Archive for the ‘magazine history’ Category

How Kitchener inspired the nation for Dunkirk

August 4, 2017
Picture Post for the week of 1 June 1940

Kitchener leads the nation again in the week of Dunkirk from the cover of Picture Post (1 June 1940)

Christopher Nolan’s film Dunkirk has certainly brought the legend of the ‘Little Ships’ armada that rescued so many Allied troops back into the world’s imagination. In 1940, the media that the British will have turned to was BBC radio and Picture Post magazine.

And the image that editor Stefan Lorant chose to put on his magazine’s front cover the week of Dunkirk was Alfred Leete’s Your Country Needs You. It was a cover that will have gone to press before May 29, when the evacuation was announced to the British public. But then Lorant may well have known what was happening to the British Expeditionary Force through his contact with Churchill.

Boat owners certainly responded to the call – making up the bulk in number of the 860 vessels that were involved.  Some 200 of the small craft that epitomised the Dunkirk spirit were sunk. However, by the time the operation ended on June 4, 198,000 British and 140,000 French and Belgian troops had been saved. Another 220,000 troops were rescued  from other French ports.

The presence of this force was undoubtedly a factor in forcing Hitler to rethink his invasion plans, but the war was not going well for Britain – its allies were dropping like nine pins – and Lorant must have been in more fear for his life than most people in Britain. Lorant was a Hungarian Jew who had been imprisoned by Hitler for his work on weekly papers in Germany. In Britain, he promoted the work of many other Continental exiles, including Walter Trier, who drew the Lilliput covers for 20 years, the photographer Bill Brandt and the photomontages of John Heartfield, probably best remembered for his Elephants Might Fly reaction to the Munich agreement (15 October 1938).

Lorant had lambasted the Nazi regime in his book, I Was Hitler’s Prisoner, which was turned into a BBC Radio play; in the pages of Weekly Illustrated, which he had launched for Odhams in 1934; in the delectible Lilliput, which he founded, as well as Picture Post. So he must have been well up on Hitler’s hit list.

Walter Trier's cover for first Lilliput magazine in 1937

Walter Trier’s cover for first Lilliput magazine in 1937

Soon after Lorant went to America in mid-1940, Picture Post‘s two most important cameramen – Felix Man and Kurt Hutton, both German emigres – were interned on the Isle of Man. The magazine set about negotiating for their release, but their fates will not have assuaged Lorant’s fears and he emigrated to the US. As Lorant told his deputy Tom Wilkinson, who went on to become editor of Picture Post:

‘You British citizens will be all right – all you’ll lose is the freedom to say what you think. But we bloody foreigners will be handed over … I’ve been Hitler’s prisoner once in Munich, I’m not waiting for him to catch up with me a second time.’

The Kitchener-covered Picture Post issue was larger than usual and was focused on Britain’s leaders, with 32 pages devoted to government members. Lorant was a big fan of Churchill. The section starts with photographs comparing a ‘grimly determined’ Churchill in 1914 with him ‘grimly determined again’ in 1940.

Back in February 1939, Lorant had sent Wickham Steed, a former editor of The Times, and cameraman Felix Man to Chartwell and interview Winston Churchill at his home. As David Marcou writes in his thesis, ‘All the Best’:

‘Churchill – the man the Tories didn‘t trust – was no more than a backbencher under the Chamberlain administration. He‘d held no office since being Chancellor of the Exchequer under Stanley Baldwin a decade before. Steed concluded his profile: “His abiding care is the safety of Britain, the Empire and the Commonwealth. Should some great emergency arise … his qualities and experience might then be national assets; and the true greatness, which he has often seemed to miss by a hair‘s breadth, might, by common consent, be his.” In its introduction, Picture Post added its own prophetic comment: At 64, the greatest moment of his life has still to come.’

Picture Post covered the German offensive with a dramatic story―’Blitzkrieg’ in the June 8 issue.

‘The lightning war smites Europe. It blisters its way between the Allied Armies, cleaving them in two. It carves out a charred road to the English Channel. It scorches the Belgian Army and stuns the Belgian King into surrender.’

