Archive for the ‘magazine history’ Category

Online conference focuses on national identity in magazines

February 1, 2020

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The Centre for Design History at Brighton University in running a magazine conference on 23 March – 5 April. Future States: Modernity and national identity in popular magazines, 1890-1945 includes academic presenters from 15 countries with free access for registrants to keynote addresses, panels, Q&As, abstracts, notice boards and contacts lists. 

The programme has yet to be published, but the conference theme is being developed in 35 talks on print cultures across the world. Topics include the Soviet satirical magazine Krokodil, Der Rote Stern (The Red Star), the weekly illustrated supplement of the German communist party daily paper, and the populist illustrated periodicals of fascist Italy published by Rizzoli. Panels are set to explore the magazine cultures of North America and Europe, Britain and Australia, Mexico and Peru, Turkey, Iran, and the Soviet Turkic states.

The presentations are being recorded in advance, and will be published over the two weeks of the conference and participants can contribute to discussions. Afterwards, all the material will be maintained as a permanent online record.

In what looks to be an interesting experiment, Future States aims to be a ‘nearly carbon-neutral conference’.

 

 

Harry Furniss: he Lika Joko

January 10, 2020
Lika Joko first issue cover

Lika Joko first issue cover in 1894. It was ‘conducted’ by Harry Furniss

Harry Furniss was a popular black and white artist of the late Victorian and Edwardian periods who launched his own magazine, Lika Joko in 1894 after he left Punch. The name was a pun on ‘like a joke’ and one of his noms-de-crayon. Like many periodicals of the time, the cover was dominated by advertising.

Note how Furniss portrays himself alongside the magazine’s title with his quill pen piercing the artist’s palette and the nib appearing to be covered in blood – the pen being mightier than the sword. He is dressed in a kimono with sheets of paper held in place at his back by the belt. The patterns on the kimono are formed from parts of his signature. The lettering of the title also has a Japanese feel. Furniss had produced a series of cartoons, ‘Our Japanneries’, under the name Lika Joko in 1888, pretending to be ‘the celebrated Japanese Artist … who is now on a visit to this country’. In the late Victorian period, Japan had a huge influence of art in Britain, resulting in a phenomenon known as Japonisme. Japan and Britain were great allies until World War II.

Illustration from Lika Joko editorial page: How Harry Furniss portrayed Mr Punch and Toby

How Harry Furniss portrayed Mr Punch and Toby in the Lika Joko editorial

On Punch, Furniss was renowned for his quick-fire caricatures of MPs in parliament for the Essence of Parliament pages, which were collated into books, but he turned his pen to all sorts of subjects and illustrated many books. RGG Price in his History of Punch (1957) says: ‘During the years of his Punch work, Harry Furniss dominated the pages. He was all over the place with jokes, illustrations, dramatic criticisms, headings and parliamentary sketches … It is said that he would chat to a man and caricature him on a pad held in his pocket.’

One of his cartoons in the satirical weekly was a spoof on advertising for A&F Pears (now part of Unilever), which used endorsements from celebrities such as the actress and notable beauty, Lillie Langtry, to sell its translucent amber soap. The spoof (26 April 1884) showed a tramp writing a letter saying:

I used your Soap two years ago; since then I have used no other.

Furniss and Punch fell out when the magazine sold the copyright in the drawing to Pears for use in advertising. Price describes Furniss as being ‘dictatorial and slick’ over the issue and the Punch people as ‘patient and disinterested’ in their correspondence. Despite this, the Pears advert was carried on the back cover of the first issue of Lika Joko – see at the bottom of this post – though with a slightly different caption. Pears used the Furniss cartoon advert at least for 16 years – I have a copy of it in a 1910 issue of TP’s Magazine.

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Pears took the Millais painting ‘A Child’s World’, added a bar of soap by the boy’s foot to advertising reproductions, and called it ‘Bubbles’

Pears famously turned another image, the painting ‘A Child’s World’ by the Pre-Raphaelite artist John Millais, into advertising – the  image became so famous because it was reproduced as colour lithographs millions of times over several decades. Thomas Barratt, the company’s managing director, bought the painting from Illustrated London News owner Sir William Ingram, who had reproduced it in the magazine as a colour poster for a Christmas issue. Pears had the image copied with a bar of its soap added and today we know it as ‘Bubbles’.

