Archive for the ‘national magazines’ Category

This month in magazines: She’s sunny Februarys

February 15, 2017

Bikini days for She magazine in February 1977

Bikini days for She in February 1977

Bikini days for She magazine in February 1977

… and again in February 1978

Bikini days for She magazine in February 1979

…and in February 1979

In Britain, February is not a time of year normally associated with bikinis, so I was surprised to find these February covers for the monthly She from 1977-79. There was even a January 1975 cover of a bikini-clad model on a ski slope! Why are the models all in bikinis? To attract holiday advertising? No, after a bit of research, it emerged that women in bikinis were the most popular covers for She right through the Seventies. In 1978, no less than eight of the 10 covers I could track down were bikini shots. That’s a feel-good strategy: bringing a ray of sunshine into women’s lives every month!

Punch cartoonist Fougasse regarded magazine covers as repetitive

Punch cartoonist Fougasse regarded magazine covers as repetitive

But this is unusual, or perhaps typical. As long ago as 1920, Punch was jesting about the predictability of women’s magazine covers. Yet, editorially, She was not a typical magazine. For a start, two people shared the editor’s post in the 1970s: Pamela Carmichael and Michael Griffiths. It was more like a weekly in a monthly format, with a particular strength in witty picture captions (Tim Rostron, whom I worked with on weekly trade papers, got himself a job as a sub-editor at She on the strength of his captioning skills). Its cover motto in the late 1970s was ‘There’s nothing quite like She.’

The first issue was March 1955 with Joan Werner Laurie as editor. Its motto then was: ‘young, gay elegant’. She was fond of repeating its logo several times on the cover, either reduced in size as part of its motto (as in two of the February issues above) or full size (there were three down the left side of the launch issue cover design).

Three logos on the cover of the first issue of She in March 1955

Three logos on the cover of the first issue of She in March 1955

Laurie’s partner was Nancy Spain, who was a household name thanks to her appearances on radio and TV shows such as Woman’s HourWhat’s My Line and Juke Box Jury, and her weekly column in the Daily Express. They were a real go-getting pair – but came to a tragic end in a light aeroplane crash on the way to the 1964 Grand National at Aintree in Liverpool. Laurie was learning to fly at the time. The biography, A Trouser-Wearing Character – The Life and Times of Nancy Spain, was written by Rose Collis.

She magazine bit the dust in 2011 after more relaunches than you could shake a stick at from its owner, The National Magazine Company, then known as ‘NatMags’ and now Hearst UK (it is owned by the US-based Hearst Corp).


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: Sunday Times supplement 1962

February 5, 2017
First issue cover of the Sunday Times Colour Section on 4 February 1962

First issue cover of the Sunday Times Colour Section, 4 February 1962

The first Sunday of February 1962 saw the advent of the Sunday Times Colour Section. It could not call itself a magazine then because the law prohibited magazines being published on a Sunday.

However, the colour supplement was a big factor in changing the nature of the magazine industry. The advent of commercial television in the mid-1950s had brought down general weekly magazines such as Picture Post, Everybody’s and Illustrated. And monthlies too, such as Lilliput. From 1962, the Sunday papers became another nail in the coffin of weekly magazines. John Bull had relaunched itself as Today but would last just another two years;  Tit-Bits, Reveille and Weekend would soldier on before eating each other up and closing in the 1980s. It was a story of slowly falling sales for women’s weeklies too, with their circulations having peaked in 1960.

Yet it was not all plain sailing for the first 1960s colour section. Mark Boxer had been tempted across from the upmarket monthly Queen as launch editor. He said he had only seven weeks to produce the first issue and would later say he was ‘amazed by its success’. He wanted to change the name to Sunday Times Colour Magazine but aside from the legal question, he was told that this might be interpreted as a sign of losing confidence. A few weeks after the launch, he said: ‘The supplement is still not being taken seriously. It is like the toy in the cornflake packet.’

The art director was John Donegan, who had worked in advertising and later became a cartoonist for Punch and the Sunday Express. The  cover for the first issue shows 11 photographs taken by David Bailey of Jean Shrimpton wearing a Mary Quant dress. They encircle a colour shot by photojournalist John Bulmer of Burnley’s legendary striker Jimmy McIlroy. The issue also published the Ian Fleming short story ‘The Living Daylights’, but was described ‘a crashing bore’ in the news weekly Topic.

At the start of its second year, the Colour Section began calling itself a Colour Magazine. That word ‘colour’ was the magic ingredient, enabling the Sunday Times to offer a colour national advertising vehicle to big advertisers.It finally became the Sunday Times Magazine in 1964.