Alongside the words is a full-page photo of a man with a girl lying nearby, which tells the story of what war was doing to innocents. The picture caption reads:

We dedicate this picture to the Fuhrer. We dedicate this picture to the ‘moderate’ Goering. We dedicate this picture to those of our own politicians who promised us that Germany would never be allowed to attain air-parity with Britain; that they had secured peace for our time; that they were abundantly confident of victory … It shows a Dutch father wounded all over, but forgetful of what he is suffering. The dead girl on the corner is his daughter.

It’s no wonder that Lorant decided to put the Atlantic ocean between himself and Hitler. However, he had burned his bridges well before. As I point out in A History of British Magazine Design, Tom Hopkinson identifies the seven pages of ‘Back to the Middle Ages’ (26 November 1938) as ‘the finest example of the use of photographs for political effect’. He describes how Lorant drew up the pages to hit back at ‘This bloody Hitler. These bloody pogroms!’

Sad times for great magazines in uncaring Time Inc hands

June 23, 2017
Sales of fashion monthly Marie Claire once rivalled Cosmopolitan

Sales of fashion monthly Marie Claire once rivalled Cosmopolitan – but are now half

Had an email yesterday morning from the editor of one of the biggest Time Inc UK weeklies asking for a correction to my listings – I had mistakenly said the title had closed. No problem I thought, but the request seemed a bit odd until I saw this Press Gazette headline later in the day – ‘UK magazine giant Time Inc puts 111 journalists at risk of redundancy‘.

Time Inc wants to group editorial staff on some of its biggest titles into one central ‘hub’, says Press Gazette. Really bad move – the result will be to blandise the titles and diminish their identity. No doubt it will also be the harbinger of more cuts to come. Central subbing units tend to be ideal targets for ‘outsourcing’ or moving to the far corners of the country.

The magazine titles involved include Woman & Home (£4.30; sales 319,000; 36% subs; about 10% multi-packed), Marie Clare (£3.99; 153,000 sales; 20% subs; 15% frees) and Look (90,000 fortnightly; 3% subs; 11% frees). Digital circulation adds about 1,000 to each figure. That’s two very different monthlies and a fortnightly all expected to be put together by the same people. I’m surprised the French owners of the Marie Clare name haven’t objected.

The company wants to cut 300 staff globally.

I felt it was bad news when the IPC owners sold the company to US-based Time Inc, and particularly when they dropped the IPC name. The moment you become a bracketed subsidiary of a company that ends in ‘Inc’, it never ends well (is it Time Inc (UK) or Time (UK) Inc? Should there be a Ltd at the end of that too?). So it has proved. The US owners have done nothing but sell off titles and have even sold their Blue Fin headquarters building in Borough, London, to lease it back. hardly the actions of a company in it for the long term.

In a recent post, I identified Country Life as a title that would be better off in other hands, rather than the business park in Farnborough that it gives as its address nowadays.

It’s a sad day that once-great names such as Newnes, AC Pearson, Odhams, Amalgamated, Fleetway and IPC – the ‘Ministry of Magazines’ of the 1970s – have been reduced to a ‘garage sale’ of brands in the hands of uncaring American masters.


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

 

 


 

 

 

De Niro can play Sherlock Holmes in Joe Allen’s Exeter Street building

June 11, 2017
Haité's view of Burleigh St from the Strand showing the Tit-Bits office with its massive rooftop sign on the right

Haite’s sketch of Burleigh St from the Strand showing the Tit-Bits office with its huge rooftop sign on the right

Former Tit-Bits and Strand office at 12 Burleigh St in 2015

The former Tit-Bits and Strand office at 12 Burleigh St, without the rooftop sign. Exeter St runs to the right

The glossy monthly Queen occupied the old Tit-Bits office in 1947

Queen occupied the old Tit-Bits office in 1947. Another former occupant was Health & Strength in 1910

Joe Allen’s, an American-style bar and restaurant in London’s Covent Garden, is moving from its present site in Exeter Street round the corner into Burleigh Street. I’ve been going there since the 1980s, which I worked for Redwood Publishing in Long Acre, and had one of my favourite meals there – blackened blue fish!

A few years ago when researching my book on magazine design, I learnt that the offices of Tit-Bits and The Strand magazines were on the corner of  Exeter and Burleigh streets in the 1890s, under their founder George Newnes. The southern-most part of Burleigh Street is shown on Haité’s famous Strand cover. The building is still there and later housed Queen magazine. I suspect the Joe Allen premises were the printing works for the magazines.