Barratt has been described as ‘the father of modern advertising’ for his innovative strategies. The boy in the painting was the artist’s grandson, Willie James, who later became a Royal Navy admiral. Like Pears’ soap, ‘Bubbles’ is now owned by Unilever and is on loan to the Lady Lever art gallery in Port Sunlight, on the Wirral. Copies of the colour advertising can be seen online from the V&A museum catalogue.

Pear's soap took the back page of Lika Joko with its Harry Furniss advertisement

Pears took the back page of Lika Joko with its Harry Furniss advert

Lika Joko lasted for just 26 issues, from 20 October 1894 to 13 April 1895. Price describes how Furniss was refused a gallery ticket to parliament for Lika Joko – a disaster for a political caricaturist – and that this proved fatal to the paper. Later, Furniss went to the US, where the Internet Movie Database lists him as directing, writing and appearing in three films for Edison Studios, a company controlled by the inventor Thomas Edison: The Mighty Hunters and The Artist’s Joke (1912), and Rival Reflections (1914). Furniss returned to Britain and has been credited with helping to pioneer animated cartoon films in 1914 with War Cartoons and Peace and Pencillings. The BFI credits Furniss on 15 films.

There is a short film online at Brighton University, Winchelsea and its Surroundings. A Day with Harry Furniss and his Sketchbook, which shows Furniss at the cottage of Helen Terry and painting the actress. Other scenes are filmed in Winchelsea and Hastings.

Price reckons Furniss made a lot of money but lost most of it to making films. He died in 1925, in the seaside town of Hastings, where he is buried.

The National Portrait Gallery has a self-portrait of Furniss and more than 450 of his sketches for sale online as prints.

>> Harry Furniss profile in Tit-Bits, alongside Sir Leslie Ward (‘Spy’ of Vanity Fair) and the theatrical caricaturist Alfred Bryan

>> More on Punch, a weekly satirical magazine that lasted 150 years


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

 

 


Reed, Pearson and Future: lessons in media strategy

January 8, 2020
12 magazine logos: Some of the magazine brands Future in buying from TI Media

Twelve of the 41 magazine brands Future in buying from TI Media

In my days as a media academic, I developed a case study comparing the corporate strategies of Reed International and Pearson. Their progress has been brought back to mind as I ponder what Future is planning for the 41 media brands it is buying from TI Media. These are the remnants of what used to be IPC – Britain’s ‘Ministry of Magazines’ as it was called for its massive size and bureaucracy – and one of the biggest divisions of Reed back in 1980.

At a basic level, it’s a nice little project to map TI’s list of iconic brands, against Future’s justification for the £140m purchase. What divisions would you put the purchased magazines into? And why? Notice that Future lists Country Life in both the Lifestyle and Home Interest ‘verticals’; so where should that venerable title – founded in 1897 – belong? I argued two years ago that it was one of brands being neglected under TI:

[Moving Country Life out of London into a business park] suggests a lack of investment by its owners. However, even if this penny-pinching strategy leads to a decline in Country Life‘s fortunes, its history and contacts should enable it to attract a better owner – and its history can never be taken away. If I were the editor, I’d be trying to do a management buy-out.

And what will Future do with all the yachting and boating titles – sport or lifestyle? Do the hunting and shooting titles fit Future’s skills and company ethos? Where does CelebsNow belong? That’s the digital stump of Now, all that’s left since the magazine – which had a reputation for upsetting celebrities – closed in March last year. Is it worth pushing further into the celebrity sector?

Future’s managers will no doubt be running the Boston matrix over their purchases, deciding which ones are a good fit, which stars to fund for their growth potential, and which dogs to close or sell on to companies where they are a better fit. The UK periodical publishing industry is nothing if not dynamic.

200 years of Reed and Pearson history

More at the business degree end of things, Reed and Pearson are fascinating companies and between them encompass the fortunes of a huge part of British magazine and book publishing for much of the past 150 years. They are among only 28 survivors of the original companies in the FTSE 100 when the index was created in 1984; Future did not yet exist. Yet Reed and Pearson both have their roots outside publishing. Future was founded in 1985 by Chris Anderson (now better known for heading up the TED talks). Future’s first title was Amstrad Action, a games magazine for owners of Alan ‘Your Fired’ Sugar’s Amstrad computers. It was produced cheaply using computer technology outside London and the company then expanded into hobbies such as cross-stitch as a self-professed ‘anorak publisher’. Pearson actually owned Future for four year from 1984.

