Archive for the ‘1900s’ Category

This month in magazines: The Strand’s albatross cover

February 7, 2017
The Strand magazine cover from February 1930 - note the mini cover at the bottom right

February 1930: The Strand magazine with a mini cover at the bottom right and the Oxo advertising sign

The Strand magazine was first published by George Newnes in 1891 and was an immediate hit – establishing both itself and Sherlock Holmes in the world’s imagination. Even today, it is the world’s most collectable magazine. A set of all 75 issues with Sherlock Holmes stories is likely to set you back £50,000.

Raphael Sabitini's Captain Blood on the cover of Pearsons, January 1930

Competition fromRaphael Sabitini’s Captain Blood on the cover of Pearsons, January 1930

Its initial cover design by George Haité became an icon and, like Punch and The Wide World, was used for a long time. However, the iconic cover became an albatross around the magazine’s neck. The reason for this is that the magazine industry thrives on change, but readers hate change! Managing this dilemma is one of the great skills of an editor, but usually involves some painful decisions that will upset the most loyal readers.

As an earlier post explained, The Strand cover evolved. First, an advertising panel was introduced on the top left, then images were inset over the traffic on the right side. In the 1920s, colour was introduced and the street scene moved around the Covent Garden area that The Strand thoroughfare bounds. But by 1930, there was a lot of monthly competition with arresting, colour covers, such as Pearson’s. And the last of the Holmes stories had been published in 1927.

The Strand magazine of May 1922 with a colour cover and a Covent Garden flower seller

The Strand of May 1922

So the February 1930 tradition was an attempt to break with the past – it depicts a scene inside a restaurant, presumably on The Strand, with the Oxo hoarding seen in its familiar place through the window.

However, there must have been angst in the office, and it was Herbert Greenhough Smith’s last year in the editorial chair – after 40 years! At any rate, they felt they still had to show the usual cover, which was an updated colour version of Haité’s original work, in a panel. And they then reverted to that version – which dated back to 1921 – for the next two years, with a Covent Garden flower seller in the foreground and cars rather than carriages in the road.

 


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

 

 

 


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Walter Groves – Cycling magazine’s cartoonist ‘conductor’

December 27, 2016
Cycling, the weekly magazine, from 6 June 1899

Cycling, a pioneering weekly magazine, from 6 June 1899

I frequently find myself on Steve Holland’s Bear Alley, a great blog for discovering artists who worked on magazines and comics. One post that caught my eye was about Raymond Groves, a motorsports cartoonist, who is described as ‘the second son of Walter Groves, the founding editor of The Motor‘.

Cartoon by Walter Groves from Cycling, 7 July 1899

Cartoon by Walter Groves from Cycling, 7 July 1899

Walter Groves did indeed found one of the first motoring titles, but he made his name on an earlier weekly magazine at Temple Press, Cycling, which he ‘conducted’ with Edmund Dangerfield. (Another keen cyclist who wrote for Cycling was Alfred Harmsworth; he later launched Answers and the Daily Mail and became the arch press baron, Lord Northcliffe.)

Titlepiece from Cycling & Moting, 20 December 1905

Titlepiece from Cycling & Moting, 20 December 1905, conducted by Edmund Dangerfield and Walter Groves

And Walter Groves not only ran Cycling, but did his own cartoons. He was clearly reluctant to leave the title after the advent of The Motor. By 1905 Cycling was called Cycling & Moting, and he was still conducting it with Dangerfield.

The Autocar, published by Illiffe & Son from November 1895 was the first magazine to specialise in motoring and The Motor followed from Temple Press in 1902, initially as Motorcycling & Motoring. Temple Press became part of IPC in the 1960s. Motor finally succumbed to Autocar in 1988.

Cycling now has 125 years under its belt. It is known as Cycling Weekly, and is published by Time Inc (UK).

 

The eyes of a magazine

December 4, 2016
David Moyes's eyes cropped from an issue of the Sun in 2014 (April 23)

David Moyes’s eyes cropped from an issue of the Sun in 2014 (April 23)

Former Everton manager David Moyes is back on the TV as manager of Sunderland, but whenever I see his face, I’m reminded of the Pictorial Magazine poster below.

Pictorial Magazine poster from 1902

Pictorial Magazine poster from 1902

The poster promoted the start of a new serial – ‘The House with the Scarlet Knocker’ – in the May 2 issue that year.


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

 

 


 

The precursor to Bottomley’s John Bull

June 24, 2016
The first issue cover of John Bull from 1 April 1903

The first issue cover of John Bull from 1 April 1903

Horatio Bottomley is rightly regarded as one of the biggest swindlers in British history, using the pages of both the Financial Times, which he helped found, and John Bull magazine to help promote his financial schemes.

Bottomley was at his most bombastic in the pages of John Bull, which was one of the best-selling magazines during the Great War. It’s the magazine with which he is associated as editor, but, in fact, there was a humorous magazine by the same name launched just a few year before Bottomley used the name, as can be seen above.

The first issue of that John Bull was in 1903 – dated April 1st –  and the editor was Arthur William À Beckett, a magazine veteran who had worked on several titles, including Punch, though perhaps not very successfully. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography describes A.W.’s deputy editorship on Punch from 1880 as presiding over the magazine‘s ‘decline into decrepitude’ because he would change nothing and refused to introduce new blood. Eventually, in 1902, was asked to resign.