The idea of supplements is not new, of course. The Times launched a women’s supplement in 1910, and a colour version a decade later, though bother were short lived. And the Times Literary Supplement and the paper’s Education and Higher Education supplements are still published. But these are exceptions to the rule that supplements cannot make it as magazines. The last one to try – the Mail on Sunday‘s You, was an embarrassing failure when it tried.

Roy Thomson starting the presses at Sun Engraving for the Sunday Times Colour Supplement in January 1962

Roy Thomson starting the presses at Sun Engraving for the first Sunday Times Colour Supplement in January 1962

‘Bore’ it might have been, but it pulled in the advertising revenue for Sunday Times owner Lord Thomson (a tycoon often remembered for saying that television was ‘a licence to print money’). Other papers took notice, with The Observer following suit on 6 September 1964 with a cover portrait of Lord Mountbatten by John Hedgecoe, who established the photography department at the Royal College of Art the next year. It took its inspiration from magazines such as Life and Paris Match as well as the Sunday Times supplement. A Daily Telegraph supplement was launched the same month. Late in the decade, the Mirror had a ago, but this did not last long. Nowadays, however, most of the national papers have several magazine supplements, as do many local and regional papers.

Mini painted by Alan Aldridge for the Sunday Times 1965

Painted Mini by Alan Aldridge for the Sunday Times 1965 Automania special

Under editors such as Godfrey Smith, Hunter Davies, Ron Hall, Philip Clarke and Robin Morgan, the Sunday Times Magazine was a breeding ground for photographers, editors and designers, with people such as Peter Crookston, the future Nova editor; David Hillman, the Nova designer and later Guardian redesigner; and Peter Fluck and Roger Law (Spitting Image puppet makers); and art editor and Soviet archive owner David King all going through its doors.

Michael Rand ran the art side of the supplement between 1963 and 1993. In a commemorative issue (5 February 2012) he said:

I never attempted a style for the magazine. I just wanted it busy but simply laid out, and there had to be tension there: grit and glamour. I realise now my unconscious influence was Picture Post. It had those great covers and was unashamedly a picture magazine. And I used a lot of illustration — David Hockney, Peter Blake and Ian Dury did front covers. There was a feeling that, creatively, you could do anything.

And the supplements could do pretty much anything. The October 1965 front cover above – an Automania special issue – is an example. It is a real Mini painted in his psychedelic style by Alan Aldridge. The car was white-washed and painted with 100 tubes of designer’s gouache, six cans of silver spray from Woolworths and checkered tape. It took five days. And then Denis Rolfe took the photo.

To encourage advertisers to prepare better artwork, the Telegraph group produced the Daily Telegraph Magazine Guide to Gravure Printing, a book written by its technical adviser, Otto M Lilien, in 1968. The expensive, 100-page guide was printed by Eric Bemrose, Aintree, the company that printed the magazine, with acetate pages produced by Harrison & Sons (High Wycombe) and binding by Tinlings of Liverpool.

The process and its technical differences from Letterpress and offset [lithography] are fully set out and illustrated In the following pages. Explanations are given to assist the achievement of the best possible results from the use of gravure through suitable basic design, typography, Artwork, photography and layout

The cost of printing the Mirror Magazine lost IPC millions of pounds in 1970

The cost of printing the Mirror Magazine lost IPC millions of pounds in 1970

Supplements had massive print runs on the country’s biggest gravure presses, and budgets to match because their economics were not the economics of a paid-for magazine.

However, get it wrong on a supplement and the printing costs could kill you – as it did the Mirror Magazine. IPC launched the supplement but the massive 5 million print run was too long for the  copper cylinders on the gravure presses at Odhams Press in Watford. That meant two sets of very expensive cylinders – and the Mirror Magazine closed within a year having lost £7 million.

 

What’s a copy of the Sunday Times Magazine worth?

 


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

 

 

 


Marriner’s parrot in the New Yorker

October 9, 2016
Neville Marriner obituary  on The Times website in October 2016

Neville Marriner obituary on The Times website in October 2016

The Times had a nice reference to The New Yorker in its obituary for the conductor Neville Marriner on Monday:

If ever a pocket cartoon summed up a man’s achievements it was the celebrated drawing carried by The New Yorker magazine that showed a parrot listening to the radio. Out of the airwaves came the announcer’s voice: ‘That was the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields …’ Quick as a flash, the parrot chirps in: ‘… conducted by Sir Neville Marriner.’

Shame the cartoonist isn’t credited.

