Archive for the ‘1910s’ Category

British Library celebrates Russia’s revolution

March 6, 2017
A Russian revolution version of Alfred Leete's Kitchener poster and magazine cover from 1914

Russian revolutionary propaganda based on Alfred Leete’s Kitchener magazine cover

The British Library has chosen one of the many derivatives of Alfred Leete’s Kitchener image to front its latest exhibition, Russian revolution: hopes, tragedies, myths. The exhibition will also show Lenin’s handwritten application for a reader pass to the library.

British Library. Index slip recording the issue of a reader ticket for the Reading Room at the British Museum to Karl Marx

Record of the issue of a pass for the Reading Room at the British Museum to Marx

Anyone fancying seeing more Lenin relics can pop across to the Marx Memorial Library & Workers’ School in nearby Clerkenwell, where you can visit the room where Lenin worked, which has been kept as he left it. Next year marks the bicentenary of Karl Marx’s birth, which both the Marx Library and the British Library are gearing up to celebrate.

London Opinion 1914

The original magazine cover

The Kitchener image was first seen on the cover of  London Opinion magazine.  Don’t pay any attention to the British Library captioning it as a poster in an article by the historian Professor David Welch. It’s an error that people and institutions have spent a century making, from Picture Post in 1940 to the Royal Mint in 2014.

The full story of Alfred Leete’s cover illustration for London Opinion is told in the book, The Amazing Kitchener Poster.

On this day in magazines: Queen in 1962 and stale eggs for Home Chat in 1915

February 22, 2017
Queen magazine cover by Norman Parkinson from February 20, 1962. It was the 'mad Italian fashion' issue

Queen magazine cover photograph by Norman Parkinson from February 20, 1962. It was the ‘mad Italian fashion’ issue

This dramatic cover from Queen magazine of 20 February 1962 was part of a black-and-white feature on ‘mad fashion’ from Italy. Norman Parkinson’s ‘Beauty and the beetles’ photograph shows a model wearing false nails of pearl and coral by the fashion designer Irene Galitzine, famed for her ‘palazzo pajamas’ as worn by Claudia Cardinale in the 1963 film The Pink Panther. Inside, the article also showed Galitzine’s ‘smartest nutty hat in Florence’ and her Corinthian column evening dress.

The Queen had been a society weekly launched by Samuel Beeton (husband to Mrs of cookery fame), but was relaunched by Jocelyn Stevens in 1958 to become part of Swinging Sixties London. Stevens Press was based at 52 Fetter Lane, just off Fleet Street. Art editors on Queen included Mark Boxer, Tom Wolsey from Town and David Hamilton, who was lured back from Paris where he worked with Peter Knapp on Elle magazine.

Queen was later merged with Harper’s to become Harper’s & Queen, though the ‘& Queen‘ became a victim of globalisation when it was dropped by US-owned Hearst UK to standardise the magazine’s name as Harper’s Bazaar across the world.

These days, the big fashion glossies are always thought of as monthlies, but the likes of Harper’s & Queen and Vogue were published twice a month until about 1980.

Articles in this issue included George Melly on the characters of Pulham Market in Norfolk with photos by John Hedgecoe; ‘The Schweitsers: who are they?’ by Colin Macinnes; a London collections spread shot by Terence Donovan; Graham Sutherland at Coventry Cathedral; and a Frank Sinatra profile by the aristocratic Robin Douglas-Home.

In total contrast, how’s this for a cover from a wartime Home Chat of 20 February 1915? The First World War saw food shortages and high prices, and eggs must have been in short supply judging by this issue. The cover, ‘How to tell a fresh egg’, suggests holding the egg up to a candle, gas or electric light. It illustrates ‘red spots’, ‘blood rings’,  the yolk sticking to the shell or settling at the bottom, and black mold as signs that an egg is stale or bad.