Joe Allen says its site has been acquired by the actor Robert De Niro,  who plans to open a boutique hotel, The Wellington, in its place. He’s a part owner of the Nobu chain of restaurants and two other hotels. Newspaper reports suggest he is planning to retain the façades of the historic properties on the block that will be knocked through for the development.

If he is looking for a celebrity theme, it could well be Sherlock Holmes, most of whose stories first appeared in The Strand. The site has as much claim to being the spiritual home of the famous detective as any other (221B Baker Street was a fictional address).


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

 

 


 

£1,750 for a copy of Oz magazine

May 13, 2017
This issue of Oz fetched £1,750 on eBay

This issue of Oz fetched £1,750 on eBay

Prices for copies of Oz just go up and up. February was the magazine’s 50th anniversary and the buyers came out for several issues. Pick of the bunch was a copy of the first Oz that sold for £1,750, with 23 bids. A first issue of Oz went in 2012 for just over £1,000. The starting price this time was £400 and five bidders fought it out. A nice thing about it was the provenance. As the seller, sarahnegotiator, explained:

Published in 48 issues between 1967 and 1973, Oz Magazine was a revolutionary anti-establishment underground publishing phenomenon that triggered outrage, numerous police raids and the longest obscenity trial in British legal history. Now, on the fiftieth anniversary of its publication, here is a unique opportunity to purchase an extremely rare copy of the very first issue of London Oz.
Owned by the current seller since it was bought at King’s Cross Station in 1967, the magazine is complete, and apart from some minor creasing and light wear on the cover corners, is in good condition throughout.

Another first issue of Oz sold for £1,000. The starting price was £500 and the seller gave a very limited description. One potential bidder, quite rightly, wanted to know more:

Q: Would you be so kind as to tell me a bit more about the condition? Are there any pen marks or rips? Has anything been cut out? Are there any creases or dog ears? How would you rate it: Mint, VGC, Good, Fair? I’m a collector so quality is very important.
A: I would say that the condition of the magazine is between Mint and Very Good Condition. There are no dog eared corners or creases to any of the pages, no pen marks, no tears, the staples and the fold-out calendar of Feb ’67 are still attached. There are a couple of very small stains on the front cover and overall the pages are very slightly yellowed with age. Thanks for your interest and please get in touch again if you need more information. Best regards and happy bidding,

I’m always wary of terms such as ‘mint’ – but the fact that the seller fills in the details shows that it clearly is not mint in any sense that a collector would understand (stains on the  cover?!).

Another issue, Oz No.11 from April 1968, The Sticker Issue, fetched £363. The seller here, silvantage925, also sold seven other issues of Oz. The description was very good , with photographs to back it up:

The magazine is complete, with no missing pages. There are some minor rips to pages, towards the back of the magazine, including the back page. Stickers are in good shape though. Please see photos.
Magazine does not display any major signs of discolouration or distress other than what has previously been mentioned.
Please check photographs and keep the condition in mind when bidding. I always try and be as honest and descriptive as I can, any flaws etc will always be photographed and added to description.

Four other issues have sold this year fetching prices of £200-£276 on eBay.

 

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

New Scientist sale is good news for Relx investors

April 15, 2017
New Scientist magazine front cover

New Scientist magazine has been sold for an undisclosed sum

The sale of New Scientist magazine is seen as good news for Relx, an Anglo-Dutch company that has moved from print to online delivery of information in the past 20 years.

The FTSE 100 company was once known as Reed International, and owned paper making and building materials companies such as Crown Paint and Polycell. It then bought IPC Magazines and book publishers and switched its focus to publishing. In 1993, it merged with Elsevier, a Dutch group, to concentrate on academic and professional publishing.

Reed Elsevier sold off both the consumer books and IPC’s consumer magazines, which were seen as low-margin businesses, to concentrate on digital delivery of data and information to academia and business. It held on to trade and business magazine titles, such as Variety and New Scientist, but has spent the past 10 years selling these to invest in digital assets such as Lexis Nexis.

Now, New Scientist has been sold to Kingston Acquisitions, an investment firm led by Sir Bernard Gray. He was part of the £230m buyout of the Times Educational Supplement from News Corp in 2005 by private equity group Exponent. Hopefully, a third of the company’s staff won’t take up an offer of voluntary redundancy, as happened after that deal.