A.W. wrote The À Becketts of Punch, about his time on the satirical weekly with his father and brother (Gilbert Abbott and Gilbert Arthur), which was published by Constable in 1903.

The inside masthead for John Bullfeatured famous names such as Louis Wain and Max Beerbohm

The inside masthead for John Bull featured famous names such as Louis Wain, Harry Furniss and Max Beerbohm

The masthead inside the first issue of John Bull by W. Reynolds shows a fabulous roll call of contributors: A.W. carries a bull on his back ahead of a cast made up of A.P. Graves (Irish writer, assistant editor of Punch and inspector of schools), caricaturist Max Beerbohm, cartoonist Harry Furniss, lyricist and writer Adrian Ross, Louis Wain – renowned for his anthropomorphised animals – as Dick Whittington with a devilish-looking cat, Cyril Pearson as a sphinx, Percy Fremlin, adventure writer Sir Gilbert Parker, Sir William Robinson and the Welsh poet Sir Lewis Morris.

A.W. died in 1909, but John Bull appears to have predeceased him, with the British Library holding just one volume, with the final issue dated 25 June 1903.

The magazine was based at 5 Henrietta St in London’s Covent Garden. The street has long associations with publishing. Jane Austen lived at No 9 in 1813-14, the Royal magazine was at No 19 in 1914, along with C. Arthur Pearson’s other titles. In the 20th century, it was the home of Dorling Kindersley for many years.

To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

Lord Kitchener – the life of his image. Part 5

June 20, 2016

London Opinion cover from 5 September 1914HMS Hampshire sank on 5 June 1916 on her way to Russia, taking Lord Kitchener down with her. Kitchener was the face of the Empire and had led the biggest recruiting campaign in modern history, a campaign that also changed the nature of propaganda, advertising and graphic design. This is the fifth post this weeek based based on images from Kitchener Wants You, a book I have written with Martyn Thatcher that examines the story of the man, the famous poster and how that image has retained its hold on the imagination of people across the world.

Leete’s image today

private_eye_2016june_kitchener.jpgDaily mail 1961 July 14 ridicules Macmillan as KitchenerEvery day, someone, somewhere, makes use of Alfred Leete’s 112-year-old drawing of Kitchener. Above is an example from this week’s Private Eye magazine, making a pun on ‘EU’ and ‘you’ with ‘Your country doesn’t need EU’ as part of its EU referendum coverage. The wording also refers back to one of the early subversions of the image – the Daily Mail ridiculing Harold Macmillan, the prime minister, with the words: ‘But does your country need you’ (1961).

And it’s not just the press. In the village of Harkstead in Suffolk today, I walked past a reproduction of one of the First World War posters with the wording: ‘Your Country Needs You … to help repaint the village playground.’ From Britain’s leading satirical magazine to a village noticeboard, it’s difficult to escape that iconic Kitchener image. The images below give a hint of the reason why.

In summary: The magazine cover that started it all
London Opinion cover from 5 September 1914

Alfred Leete’s London Opinion cover in September 1914

The idea of the recruiting poster catches on across the globe
One of three recruiting posters that used Leete’s image in 1914-15

One of three recruiting posters that used Leete’s image in 1914-15

US artist James Montgomery Flagg copies Leete’s idea for Leslie’s (6 July 1916)

US artist James Montgomery Flagg cover for Leslie’s (6 July 1916)

One of many US recruiting posters used from 1917

US posters used Flagg’s artwork once the US entered the war in 1917

The image is revived in WW2 and continues to be used
Picture Post for the week of 1 June 1940

The Hungarian editor of Picture Post uses Leete’s image in 1940

 

 

russian kitchener_1941

Russian poster from WW2: ‘You. How have you helped the front?’

Leete’s image sparks many ideas
Big Brother poster in film version of George Orwell’s 1984 (published 1949)

 

Big Brother poster from a film of George Orwell’s book 1984, which was published in 1949

Punch deplores the loss of Sudan civil servants (1955)

Punch deplores the way local civil servants are treated in the Sudan (1955)

 

Daily Telegraph 1955 magazine chooses Leete artwork as an iconic image

Daily Telegraph marks its centenary and chooses Leete’s artwork as an iconic image of the past 100 years

Philip Magnus biography of Kitchener as an imperialist

Biography of an imperialist by Philip Magnus with an Osbert Lancaster caricature

Daily mail 1961 July 14 ridicules Macmillan as KitchenerDaily Mail ridicules Harold Macmillan, the prime minister (1961): ‘But does your country need you’
The stern pointing image is subverted in Britain and then the US
oh_what_a_lovely_war_2016mar_3_stanford_uni

2016 Stanford version of the 1962 Joan Littlewood play Oh What a Lovely War

Kitchener’s face is a symbol of Carnaby St in the Swinging SixtiesA symbol of Carnaby St in the Swinging Sixties 1967_Honey_magazine_cover_as_kitchenerGirl power 1967-style on cover of young women’s magazine Honey Black activists in the US portray Uncle Sam as trying to wipe out their race (1968)