Home Chat magazine cover from 1915, February 20, showing how to tell a stale eggs

Home Chat magazine cover from 1915, February 20, showing how to tell a fresh egg by looking at its insides using a candle

Home Chat was one of Alfred C. Harmsworth’s weekly launches that spawned the Amalgamated Press magazine empire. Its format was about about half way between A5 and A4. Its mix of social gossip, home hints, dress patterns, short stories, recipes and competitions kept this popular women’s weekly going from 1895 to 1959.

 


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

 

 


Festival celebrates 100 years of advertising

February 4, 2017
The Cadbury's Smash Martians

A great favourite from the 1970s: the Cadbury’s Smash Martians

The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising is to hold a festival in March celebrating its founding 100 years ago. The theme of the events will be  celebrating the most creative adverts, ‘from the PG Chimps to the Smash Martians and the Cadbury’s drumming gorilla; from Lord Kitchener’s ‘Your Country Needs You’ to John Lewis’s Buster the boxer’.

The IPA’s festival takes place over four days centred around an exhibition at the Boilerhouse, Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, London, from the 9th to the 12th of March.

Alongside the exhibition will be events such as a screening and Q&A with Oscar-winning director Sir Alan Parker; a ‘romp’ through the relationship between pop music and commercials; and a tour through the funniest ads.

A great favourite from the 1970s are the Martians developed by Boase Massimi Pollitt for Cadbury’s Smash dried potato. Those Martians were the Meerkats of their day and Cadbury’s linked up with children’s comics to promote them. Car workers at Vauxhall in Ellesmere Post and Ford in Halewood made Martian models from car parts and hawked them around the local pubs at 50p at time. The only problem was that the car parts probably cost £10!

I hope they remember that Alfred Leete’s ‘Your Country Needs You’ poster with the pointing Lord Kitchener was originally an editorial magazine cover!

 

What’s a magazine worth? Country Life

January 1, 2017
Country Life magazine front cover of Prince Charles, 12 November 2014

Country Life magazine front cover of Prince Charles, 12 November 2014

Two people have emailed me asking about Country Life. The first writes:

I have a number of editions of Country Life magazine dating from 1976 to 2015; BBC Gardener’s World most of 1992-95; about 20 editions of the Royal Horticultural Society journal Garden from 1994-95 and Gardens Illustrated from 1994 and 1995.  Most are in good condition.

And the second:

My friend has every single issue of Country Life from the mid-1960s to the present date. Are these of interest to you? If not, then any ideas? They are all in perfect condition. Located in Central London

Selling magazines on eBay

Ebay has become a massive place to sell magazines, with 700,000 on sale at the moment. Narrowing things down to Country Life, there are 2,617 copies for sale. But will they sell? In the past six months, 2,082 lots have been listed (some of these will have been listed more than once). Of these, 261 lots have sold – a rate of 13%, or about one in eight.

How much does a copy of Country Life sell for?

In terms of price, the biggest listing sold was a lot of 1,400 copies from 1989 to the present day, which fetched £100 (7p a copy). A lot of 280 issues from the 1970s fetched £75 (27p a copy). A 1927 quarterly bound volume sold for £19.99, plus £10 postage.

Country Life magazine front cover 1963 January 10

Country Life magazine front cover, 1963, January 10

In terms of single issues, the highest price was a best offer accepted against £65 on what appeared to be a copy of the first issue. I say ‘appeared to be’ because I have seen facsimile copies of the first issue – and there was nothing in the listing that would convince me it was a real first issue. This is where the expertise of the seller comes in and any buyer at such a price should ask some searching questions. Next highest price was £25 for eight separate lots.

Of the 246 copies that sold, 98 (about 40%) went for £5-10 (including postage). This would suggest that unless you are selling pre-1980s copies, and are keen to sell, £9.99 including postage should be your top offer price. Only 71 of the 246 listings (about 30%) were auctions, most were buy-it-nows.

Single issue price (inc post) No. sold
less than £3 11
£3-5 79
£5-10 98
£10-15 38
£15-20 9
£20-30 11
246

Is there a pattern in what sells well on eBay?

