Archive for the ‘1920s’ Category

Women’s magazines – a 5-volume history on the way

December 9, 2016
Cover of Womens Periodicals and Culture from Edinburgh University Press

Women’s Periodicals and Print Culture to come from Edinburgh University Press

Edinburgh University Press is working on a five-volume series edited by Jackie Jones with the title ‘The Edinburgh History of Women’s Periodical Culture in Britain’. The series aims ‘to make a particular contribution to the “turn” to periodical studies over the last decade by giving due prominence to the history of women’s periodical culture in Britain’.

Due out next autumn is Women’s Periodicals and Print Culture in Britain, 1918-1939: The Interwar Period. This is being edited by Catherine Clay (Nottingham Trent University), Maria DiCenzo (Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada), Barbara Green (University of Notre Dame in the US) and Fiona Hackney (formerly Falmouth, now at Wolverhampton University). The press’s catalogue describes the volume:

New perspectives on women’s print media in interwar Britain by experts in media, literary and cultural history. This collection of new essays recovers and explores a neglected archive of women’s print media and dispels the myth of the interwar decades as a retreat to ‘home and duty’ for women. Women produced magazines and periodicals ranging in forms and appeal from highbrow to popular, private circulation to mass-market and radical to reactionary. The 1920s and 1930s gave rise to a plurality of new challenges and opportunities for women as consumers, workers and citizens, as well as wives and mothers. By restoring to view and analysing the print media which served as the vehicles for debates about the arts, modern life, politics, economics and women’s roles in all these spheres, this collection makes a major contribution to revisionist scholarship on the interwar period.

The book’s cover shows an issue of Woman’s Outlook, a magazine produced from 1919 to 1967 by the Co-operative Women’s Guild in Manchester.
October 2017; 448 pages; 44 b&w illustrations; 16 colour illustrations; hardback 978 1 4744 1253 7; £150.
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Winnie-the-Pooh has a Home Chat

June 27, 2016
'Christopher Robin's Braces' by EH Shepard sold at Sotheby's for £68,500

‘Christopher Robin’s Braces’ by EH Shepard sold at Sotheby’s for £68,500

Winnie-the-Pooh has been a favourite of children (and adults) all over the world since AA Milne’s books were published in the 1920s, with their black-and-white line drawings by EH Shepard. The bumbling, philosophical, bear first saw the light of print in a poem in When We Were Very Young (1924) and this was followed by a collection of stories, Winnie-the-Pooh, two years later and then the House at Pooh Corner in 1928. All were illustrated by Shepard.

Forty-odd years later, Shepard was approached by Methuen, the publishers, to provide colour for his original black and white drawings. But the coloured drawing above – which sold for £68,500 at Sotheby’s three years ago  – dates back to the first publication of House at Pooh Corner, and is one of six prints that were commissioned for a weekly women’s magazine, Home Chat, in 1928.

Colour prints of the drawings were given away with copies of Home Chat from the issue dated 6 October 1928. They were described as ‘Six incidents in the lives of Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh specially drawn in colour by Ernest H. Shepard’.

Sotheby’s described the drawing, with an intriguing colourful comment, so:

The scene represented in this present drawing is one recalled by Piglet at the conclusion of chapter four of the House at Pooh Corner (‘In which it is shown that Tiggers don’t climb trees’). Tigger and Roo are stuck in a pine tree and Christopher Robin proposes to remove his tunic so that Roo and Tigger can jump into it. Piglet fails to listen to the entire plan for he was “so agog at the thought of seeing Christopher Robin’s blue braces again. He had only seen them once before, when he was much younger, and, being a little over-excited by them, had had to go to bed half an hour earlier than usual; and he had always wondered since if they were really as blue and as bracing as he had thought them…” Shepard has used a light green for Christopher Robin’s braces which is, presumably, a joke.

The ink and watercolour drawing is signed with Shepard’s initials and measures 130 by 186mm.

Winnie the Pooh appeared exclusively in colour in six 1928 issues of Home Chat

Winnie-the-Pooh appeared exclusively in colour in six 1928 issues of Home Chat

Along with ‘Christopher Robin’s Braces’ (an incident from chapter 4 in the the House at Pooh Corner), other prints in the Home Chat series included: ‘Christopher Robin has a Little Something at Eleven’ (one of Pooh’s favourite things to do is to have ‘a little smackerel of something’ at around eleven, and, funnily enough, his clock is always stopped at five to eleven); This exclusive series of prints must have been a real boon for sales, and is the sort of clever marketing on the part of Amalgamated Press that women’s magazines seem to have lost the knack of.