Black activists in the US portray Uncle Sam as trying to wipe out their race (1968)

i_want_out_vietnam_war_protest_poster

From the late 1960s, Vietnam War protestors subverted the imagery. This is from 1971

Leete’s image continues to resonate to this day
recruitment poster based on Leete's Kitchener imageFirst army campaign aimed at recruiting officers from ethnic minorities  (1997)

2002 Dr Who magazine with Lethbridge Stewart in the Kitchener pose (August 21)

Lethbridge-Stewart fronts Dr Who magazine:  ‘We want you as a Who recruit!’ (2002)

The Economist puts the US Treasury secretary in the Kitchener pose in 2008

Financial crisis: Economist cover of US Treasury secretary Henry ‘Hank’ Paulson (2008)

Radio Times has used Leete’s image for Robbie Williams, Lord Sugar and Jeremy Paxman

Radio Times has used Leete’s idea for Lord Sugar, Robbie Williams and Jeremy Paxman

Karl Marx as the Uncle Sam derivative of KItchener

Uncle Sam – arch symbol of capitalism – is  used by the Karl Marx library in London (2016)

READ THE BOOK: Kitchener Wants You by Martyn Thatcher and Anthony Quinn

Lord Kitchener – the legend lives on. Part 4

June 11, 2016

London Opinion cover from 5 September 1914HMS Hampshire sank on 5 June 1916 on her way to Russia, taking Lord Kitchener down with her. Kitchener was the face of the Empire and had led the biggest recruiting campaign in modern history, a campaign that also changed the nature of propaganda, advertising and graphic design. This is the fourth post this weeek based based on images from Kitchener Wants You, a book I have written with Martyn Thatcher that examines the story of the man, the famous poster and how that image has retained its hold on the imagination of people across the world.

Picture Post for the week of 1 June 1940

Picture Post magazine cover for the week of 1 June 1940

Leete’s Kitchener image is revived

Alfred Leete’s Kitchener image for London Opinion was donated to the Imperial War Museum, where it was only catalogued as a poster. Although the image appeared in some exhibitions after the war, it was not regarded as a great example of poster art, unlike the wartime posters of people such as Frank Brangwyn, Gerald Spencer Pryse and Edward McKnight Kauffer.

When the Second World War broke out, conscription was brought in immediately and the British government decided to use more subtle techniques for poster campaigns. So, there was no place for Leete’s image, although a different tack was taken in the US, which did re-use James Montgomery Flagg’s Uncle Sam version of the Kitchener artwork. The Russians also adopted the Leete imagery, but with the image of a painting soldier.
However, the most famous photo magazine of the era, Picture Post, did feel Leete’s artwork was worth dusting off. It was carried on the front of the popular weekly, dated 1 June 1940. It not only marked the week of Kitchener’s death, but was also the week of the BEF’s retreat from Dunkirk.
From then on, Kitchener’s face became a frequent reference, for cartoonists, for people and organisations marking iconic events in the 20th century, and for just about anybody wanting to draw attention to anything.

 Attitudes to Kitchener change

Philip Magnus biography of Kitchener as an imperialist

1958 biography of Kitchener by Philip Magnus

A 1958 biography of Kitchener by Philip Magnus portrayed him as an arch imperialist, out of touch with modern values. The April 1955 issue of Lilliput magazine described Kitchener as Britain’s Big Brother, an ironic comparison given that the WWI Kitchener posters probably inspired George Orwell’s descriptions of the character in 1984.

This period very much sees the end of empire as country after country is given independence or fights against British control. Furthermore, Britons were adopting a less deferential attitude towards the establishment, which was soon seen in theatre and the satire boom as well as in the press.

Joan Littlewood’s 1962 play Oh What a Lovely War drew on the Alan Clark book The Donkeys to portray the First World War from the point of view of the frontline soldier. It made great use of Leete’s imagery, both onstage and for publicity, and shook up both British attitudes and theatre itself. It was shown in New York and made into a film. It’s a play that resonates to this day.

Kitchener in Carnaby Street

I was Lord Kitchener's Valet

I was Lord Kitchener’s Valet

The mid-1960s saw Kitchener’s face in a different context: fronting the fashionable boutique I Was Lord Kitchener’s Valet and becoming a symbol of Carnaby Street and the Swinging Sixties. Lord Kitchener’s Valet sold secondhand uniforms, which were taken up by pop stars such as The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix.

The shop sign by Pat Hartnett, which is in the V&A, was inspired by Leete’s Kitchener image.

Later in the decade, it was protesters against a contemporary conflict – the Vietnam War – who turned to Leete’s imagery, though it was the James Montgomery Flagg variant.

Leete’s image is subverted

Campaigning groups in the US took the pointing Uncle Sam from the Flagg artwork and diverted its meaning for their own purposes. There was Uncle Sam as a death skeleton, bandaged up and demanding relief, and as an aggressive recruiter of young black men seeking human fodder from the city ghettoes for an imperialist, overseas war.

