Archive for the ‘1930s’ Category

Gracie Fields sings for Woman’s World

April 20, 2017
Songs ‘Our Gracie’ Sings from 1933 included a flattering pencil portrait of Gracie and included stills from her films

‘Songs “Our Gracie” Sings’ from Woman’s World in 1933

Sally in Our Alley was a film by Radio Pictures in 1931, and it turned Gracie Fields from a music hall star into a film star, singing her signature song, Sally. ‘Our Gracie’ was also one of the biggest radio stars of the era. Woman’s World, a weekly magazine from Amalgamated Press, recognised this popularity and published at least three Gracie song books from 1933 to 1938 as giveaways with the magazine.

Portrait of Grace Fields form Radio Pictures in the song book

Portrait of Grace Fields from Radio Pictures in the song book

The booklet here, Songs ‘Our Gracie’ Sings from 1933 included a flattering pencil portrait of Gracie and stills from her films, Sally in Our Alley and Looking on the Bright Side. The cover photograph was by Eric Gray. Fields was famed for her Northern accent, and the song book included two songs, ‘Ee-By-Gum’ and ‘Stop and Shop at the Co-op Shop’, that reflected her heritage.

Fields was born above her grandmother’s fish-and-chip shop in Rochdale, but lost her British citizenship when she married the Italian director Monty Banks in 1940. The British authorities then refused to give her a passport at the end of the war, even though she had entertained the troops as a volunteer. No such problems for Vera Lynn.

A First World War Woman's World bases its cover on on 'Sally in Our Alley'

A First World War Woman’s World with a ‘Sally in Our Alley’ cover

The film, Sally in Our Alley, took its title from an 18th century poem that became a popular song during the First World War. And Woman’s World magazine was part of the spread of that song’s fame – a year before a British silent film of the same name was released.

The 27 February 1915 issue of ‘The favourite paper of a million homes’ carried the music and lyrics and featured a cover devoted to the song. ‘Sally in Our Alley’ by H. Gregory Hill took its first stanza from a poem by Henry Carey (1687–1743).

The poem was set to music on p177:

Of all the girls that are so smart
There’s none like little Sally,
She is the darling of my heart,
And she lives in our alley.

Oh, when I’m dressed in all my best
To walk abroad with Sally;
She is the darling of my heart,
And she dwells in our alley.

Stills from Gracie Fields' films in the song book

Stills from Gracie Fields’ films in the Woman’s World song book

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.

The Red Poppy in Scotland in 1931

November 7, 2016
Red Poppy was a fundraising magazine produced in Glasgow

Red Poppy was a fundraising magazine produced in Glasgow

The Red Poppy is a rare and unusual magazine. It was produced for several years by the West of Scotland committees of the Earl Haig Fund to raise funds for disabled veterans. It is not dated by month, but will presumably have come out in the run-up to Remembrance Sunday.

The poppy was adopted in the early 1920s by the British and Canadian Legions as the symbol of remembrance of World War One, inspired by the Canadian surgeon John McCrae with his poem ‘In Flanders Fields’. Lady Haig established a poppy factory in Edinburgh in 1926. Both the Haig Fund and the poppy factory are still active.

Charles Davidson's signature

Glasgow artist Charles Davidson’s signature

The cover is by the magazine’s staff artist, Charles L Davidson. It shows the positions of the Allied and German lines on three dates during the Great War and marks the sites of the greatest battles during the conflict in France.

Davidson studied at Glasgow School of Art and served in the war as a captain in the Seaforth Highlanders. Davidson also produced several posters for the war effort that aimed to encourage men at the front to salvage materials.

This logo was used as a strap on the pages of Red Poppy magazine

This logo was used as a strap on the pages of Red Poppy

Among the magazine’s cartoonists were Charles Allen Oakley, who took the name Ochre as his nom de crayon; Arthur Ferrier, who drew for Blighty magazine in the First World War and would do so again in the Second World War; T Grainger Jeffrey; and Berwick painter Frank Watson Wood, who painted the surrendered German fleet at Scapa Flow in 1918.

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

Kitchener, Ernest Noble and the Nignog Club

April 25, 2016
First issue of Kitchener's Army & the Territorial Forces from 1915 written by Edgar Wallace

First issue of Kitchener’s Army & the Territorial Forces from 1915 written by Edgar Wallace

Pick up a magazine and you never know where you’ll end up next. A copy of the first issue of the 6-part Kitchener’s Army & the Territorial Forces arrives in the post. This was a part work published by George Newnes, probably starting in January 1915, though it does not carry a date.  It was written by Fleet Street legend Edgar Wallace.