Also in the Sotheby’s sale was a preliminary pencil drawing, unsigned, of the Pooh Sticks game, ‘For a Long Time They Looked at the River Beneath Them…’. This fetched £58,750. And ‘A Happy Christmas To You All’ went for £32,500.

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 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

Alfred Leete’s advertising characters

March 29, 2016
Alfred Leete's Father William character in London Opinion advertising (1927) for Younger's Scotch Ale

Alfred Leete’s Father William character in London Opinion advertising (1927) for Younger’s Scotch Ale

Alfred Leete was a regular on London Opinion magazine and drew the most famous image of the 20th century – the Lord Kitchener ‘Your Country Needs You’ cover that became the famous poster. No doubt that image will soon be all over the media again as the centenary of Kitchener’s death approaches in June (and I’ve written a book on the Kitchener poster coming out next month from Uniform Press).

Leete was an artist on the George Newnes title from at least 1910. He also did a lot of advertising work and, aside from Kitchener, this led to probably his most famous character – Father William – for William Younger’s Scotch Ale.

Younger’s illustrated adverts in the early 1920s focused on characters who might drink the ale, as several examples from the Shut Up About Barclay Perkins blog show:

William Younger advertising for its Scotch Ale in 1923 from the Nottingham Evening Post

William Younger advertising for its Scotch Ale in 1923

Newspaper cuttings from the Nottingham Evening Post on the same blog suggest Leete’s Father William being used in 1924:

Nottingham Evening Post cutting shows Alfred Leete's Father William character for William Younger Scotch Ale in December 1924

This Nottingham Evening Post cutting shows Leete’s Father William character in December 1924

In 1927, this Lever advert appeared on the back page of All Sports magazine.

Alfred Leete 1927 Lever advert on the back page of All Sports magazine

Alfred Leete 1927 Lever advert on the back page of All Sports magazine

So, Leete was clearly an expert in creating character in print.

Alfred Leete's 1924 Father William character is still used for William Younger's Best beer from Charles Wells today

Alfred Leete’s Father William used today

In the 1930s, Younger’s merged with McEwan’s as Scottish Brewers, which ended up as Scottish & Newcastle in the 1960s. That fell into the hands of  Heineken and the brand is today part of Bedford-based Wells & Young’s.

Incredibly, Leete’s Father William character has retained its appeal since 1924 and graces the pumps for William Younger’s Best to this day.

>> Kitchener, the man and the poster, from Uniform Press in June

 

The surprising revival of Hitler and Mussolini

February 4, 2016
Mussolini writes for the right-wing Britannia magazine in 1927

Mussolini writes for the launch issue of the right-wing Britannia magazine in 1928

This year’s republished edition of Hitler’s Mein Kampf has been a sell-out in Germany – and has led to Mussolini’s publishers jumping on the bandwagon. The book has been banned there since the war, but Mein Kampf was serialised as a part work in Britain at the start of the conflict with the royalties going to the Red Cross.

Such has been the trumpeting in Germany that there’s even talk of demolishing Goering’s old home to prevent it becoming a rallying point for neo-Nazis. The farce of Nazi worship was well shown up by the saga over the Hitler’s diaries back in 1980 – and by Monty Python in its Mr Hilter sketches! The Robert Harris book Selling Hitler: The Story of the Hitler Diaries is brilliant at dissecting how the likes of Stern magazine and the Sunday Times were duped.

Of course, Mussolini is less known as a writer than Hitler, but as you can see with the above cover of Britannia from 1928, he did venture into print and the two pages of the article, ‘My life’  are shown below. The standfirst suggests that Gilbert Frankau, the editor, a poet and novelist, who had started writing as an officer in the Great War for The Wipers Times, was a big supporter of Italy’s fascist leader:

Here, Benito Mussolini, indubitably the greatest figure of post-war Europe, reveals from his own pen his own life. That it is my privilege to be the first to give these pages to the British public is, I think, one of the highest auguries for Britannia‘s success – G.F.

My Life by Benito Mussolini

‘My Life’ by Benito Mussolini

The caption to the portrait by (Edmond) Kapp suggests Mussolini must have liked the work because it states it was the only one he ever signed.

My Life by Benito Mussolini - with Il Duce's writing reproduced

My Life by Benito Mussolini – with Il Duce’s writing reproduced

Other writers pushed on the cover included Arnold Bennett – ‘the Edwardian David Bowie’ according to the BBC – and former Conservative chancellor Lord Birkenhead.