Reed started out as a papermaker, which brought it into contact with printers, publishers and the building trade. Being a well run and profitable company, it had the cash to buy up ailing companies in these sectors, so by 1980 it controlled IPC Magazines, Mirror Group newspapers, Odhams printers, Crown wallpapers and paints, and Polycell, among others.

Financial Times eggcup photo: Pearson owned the FT from 1957 to 2015

Pearson owned the FT from 1957 to 2015

Pearson was a building contractor that evolved into an international group working for governments across the world. If you’ve ever been to Malta, some of those Valetta harbours and fortifications are of its making, as are chunks of infrastructure in New York, London, Cairo and Mexico. It was also big in oil services. In the 1950s, Pearson became a conglomerate running a portfolio of companies in five sectors: financial services, publishing, oil, manufacturing, and investment trusts. The assets included Lazard bank, the Financial Times, the Economist, Penguin, Longman, Westminster Press, Yorkshire TV, Chateau Latour, Wedgwood, Royal Doulton and Madame Tussaud’s. The only common factor was that each one was regarded as being the best in its field.

Reed and Pearson were both massive and successful companies, with market capitalisations of £2.4bn and £1.7bn respectively in 1988. However, conglomerates were out of fashion and found it hard to justify their strategies to the financial markets. They were regarded as takeover targets and Pearson was described as a ‘collection of rich man’s baubles’. They decided to change their strategies and concentrate on media – both were founder investors in British Satellite Broadcasting in 1989. However, they met with very different results.

All change in 1990s media

The May 1994 first issue of Loaded - a landmark title under James Brown

The May 1994 first issue of Loaded – a landmark title under James Brown

Reed sold its building divisions, newspapers and print plants; out went book publishing and IPC, publisher of iconic magazines such as Country Life, NME, Woman’s Own and Loaded. By 1990, it had changed analysts’ views – they regarded its share price of 443p as undervaluing the company compared with other international publishing businesses. It then merged with Elsevier, a Dutch professional publishing group, and concentrated on information and data that could be sold internationally over digital networks at high prices.  It moved up the ‘value pyramid’ in marketing jargon, away from high volume, low value fiction paperbacks and weekly magazines into expensive, global professional information and data. The nearest it kept to a consumer magazine was Reed Business Media and New Scientist – and that went in 2017. The strategy was a great success and Relx, as the company is now known, has a market capitalisation of £37bn and employs 30,000 people. Its share price is 1,905p and it is ranked 15 in the FTSE 100.

Penguin logo: Penguin was controlled by Pearson from 1970 to 2013

Penguin was controlled by Pearson from 1970 to 2013

Pearson sold Penguin and its other consumer imprints to concentrate on academic and educational publishing, and the FT and Economist. The strategy worked and by 1990 its shares were at 777p. The share price shot through the roof in the ‘dotcom boom‘ of 2000 – peaking at about £24 – because the company was seen as a ‘digital play’ for investors. But that bubble popped. The company’s valuation recovered to about £14 under former Economist publisher Marjorie Scardino as she pursued a ‘learning company’ strategy, but has since bombed under her successor John Fallon. He sold the FT and Economist to focus even more on education and testing, but exposed the company to falling sales as students and schools in the US cut back on buying books, its digital distribution did not take off and the share price dropped like a stone. Today, Pearson has a market capitalisation of £5bn and employs 24,000 people. Its share price is 634p, and it has dropped to 96th in the FTSE 100.

So, in 1980 Reed had a market capitalisation half as big again as Pearson’s; 30 years later it is seven times as big. Two conglomerates tried to focus on digital media, Reed executed the strategy far better.

So, what about Future?

Amstrad Action magazine first issue cover: Future's first title magazine in 1985

Amstrad Action was Future’s first magazine in 1985

Future is a minnow compared with these two, just 40 years old with a market capitalisation of £1.4bn and 1,200 employees. It went through the dotcom bubble – publishing Business 2.0, which mapped the hopes for the ‘new economy’ – and nearly became a cropper through over-expansion and reliance on the US economy.

