Archive for the ‘jazz age’ Category

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.

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The death of the Summer of Love – and a Brillo happening

October 1, 2015
Where have all the flowers gone - Look of London, 25 November 1967 Hippies

Where have all the flowers gone – hippies in the Look of London magazine, 25 November 1967

Look of London was a weekly events magazine that would have competed with London Life and Time Out. I’ve only seen copies from 1967 and this November 25 issue mourns the death of the the Hippie movement, just months after the Summer of Love.

The opening spread shows Timothy Leary, described as the ‘hippie priest’ for his advocacy of psychedelic drugs, and the 1967 summer ‘Love-in’ in New York’s Central Park. The theme of the article is that the hippie scene was greatly overblown in America and, in London, just a fad:

In England, the movement was mainly sartorial. A Kings Road-Carnaby Street promotion to brighten up the London streets. And very successful it was too. But only a minute percentage of those who attended the Ally-Pally Love-in ever came within sniffing distance of LSD and would, no doubt, stare blankly if instructed to ‘Turn on, tune in and drop out’ … We never really dropped in.

The article is by Carole Adler, the magazine’s features editor. As well describing ‘plastic hippies’ just in it for a summer of fun, Adler shows a dark side of a ‘mostly middle-class’ movement:

The hippie supporters didn’t like the Nego. They claimed he came into the community to ‘get the white girls’ … They blame the Negroes for the increase in the use of speed (methedrine), an amphetamine drug with terrifying side-effects.

Adler lists a ‘rash of hippie murders’ and what appears to be the revenge killing of a San Francisco drug dealer called Superspade. Time magazine had covered the events in an article, ‘End of the dance’, in its issue of 18 August.

The headline, ‘Where have all the flowers gone? Gone to graveyards, everyone’, refers to the Pete Seegers folk song, which had been a hit for Peter, Paul and Mary in 1962. With a very flowery typeface.

The photographs were by Francine Winham, who became famous as a jazz photographer for her ‘fever’ technique, which involved shaking the camera to create a fuzzy look that became her trademark. In the Central Park image, notice what appears to be a Brillo advert held aloft on the end of a fencing sword by a man with a mask. What’s that about? It looks staged for the photograph. Was it an example of guerilla marketing? Or a happening? Could it be anything to do with celebrity artist Andy Warhol’s ‘Brillo Box’ from the same year?

Brillo hippie happening in Central Park 1967 by Francine Windham

Brillo hippie happening in Central Park 1967 by Francine Windham

The final page of the article is below with photographs by Minoru Aoki. The top picture shows a hippies and below is Leary with the 1950s Beat poet Alan Ginsberg (left).

Timothy Leary with Alan Ginsberg (left), the poet

Timothy Leary with Alan Ginsberg (left), the poet

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The Lady – out of racy Vie Parisienne

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

Retro artwork for The Lady magazine from 27 March 2015

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

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

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

Racy French weekly Vie Parisienne from 1926

Racy French weekly Vie Parisienne from April 1926

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

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

 

 

 

 

Miss Fish and her Eve drawings for Tatler

December 30, 2014
One of Miss Fish's drawings of Eve, from the popular Tatler column

One of Miss Fish’s drawings of Eve, from the popular Tatler column

One of the pleasures in writing a book about the history of magazines is discovering great talents that were household names a century or more ago but have since faded from the public gaze. One of those is Anne Harriet Fish. Miss Fish illustrated Tatler’s ‘Letters of Eve’ during the First World War and was 0ne of the most popular features of the magazine. The column started in May 1914 and was written by Olivia Maitland-Davidson with Anne Harriet Fish providing the drawings.

The witty, gossipy column of a society girl, like the rest of the magazine, had to alter its approach when Tatler suffered a considerable drop in sales at the outbreak of the war.