The recent history of Relx and Pearson makes a fascinating comparison. Both were conglomerates in the 1980s that decided to concentrate on publishing and media. However, Pearson always seemed a decade behind Reed. That gap has accelerated since Marjorie Scardino left Pearson. New MD John Fallon has seen Pearson’s share price fall by half in the past five years, while Reed’s has more than doubled. The big mystery is how Fallon has kept hold of his job.

 

Mrs Bull and Farrow’s Bank for Women

April 10, 2017
Front cover of the first issue of Mrs Bull magazine in 1910

Front cover of the first issue of Mrs Bull magazine in 1910

Horatio Bottomley launched one of the most successful magazines of the 20th century, John Bull. He was less successful in launching this weekly magazine for women, Mrs Bull, in 1910. The launch cover of the magazine – by the artist Lawson Wood who is remembered today for his humorous animals, particularly the Gran’ Pop series – is shown above. It lasted until 1913, when it changed its name to Mary Bull, but that closed in March 1915.

Full-page advert for Farrow's Bank for Women in Mrs Bull magazine in 1910

Full-page advert for Farrow’s Bank for Women in Mrs Bull magazine in 1910

As well as being a publisher, Bottomley turned out to be one of the century’s greatest swindlers, through his financial scams, which were promoted in John Bull. So it was interesting to find a full-page advert for Farrow’s Bank for Women at 29 New Bridge Street in London, in the first issue of Mrs Bull. The advert describes the bank as:

The first and only Bank for Women in the United Kingdom which is entirely managed by women

This was the era of the suffragette and the image appears to exploit that connection, showing what could be Emmeline or Sylvia Pankhurst giving a speech at the base of Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, which was then a popular place for meetings.

The opening of the bank was noted as a ‘very significant event’ for the women’s movement in  an Australian paper, the Courier Home Circle, dated 18 May 1910:

THE FIRST LADY BANK MANAGER

A very significant event in the annals of the women’s movement was the opening lately of Farrow’s Bank for Women, the first women’s bank in England. Even more important, from a woman’s point of view, is the appointment of a woman to the responsible billet of manager, as well as of a staff composed exclusively of women.

To Bliss May Bateman, well known in literary circles as a writer of poems, novels, and articles on foreign literature in the reviews, has fallen the pioneer honour of directing Great Britain’s first bank for women.

In June 1913, the feminist journal The Awakener carried a full page advert for Farrow’s Bank for Women, where ‘ladies find a courteous and obliging staff of their own sex, ready to assist them in any and every detail of Banking and Finance’.

Farrow’s Bank at 1 Cheapside in the City of London, the owner of the women’s bank, described itself as ‘the people’s bank’. However, Farrow’s collapsed just ten years later and has been cited in academic journals as an example of management hubris:

Farrow’s was in a complete state of insolvency when it opened its Women’s Bank, which was merely a desperate attempt to pull in more money. The bank was only kept open through an elaborate system of accounting fraud, which was finally exposed in 1920.

There are some later adverts for Farrow’s Bank for Women online, for example from Weldon’s Ladies Journal in April 1911.

 

Radio Times and the dark recesses of the web

March 31, 2017
The Radio Times has been around since 1923

The Radio Times celebrated its 70th anniversary in 1993

One of the Radio Times gurus contacted me after seeing my post about tracking down copies of magazines. He makes some interesting points about the post, which used the example of tracing a copy of the Radio Times that carried  an article about a 1974 play, Penda’s Fen:

A link to your blog post was given on a Facebook page that I dip into and I was immediately hooked as I noticed the graphic of the first issue masthead at the top. An interesting post, but one thing most miss with Genome is the facility to see the listing result in context within the day’s listings for that channel:

http://genome.ch.bbc.co.uk/schedules/bbcone/london/1974-03-21#at-21.25

Scroll right up to the top of that page, and there, on the right, are the details of the issue and page numbers for the listing, making life very easy if you are then planning to look for a copy of the magazine that contains the information, either to buy or in a library:

Appears in
Issue 2627
14 March 1974
Page 43

Lynda Kelly’s website, RadioTimesBackNumbers.com, has thumbnails of all the editions she has for sale, but she does have unlisted stock, so it is always worth giving her a call to check. Even if she no longer has a copy, but once did, the thumbnail may be lurking on the web, so a quick search on Waybackmachine or just Google with the right publication date or schedule range may grab it from the dark recesses of the web.

