Archive for the ‘Amalgamated Press’ Category

Christmas in magazines: 1904-1980

December 24, 2019
penny-magazine-cover-1904-december-17-christmas-pudding-lawson-wood

A portly Christmas pudding for the Penny Magazine by Lawson Wood

Lawson Wood would have been 26 when he was commissioned to draw this Christmas number cover of the Penny Magazine in 1904. He would later become famous the world over for his drawings of dinosaurs, animals and, most famous of all, Gran’pop, which appeared in the Sketch. There’s always humour in his work, as demonstrated by the smiling face of the rotund man with his even more rotund pudding (in contrast to Wood’s unusually skinny monogram!).

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New Illustrated shows a girl in snow fox fur

It wasn’t until the 1990s that fur became a dirty word and this New Illustrated cover from December 6, 1919 shows a girl in snow fox fur. New Illustrated had adopted the photogravure printing process in April that year and, at the end of the war, had changed its name from War Illustrated. It was less successful with another change of name, to Record Weekly, and closed in 1920. The cover was by Harry Woolley.

frys-sporting-magazine-1913-december-christmas-coaching-cover

Fry’s Magazine of Sport portrays a traditional coach in 1913

Lawson Wood also drew for Fry’s Magazine, though this unsigned traditional coaching image doesn’t look like one of his.  

john-bull-1914-christmas-toast-kitchener-france

John Bull portrays British and French generals toasting entente in 1914

Christmas 1914 would not have been much fun on the Western Front, even if peace did break out for a legendary day of football on parts of the line. But John Bull editor Horatio Bottomley – who would be shamed a decade later as a champagne-swigging con artist – chose to celebrate the Entente Cordiale between Britain and France with Kitchener among the generals of the two nations.  Notice how delicately they all hold their flutes.

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Christmas cheer at the front in 1918, according to the Christmas Pearson’s

An optimistic Pearson’s Christmas at the front in 1918, just weeks after the Armistice was signed. Again the cover was not signed, but the artist has made very good use of the limited range of colours. Note the free distribution for magazines sent to the troops and navy.

bystander-1925-December-23-christmas-titlepiece-masthead

bystander-1925-December-23-christmas-titlepiece-masthead

Christmas is a merry time for the gent and his parcel-carrying lad on the right of this Howard Elcock masthead for Bystander in 1925, but the woman who is the focus of the image is still looking for something. The main feature promoted above the titlepiece is by Basil MacDonald Hastings, who would die three years later, aged just 46. His son ‘Mac’ would make his name as a war correspondent on Picture Post, before editing the Strand from 1945 until it closed in 1950, and then going on to be a roving reporter for the Eagle comic. He married Anne Scott-James, the Harper’s Bazaar editor and newspaper columnist. One of their children, Max, followed in the family footsteps to become editor of the Daily Telegraph and London Evening Standard.

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The Observer’s colour supplement celebrates a century of comics in 1974 (December 22)

This 1974 Observer Sunday newspaper supplement cover celebrates a century of comics, though it is dominated by two relatively new characters in the comics pantheon, Corky the Cat and Desperate Dan, who both appeared in the Dandy from its launch in 1937. In fact, they all look like Dandy characters. Also, I’m not sure why 1874 is the starting date, with Ally Sloper’s Half Holiday of 1884 often being regarded as the first comic, with Ally Sloper first appearing as a strip in 1867.

listener-1980-december-18-bruegel-Hunters-in-the-Snow-Peter-Brookes-cartoon

The BBC’s Listener has a Bruegel parody by Peter Brookes (1980, December 18)

Peter Brookes has a long, clever history of reinterpreting magazine covers and paintings in his cartoons and illustrations. This 1980 Listener cover takes Bruegel’s Hunters in the Snow and replaces the hunters with a BBC detector van and a team of men setting out to identify houses where the TV watchers had not paid their BBC licences. The Listener was published by the BBC and the cover can been seen as taking a dig at the corporation because the detector vans were disliked (and possibly ineffective). In 2016, the Guardian said on its Facebook page:

For years, enforcement has relied on the scary idea of ‘detector vans’ in our streets, but we still don’t know for sure if they actually exist.

Detector vans or not, the BBC gets my cash every year (unlike the Guardian, which I’ve given up on since it gave up covering a broad range of news – though the BBC shows every sign of following the Guardian‘s news-light, celebrity-heavy strategy to attract US readers).