Magazine's back page advert for Fry's Cocoa by Ernest Noble

Magazine’s back page advert for Fry’s Cocoa drawn by Ernest Noble, which carried the acknowledgement ‘by kind permission of the Northern Echo’

On the back cover is an advert for Fry’s Cocoa drawn by Ernest Noble, which carried the acknowledgement ‘by kind permission of the Northern Echo‘. A search on Noble and the Echo took me to a website about the comedians Morecambe and Wise – and a page dedicated to Ernie Wise and the Nignog Club! As it says:

It is a well recorded fact that Ernie Wise was part of a variety concert party in his youth. Its name has gone into Morecambe and Wise folk law, and is often spoken in hushed tones. It was known as the Nig Nog club, and in these days of political correctness and over-eager internet filters, it’s not a phrase you type into Google with carefree abandon.

The site explains on a page based on material from reporter Chris Lloyd that the club originated in County Durham and was launched by the Darlington-based Northern Echo in 1929 as the Nig-Nog Ring, a children’s club. The ‘Chief Ringers’ were Uncle Mac, BBC broadcaster Derek McCulloch who hosted Children’s Hour, and Uncle Ernest, the Noble of my query who it turns out was from Darlington.

The Oxford English Dictionary cites Beale Partridge’s Dictionary of Slang suggesting that the word was found in army contexts in the sense ‘fool’ from the late 19th century (a ‘nigmenog’) and as a ‘raw recruit’ from c1925. It also notes a possible connection with the Nig-Nog children’s clubs run by local newspapers, ‘following the model of the children’s page of a Birmingham newspaper’, the Evening Dispatch of 1 November 1929:

My Dear Children, I am sure you must be getting awfully excited … about becoming members of the Children’s Ring … The girls will be called ‘Nigs’ and the boys will be called ‘Nogs’ — and if any of you are twins there will be a special name for you. You will be called ‘Nig-Nogs’!

But this policy was changed a few days later:

After Uncle Ernest and I … talked yesterday … we made up our minds that you should all be called Nignogs, so that there will not be any distinction at all between girls and boys.

I leave the Northern Echo and the Evening Dispatch to argue over who came up with the idea. However, ‘uncles’ running children’s cartoons were a traditional form in newspapers – the Daily Mirror‘s ‘Pip, Squeak and Wilfred’ were incredibly popular from their founding in the early 1920s, for example.

The Northern Echo is a legendary paper, the place where Sunday Times and Times editor Harry Evans made his name, and before him Ted Pickering, a 1950s editor of the Daily Express, and WT Stead, who as editor of the Pall Mall Gazette was one of the great Victorian crusading journalists and who died on the Titanic. Unfortunately, the Evening Dispatch is no more.

The Lord Kitchener poster

Britain’s national newspapers

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.

 

Arsenal legend Eddie Hapgood – and son

December 9, 2015
Eddie Hapgood, the England and Arsenal captain, on the cover of Weekly Illustrated in 1934 with his son, Tony

Eddie Hapgood, the England and Arsenal captain, on the cover of Weekly Illustrated in 1934 with his son, Tony

Far be it for me to plug an Arsenal player, but this Weekly Illustrated cover from 22 August 1934 of Eddie Hapgood, the England and Gooner defender, has a certain charm to it, with his son Tony beside him. Note the armour-plated shinpads for protection against the opposition’s heavy leather boots – and there should have been head guards against the Christmas-pudding weight of the leather balls on wet days, particularly if you headed a badly-laced-up ball.

Hapgood's autobiography cover

Hapgood’s autobiography cover

The same photograph was used for the cover of a 2009 paperback of Hapgood’s autobiography, Football Ambassador. The photo was taken in the run-up to the start of the 1934-35 season – which saw Arsenal win the league title for the third time on the trot. Hapgood was one of the seven Gunners in the England team that won the ‘Battle of Highbury’ international against Italy on 14 November with a 3-2 scoreline. Goal.com is running a countdown of the top 50 English players and Hapgood is at number 36:

One of the shrewdest signings legendary manager Herbert Chapman ever made was that of left-back Eddie Hapgood, who became a key figure in the great Arsenal side of the 1930s that dominated English football like no club had done before. He became known as the ‘ambassador of football’ – later the title of his autobiography – and is still regarded by many as the greatest left-back in Arsenal’s history.

Note Hapgood’s slick haircut – must be a jar of Brylcreem on that (though I see that Brian Glanville identifies another Arsenal hero, Denis Compton, as the ‘Brylcreem boy’ in 1942).

Tony Hapgood grew up to play for Burnley and Watford in the 1950s.

