Archive for the ‘Amalgamated Press’ Category

What does a Bolshevik look like?

October 30, 2017
Portrait of a rabid Bolshevik by Charles Sargeant Jagger on the cover of War Illustrated in January 1919

Portrait of a ‘frenzied fanatic’ Bolshevik by Charles Sargeant Jagger on the cover of War Illustrated in January 1919

War Illustrated magazine left its readers in no doubt where its stood on the prospects of Russia in the control of the Bolsheviks after the 1917 revolution. This ranting maniac was portrayed on the weekly magazine’s front cover for 11 January, 1919, by CS Jagger. Inside, Sir Sidney Low wrote about the revolutionaries as ‘frenzied fanatics’.

I take this illustration to be by Charles Sargeant Jagger, one of the pre-eminent sculptors of the early 20th century. He served with the Artists’ Rifles in the First World War and created several war memorials – most notably the Royal Artillery Memorial at Hyde Park Corner (1925). There is a British Pathe film of Jagger at work.

Sir Sidney Low was a journalist during the war and edited the wireless service of the Ministry of Information. He had been knighted the year before.

War Illustrated‘s editor at Amalgamated Press was John Hammerton, one of Alfred Harmsworth’s most successful editors. War Illustrated was relaunched as New Illustrated after the war.

 


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

 

 

 


 

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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

On this day in magazines: Magazines try to change their names in 1920 and 1959

February 28, 2017
Record Weekly was the new title for New Illustrated in 1920

Record Weekly was the new title for New Illustrated in 1920

Two magazines here demonstrate a similar approach to refocusing a magazine on a new audience – though exactly 39 years apart. One failed, one worked.

The first, New Illustrated of 28 February 1920, had already changed its name on 15 February the year before from War Illustrated. Now it was changing to The Record Weekly. Quite a challenge for a weekly magazine. And it did not work. Despite one of the most acclaimed editors of the era, John Hammerton, being in charge at Amalgamated Press, the biggest publisher of the era, the last issue was dated March 20. Clearly, it a was desperate change that was given little time to succeed.

Blighty Parade magazine was a step in changing the title from Blighty to Parade (1959, February 28)

Blighty Parade was a step in changing the title from Blighty to Parade (1959, February 28)

In 1959, the magazine environment was changing quickly. A men’s weekly magazine that still had a military feel – Blighty – needed to change tack and respond to the threat from television and the new men’s magazines such as Spick and Span. Blighty had been founded as a free weekly for the troops in the First World War, and the idea was resurrected for WWII.

The magazine had long run a feature called ‘Picture Parade’ and some bright spark reckoned ‘Blighty’ was outdated as a name. So Parade it would be. However, simply changed the name was regarded as too big a step. So, a plan was put in place to do it in stages over several years:

  • 1959: The name becomes Blighty Parade, at first with the Parade very small.
  • By the end of February 1959 , they were about an equal weight.
  • This continued until November, when the Parade dominated, but the Blighty was retained throughout 1960.
  • By January 1961, the Blighty was dropped and the Parade title was run right across the top of the cover and down the left side.

This change was obviously done far more slowly than on Record Weekly. The strategy worked, with Parade soldiering on into 1970. It became more aggressive in its pin-ups, with topless shots in each issue. However, the likes of Penthouse, Mayfair and Playboy were even more aggressive and Parade folded. The title was bought by a pornographic publisher and continued on the top shelf.

 


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

 


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

 

 


On this day in magazines: Top Spot in 1958

February 14, 2017
Top Spot magazine with a self referential cover design for 14 February 1959

Top Spot magazine with a self referential cover design for 14 February 1959

The 1950s marked a period when men’s magazines began to differentiate themselves more strongly, a trend that is evident in this copy of Top Spot from 14 February 1960. Note that storyline across the top of the title – The paper with man appeal!

In fact, Top Spot was aimed at teenagers with a mix of fiction, strip cartoons, pin-ups and war and adventure stories.