Black activists in the US portray Uncle Sam as trying to wipe out their race (1968)

Black activists in the US portray Uncle Sam as trying to wipe out their race (1968)

 

i_want_out_vietnam_war_protest_poster
From the late 1960s, Vietnam War protestors subverted the imagery. This is from 1971
Vietnam War protest poster - Uncle Sam as a death skeletonUncle Sam portrayed as a death skeleton tempting recruits to fight in the Vietnam War

Next: The modern images

 

Lord Kitchener – a mysterious death. Part 3

June 8, 2016

London Opinion cover from 5 September 1914When HMS Hampshire sank on 5 June 1916 on her way to Russia, taking Lord Kitchener down with her, Britain – and a large part of the rest of the world – was in a state of disbelief. Although Kitchener had become isolated from his cabinet colleagues, he was the face of the Empire and had led the biggest recruiting campaign in modern history, a campaign that also changed the nature of propaganda, advertising and graphic design. This is the third post this weeek based based on images from Kitchener Wants You, a book I have written with Martyn Thatcher.

London, Paris, New York: how three papers mourned Kitchener

Daily Mirror of June 1916 with a Kitchener memorial_issue

Daily Mirror of June 1916 with a Kitchener memorial issue

Cover of Le Petit Journal of 25 June 1916

Cover of Le Petit Journal with a colour portrait (25 June 1916)

New York Times reports KItchener's death on its front page

New York Times reports Kitchener’s death on its front page

How the press reported Kitchener’s death

News of the death of Britain’s war lord quickly spanned the globe and it was front page news from London to Paris, to Delhi to New York. Soon, conspiracy theories emerged: that Kitchener had survived; that the government had him murdered; that he had reached Russia and changed his name to Stalin. A former Boer spy emerged to claim he had been on the ship and guided the U-boat. There were even reports in the Orkneys that troops had prevented locals trying to rescue survivors.

These stories have inspired conspiracy theorists to this day. As late as last week, the Daily Mirror ran a story: ‘Death of WW1 poster icon Lord Kitchener remains shrouded in conspiracy theories 100 years onby Warren Manger (4 June, pages 26 and 27).

Pictorial Weekly on the conspiracy theories in March 1934

Pictorial Weekly on the conspiracy theories in March 1934

Lilliput revisits the theories in May 1955

Lilliput revisits the theories in May 1955

French magazine Histoire on the Kitchener mystery in 1981

French magazine Histoire on the mystery in 1981

Tomorrow: The legend lives on

 

Lord Kitchener – the recruitment posters. Part 2

June 7, 2016

London Opinion cover from 5 September 1914Sunday saw the start of a string of events this week to mark the centenary of the death of Lord Kitchener, whose face has become a global icon since he was depicted on the front cover of London Opinion magazine in a famous illustration by Alfred Leete.

Kitchener Wants You, a book I have written with Martyn Thatcher, tracks Kitchener’s career and examines how he was portrayed by magazines and the press from his rise to fame in the Sudan to the present day. This week, I’ll do a post a day based on images from the book – many of which are rarely seen – and some I’ve discovered only recently.

Three images of Kitchener from 1914 and 1915

A smiling Kitchener on the cover of Home Chat in 1915

A smiling Kitchener on the cover of Home Chat in 1915

Kitchener on the cover of Illustrated War News in June 1914

Kitchener on the cover of Illustrated War News in June 1914

How the US magazine Collier's depicted Kitchener in September 1914

How the US magazine Collier’s depicted Kitchener

Alfred Leete’s painting of Kitchener

Alfred Leete drew the London Opinion magazine cover at the top of the page, which was picked up as an image and used for at least three recruitment posters. Leete was one of the leading black-and-white artists of his day, and produced covers, cartoons and illustrations for London Opinion alongside Bert Thomas (who beame famous for his ‘Arf a Mo, Kaiser’ advert for the Weekly Dispatch tobacco fund). Leete’s Kitchener artwork ended up in the Imperial War Museum and has been reproduced in many books, though usually only credited as a poster, or sometimes, mistakenly, as an advertisement. It is worth examining the artwork at the IWM, which has been digitised to its full size and can be examined in detail online.

There were many other depictions of Kitchener, as shown above, but Leete’s is the one that most people remember.

Martyn Thatcher shows how Kitchener became a poster

Martyn Thatcher explores how Kitchener became a poster

All of the artists and magazines chose to portray a younger Kitchener – he was 64 when the war broke out, but most used older photographs, in the case of Leete from one dating back 20 years to about 1895. Martyn Thatcher has explored how the mage was produced and in the process did the above design merging a photograph into Leete’s illustration. Note in particular how Leete built up the moustache and opened the eye. The collar is also simplifed so as not to detract from the face.

Part 1: Kitchener – the legend remembered

Tomorrow: the reaction to Kitchener’s death

Lord Kitchener – the legend remembered. Part 1

June 6, 2016

London Opinion cover from 5 September 1914Sunday saw the start of a string of events this week to mark the centenary of the death of Lord Kitchener, whose face has become a global icon since he was depicted on the front cover of London Opinion magazine in a famous illustration by Alfred Leete.

Hundreds of newspaper stories appeared over the weekend about Kitchener, all tagged to the centenary. Several books have been launched or republished, and having just written Kitchener Wants You with Martyn Thatcher, I now find it near impossible to walk down a street without seeing the illustration or one of its many derivatives.

Kitchener Wants You tracks Kitchener’s career and examines how he was portrayed by magazines and the press from his rise to fame in the Sudan to the present day. This week, I’ll do a post a day based on images from the book – many of which are rarely seen – and some I’ve discovered only recently.