Stefan Lorant would have been editor of Weekly Illustrated for Odhams Press at this time – it was another four years before he launched Picture Post for Hulton.

Arf-a-mo, Bert Thomas decides it’s time for a Christmas tree

December 5, 2015
The Goose Step: Christmas number of the Humorist for 1939 with a Bert Thomas cover

The Goose-Step: Christmas number of the Humorist for 1939 with a Bert Thomas cover

Bert Thomas was one of the most famous illustrators of the First World War – renowned for the grinning Tommy lighting a pipe with the caption ‘Arf a Mo’, Kaiser!

So the weekly Humorist turned to the veteran artist for its first Christmas number of the Second World War. ‘The Goose-Step’ was the result, with the Tommy bringing back a Christmas tree and goose to Estaminet – French for The Tavern. The look in his eye suggests he knows the woman’s waiting for him.

The soldier was probably understood to be a member of the 158,000-strong, but poorly-equipped, British Expeditionary Force, which was sent to France in September 1939. It was stationed on the Belgian–French border until Germany’s blitzkrieg ended what had been called the ‘phoney war’ in May 1940.

It was the Humorist‘s first wartime Christmas cover – and its last. Paper rationing led to the Humorist becoming a small-format monthly before being merged into London Opinion, a sister magazine at George Newnes.

From 1905, the British Cartoon Archive notes, Thomas began drawing for Punch, a link that continued until 1948. He also drew for London Opinion from 1909 until 1954, when that magazine was merged into Men Only. London Opinion is today famed for publishing one of the few cover illustrations more famous than Thomas’s  ‘Arf a Mo’, Kaiser! This was Alfred Leete’s ‘Your Country Needs You’, which became the Great War recruiting poster of Kitchener.

Bert Thomas’s signature is shown below.

>>A History of British Magazine Design by Anthony Quinn (May 2016)

Bert Thomas's signature from the Humorist, 25 December 1939

Bert Thomas’s signature from the Humorist, 25 December 1939

Photojournalism and photomontage in the 1930s

December 2, 2015
Weekly Illustrated magazine pioneered photojournalism (3 March 1936)

Weekly Illustrated magazine pioneered photojournalism (3 March 1936)

The 1930s saw a revolution in photojournalism in British weekly magazines with German pioneers using Leica 35mm cameras. The leader of the trend was Weekly Illustrated, under the editorship of Stefan  Lorant, who had worked on Münchner Illustrierte Presse before being forced to flee Germany. In London, he confirmed his place as one of the most influential editors of the 20th century.

Lorant relaunched Clarion magazine for Odhams as the large format Weekly Illustrated in 1934, and went on to launch both Lilliput (1937) and Picture Post (1938). He turned to his old colleagues who had also left Nazi Germany, including  Felix Man and Kurt Hutton. They had rejected bulky plate cameras and flash guns in favour of Leicas and available light, a technique that produced much more natural-looking images. The techniques were taken up in the US, by Life two years later.

The cover of Weekly Illustrated above from 3 March 1936 is also notable for its use of photomontage, which was also developed in Germany, particularly through the work of the Dadaist John Heartfield. The magazine cover uses at least three photographs: Edward VIII, the liner and the shipyard workers. Behind the liner is the gigantic Titan crane at the Clydebank shipyard, which can still be seen at the site. Spot red has been used to colour the Queen Mary’s funnels and a tint of this for the faces and the hair on two of the men.

As with so many magazines at the time, Weekly Illustrated was printed using photogravure by Sun printers in Watford. It took over Passing Show in 1939, to become Illustrated and was the main competitor for Lorant’s Picture Post, which it outlived, closing in 1958.

>>Weekly magazines

>>The Secrets of Magazine Cover Design

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

 

Diana Rigg vamps it up as Agatha Christie’s ‘evil’ victim

October 31, 2015

 

Evil victim: Diana Rigg on the cover of the Sunday Times Magazine, 28 February 1982

Evil victim: a vampish Diana Rigg on the cover of the Sunday Times Magazine, 28 February 1982

Diana Rigg – as Emma Peel in The Avengers – has recently trounced glamour pin-ups Joan Collins and Marilyn Monroe as the most sought-after magazine cover star with an eBay buyer paying £147 for a TV magazine featuring her.

This 1982 Sunday Times Magazine supplement cover is from later in her career when she played the ill-fated temptress Arlena Marshall in a TV version of Agatha Christie’s 1934 detective novel Evil Under the Sun, featuring the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, played by Peter Ustinov.

And how much would this go for? Well, there’s a copy on eBay at present priced at £25.