However, it now has a similar level of turnover per employee as Reed. Does Future really have the skills and resources to exploit the historic shift being forced on periodical publishing by digital media? Investors think so. Future’s share price tripled in 2019 because they reckon it can buy up moribund print magazines and turn them into digital goldmines. That’s what Future says it will do with the 35 magazines and six websites it has bought from TI Media. What do you think?

 

Scare fiction and War of the Worlds

December 29, 2019
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War of the Worlds by HG Wells as re-envisaged by the BBC

The BBC’s Christmas adaptation of the War of the Worlds has brought the HG Wells work to fresh audiences. The original serial is an iconic piece of fiction and certainly boosted the reputation of Pearson’s, the monthly magazine that first published it, in 1897. It was part of a genre called ‘scare fiction’ that was popular – and influential – from the 1870s into the First World War. The inspiration for such works came from the changing European alliances of the Victorian era.

Britain was at war throughout the nineteenth century. Having put Napoleon’s ambitions to rest – with Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar and then Wellington’s at Waterloo in 1815 – there came the Crimea War against Russia. That ended in 1856, after which the hostilities were mainly outside Europe. The conflicts were about cementing the empire – the Zulu war, Abyssinia, two Anglo-Boer wars, Afghanistan, Sudan and the Nile campaigns among them. The British were able to win using small, well-drilled forces on land and sea, local allies, and superior weapons. Meanwhile, alongside these far-flung conflicts, writers were imagining how war might look closer to home, against a modern European power.

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The Battle of Dorking by George Tomkyns Chesney sparked a new genre, scare fiction

A short story in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine fired the starting gun for scare fiction in May 1871. The Battle of Dorking: Reminiscences of a Volunteer, told of an invasion and was to influence public debate right up to the start of the Great War. Blackwood’s was an influential right-wing monthly – known as ‘Maga’ – that was sold globally as well as at home. Blackwood’s established the careers, among others, of Middlemarch author George Eliot and Joseph Conrad with Heart of Darkness. The initially anonymous Battle of Dorking (by army engineer George Tomkyns Chesney) describes how a secret weapon deployed by the unnamed enemy (though clearly Prussians – who had secured  the victory against Napoleon at Waterloo) destroys the Royal Navy, with the ineffectual defenders on land being defeated near Dorking in Surrey when they try to block the invaders’ road to London. The invading force conquers Britain and the empire is then broken up.

The work sold more than 100,000 copies as a pamphlet and was published in a number of editions as a book and translated into several languages. In the Second World War, a German edition was issued to Hitler’s army as Was England Erwartet (What England Expects). The Blackwood’s story was mentioned is several parliamentary debates from June 1871 and such was its influence that William Gladstone, the prime minister, had to speak out against the ‘alarmism’ it had generated. Four months after the May issue of Blackwood’s appeared, army manoeuvres involving 30,000 men were held on the Hog’s Back, a ridge between Farnham and Guildford in Surrey. Later, forts were built in the area. Chesney went on to become a reforming general and was knighted for his work in Britain and India. For one academic, Patrick Kirkwood:

The Battle of Dorking was central to the parliamentary, military and public ‘invasion’ controversies of the 1870s. Subsequent developments, ranging from recurring print and parliamentary debates, to military manoeuvres and the eventual building of a series of forts along the North Downs support this position … The Battle of Dorking was equal parts fantasy ‘invasion literature’ and policy document. Its frequent citation by members of both houses of parliament, and by military men engaged in public and private debates, serves to back this claim, as does Chesney’s rapid integration into the pro-military reform wing of the Conservative Parliamentary Party of the 1890s.

Adding to the genre, Liverpool-Irish journalist Louis Tracy wrote several books about future war, the best known being the 1896 Final War, a book dedicated to ‘Private Thomas Atkins’ (a nickname for the average British soldier that dates back at least to the time of the Battle of Waterloo – from which we get ‘Tommy’). He saw his work as describing ‘a great war to be the end of all war’ and it ends in victory for the British with the help of the United States against the Germans and French. Tracy’s books include elements of science fiction, with a British secret weapon, the ‘Thompson Electric Rifle’, helping ensure victory.