Amalgamated Press offered ‘Pictures! Punch! and Action!’ from the first issue in October 1958, but January the following year saw pin-ups like that of Michele Manning above dominate the covers. The 14 February is notable for having a self-referential cover, whereby Manning is shown with a copy of Top Spot from the previous month.

Other features in the issue included a centre pin-up page of Mara Corday; several page cartoon strips, such as Slave Girl Tsarina, the St Valentine’s Day massacre and Fabian of the Yard presents Manhunt; and a back page pin-up.

New title design and a cartoon strip cover for Top Spot of 28 November 1959

New title design and a cartoon strip cover for Top Spot in November 1959

Top Spot‘s fortunes can’t have been helped, however, by the printing strike in the summer of 1959 when it would not have come out for six or more issues. It was bad news for magazine publishers, but the printers established the 40-hour week, which would become standard for most British workers over the next decade.

The pin-up strategy does not seem to have worked either. In October, it switched to a strip cartoon cover.

There were more changes for the November 28 issue, which had a new title design and a cartoon strip ‘The Day the Seventh Died’ about the US cavalry’s battles with native tribes. The emphasis was on ‘stories, pics and humour’. Unfortunately, this was no more successful and the last issue was in January 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

 


Magazine covers that used the same artwork

December 14, 2016

Britannia and Eve, February 1949

Britannia and Eve, February 1949

Woman and Home, November 1953

Woman and Home, November 1953

This is a rare occurrence: the same artwork used on two magazine covers. On the left is Britannia and Eve from February 1949; alongside it is Woman and Home four years later. The illustration has been reversed and cropped, and the different printing processes and scanning have introduced colour variation, but it is the same image.

The Britannia and Eve cover breaks a rule of cover design in that the subject is looking out of the page. The tendency is for the reader to follow the gaze of the person, which would encourage the reader to look away from the cover and perhaps to a rival magazine or another distraction. It is common practice for the cover subject to look at the reader. The Woman and Home cover is clever in this respect because the woman’s gaze is at another element on the page – and is ‘returned’ by the smaller photograph, keeping the eyes ‘within the page’.

I don’t know who did the illustration but Britannia and Eve used gifted artists such as Fortunino Matania and was very well printed. Covers in the 1940s and 1950s are often credited to ‘Moss’ or ‘Critchlow’.

Britannia and Eve was one of thetitles that had come together under the same publisher in the late 1920s to form ‘The Great Eight’, the others being: Illustrated London News, The Sketch, Graphic, Bystander, The Sphere, The Tatler, The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News and The Illustrated War News.

In contrast, Woman and Home was published by the Amalgamated group, which concentrated on keeping its prices low. In 1949, a copy cost 9d, compared with 2s for Britannia and Eve.

The results of this cost-conscious approach at Woman and Home included poorer-quality paper and minimal use of colour. Its fiction was frequently illustrated by US artists, and some of those images, too, will have been published before.

However, Woman and Home is still published today, by Time Inc UK, formerly IPC, while Britannia and Eve closed in about 1956. The FictionMags website has a listing of contents for Britannia and Eve and a few issues of Woman and Home.

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

Geraldine Harmsworth – a park, a printing press and a mother

May 9, 2016
Alfred Harmsworth's Forget-Me-Not was founded in 1891

Alfred Harmsworth’s Forget-Me-Not was founded in 1891

Carters Steam Fair, the largest vintage travelling funfair in the world, comes to Southwark this weekend at the Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park, which surrounds the Imperial War Museum. The park’s name immediately strikes a chord because it was dedicated to his mother in 1930 by the newspaper and magazine magnate Lord Rothermere (Harold Harmsworth).

Harold was the business brain behind his brother Alfred, who became the greatest of the newspaper barons – the ‘Napoleon of Fleet Street’ – Lord Northcliffe.

A memorial plaque in the park states that the gift was in memory of Rothermere’s mother, and for the benefit of the ‘splendid struggling mothers of Southwark and their children’. The Harmsworth brothers used their mother’s name much earlier, however, as the issue above of Forget-Me-Not testifies.