Out of Africa: the hero emerges

Kitchener on the cover of a part work about the Boer War in 1900

Kitchener on the cover of a part work about the Boer War in 1900

Kitchener made his name in North Africa, regaining control lost in an uprising by the Madhi that had resulted in the killing of General Gordon. Over two years, in a campaign that was notable for Kitchener’s brilliance in logistics, the Sirdar (commander-in-chief of Egypt’s forces) added a million square miles to the empire and ultimately massacred the forces of the Madhi’s successor, the Kalifa, Abdulla, at Omdurman.

Some 10,000 Dervishes were killed against a loss of just 48 British troops. It was an army armed with swords comping up against military technology in the form of the Maxim machine gun and modern artillery. However, there was controversy after the desecration of the Madhi’s tomb, and tales that Kitchener wwanted to turn the skull into an ink well.

Yet the country went wild with praise and Kitchener’s movements were closely followed. The press christened him ‘The Avenger of Gordon’.

After the battle, Kitchener sent a telegraph to a colleague in Cairo: ‘The effect of having killed 30,000 Dervishes is that I have 300,000 women on my hands, and I should be much obliged if you could instruct me how to dispose of them.’ His reward was to be made a baron and £30,000. That was in 1898. The next year saw him in South Africa, fighting the Boers. He signed a peace treaty in 1902, being rewarded with a viscounty and £50,000.

Surrounded by women: detail from a 1902 photograph of Kitchener at a garden party

Surrounded by women: Kitchener at a garden party

But the problem of being chased by women did not go away, as this detail from a 1902 photograph of the six-foot-two-tall Lord Kitchener at a Kensington Garden party shows. The caption read: ‘Our batchelor general Lord Kitchener – weaponless, beleaguered and retreat cut off.’

Kitchener has been described as a jackdaw collector of fine china, and a dedicated  gardener. He appears to have ben tongue-tied among politicians and was ‘either very stupid or very clever’ according to Mrs Asquith, the wife of the prime minister.

The next 12 years were spent in India and then Egypt as consul-gereneral. He was on his way back there on August 3 1914 when he was hauled off a Channel ferry on the orders of Asquith and appointed secretary of state for war.

Tomorrow: Leete and his famous Kitchener portrait

The Strand magazine and its iconic cover

May 31, 2016
Strand magazine front cover design from March 1891 by George Charles Haité

Strand magazine front cover from March 1891 by George Charles Haité

The Strand is one of the world’s most collected magazines, both in Britain and the US. The reason for its fame to this day lies undoubtedly in the stories of Arthur Conan Doyle featuring the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. If you want to buy a set of the 75 issues that carried the Sherlock Holmes stories, you can expect to pay £55,000!

The magazine started with a cover date of January 1891, but, as happens today, was available a week or two before that date. It was a goldmine for its publisher, George Newnes, selling about 300,000 copies a month for the next 40 years in Britain and another 100,000 in the US until 1916. From the start, it was published in America with much the same content, but a month later, with its own editor, James Walter Smith. It was a trendsetting title, with an illustration on every page, a dedicated puzzles page and publishing not only Conan Doyle but also E.W. Hornung, H.G. Wells, E. Nesbit, Rudyard Kipling,  O. Henry, and P. G. Wodehouse. The cover stated ‘edited by Geo. Newnes’ until 1914, but the power behind the editorial throne was Herbert Greenhough Smith, the literary editor, who worked on the magazine from 1891 to 1930. The magazine’s offices were in Burleigh Street off The Strand in London.

In an article to mark the 100th issue (April 1899), ‘A chat about its history‘ by Newnes, he says that it was originally to be called the Burleigh Street Magazine, but this was too long, so the Strand Magazine was chosen.

Its first cover design by George Charles Haité – like that of Richard Doyle’s for Punch – was long-lasting and is an icon of illustration. One of its early Haité covers (displayed on an iPad) was used for the jacket of Revolutions from Grub Street, a history of magazine publishing from Oxford University Press by Howard Cox and Simon Mowatt. But that iconic Strand cover is not as constant as you might think, as we’ll see. This post explores why the Strand cover looked the way it did and how it tried to change with the times.

George Haité – the Strand cover artist

Portrait of George Charles Haite at the National Portrait Gallery

Photograph of George Charles Haite taken about 1885 (held by the National Portrait Gallery)

George Charles Haité (1855-1924) was a decorative artist, designer, painter, illustrator and writer and lecturer on art.

His father, George Haité (1825-1871), was a fabric designer, many of whose works are in the V&A Museum, alongside hundreds by his son, who often signed himself GC Haité. Hundreds of GC’s designs were donated by his daughter, and are stamped with his address: Ormaby Lodge, The Avenue, Bedford Park, in West London.

GC was the first president of the London Sketch Club in 1898, set up at premises in  Chelsea for graphic artists and featuring leading black-and-white artists artists such as Tom Browne, Phil May, Alfred Leete, Edmund Dulac, John Hassall, Heath Robinson and HM Bateman. The National Portrait Gallery holds two portraits of GC, showing the walrus moustache that dominated his face.