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A Martian machine wreaks havoc in War of the Worlds, illustrated by Warwick Goble, 1897

The invasion theme was taken up by HG Wells in War of the Worlds, which was published in Pearson’s Magazine in parts from June 1897. The brilliant illustrations were by Warwick Goble. For Wells, the enemy comes from another planet and, though the aliens easily overwhelm the defenders, they are ultimately defeated by nature, in the form of bacteria. As with Chesney’s book, the Surrey stockbroker belt is pivotal, with the Martians landing on the edge of the town of Woking, just fourteen miles from Dorking.

The big-selling penny weekly magazines did not miss out on the invasion craze, with Northcliffe’s Answers, one the best-selling, serialising Frederick White’s The Lion’s Claw, which has the old enemies, the French and Russians, invading. And the next week in 1900, Pearson’s Weekly put out one of Tracy’s thrillers The Invaders: A Story of Britain’s Peril, with the Germans as the villains of the piece.

Three years later, Germany returns as the enemy when a gathering invasion force is discovered in Robert Erskine Childers’ ripping yarn, Riddle of the Sands. In 1906, The Invasion of 1910 by William Le Queux adds German fifth columnists to the mix. Two years after that, in War Inevitable by Alan Burgoyne, an MP who specialised in naval affairs, a fictionalised Lord Kitchener comes to the rescue after German motor torpedo boats devastate the British fleet in a sneak attack.

A year before the horrific real war breaks out, When William Came by ‘Saki’ (Hector Hugh Munro) was published. This book follows on from Chesney’s theme of forty years earlier, describing life under German occupation: the ‘William’ of the title is Kaiser Wilhelm II – ‘Kaiser Bill’ to the British people at the time. With the outbreak of the real war, a new edition of The Battle of Dorking was published.

Ralph Straus wrote a summary of ‘scare-fictionists’ in the second issue of Bystander magazine after the Great War was declared. The genre is often referred to by academics now as ‘invasion literature’. The article, ‘Armageddon – in prophecy’, is illustrated with a painting of aerial warfare by Guy Lipscombe from Burgoyne’s War Inevitable. He discusses how ‘About the middle of the century Germany definitely emerged to take France’s old place as our potential enemy’ and describes how such writers ‘have come to the truth’.

The greatest writer of the era, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was slow to come to the genre, but addressed it in a prophetic way, for both world wars. In its July 1914 issue, The Strand published ‘Danger! Being the log of Captain John Sirius’ by the Sherlock Holmes creator. He envisaged Britain being starved into submission by enemy submarines. The enemy was the fictional country of Norland, a thinly disguised Germany.

These fictional works spurred debate in the real world. As the new century began, Britain was the only European power that did not have a large conscript army, even though prominent figures had been pressing for compulsory military service since the first Boer War. Among these advocates was George Shee, a barrister and Liberal imperialist, who in 1901 published The Briton’s First Duty: The Case for Conscription in which he argued for a compulsory home defence army to protect against invasion. Despite the strength of the Royal Navy on the high seas, it could not guarantee being able to prevent an invasion force crossing the English Channel, only that it would be able to cut the invaders’ supply lines. Out of the conscription movement came the National Service League, a group founded in 1902. It argued the army was too weak to fight a major war and that national service was the only answer. Boer War hero Lord Roberts later led the league and saw its membership increase from 2,000 to about 95,000 by 1913.

And the success of The Invasion of 1910 – built on Le Queux’s ability to secure the backing of Lord Roberts and the media might of Lord Northcliffe – has been identified as a factor in the founding of the Secret Service in the form of MI5 and MI6. As a result, 41 German agents were identified and arrested in Britain between 1911 and the outbreak of the war.

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This post is based on a section from the book, ‘Kitchener Wants You’, by Martyn Thatcher and myself.

Christmas magazines: vanity and Vogue

December 25, 2019

 

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The theme of Vogue’s 1935 Christmas cover was vanity

Vogue‘s 1935 Christmas issue was a vanity number – and it is dated 25 December – though the cover photographer is not credited. At this time, Vogue came out twice a month (notice it is issue number 26 for the year), a practice that carried on into the 1980s.

Masks were a feature in English theatre at the time and were a specialism of Angus McBean. McBean’s 1936 photograph of Ivor Novello as George Hell, the anti-hero of ‘The Happy Hypocrite’ play, showed the actor holding a mask made by McBean. The image was a sensation – it was published in the Sketch, Tatler, Bystander, Illustrated London News and Britannia and Eve and encouraged the mask-maker to focus on theatre publicity and ‘surrealized’ photography.

