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

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.

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One Response to “Family Herald – ‘The World’s Premier Weekly Magazine’”

  1. At last, a history of magazines | Magforum Says:

    […] 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 […]

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