Yes. Pre-1955 issues achieved the best prices and are the rarest. The eight copies that sold at £25 were all published during the First World War. However, these copies appear to have been bought by the same person – it may have been a collector or it may have been someone buying for a one-off reason, for example a museum preparing for an exhibition. There is no guarantee that someone else selling the same issues would get the same price.

A 1955 three-month bound volume sold for £20 and a 1903 volume for £25 (2 bids). All the single issues that sold for £15-£20 were dated before 1946. They were all on a buy-it-now listing.

What else can the eBay data tell us?

EBay listings can have a lot of data attached to them, though some of it can be incomplete or contradictory. In the case of magazines, the year and month can be added for example, though most people do not do it. So, of the 2,082 sold listings I’m analysing, only 347 gave the year of publication. This, however, leads to an interesting finding, as we’ll see in a moment. First, the overall figures.

Country Life sales based on eBay data for 347 lots
No. listed No. sold Sold (%)
2010s 67 18 27
2000s 7 1 14
1990s 71 8 11
1980s 17 3 18
1970s 35 19 54
1960s 78 26 33
1950s 44 18 41
1940s 28 4 14
1930s 1
1900s 7
347 105 30%
All lots sold 2082 253 12%

The most popular decade in terms of number listed was the 1960s, with a third of these sold. However, the 1970s (54% sold) and 1950s (41% sold) had a better success rate. Note the figures for the 1990s – 71 listed but only an 11% success rate.

The really interesting figure comes when you compare the selling success rate – 30% – for the people who filled in the year data with the 12% success rate for all the 2082 copies sold. It seems that people who fill in the year field are three times as likely to sell their copy of Country Life! Why should this be so? It can’t be just down to a factor such as buyers searching on a year, because most sellers put that in their listing title. It is probably because these are more expert sellers. The fact that they go to the trouble of filling in the extra data points to their doing everything well.

What about the gardening titles?

First, Gardener’s World. Not a great seller simply because there are so many around – it’s been the best-seller almost since its first issue; it is well produced so lasts well; and is a comparatively new title (early 1990s launch). The most a single issue has fetched recently is £3.99 (inclusive). It’s a similar story in terms of price for the RHS’s Garden (£3.50) and Gardens Illustrated (£4.99). However, bundles of these titles do seem to be selling, for example a dozen copies for £20 plus postage (£5.50). This is better for buyers and spreads the postage cost (which can be as much as is being asked for the magazine!).

First issues of Country Life

As either a seller or buyer, be careful of first issues of Country Life – is it the real thing or a modern reproduction? The giveaway is the printing technique. Most magazines before 1950 will have been printed letterpress, with gravure for big run titles between about 1930 and 1990. The first issue of Country Life was letterpress, so should so signs of the impression of the type on the pages. Modern copies using offset lithography will be smooth.

Is Country Life worth collecting?

Country Life magazine front cover from 2009, December

Country Life magazine front cover from 2009, December

Yes. It has a long, distinguished history and is of interest to scholars in many areas as well as collectors of many goods besides magazines. The target market has always been the upper classes with grand houses, scholarly tastes and an interest in rural affairs. The advertising is of particular interest to upmarket estate agents. It is a weekly and so has always had a strong element of news and so has documented changing tastes in high society. The size of this market is limited and so sales have never been substantial – today is sells about 40,000 copies a week.

It was one of the titles that expanded the fortune of George Newnes, who had founded Tit-Bits and The Strand, when he teamed up with the printer Edward Hudson in the 1897. Gertrude Jekyll wrote the gardening column. The early issues are also of interest to architectural historians, with some excellent writers, reflecting Hudson’s own passions and love of civilised English life. Hudson was key in establishing the career of Edward Lutyens and commissioned the architect to restore Lindisfarne Castle.

The Newnes publishing company became part of IPC in the 1960s and Country Life is now published by the UK arm of the US publisher Time Inc. The company’s offices at 110 Southwark Street in Borough, London, are a stone’s throw from where Hudson had his family printing business, Hudson and Kearns, at number 83, and in nearby Hatfields. The company dates back to 1831 but was subsumed into Keliher, Hudson and Kearns, though that company no longer exists.