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Bruehl-Bourges colour photo for Condé Nast

Condé Montrose Nast, the owner of the US fashion magazine Vogue, was keen on introducing colour advertising and in 1931 turned to photographer Anton Bruehl and colour specialist Fernand Bourges to develop a process to produce high-quality colour transparencies. Among the results was Vogue’s first photographic cover in 1932 (July 20). They produced hundreds of brilliant plates for Condé Nast’s House & Garden and Vanity Fair, as well as Vogue. The company published 64 examples of Bruehl–Bourges photographs in a brochure, Color sells.

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Cecil Beaton did these ballet costume designs

Cecil Beaton was an established Vogue photographer by this time, and these sketches were done as ballet costume designs for ‘The Edwardians’.  He would do similar work for ‘My Fair Lady’ in 1964 – and won two of that film’s eight Oscars. Beaton did a fashion shoot as well in this issue, as did Shaw Wildman.

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Semi-display adverts: collecting, bath granules, hair perfection, cruel fur and Olympic travel

This half page of semi-display adverts shows some of the preoccupations of Vogue readers in the 1930s and the issue’s vanity theme. Yesterday’s post suggested that it wasn’t until the 1990s that fur became a dirty word. However, that wasn’t totally accurate as this advert against the cruelty of trapping for furs shows. Major C Van Der Byl of Towcester had been running adverts as part of a ‘fur crusade’ against the ‘horrors of trapping and skinning animals alive’ in newspapers such as the Telegraph since at least 1929.

To the left of the major’s campaign, readers are recommended to wear a Lady Jayne slumber helmet. To the right is a more sinister image – an Olympic skier doing a Nazi salute.

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


Christmas in magazines: 1904-1980

December 24, 2019
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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.

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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.  

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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.

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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.

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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.

Christmas magazines: bring on the clowns

December 21, 2019
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Scary stuff: Grock the Clown on the cover of Pictorial Weekly, 12 December 1934

Clowns were a central part of Christmas for most of the last century, but many of the images of them now look grotesque and have even developed a sinister air. This Pictorial Weekly cover showing Grock ‘the King of Clowns’ is a case in point (12 December 1934).

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Blighty magazine’s cheery 1947 Christmas cover by ‘SIM”

Blighty, which had been a free weekly magazine for the forces during two world wars, has a much cheerier Christmas cover with a fancy dress clown and his leggy girlfriend under the mistletoe (6 December 1947). Note the other characters, with a cowboy and Red Indian chief of the era, and a harlequin – all popular party costumes.

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Bill Ballantine, a US clown, on a 1949 Leader magazine cover (October15)

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A 1945 Leader cover (December 29)

The clown photograph on the cover of The Leader, a family news weekly dated 15 October 1949, lies somewhere between the first two covers on the creepy scale. ‘Old clowns never die’ is the cover line and the image by US photographer George Karger shows Bill Ballantine in his clown make-up.

Ballantine was a US journalist who served in England during World War II at the Office of War Information on propaganda leaflets. In 1947 he joined the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus in the US as a clown. In 1969 he became the first dean of the Clown College in Florida.

The monochrome clown photograph on the cover of The Leader, dates from December 29 in 1945. Wartime restrictions on the use of paper and ink were still in force then and British magazines were slow to move over to colour. The clowns feature is by Gladys Bronwyn Stern a popular and prolific novelist and literary critic, best known for her Matriarch series. Her first book was published in 1920, the last in 1964.

The Answers weekly ran a 1951 feature based on the clowns at Tom Arnold’s Harringay circus in London. The annual circus ran for eleven seasons from Christmas 1947 to Christmas 1957. This clown will be part of Chocolat & Co, an act by The Rastellis, one of  the longest-running clown families in circus history. According to Circopedia, The Rastellis performed from the early 1930s until 2002. At the bottom of the page in a Tom Arnold souvenir programme from 1953.

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‘Here comes the clown’ cover feature from Answers (December 29, 1951)

 

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Harringay circus souvenir programme from 1953

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

More Christmas goodies: self-referential Christmas magazine covers.

Christmas magazines: 1936 Help Yourself

December 18, 2019
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Staff at London’s stock exchange produced Help Yourself, a charity magazine

You may have noticed that Christmas is coming, geese are getting fat and it’s time to put a penny in the old man’s hat. Charity is a big part of the season and this cover is from a magazine especially published to raise money for good works.