The Tatler was edited at the time by Edward Huskinson, himself a former cartoonist. He kept the magazine’s ‘light’ approach but aimed the humour at men in the armed forces and their families at home. The problem affected most publications – as demonstrated by circulation figures from the Financial Times, which saw its sales half during 1914, from an average of 15,000 a day to 7,000. Tatler‘s owner, Shorter, also owned the Sketch and another society weekly, the Bystander.

The Bystander changed its cover masthead to depict soldiers guarding the coast and then a man in uniform back at home in Blighty, rather than just society types sitting around chatting and reading.

Tatler Eve illustrator Anne Harriet Fish photographed in about 1915

Tatler Eve illustrator Anne Harriet Fish – Annie Fish – photographed in about 1915

Annie Fish’s unusual style created a ‘great vogue’ that was copied by designers of hats, coats and handkerchiefs; a play based a scene on a Fish drawing; a New Bond Street galley held an exhibition of her work; and a dozen short films used the drawings, with titles such as Eve Resolves to do War Work. The Eve illustrations were published as books, as were Maitland-Davidson’s columns.

The British Library lists 16 books written or illustrated by Fish, including Gilbert Frankau’s One of Us … With pictures by Fish (1917); The New Eve. Drawings by Fish written and designed by Fowl. Reproduced from … ‘The Tatler’ (1917); Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. Rendered into English verse by Edward Fitzgerald. With decorations by Fish (1922); Lipstick by Lady Vincent (1925); and All’s Well that Ends Swell. Auto suggestion for sensitive souls (1939).

Jazz Age dancers by AH Fish on the cover of Vanity fair, December 1927

Jazz Age dancers by AH Fish on the cover of Vanity fair, December 1927

Fish also worked for Vogue and did 30 covers portraying high society at play for Vanity Fair. These art deco style covers ran through the 1920s, depicting the bright young things, flappers and ballrooms full of elegantly dressed dancers in the Jazz Age.

In among the books above, Fish’s fame crossed the Atlantic, with a 1920 work of her drawings with text by American writers. It was published in New York with the title: High Society. The drawings by Fish. The prose precepts by Dorothy Parker, George S. Chappell, and Frank Crowninshiel. Condé Nast now owns both the Tatler and Vanity Fair.

One of the Condé Nast blogs by Shawn Waldron noted that the High Society book portrayed:

… a world populated by young-old matrons, astoundingly mature young girls, Victorian lady remnants, resplendent captains of industry, pussy-footing English butlers, amorous nursemaids, race touts, yearning young lovers, swanking soldiers, blank and vapid bores, bridge-playing parsons, and middle-class millionaires.

The blog also noted that the April 2010 issue of Vanity Fair carried a photograph of Hayley Bloomingdale, an American socialite, wearing a dress by designer Carolina Herrera portraying a print based on Fish’s drawings.

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

 

Scarf cartoon warning to Isadora Duncan

December 16, 2014
Tom Browne cartoon warning to Isadora Duncan

The fate of the cyclist in this Tom Browne cartoon strip from 1904 should have been a warning to Isadora Duncan

Isadora Duncan was a popular dancer from California who lived in Europe in the jazz age of the 1920s. She met an untimely death at the age of 50 when travelling in a car as a passenger – her long scarf became entangled in one of the rear wheels and broke her neck.

That happened on14 September  1927, so this three-frame Tom Browne cartoon from 1904 predates the accident by 23 years.

The cartoon was carried in Cassell’s Penny magazine with the three frames broken up by jokes. Cycling was still a relatively new sport – notice there is no sign of any brakes on the bike.

Like many publishers, Cassells produced fiction magazines alongside its books. As well as the Penny Magazine, it published Chums and the upmarket monthly Cassell’s Magazine.

The Penny Magazine lasted until the mid-1920s, when it was taken over by T.P. O’Connor, a prominent journalist and Irish nationalist politician who sat as a  British MP, to become T.P.’s and Cassell’s Weekly. O’Connor is one of two journalists marked by a bust in Fleet Street, the other being Edgar Wallace.