The Victorian personification of Tit-Bits

James Wilson in his prize Tit-Bits costume, probably in the 1890s

James Wilson in his prize Tit-Bits costume, probably in the 1890s

It’s dificult to imagine today what an influence the magazine Tit-Bits was in the late Victorian era. George Newnes launched the weekly in 1881 and its sales soon ballooned and encouraged imitators such as Answers and Pearson’s Weekly. These magazines established the first mass media.

This magazine cutting gives a sense of that influence. It shows James Wilson of Farsley near Leeds, dressed, with his bicycle, as the personification of Tit-Bits. He even has the magazine’s name writtten across his face. His costume, the cutting reports, came to the notice of the magazine, which awarded him a ‘massive silver medal’ for his ‘highly original and ingenious fancy dress’.

Note that prominence is given to two of the magazine’s advertisers – Beecham’s Pills on the handlebars of his bicycle and Old Gold tobacco behind his head, suggesting money might have changed hands for the promotion. The cutting is possibly from the sister magazine to Tit-Bits, the Strand, which was founded in 1891.

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