This ‘Pictorial Journal for the Home’ was one of the many periodicals founded by Alfred Harmsworth. With Answers (1888) and Comic Cuts (1890), Forget-Me-Not (1891) was the backbone of what was on its way to becoming the largest publishing empire in the world, the Amalgamated Press.

Forget-Me-Not was based in London’s Tudor Street, which runs south to the Thames from Fleet Street, with the advertising sold by Greenberg & Co just up the road at 80 Chancery Lane. The imprint reveals a third address, for Forget-Me-Not was printed by The Geraldine Press at 21 Whitefriars St, which runs parallel to Fleet St but nearer the Thames.

Like all the penny magazines, it was a cheap affair though, on newsprint with a greenish cover not unlike Tit-Bits, the model for Answers, for which Alfred had worked. The masthead page inside described Forget-Me-Not as ‘the most useful home paper’ and it carried fashion hints and articles on fancy work and households management as well as fiction. The best illustrations were saved for the paper patterns that readers had to send for at a shilling or two each. None of the articles or illustrations carried a byline.

Most of the pages carried marketing messages printed at the bottom such as: Forget-Me-Not is a great help to young couples in all household matters’; ‘Home, Sweet Home [another Amalgamated title] is published on Fridays – 1d’; ‘Answers is the paper for a railway journey’; and ‘This paper is published every Thursday’. Amalgamated aimed to have a magazine for all types of readers with three women’s weeklies, the smaller format Home Chat making up the trio.

One of the editors of Forget-Me-Not, a Hungarian called Arkas Sapt, has been credited with developing a new way of publishing several pictures on a spread, a technique that was to be vital in reinvigorating the Daily Mirror as an illustrated paper after its flagging launch.

If you do head for Carters Steam Fair at the weekend, the park may be a suitable venue for such shenanigans, because the Imperial War Museum itself was part of the old Bethlem Hospital, successor to the mediaeval mental hospital in the priory of Saint Mary of Bethlehem in Bishopsgate Without – on the site of today’s Liverpool Street Station. The original mental hospital dates back to 1329 and gave rise to the term ‘bedlam’.

10 things to thank magazines for

May 1, 2016

Here are 10 things that might not exist without magazines.

1. The word ‘magazine’

The first magazine: the Gentleman's Magazine from Sylvanus Urban (Edward Cave) in1731

The Gentleman’s Magazine  in 1731

In January 1731, the Gentleman’s Magazine was the first publication to use the word ‘magazine’ in its modern sense as a periodical.

Before Edward Cave, its publisher, came up with the title, most periodicals were called journals and a magazine was a storehouse, from an ancient Arabic word. That sense still exists, in the sense of a gunpowder magazine, or a magazine of bullets for a machine gun.

But Cave didn’t just come up with the word, his collections of news, opinion and articles set the approach for the modern magazine, and it was published for almost two centuries.

Samuel Johnson listed the word in his dictionary of 1755: ‘Of late this word has signified a miscellaneous pamphlet, from a periodical miscellany named the Gentleman’s Magazine, by Edward Cave [who used the pen-name Sylvanus Urban].’

2. Charles Dickens

The opening page of Dickens' Household Words magazine from 1859

Dickens’ Household Words

The quintessential Victorian author followed in his father’s footsteps as a journalist and worked on a variety of publications for eight years from 1829. He then became editor of Bentley’s Miscellany,  which published Oliver Twist in twenty-four monthly instalments from February 1837. In 1840, he launched his own magazine, Master Humphrey’s Clock in which was published The Old Curiosity Shop. Most of Dickens’ works were first published in magazines as weekly instalments. The publishers then collated them as monthly parts or whole books. His first novel, The Pickwick Papers, was published in 19 issues over 20 months from 1836.

This publishing approach affected his writing style – it was vital for readers to remember his plots and characters from week to week, so encouraging vivid characterisations and descriptions in his works.