The early editorial offices for Country Life were in Southampton Street, Covent Garden. Today, Time Inc UK seems to be dismantling the company and has sold off many titles. It has also sold the offices and moved some magazines out to reduce costs. Country Life now has an address in a business park in Farnborough, Hants, suggesting a lack of investment in the title by its owners. However, even if this penny-pinching strategy leads to a decline in Country Life‘s fortunes, its history and contacts should enable it to attract a better owner – and its history can never be taken away. If I were the editor, I’d be trying to do a management buy-out.

To sum up

Country Life is a magazine worth selling on eBay. Pre-1990 issues can fetch a good price (£15 and upwards), but more recent copies are more likely to sell for £5-10. I haven’t noticed any particular issue selling well. There are some copies of a 2014 Prince Charles issue being offered for £30+, but I think these sellers are going to have to wait a long time.

Gardening titles are not worth spending time on and are probably better off being sold in bundles – check the weight and offer as many as you can while staying in the cheapest postal band.

The finding that people who fill out date fields for a listing are three times as likely to sell their magazine suggests that building up eBay expertise pays off.

Vogue – vague about photography

October 28, 2016
Inside Vogue book by Alexandra Shulman marks the magazine's centenary year

Inside Vogue by Alexandra Shulman marks the magazine’s centenary year

Inside Vogue: A Diary of My 100th Year came out this week with editor Alexandra Shulman writing about the magazine’s celebration of 100 years since the first issue of British Vogue – known in the trade as ‘Brogue’. Incredibly, she’s been at the helm for 24 of those years.

She was asked on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour about that first issue and came across as a tad vague. She remarked that it was then a society magazine rather than a fashion magazine and that ‘there were no photographs, of course’. Why ‘of course’?

Photography was well established and the Graphic had been reproducing half-tones for 30 years. Its four-page supplement in 1884, ‘An amateur photographer at the zoo’ is one of the first examples of photographic reportage.

Could it be that ‘of course, Vogue is always slow to follow the trends’? Or perhaps ‘of course, Vogue simply didn’t like photographs’. It did not run its first photographic cover until 1932.


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

 


 

Was Kitchener’s poster effective? Ask Winston Churchill

July 6, 2016
Churchill's Great War partwork from 1933

The third part of Churchill’s Great War partwork from 1933

There has been a theory promulgated by the Imperial War Museum and various writers that the iconic ‘Your Country Needs You’ poster was not very effective in driving recruitment in the First World War and some have even questioned its very existence. The British Library repeats the claims and describes it as an ‘advertisment’, a mistaken description that has been repeated by, among others, Wikipedia and in a concert programme from the London Symphony Orchestra.

One of the features of the book Kitchener wants You, which I wrote with Martyn Thatcher, is a timeline of images that track the poster’s use, and its many derivatives, over the past century. However, I did not come across any examples in the 1930s, until I found a copy of The Great War, a 1933 partwork by Winston Churchill that was published by George Newnes.

The Kitchener poster shown in the third part of Churchill's Great War partwork in 1933

The Kitchener poster shown in the third part of the Great War partwork in 1933

Page 132 of the third part, above, shows the poster with a credit to the Imperial War Museum. The caption reads:

A FAMOUS RECRUITING POSTER.
Lord Kitchener’s recruiting campaign in 1914 was carried out with characteristic driving force. Every town and village up and down the country was placarded with posters urging men to join the colours for the duration of the war. The illustration above was reproduced from one of the most effective of all posters in use at that time.

So, Churchill’s partwork claims that it was ‘one of the most effective of all posters’. Kitchener wants You shows three photographs of the poster, in Liverpool, Chester and Ulster. There is a fourth image, from Cork in Ireland, thar also shows the poster on a wall.

So, Churchill reckons it was effective and there are at least four photographs of the poster in use. That should settle the argument.

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

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