Hebdo.‘It points out:

Apple — the king of US technology giants — has a #JeSuisCharlie banner on its iTunes store. Not only does Apple regularly engage in censorship on its various platforms and stores — it used to be against the rules to even ridicule public figures on the iTunes store — it has actually specifically censored Charlie Hebdo in the past.

It seems that, although the US tech giants are flying the flag for Charlie Hebdo, in reality their attitude to censorship means: ‘Je ne suis pas Charlie’.

The future of women’s magazines

January 11, 2015

BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour ran an interview last week on the ‘Future of Women’s Magazines‘, which is available on iPlayer. The programme summary is:

Readerships of print magazines are falling in favour of digital and mobile editions. Is online a poor substitute for the real thing or is that view outdated? We get some magazine editors [including the editors of Elle and Libertine] together to ask what is the future of women’s magazines and what are they doing to survive?

This programme also featured part of an interview with the magazine journalist Alice Head, part of the Woman’s Hour Collection, who from 1924 was the second editor of Good Housekeeping magazine and worked with Lord Alfred Douglas and William Randolph Hearst. She also set up the Good Housekeeping Institute.

The original i-D cover – from Picture Post

January 10, 2015
The fifth issue of i-D with a manipulated image of Princess Diana as the first winking subject and cover lines that pun on i-D, Di and DIY

The fifth issue of i-D with a manipulated image of Princess Diana as the first winking subject and cover lines that pun on i-D, Di and DIY

Fashion magazine i-D was founded by former Vogue art director Terry Jones and the winking model has been a feature of the cover since its fifth issue in 1981 (note the unusual landscape orientation for the magazine). The winking face mimics the letters i-D turned on their side as an emoticon.

It seems that certain people cannot wink, so some subterfuge has to be found to cover up the subject’s right eye. Sade and Madonna can manage it, but Kylie Minogue and Kate Moss can’t! In the duotone blue image here, Princess Diana has someone else’s heavily made-up winking right eye posted over her own.

Vivian Blaine from the London stage adaption of the musical Guys and Dolls on the cover of Picture Post in 1953

Vivian Blaine from the London stage adaption of the musical Guys and Dolls on the cover of Picture Post in 1953

So this Picture Post from 1953 with Vivian Blaine from the London run of the musical Guys and Dolls caught my eye – as it may well have caught Terry Jones’ eye, for he was born in 1945 and is on record as being a fan of Dan dare in the Eagle, which was produced by Hulton, Picture Post‘s publisher. Blaine played the chorus girl Miss Adelaide in the Broadway and film versions of Guys and Dolls as well as in London, with ‘Adelaide’s Lament’ as her show-stopping song.

French dancer Colette Marchand was renowned for her legs and is here shown in the French ballet Cine-Bijou by Roland Petit

French dancer Colette Marchand was renowned for her shapely legs, Picture Post tells us, and is here shown in the French ballet Cine-Bijou by Roland Petit

Picture Post is frequently cited as an inspiration for magazine designers, for example for Michael Rand in his work on the Sunday Times Magazine. Although a groundbreaking magazine in photojournalism and its layout techniques, Picture Post was losing its way in 1953 and was focusing on a male audience with regular centre-spread pin-ups and gimmicks such as 3-D pictures. As well the Guys and Dolls feature, this issue of  Picture Post includes photographs of French dancer Colette Marchand in a similarly-themed French ballet Cine-Bijou. She was renowned for her shapely legs, Picture Post tells us, and is here shown in the ballet by Roland Petit.

As well as looking forward 30 years to the winking i-D, the pointing Blaine image harks back 40 years to Alfred Leete’s pointing Kitchener cover from London Opinion in 1914, which was also used for the ‘Your Country Needs You’ first world war poster. This, of course, inspired many copies, including James Montgomery Flagg’s 1916 Leslie’s magazine cover – with its turgid cover line, ‘What are you doing for preparedness?’ – and the ‘I want you for US Army’ recruiting poster. Although the British did not reuse Leete’s Kitchener image in the second world war, Picture Post ran it as a cover in 1940 and the Americans dusted off Flagg’s image for their recruitment campaigns again.

Picture Post, i-D and London Opinion are discussed in my book, British Magazine Design, coming out in June from the V&A.

Back to the drawing board at Charlie Hebdo

January 8, 2015

If the gunmen thought they would shut Charlie Hebdo up, here is the response from the French satirical magazine’s lawyer:

The next edition of Charlie Hebdo will come out next week and a million copies will be printed.

Charlie Hebdo’s typical sale for an issue is about 45,000 copies. The Guardian assesses the magazine’s likely reaction under the headline ‘Fight intimidation with controversy‘.

The Telegraph has updated its slideshow of cartoonists’ reactions, led by this one from pocket cartoonist Matt:

Telegraph cartoonist Matt's reaction to the 12 murders at Paris magazine Charlie Hebdo

Telegraph cartoonist Matt’s reaction to the 12 murders at Paris magazine Charlie Hebdo

The Financial Times also put up a page of cartoons this morning. Magazine reactions have continued at their websites. At the New Yorker:

The attack on Charlie Hebdo is only the latest blow delivered by an ideology that has sought to achieve power through terror for decade

The Spectator magazine ran a photograph of the vigil at Trafalgar Square with a comment article sparked by the Financial Times that – like many of the paper’s own readers, and commentators around the world – took aim at an opinion piece by one of the paper’s writers:

I am just back from a ‘Je suis Charlie’ vigil in Trafalgar Square, and the solidarity was good to see. I fear it won’t last. I may be wrong. Perhaps tomorrow’s papers and news programmes will prove their commitment to freedom by republishing the Charlie Hebdo cartoons.

But I doubt they will even have the courage to admit that they are too scared to show them. Instead we will have insidious articles, which condemn freedom of speech as a provocation and make weasel excuses for murder without having the guts to admit it.

Tony Barber, Europe editor of the Financial Times was first out of the blocks:

‘Charlie Hebdo is a bastion of the French tradition of hard-hitting satire. It has a long record of mocking, baiting and needling Muslims.’

The writer forgot to add that Charlie Hebdo has a long record of mocking, baiting and needling everyone. It is a satirical magazine in a free country: that is what it does.

The websites were still quiet at Private Eye and Le Canard Enchainé, but perhaps taking time to think is a good thing.


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