Dickens went on to launch Household Words, which was published by Bradbury & Evans on Fleet Street from 1850. This was followed by All the Year Round in 1859, which carried on after his death in 1870 under the editorship of his son, Charley, for another 18 years. The Dickens Fellowship in tribute to the writer was founded in London in 1902.

3. The curate’s egg

The first issue of Punch magazine dated 17 July 1841. Punch has coined many words and phrases, including 'the curate's egg'

The first issue of Punch magazine dated 17 July 1841

The English expression ‘a curate’s egg’ describes something of mixed character (good and bad).

The phrase was coined in the caption of an 1895 Punch cartoon entitled ‘True humility’ by George du Maurier. This showed a curate who, having been given a stale egg by his host but being too meek to protest, stated that ‘parts of it’ were ‘excellent’ (9 November, p222).

Punch has been credited with coining or popularising many words and expressions. The Oxford English Dictionary cites the magazine almost 4,000 times in its entries, from ‘1984’ to ‘intersexual’ to ‘youthquake’ to ‘zone’.

4. The Pre-Raphaelites

Portrait by Millais of Effie Gray holding a copy of Cornhill magazine

Portrait by Millais of Effie Gray holding a copy of Cornhill magazine (Perth museum)

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was founded in 1848 as a secret society, with its founding members, William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, all signing their paintings as PRB.

That strategy changed two years later when the Pre-Raphaelites launched a magazine – The Germ – to promote their cause. Rossetti was the editor and the literary monthly was wrapped in a yellow cover.

The January 1850 issue included engravings by William Holman Hunt to illustrate the poems ‘My Beautiful Lady’ and ‘Of My Lady in Death’ by Thomas Woolner. The Pre-Raphaelites’ work was at first regarded as scandalous, but by 1860 they had taken the art world by storm. Their illustrations appeared in many magazines, particularly Cornhill Magazine from its first issue. Millais painted his wife, Effie Gray, holding a copy of the magazine.

5. Mrs Beeton

A spread on puddings from Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management

A spread on puddings from Mrs Beeton’s book

Isabella Beaton was the wife of Samuel Beeton, who bought the Victorian world magazines such as The Queen and the Boy’s Own Paper. Isabella was a vital part of Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine, which was one of the first magazines to address the expanding market of middle-class woman who did much of her own housework. Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management was spun out of Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine. Isabella was just 25 when the book came out, but she died four years later giving birth to their fourth child. Samuel’s life fell apart after that and he lost control of his publishing empire.

6. The Daily Mail

This logo from a recent Daily Mail is based on the original masthead for Answers Magazine

This logo from the Daily Mail echoes the original masthead for Answers Magazine

The editorial strategy developed from 1881 by George Newnes with Tit-Bits – editing down news and facts to their essence and presenting them as entertainment – influenced Alfred Harmsworth as he established both his rival magazine, Answers, and the ‘tabloid’ news style of the Daily Mail (launched in 1896).

Harmsworth’s move from magazines into newspapers (the Daily Mirror followed in 1903) was echoed by Pearson’s Weekly magazine publisher C. Arthur Pearson, who started the Daily Express (1900). These three stalwarts of British newspapers are still published today.

7. Cryptic crosswords

The Dictionary of Bullets published by John Bull in 1935

John Bull’s Dictionary of Bullets

Cryptic word games were popular as puzzles in British magazines from the Victorian era. My pet theory is that the ‘Bullets’ prize puzzles in the weekly John Bull – the best-selling magazine from about 1910 to 1930 – created a nation of cryptic thinkers.

It’s difficult to make sense of many Bullets today because of the way they drew on topical events of the times. However, Bulleteer Bill’s blog is based on cuttings left over from his dad’s obsession with the game (an obsession shared by Alan Bennett’s father).He explains ‘The basic premise was that the competition setters would supply a word or a phrase which the player had then to “complete” or add to in a witty, apposite way’ and quotes the following examples:

A HUNDRED YEARS HENCE: More Radio – Less Activity? (In 1949 when BBC Radio was a fixture in the country’s homes and talk was of expansion and more stations.)