This is one of several Christmas cover posts I’m putting up.

More Christmas goodies: self-referential Christmas magazine covers.

 


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


Father Christmas in magazines

December 23, 2019
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A 1910 Sunday Companion page showed Father Christmas with holly and mistletoe

Father Christmas gives an early seasonal message on this Sunday Companion magazine page from 26th November 1910. His speech culminates with the message:

On my rounds on Christmas Eve there is no place I feel more happy in than a railway station. I look with delight on the happy, flushed faces and the bright eyes of the young travellers. And when I say, “Where are you going?” I listen for the glad reply, “I’m going home for Christmas.” Home for Christmas! What music is in the words! It spells welcome! It spells reunion, it spells meeting after long absence.

“Home, home! Sweet, sweet home!
There’s no place like home!”

No, ladies and gentlemen, there is no place like home on Christmas night.

The Sunday Companion had started life in 1860 as Good Words and Sunday Magazine, with a focus on illustrated religious articles under Norman Macleod, a minister. Alfred Harmsworth’s Amalgamated Press had taken it over in 1905 and relaunched it under the new name.

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Sunday Companion’s actual Christmas number (10 December) showed the Mistletoe Queen

Sunday Companion‘s December 10 Christmas number showed the Mistletoe Queen. Note the credit for the editors, Hartley Aspden and Arthur Burnage, at the bottom of the cover.

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Cavalcade from 18 December 1937 showing George Lansbury MP as Father Christmas

Cavalcade was one of two news weeklies launched in the early 1930s. This 1937 cover shows George Lansbury, who had led the Labour Party in 1932-35, as Father Christmas. Lansbury was a social reformer. He had supported the suffragettes in 1912 and helped start the Daily Herald newspaper, becoming editor in 1913. In 1925, he launched the short-lived Lansbury’s Labour Weekly. In 1931, after Labour was ousted, Lansbury returned to parliament and won the party’s leadership in opposition. However, his pacifist views led to him losing support after Mussolini invaded Abyssinia. Lansbury resigned as leader and spent the last few years of his life trying to prevent another war, going as far as having talks with Adolf Hitler. He died in 1940.

The Men Only cover below from December 1963 is a rather different take on Santa.

Men Only magazine front cover from December 1963

Men Only magazine cover from December 1963

This is one of several Christmas cover posts I’m putting up.

More Christmas goodies: self-referential Christmas magazine covers.

A racy cover for Pictorial Magazine

August 19, 2019

 

Pictorial Magazine front cover by Thomas Heath Robinson for a serial by Austin J. Small, ‘Seamark’

A comparatively racy cover for Pictorial Magazine by Thomas Heath Robinson for a serial by Austin J. Small, who wrote as ‘Seamark’

Pictorial Magazine was a cheap illustrated popular weekly costing two pennies (2d) from Amalgamated Press. This racy cover promotes the start of a new fiction serial – ‘Perils of Desire’ – by Austin J. Small, who used the nom-de-plume ‘Seamark’ and wrote science fiction as well as mysteries.

The illustration was by Thomas Heath Robinson, the oldest brother of Charles and William Heath Robinson, and a popular black-and-white artist in the Edwardian era. While WH became a household name with his quirky machine drawings, the Dictionary of 20thCentury Book Illustrators suggests that demand for Thomas’s work ‘seemed to dry up’ during the First World War. Such was the dip in his career that in 1920 he and his family had to move out of their house in the Pinner suburb of north London into lodgings and then a council house.

The Philsp magazine cataloguing website lists hundreds of Thomas’s works for magazines such as The Strand, Captain and Chums, but nothing from the end of 1919 until March 1923. However, things picked up and they were able to move back to Pinner the year after this cover came out. After that, he’s continually working on magazines until 1935, when he would have been 63 years old.

Other fiction in this issue of Pictorial Magazine included ‘XV: Percy the Pocket’, another case for Detective X Crook, a reformed criminal, by J Jefferson Farjeon, a popular and prolific mystery writer of the period.

Other features in this issue included ‘Must parsons keep “mum”?’ by Reverend GA Studdert Kennedy – known since the war as ‘Woodbine Willie’ for his work on the front line.

Plenty there for a Saturday afternoon reading session.

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

 

 

 


 

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