Beano magazine was launched in 1934 by Nalgo, the trade union, to raise funds for members widows and orphans. Did it inspire the comic title?
Beano magazine was launched in 1934 by Nalgo, the trade union, to raise funds for members widows and orphans. Did it inspire the comic title?

Help Yourself was an annual published by the Stock Exchange Dramatic and Operatic Society as part of its Christmas appeal. The woman Beefeater has been a constant in the four issues I have seen between 1931 and 1938, with Remington typewriters and Cow & Gate milk food as cover sponsors. The image was signed ‘Abbey’. It was a very professional offering at 128 pages plus the covers costing 2/6 – two shillings and sixpence. As a comparison, a copy of Vogue at the time cost one shilling.

It was a common model at the time, with Fleet Street publishing the likes of Winter’s Pie to raise cash for industry pensioners, there was Red Poppy to raise money for veterans, and Beano magazine was launched in 1934 by Nalgo, the trade union, to raise funds for members’ widows and orphans.

What was in Help Yourself to justify a cover price two and a half times that of the expensive monthly glossies? The answer is that is was packed with the biggest names in fiction and illustration at the time. These included Pamela Frankau and Marjorie Bowen, and Fortunino Matania, Bert Thomas, William Heath Robinson, Edward Hynes.

Frankau had dozens of novels published, including The Willow CabinA Wreath for the Enemy, The Winged Horse, all three of which were reissued as Virago. Bowen’s first novel was The Viper of Milan in 1906 and her last in 1954, bringing her total to about 150 works, covering romance, horror, popular history and biography.

Red Poppy was a fundraising magazine produced in Glasgow

Red Poppy was a fundraising magazine produced in Glasgow

Matania had been a war artist and provided illustration for almost all the best titles; Thomas was famed for his ‘Art a Mo’ Kaiser poster from the Great War; WH Robinson is still known today for his mad machine constructions; and Hynes was just starting to do the covers of Men Only – and would carry on doing so for 20 years.

Among the advertising pages was a campaign for Ovaltine by Lilian Hocknell, who did many magazine covers and is probably best remembered for her advertising collaborations with Chilprufe.

A rare feature of this issue is a colour portrait of King Edward Viii as the frontispiece. He stepped down over his affair with the US divorcee Wallis Simpson, having served for less than a year, from 20 January to 11 December 1936.

This is the first of several Christmas covers I’ll be posting in the next week.

More Christmas goodies: self-referential Christmas magazine covers.

See how far attitudes on race have changed

December 9, 2019
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Times writer Sathnam Sanghera took the family on a Christmas treat to a manor house

How far has Britain come in its attitudes to race? That was the question sparked in my mind by this Times Magazine cover on Saturday illustrating an article by Sathnam Sanghera. Compare it with this 1968 cover:

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Nova magazine from August 1968, soon after Enoch Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech

The Nova issue from August 1968 set out to challenge racist attitudes. This was just five months after Enoch Powell gave his notorious Rivers of Blood speech to a Conservative party meeting in Birmingham. That year had seen the passing of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act. The new law meant migrants had to have a job before they arrived, to possess special skills or meet specific needs in the labour market. The tightening up of the law had come after campaigning by the likes of Powell since the arrival in 1965 of refugees from Uganda fleeing the murderous regime of Idi Amin.

For the first time, immigration laws required migrants to  be connected by birth or ancestry to a UK national, so keeping out people from the Commonwealth who had fought Britain’s wars for 200 years. This was just 20 after after the end of World War Two, when two and a half million men from India alone fought. Of them, 100,000 were killed or injured. Thirty-one were awarded the Victoria Cross.

You won’t see a cover like that 1968 issue of IPC’s Nova on any monthly woman’s magazine today. But then, Nova was groundbreaking in its editorial strategy of mixing controversy with fashion – whether it be abortion, racism, gay rights or the Pill – and the ability of its team to pull off such ideas. It even had the nerve to dress the Queen in Paris fashions!

The book Nova 1965 – 1975 celebrating the ‘thinking woman’s magazine’ and compiled by David Hillman and Harri Peccinotti has recently been reissued. At £26, that’s probably half what you’ll pay for a copy of the original on eBay.