ALL DAD THINKS OF: Retrieving fortunes at Dogs! (Greyhound racing was a popular pastime with dog tracks in most towns, and there’s the extra pun on ‘retriever’.)

Once crosswords were established in Britain in the 1920s – in magazines such as Answers before newspapers such as the Times and Telegraph – it was only natural to combine ‘Bullets thinking’ with crossword clues.

To mark the 1,000th competition, John Bull published a Dictionary of Bullets in 1935.

8. St Trinian’s

Searle's St Trinian's on the cover of Lilliput in December 1949

Searle’s St Trinian’s on a  1949 Lilliput cover

The first of Ronald Searle’s St Trinian’s cartoons about a bunch of anarchic schoolgirls was published in Lilliput and he did several covers for the magazine, the first in December 1949, before he established himself on Punch.

Not only that, Kaye Webb, Searle’s first wife, was the picture editor of Lilliput.

The popularity of the cartoons led to four films between 1954 and 1966. The first was The Belles of St. Trinian’s with Alistair Sim, Joyce Grenfell and George Cole.

Another film followed in 1980, and then two films in 2007 and 2009 with Rupert Everett playing two roles, one of the girls and the school’s spinster headmistress.

 

9. ‘Metal Postcard’ by Siouxsie and the Banshees

A Heartfield montage on the cover of Picture Post dated 9 September 1939

A Heartfield montage on the cover of Picture Post dated 9 September 1939

In the 1930s and early 1940s, Stefan Lorant published the photomontages of German Dadaist John Heartfield. Both had fled to Britain to escape the Nazi regime. Lorant popularised Heartfield’s anti-Hitler photomontages in Britain through both Lilliput and Picture Post – two of the most popular magazines of the era.

Heartfield’s response to the Munich Agreement, ‘The Happy Elephants’ of two elephants flying, was used in the third issue of Picture Post (15 October 1938) and his montage of Hitler as the Kaiser used as a front cover for 9 September 1939, a week after war broke out. The images became familiar to the British population and one of Heartfield’s montages, ‘Hurray, the Butter is All Gone!’ inspired the song ‘Metal Postcard’ by Siouxsie and the Banshees.

10. £100m for Britain’s poorest people

The Big Issue of 4 March 2016 celebrates selling 200 million copies

The Big Issue of 4 March 2016 celebrates 200 million sales

In 1991, John Bird founded The Big Issue to help homeless people earn some cash and to try to shame the John Major government into doing more to help them. In April 2016, The Big Issue marked the sale of 200 million copies.

Street vendors sell 100,000 copies a week and the proceeds they earn help keep a roof over their heads.

In total, Bird reckons the magazine has helped homeless people earn £100m. Furthermore, The Big Issue has inspired street papers in 120 other countries, leading a global self-help revolution.

 

A happy end to a magazine

February 3, 2016
Last issue of Amalgamated Press's War Illustrated on 8 February 1919

No sad ending: the last issue of Amalgamated Press’s War Illustrated on 8 February 1919. Allies from the Empire (to the left) and Europe are portrayed with a statue of Victory

The demise of a magazine is normally a sad time but note the cover line below this image on the front of War Illustrated from 1919: ‘The Happy End’. The cheery angle came about because this issue marked the end of the Great War after more than four years of slaughter. Also, the magazine was about to rise, phoenix-like, from the ashes of closure with a different name – New Illustrated – the next week. In essence, it was being relaunched with a different name and editorial strategy under its editor JA Hammerton.

Alfred Harmsworth’s Amalgamated Press had a winning team on its hands under Hammerton and the back cover ran his editorial ‘An end and a beginning’, along with an order coupon for the next issue. Yet, relaunching a magazine is always a challenge – keeping the established readership while attracting new buyers is very difficult.