Haiti’s view down The Strand

Haité’s iconic illustration shows the view looking east along The Strand towards the church of St Mary-le-Strand. Then, as now, The Strand runs from Charing Cross to Temple Bar – two London landmarks that have also given their names to magazines. Temple Bar was a gate placed where The Strand ends and Fleet St begins, at the boundary between Westminster and the City of London. The Wren-designed gateway became a bottleneck for traffic and so was removed in 1878. It now stands in Paternoster Square, by St Paul’s Cathedral.

The Strand was regarded as a fashionable thoroughfare, linking the City of London and St Paul’s with Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament and Whitehall – the financial, religious and political establishments at the heart of the British Empire. At its east end, it became the media hub of Fleet Street – the fourth estate – and at its west end was Trafalgar Square.

Strand Magazine from March 1891

Strand Magazine front cover of March 1891

The Strand and Burleigh Street - the view as it is today

The Strand and Burleigh Street – the view as it is today with ornate street lamps lit. Just past the traffic lights on the right is Lancaster Place, leading south to Waterloo bridge

Haité’s view is pretty accurate, as the photograph above shows. The image was drawn from the bottom of Burleigh Street, where the offices of Tit-Bits and Strand publisher George Newnes were located. There are several details worth noting:

Sixpenny coin - the price of a copy of the Strand in 1891 Burleigh Street sign on the cover of Strand magazine in 1891 Hoarding points to the George Newnes offices in Burleigh Street
Price of an issue Street sign
Strand magazine title hanging from telegraph wires No 359, the building at the corner of Burleigh St and The Strand
The title lettering is hung from telegraph wires across the street The number 359, The Strand address of the property on the corner Board points towards 12 Burleigh St. There would have been no such hoarding

Street vendor on the Strand cover is selling copies of Tit-Bits magazine

Also note the two newspaper sellers, one dashing across the road, the nearer one on the pavement selling copies of Tit-Bits – you can make out the title on the copy under his arm. This, of course, is a reference to the weekly magazine that established Newnes’ name in 1881, was the first example of the mass media and became the progenitor of today’s tabloid press.

Most of the pedestrians are men and the back of the stout gentleman on the left looks as if it could have been a true portrayal, but who could it be? George Newnes, the magazine’s founder? The artist himself looks too scrawny in the many sketches of him by fellow artists (though one of the NPG portraits shows that Haité’s figure filled out later!).

Within the first issue

Modern-day street lamps in The strandThe first issue of the Strand carried a 10-page article about the famous thoroughfare and its surrounds with several sketches by Haité. One showed the view north from The Strand to 12 Burleigh St, where both the Strand and Tit-Bits were published. Crossing over the Strand from Burleigh St takes you straight into the Savoy hotel. Again, the sketch can be compared with the view today – and a 1940s illustration of the same building from when it was occupied by Queen magazine, a title that dates back to 1861. Compare the street lamps in Haité’s Burleigh St sketch below with the lit lamps in the modern-day Strand photograph – they look very similar.

Haité's view of Burleigh St from the Strand showing the Tit-Bits office with its massive rooftop sign on the right

Haite’s sketch of Burleigh St from the Strand showing the Tit-Bits office with its huge rooftop sign on the right

Former Tit-Bits and Strand office at 12 Burleigh St in 2015

The former Tit-Bits and Strand office at 12 Burleigh St, without the rooftop sign. Exeter St runs to the right

The glossy monthly Queen occupied the old Tit-Bits office in 1947

Queen occupied the old Tit-Bits office in 1947. Another former occupant was Health & Strength in 1910

The article notes that the street took its name from Lord Burleigh, a leading statesmen in the time of Elizabeth I, who lived on the site of the Tit-Bits office at the corner of Burleigh St and Exeter St (today best known for the American-style restaurant, Joe Allen’s). Exeter St takes its name from Burleigh’s son, the Earl of Exeter.

It goes on to explain that many street names on the south side of The Strand came from the nobles on whose former riverside palaces the area was developed, including George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham. He lived at York House, where today you find the Adelphi and the Adam brothers architecture around the Royal Society of Arts. The Palace of the Savoy has engraved itself in the area as the name of the world famous hotel (where taxis drive in on the right-hand side of the road as a welcome to American guests). People associated with The Strand and its surrounds include Dr Johnson and Sir Walter Scott, who both banked at nearby Coutts; the painter William Etty, Samuel Pepys and Peter the Great have all resided in Buckingham St; Evelyn and Tatler founder Steele both lived in Villiers St (though ‘it is now the haunt of anything rather than genius’). Northumberland House, the last of the palaces, had only been demolished in 1874.

In the same way that Tit-Bits was the most popular weekly, the Strand soon became the best-selling monthly, built on the massive popularity of the ‘consulting detective’, Sherlock Holmes. However, as we shall see, Haité’s cover faced challenges in adopting to the times.

The Strand magazine: Haité’s cover evolves

The Strand followed an established publishing strategy in that it was designed to be bound into volumes twice a year. Each issue consisted of an outer wrapper to protect the contents, which consisted of a run of advertising followed by the editorial content and then more advertising. Twice a year, the six issues would be collated by stripping away the wrapper and advertising and binding the editorial into volumes along with titles pages, a frontispiece and index pages that came with the final issue for each volume. That is why the editorial pages are numbered to follow on from each other between issues, reverting back to 1 for the start of each new volume. The publisher would also offer complete bound volumes in various finishes, from cloth to leather, depending on the buyer’s purse. So Haité’s covers would have been thrown away, though the standard Newnes binding showed the illustration on the front of the volume.