 

Pulp fiction and off-the-shelf thriller plots

December 31, 2015
Miles Jupp on pulp writer William Wallace Cook and Plotto, his 'Master Book of All Plots'

Miles Jupp expounds on US pulp writer William Wallace Cook and Plotto, his ‘Master Book of All Plots’

Miles Jupp set out on BBC Radio 4 this morning to answer the question: How many stories are there in the world? In Miles Jupp and the Plot Device he investigates the ideas of William Wallace Cook, an American writer of pot-boilers and stories for pulp fiction magazines in the 1920s. According to Cook there were 1,462 plots and he laid them all out in Plotto, his ‘Master Book of All Plots’, in 1928.

Any writer stuck for inspiration could leaf through Plotto to discover plots like ‘a ventriloquist, captured by savages and threatened with death, makes an animal talk and is given his freedom’ or ‘a reporter, writing up an imaginary interview as fact, quotes a man as being in town on a certain day. The man, subsequently accused of a crime, establishes an alibi through an interview innocently faked by the reporter.’

Cook hailed his own book as ‘an invention which reduces literature to an exact science’ and it worked for him, turning out up to 50 novels a year. Perry Mason creator Earl Stanley Gardner is mentioned as having ‘borrowed liberally’ from Plotto and Alfred Hitchcock had a copy. Jub reckons that pulp plots cover just about every episode of both Downton Abbey and Mad Men.

Jupp enlists the help of crime writers Val McDermid and John Harvey in his investigation. Harvey has written more than 100 thrillers. McDermid – writer of 40 books – reckons thrillers are character-driven, rather than by plot, which is why Plotto falls down for her. However, she does reckon it has a role in prompting plot ideas.

Such writers filled the pages of the popular weekly and monthly magazines in Britain and the US for most of the 20th century; the serials were then turned into books (and the other way round when the writers became popular). Cook’s output pales into insignificance when compared with the most prolific British writers – Ursula Bloom (560 romance novels in her 91 years), Barbara Cartland (359 romances in 98 years) and King Kong inventor Edgar Wallace, regarded as the most widely read author in the world in the 1920s with 170 novels (but then he died while working on the film King Kong at the age of just 57).  Presumably, they just got on with writing and never read any books!

You can still hear Miles Jupp and the Plot Device on the BBC website. Or, better still, pop into the Edgar Wallace pub off Fleet Street for a New Year pint and listen to it on your laptop.

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

Merry Christmas – from ‘Mother Christmas’

December 25, 2015

 

 

 

Wartime woolly reality for Hocknell’s charming children

October 25, 2015
Lilian Hocknell and two of her charming children on the cover of Home magazine in March 1927

Lilian Hocknell and two of her charming children in an illustration on the cover of Home magazine in March 1927

Lilian Hocknell was renowned for her drawings of charming children, but I found it difficult to imagine children being dressed with so many perfectly-arranged woolly layers, as on the Home magazine cover above. Then, I came across the wartime Woman’s World cover from 1940, below. And there it all is, 13 years later the complete outfit to knit at home on the cover of a weekly woman’s magazine! The only thing is, it’s for a boy.

The real thing - Hocknell's children come to life on the cover of Woman's World in January 1940

The real thing – Hocknell’s children come to life on the cover of Woman’s World in January 1940

Needlecraft and the craft of the magazine

September 12, 2015

 

‘Mother Christmas’ cover for Needlewoman magazine from December 1925

‘Mother Christmas’ cover for Needlewoman magazine from December 1925

Needlecraft. Now there’s a topic I know next to nothing about. As children though, we sat around a table every Christmas with a tablecloth that had been decorated with colourful robins and holly by my maternal grandmother. She had been in one of the Dublin orphanages run by nuns where the girls were trained to make and repair linen for the city hotels and later worked as a seamstress for a tailor in Prescot, just outside Liverpool. Her fingers could do magic with a needle.

It was a world of tracing and transfers, often found free in magazines such as Needlewoman. Magazine formats like this were pioneered by Samuel Beeton – husband of cookery’s Mrs Beeton – with the Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine from 1852. Beeton’s Book of Needlework was published in 1870 (though Isabella was just a brand name by then, having died five years earlier). The quality of work such magazines encouraged is superb, as I saw when leafing through copies of the Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine at the V&A’s National Art Library when researching my forthcoming book on magazine design.