John Hammerton was one of the most successful editors of his generation. He is best known for his work with Arthur Mee producing magazines and partworks that were then republished as some of the best selling books of the day. These included the Harmsworth Self-Educator, Harmsworth’s Universal Encyclopædia and the Children’s Encyclopaedia. In 1933, his Popular History of the Great War was published in six volumes. So, Hammerton set about the task of changing the editorial philosophy of War Illustrated from one of recording a war’s progress to creating New Illustrated as ‘a fascinating pageant of the living history of our own times’.

First, the changes were announced several weeks in advance with a competition to come up with a name for the relaunched magazine – and a tempting £100 prize. This was at a time when a soldier’s pay was about £1 a week, so such a fortune was great publicity. For a month, the back page ran its editorial focusing on the idea with introductions such as: ‘Some of my readers have asked me to help them think of a title for the successor to the War Illustrated … I am yielding to the requests that have reached me by giving a very brief outline of my scheme.’ (By ‘very brief’ Hammerton means the whole of the back page.)

The War Illustrated was launched to record the progress of the war in photographs and illustrations and was designed to be bound into annual volumes. The format was an A4-ish page size on newsprint. Each issue was 32 sides plus the covers (wrappers in the language of the day) and they were numbered sequentially: issue one, 1-32; issue two, 33-64, and so on. Later issues added a four-page centre section printed gravure, which gave a much better reproduction for photographs and raised the pagination to 36 plus 4.

New Illustrated kept to this format and initially looked little different. The volume strategy was still in place with the new title being seen as a ‘continuous sequel’ to War Illustrated. However, as the issues went on, the martial content was slowly decreased. In April, a marked shift took place with a switch to gravure covers. Hammerton announced:

there is nothing quite so costly as the photogravure process which the New Illustrated is introducing for the first time to popular British journalism

Very good artists were always used, such as Harry Rodmell and Francisco Sancha, and the photographs would have looked amazing at the time. May saw a woman on a cover – Lady Diana Manners dressed as Britannia. Manners was one of the leading socialites of the day, and is better remembered today under her married name of Lady Diana Cooper (or as the great aunt of Tory prime minister David Cameron).

From June, the covers always showed women and colour was introduced with dazzling designs befitting the start of the Jazz Age and illustrations by artists such as Billy Bunter illustrator Leonard Shields and photographs by Lallie Charles – who, with her sister Rita, was one of the most successful portraitists of the early 1900s. The women portrayed were shown in the latest fashions, or at parties or at play in the snow, or using the latest technology in the form of the telephone.

New Illustrated starts to change its name to Record Weekly in 1920 (January 17 issue)

New Illustrated starts to change its name to Record Weekly in 1920 (January 17 issue)

However, depression set in as the economy struggled to switch from wartime to peacetime thinking with millions of demobbed troops looking for work. So the start of 1920 saw another relaunch in progress. The masthead became ‘The Record New Illustrated Weekly’, though with the emphasis still on ‘New Illustrated’. With each issue, the emphasis changed until Record Weekly fully emerged from its chrysalis in March. However, the strategy failed and 20 March saw the last issue.

This might finally have been the end of War Illustrated, had not an Austrian painter called Adolph Hitler come along to give rise to World War II. Hammerton – by then Sir John Hammerton – dusted off the War Illustrated strategy and the magazine rose again to record that conflict in a similar way.

EF Skinner's signature on the War Illustrated illustration (8 February 1919)

EF Skinner’s signature on War Illustrated (8 February 1919)

The illustration for the last issue of War Illustrated is by Edward Frederick Skinner, whose works are held by both the Science Museum and the Imperial War Museum. These paintings all depict industry and factories harnessed to the needs of war, but Skinner was a varied and sought-after artist, as the Father Christmas image and the lengthily titled ‘High Priest Coifi riding up Goodmanham Lane to smash the Idols‘ from Little Treasure Island by Arthur Mee (Hodder & Stoughton, 1920) show. The much-enlarged signature here also highlights the crude tones produced by letterpress printing as compared with modern colour lithography.