The magazine became an institution, and Smith will have been reluctant to tamper with such a successful formula. Readers – particularly regular buyers – are creatures of habit. (As editor of Acorn User, a computer magazine, in the 1980s, I remember receiving letters of complaints when the lettering on the spine was accidentally printed black, rather than the usual red because it ‘ruined’ the look of the magazines on a shelf! And Fleet Street legend has it that woe betide any editor who moves the crossword in a daily paper.)

However, various factors forced changes on the cover design.

Newnes offices at 7-12 Southampton Street from 1896

Newnes offices in Southampton St. The man on the left is looking into the Tit-Bits window

First, Newnes expanded, launching more magazines and so had to move out of the Burleigh St office. The company didn’t go far – just two streets west along the Strand into 7-12 Southampton Street. (By 1925, Newnes expanded again into Tower House next door, where the company stayed until it merged into IPC in the 1960s and moved across the river into King’s Reach.)

So the street name was altered on the Strand cover to match the new address and the number 359 taken off the building wall. In addition, the company’s new name and address was printed along the bottom of the cover. This addition was the start of a slippery slope.

Soon, a cover line was added across the top, promoting another Newnes magazine or the contents of an issue, such as:

  • ‘Now Ready, THE PICTURE MAGAZINE. Companion to THE STRAND MAGAZINE’ (Aug 1893).
  • ‘Xmas Double No. 294 ILLUSTRATIONS. 208 PAGES. 1/-‘ (Dec 1895);
  • Rodney Stone: CONAN DOYLE’S magnificent New Story, Commences in this Number’ (Jan 1896).
  • ‘Pictures on the Human Skin. See Page 428. EASTER EGGS. See Page 373. FLOODS. See Page 441’ (April 1897).

On the Christmas 1896 cover, a cover line was set below the title: ‘The most profusely illustrated magazine in the world’. Christmas issues were dated December and, at one shilling, were double the usual price. Christmas 1897 saw another innovation: advertising appeared on the cover. On the brickwork above the street sign, a small hoarding appeared: ‘Hall’s Wine. See Page XI’ (the advertising pages carried Roman numerals, distinguishing them from editorial).  Another innovation for this issue was that the price and issue details – 208 pages, 323 illustrations – were made more prominent by being carried in a box below the title.

The hoardings carried on, sometimes referring to an advertising page within the issue or sometimes as a standalone. Fry’s Cocoa took this position throughout 1899 until 1925, when it was replaced by Oxo.

In addition to the extra content and illustrations, the cover for the December 1903 Christmas issue was in lavish colour.

George Newnes himself died in 1910, but the company carried on under his name. The Strand cover hoarding of ‘Edited by Geo. Newnes’ continued until 1913 when it was replaced by the issue date and used for information such as subscription prices.

Technology catches up with Haité’s cover in 1914, when motor cars replace the horse-drawn hackney carriages of the Victorian era.

This was also a great time of experimentation in terms of cover promotion. The boxes come in various shapes and sizes and a second colour, spot red, is used to pick out the highlights.

Sherlock Holmes on the Strand’s cover

Strand magazine of September 1914 puts Sherlock Holmes on the cover

Strand magazine of September 1914 puts Holmes on the cover

Even as the boxes had got bigger and the covers become more littered with marketing material, Haité’s illustration was still the dominant image. That changes with the September 1914 issue – which will have appeared in newsagents just after the war broke out – when Sherlock Holmes (who else!) breaks the mould. Not only does the cover line at the top expound the start of a new Conan Doyle serial, ‘The Valley of Fear’, but the detective himself is portrayed musing over a coded letter while he smokes a pipe. Much of the traditional illustration is obliterated by the coloured oval image.

Although Smith published many famous writers and stories in the Strand, Sherlock Holmes held the most pulling power and the editor clearly felt the need to promote the character as much as possible. The relationship between Holmes and the Strand begins with ‘A Scandal in Bohemia’ in July 1891, the sixth issue of the magazine. The story was illustrated by the artist Sidney Paget whose images have set the tone for the look of Holmes ever since; he even introduced the deerstalker hat to the character. However, Conan Doyle killed off Holmes in a fight with his nemesis, the criminal mastermind Moriarty, in ‘The Final Problem’ after two years in the magazine. The character did not return until the spectacular ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’ in 1901. At Conan Doyle’s insistence, Paget also returned as the illustrator. After that, stories appeared regularly until 1927. In all, there were four novels and 56 short stories over 75 issues.

The Strand in the Great War and 1920s

For the rest of the war, the strategy of ever more prominent boxes continues. The lower hoarding is used to encourage readers to make use of a scheme to support the troops: ‘You can end this magazine Post Free to the troops’; and ‘The best magazine to send to out soldiers and sailors. It goes post free’. The magazine is not free however, and the price rises, first to 7d and then 8d by October 1917. Also at this time, a more striking version of the cover appears with a deep blue sky.