Some nice tips there.

When Brad Pitt celebrated his wedding in Soho’s French House pub

March 14, 2017
Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard in Allied

Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard in Allied

Watched the film Allied on the jet from Sydney to Hong Kong the other day in which the Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard characters get married and celebrate in the York Minster pub. She’s French (in the film as well as in real life) and it’s in London. I thought, can that be Soho? Sure enough it was the York Minister in Dean Street, as became clear from the interior scenes – though it’s amazing how they made it look so big!

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The French House in Soho 

The York Minister was the meeting house for the Free French in London during the Second World War but had gained the nickname ‘The French House‘ because of Gaston Berlemont, the landlord (though he was, in fact, Belgian). De Gaulle is supposed to have written his famous BBC rallying speech there. In 1984, it changed its name to the nickname.

John Taylor, founder of Man About Town magazine drank in the French House, York Minster, in Soho

John Taylor, founder of Man About Town

The Minster was always popular with writers and artists. Also, among the many pictures that cover the walls is supposed to be a photograph of John Taylor, the founder of Man About Town magazine and editor of Tailor & Cutter, the world’s most influential style magazine for much of the past century. I’ve never spotted it though.

I was in The French House a few weeks ago with a couple of friends. Highly recommended is a bottle of the house red and a plate of bread and cheese with homemade chutney. Lunch for three for £30!

It was also The French House that gave me my favourite piece of graffiti, on a theme that has been much in evidence since the US presidential election.

David Deutsch’s quantum computing

March 14, 2017

Acorn User form October 1986 with the Spider curve-plotting program

A discussion of quantum computing is not what many people expect from a blog about magazines, but then they forget that magazines have a habit of going anywhere and discussing anything.

Back in 1986, I commissioned an article for Acorn User magazine, which was later dubbed ‘Spider Power’, from David Johnson-Davies and David Deutsch. The blurb on the contents page read: ‘The Davids present their Spider curve-plotting program to plot almost any equation.’

The Spider was an incredible BASIC program that really did do what it said it would. It was my favourite program – even over the breakthrough fractal routines and Mandelbrot listings we ran. You could type in an equation – even a mix of cartesian – x and y – and radial – r and θ – and still it would print the equation. Raise x to the power of θ, y to the power of r, whatever you typed in, the Spider plotter went away and did it.

One example it plotted was a a set of circles arranged at regular intervals. Don’t ask me to remember the equation. But get hold of a copy of Acorn User from October 1986, issue 51, on eBay and you can see it all there. Type the listing into a BBC Micro emulator and you can run it too.

It was worth buying a £400 BBC Micro just to run this program. There was nothing like it on a £3000 Apple Mac. You’d have had to go to a minicomputer. The only problem was the time it would take – days, weeks even. I gave up on several plots. Even with a second processor attached (which probably tripled the processing speed).

David Deutsch quantum computing

David Deutsch – ‘father’ of quantum computing

But what about quantum computing? Well, the Davids behind the program were the MD of Acornsoft and a researcher at Oxford University.  David Deutsch, the latter David, was tricky to get hold of because he never got up till 3pm (typical student I remember thinking!). When you did get hold of him, you learnt of his theoretical world of computing using the states of atoms for computation and data storage. Given the billions of atoms in a grain of sand, the possibilities are incredible.

Deutsch had recently published his landmark paper on the topic –  ‘Quantum theory, the Church-Turing principle and the universal quantum computer’ – and today he’s regarded as the father of quantum computing. The only problem with such machines, I’m sure someone told me at the time, was that they might disappear because they had moved into another dimension (unlikely, but theoretically possible).

All this has been sparked by The Economist‘s quantum computing  technology quarterly (QC in TQ). The TQ is entitled ‘Here, there and everywhere’ and I read it on a a plane from from Sydney to Hong Kong. The theme of the articles is that the technology is at the stage where it is about to be commercially exploited.

But keep hold of that 1986 Acorn User magazine because it gives an insight into the thinking of one of the greatest minds of this century. When Dr Deutsch wins a Nobel is probably the time to sell it.