Needlewoman magazine was printed and published by Tillotsons in Mealhouse Lane in Bolton. The company also had an office at 23 Fleet Street in London, where it used an advertising agency, Sells Ltd. The magazine was probably an offshoot of the Bolton News group, certainly the paper was founded by the Tillotsons and based in Mealhouse Lane from 1860.

The illustration for the ‘Mother Christmas’ cover above is reminiscent of the work that would usually be seen on Vogue at the time, but is not credited. One of the projects inside, a fish-shaped bag, seems in contrast to Christmas theme cover, but provides a superb graphic spread with the same-size pattern (one half of the spread is shown here). This was the Art Deco era. How many of these bags were made up I wonder?

Needlewoman fish purse design from 1925

Needlewoman fish purse design from 1925

Needlewoman merged with Needlecraft Practical Journal to become Needlewoman and Needlecraft, which was published into the 1970s. Copies are regularly traded on eBay and at craft fairs. Craftylittlebugger is one of the many people inspired by such magazines, whose contents are finding a new lease of life. Her wartime copy of Needlecraft shows a ‘beautiful bit of bias binding’ that caught her attention. Her issue is just over A5 in size – half the page size of my 1925 issue because of wartime paper rationing – but, as Craftylittlebugger says, it ‘packs quite a punch’.

Magazines from Bolton are rare, but in the 1920s Lancashire was still at the heart of the cotton and spinning industry and there were big advertisers such as Clark’s whose marketing for ‘Anchor’ thread below would have been vital it keeping the magazine profitable. The Anchor thread brand is still going as part of the Coats group, which traces itself back 250 years to the Clark brothers and weavers in Paisley, Scotland. The wealth of Lancashire from the industrial revolution was on display this year at 2 Temple Place in the Cotton to Gold exhibition.

Colour advert for Clark's 'Anchor' thread on the back cover of Needlewoman

Colour advert for Clark’s ‘Anchor’ thread on the back cover of Needlewoman

These crafts have made a huge comeback, and magazine publishers have spotted the trend. Hachette found itself in a ‘crochet part work hell’ a few years ago when it misjudged demand for its Art of Crochet part work. Copies of the Art of Crochet now sell on eBay for up to £5 each and individual patterns for £1. The century-old Woman’s Weekly has produced a Vintage View spin-off carrying past articles and Pretty Nostalgic is now in its fourth year of publication and has built up an industry around itself.

One of the Needlewoman articles carries the quote: ‘The thing of beauty is a joy forever’. How true.

The Lady – out of racy Vie Parisienne

May 7, 2015
Retro artwork for The Lady magazine from 27 March 2015

Retro artwork for The Lady magazine from 27 March 2015

The Lady promotes itself as ‘England’s longest running weekly magazine for women’, having been in continuous publication since 1885 (DC Thomson’s People’s Friend out of Dundee holds the British record, dating from 1869 – in fact, it lays claim to being oldest women’s weekly magazine in the world). Furthermore, The Lady tells me, the magazine is ‘celebrated both for the quality of its editorial pages and its classified advertisements’ (it has long had the reputation as being the place to go to find a nanny). The Lady is ‘for elegant women with elegant minds’.

I was reading the issue above as I sat in the dentist this morning (no more Punch or Reader’s Digest). I was struck by the cover. Clearly, an illustration that has been lifted from a magazine dating from a century ago, when women had the time to line the walls of their houses with bowers of flowers, or at least inspired by one.

Then, blow me down, this afternoon I come across the original manifestation, for the racy French weekly Vie Parisienne. It’s been flipped, put through Photoshop with the colours hardened up and the artist’s monogram (GL – Georges Léonnec) removed, but it’s the same cover nevertheless. The cover line has also gone, Renouveau – renewal, in keeping with the Spring theme.

Racy French weekly Vie Parisienne from 1926

Racy French weekly Vie Parisienne from April 1926

The issue dates from 1926, the days of Art Deco and Jazz. This was very much the heyday of Vie Parisienne, which was famed for its artistic pin-ups. It was founded in 1863, before even People’s Friend, but closed in about 1970. Although there is still a French title of that name, it’s now pornographic and bears no relation to the original. And, just as Le Charivari had inspired Punch, so Vie Parisienne inspired London Life.

There’s a long history of magazines using each others’ cover ideas, though what the stately readers of The Lady in 1926 would have thought of these men’s magazines does not bear thinking about.