The Strand magazine of May 1922 with a colour cover and a Covent Garden flower seller

The Strand magazine of May 1922 with a Covent Garden flower seller

In 1922, a more colourful illustration is introduced with a prominent flower seller, presumably from the Covent Garden flower market at the top of Southampton Street.

The title design has been altered and the telegraph wires made less prominent. The price of a copy is now one shilling, and sixpence more for Christmas specials, and Smith has added the Jeeves stories of P.G. Wodehouse to the Strand‘s long list of popular features.

For the next six years, the flower seller is the standard cover, with strong promotional boxes. For the heavyweight series, such as Holmes and the Bulldog Drummond stories of ‘Sapper’ (H.C. Mcneill), one-off covers are commissioned, with the flower seller cover shown in an inset box.

October 1930 Strand magazine has a thoroughly modern flapper on the cover

October 1930 Strand magazine has a modern woman on the cover

In 1929, the traditional-looking flower seller is dropped, like the horse-drawn carriages before her, for a more up-to-date image – a thoroughly modern woman. Women dominate the crowds and modern buses dominate the streets. The title design has been simplified again, and the telegraph wires removed. The advertising on the side of the nearest of the buses promotes the Humorist, at the time a weekly humorous magazine in the Newnes stable. Oxo has replaced Fry’s on the advertising hoarding at the top of the 1930 cover shown here.

The boxes at the top and below promote an article by the prominent Conservative politician Lord Birkenhead, and the start of a new novel by P.G. Wodehouse over seven parts. By this time, the US edition has closed and so serialisation of ‘Big Money’ starts at about the same time in the weekly US title Colliers.

The last years of the Strand

This Strand cover design from February 1942 is based on a reworking of the Haité illustration

This Strand cover design from February 1942 is based on a reworking of the Haité illustration

In 1930, two events occurred after which the Strand could never be the same again: on 7 July Conan Doyle died of a heart attack at the age of 71; and at the age of 75, Smith stepped down from the editorship after the December issue. Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories underpinned the success of the Strand magazine, but Smith had encouraged him to write more broadly and he developed other characters, including Professor Challenger. Conan Doyle was also prolific with his non-fiction, with articles on spiritualism, fairies and sport, and he wrote extensively about World War I. In total, Smith published almost 300 contributions by Doyle in the Strand, including 120 stories, nine serialised novels, and dozens of poems and interviews. For 36 years, Conan Doyle wrote exclusively for the Strand, forming a partnership with Smith that is unrivalled in the history of magazines.

Yet the age of Sherlock Holmes was now over, and the magazine’s most famous writer was dead. Deprived of Smith’s sure touch, the Strand went into decline, with four editors in the next 20 years:

Jan 1931 to Sep 41: Reeves Shaw
Oct 1941 to May-1942: R.J. Minney
Jun 1942 to Sep 1946: Reginald Pound
Oct 1946 to Mar 1950: MacDonald Hastings.

Wartime paper rationing forced the magazine to adopt a smaller page size in October 1941. Various artists were commissioned to create covers and frontispieces, including Edward Ardizzone, Robin Jacques and Julian Trevelyan. The covers often made reference to the Haité cover design.

The last issue of the Strand, March, 1950 under editor MacDonald Hastings

The last issue, March 1950

Despite the quality of the illustrators used, changes to the Strand‘s traditional format and cover seemed to lose its old character and it failed to develop a new one. Sales were down to about 100,000 copies a month and the company published 54 other magazines: with a weekly circulation of 1.5 million copies, Woman’s Own was now the biggest moneymaker on the news-stands. The Strand ceased publication in March 1950, the title being folded into another Newnes monthly, Men Only.

MacDonald Hastings, a former war correspondent who went on to become a  TV reporter and roving correspondent for the Eagle comic, was its last editor. The US news weekly Time reported Hastings bemoaning the changing times that had brought the magazine down:

Where are the Conan Doyles today, and where are the readers who want them anyway? What people want today is imaginative reporting; the day of fiction has gone.

Such was the hold that the Strand had on the nation’s psyche that its demise was attacked by the Economist in an editorial:

A publishing house is a business enterprise whose projects must be financially sound, but it is also a trustee of the affections of the reading public, in Britain and overseas, and of that public’s standards of taste. It is sad that George Newnes Ltd should have decided that of the three pocket monthly magazines which they publish, they should dispense with the Strand and concentrate on the publication of London Opinion and Men Only.

The Sherlock Holmes Society was founded the following year.

But the writing was on the wall for such general interest men’s magazines as commercial television took away readers and advertising. London Opinion swallowed the Humorist and then Men Only swallowed London Opinion. The only rival left was Lilliput. That closed in 1960 and Men Only turned into a top-shelf magazine.

 First issue of the New Strand in December 1961First issue of the New Strand in December 1961, showing St Mary-le-Strand

First issue of a US version of the Strand in 1999

First issue of a US version of the Strand in 1999. The cover illustrations are based on misty views around the area

A fiction magazine was launched with the title New Strand in 1961 and then another revival, this time in the US, as a quarterly Strand in 1999. But, in the new world of television and the web, neither could hold a candle to the original.

See A History of British Magazine Design from the V&A

See The Victorianist blog for a nice piece on Newnes and the Strand