‘Fabulous’ pays off for the ‘Sun on Sunday’

November 12, 2015
The front page of the Sun on Sunday promoted the One Direction Fabulous magazine heavily (8 November 2015)

The front page of the Sun on Sunday promoted the One Direction Fabulous magazine heavily (8 November 2015)

Most of today’s tabloid newspapers were founded by magazine barons – the Mail, Express and Mirror. The exception is the Sun, but it is well aware of the selling power of its supplements, so much so that when parent company News UK closed down the News of the World in 2011, its Fabulous magazine was moved across to the new Sun on Sunday when the daily started coming out on Sundays six months later.

Last Sunday’s edition plastered images of the supplement across the front page to promote five covers devoted to the members of boy band One Direction: Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson, with a fifth cover of the boy band members together. There was similar marketing online and the special 1D magazine was also pushed in the Sun on the previous four days. The aim is to attract younger readers – and hopefully get people to buy more than one copy of the paper. It’s a strategy that appears to pay off – sets of the five One Direction magazines have sold on eBay for up to £49.99! A classic piece of brand marketing using popular celebrities.

The promos in the paper read:

With Zayn Malik’s departure and the decision to take a break in 2016, it’s been a tumultuous year for One Direction. In this week’s Fabulous, Harry, Niall, Louis and Liam reveal how they reacted when Zayn quit the band, what they plan to do with their time off and why this is definitely not the end for 1D.

There are also five covers to collect – share yours with us using the hashtag #Fabulous1D!

Don’t miss Fabulous, free with The Sun on Sunday. For more, go to Fabulousmag.co.uk

Magazines like this also allow the paper to focus on a specific part of the readership – presumably teenage girls in this case. It’s a strategy that the Mail on Sunday has played really well over the years with its women-focused You supplement and the Financial Times with its How to Spend It monthly for millionaires. Yet, when Fabulous was launched, former Guardian editor Peter Preston argued in a column that it was too far removed from the paper’s main readership.

Here’s one of the covers – but don’t ask me who it is!

One of the five One Direction covers for Fabulous

One of the five One Direction covers for Fabulous

>>>Britain’s national newspapers profiled

A different type of magazine marketing

January 26, 2015

It’s January 1940. the Second World War is four months old, but the conflict still seems far away for most people in Britain. The next few months would see the Germans move into Scandinavia and sea battles at Narvik, but Dunkirk was five months away, the summer would bring the Battle of Britain fought in the air – and then the bombing Blitz on British cities in December. Meanwhile, at Woman’s Fair, an Odhams women’s weekly filled with American fiction and illustration, the war has hit home with the price of paper – an imported commodity from Scandinavia and Canada – shooting up.

The editor bemoans in a whimsical article, ‘We are going up’:

Paper has become about as precious as gold and we’ve been wondering whether we should make Woman’s Fair smaller or ask you to pay a tiny proportion of wartime paper costs. We don’t believe you’d like a smaller Woman’s Fair and so instead we’re making it a penny more. Your February issue will cost 7d.

The editor of Woman's Fair blames wartime paper costs for the magazine's price rise

Woman’s Fair blames wartime paper costs for a price rise

All supplies from Scandinavia were quickly lost and soon the German U-boats would be hounding Britain’s convoys, where food and weapons no doubt took precedence over paper for magazines.

By 1942, publishers were cut to a ration of less than a fifth of their pre-war usage. The result was that many magazines closed, they all had fewer pages, some cut their page size and the battle was on to cram as many words on to the precious paper as possible – in the case of Woman’s Own, even starting articles on the cover.

The standard fare of Woman’s Fair magazine was beauty, as shown by a Pathe news-reel called ‘Beautifying! Where to Put the Accent!’ The short film is based on Jean Barrie, ‘Beauty Editress’ of Woman’s Fair showing us ‘where to put the accent on our beauty’.

The magazine undoubtedly loved the publicity and marketing became even more important because it was vital to draw in as many readers in as possible before the lack of paper supplies really bit.

'Once I was a Pretty Girl' - a poem designed to encourage subscribers to Woman's Fair magazine at the start of WW2 in 1940

‘Once I was a Pretty Girl’ – a poem designed to encourage subscribers to Woman’s Fair in 1940

At Woman’s Fair they took a creative approach with a poem, ‘Once I was a Pretty Girl’:

Once I was a pretty girl
A witty girl, a city girl,
Now I’m just a pity girl’
Was poor Amelia’s cry.

‘My skin is yellow, dull and lined,
My hair a mass of tangles twined,
My sex appeal has quite declined
Won’t someone tell me why?’

‘Of course we will the secreet share,
Cried Maud and Milly, Kate and Clare,
‘You haven’t ordered WOMEN’S FAIR,
And wise girls will allow

It’s WOMEN’S FAIR that marks the trends,
That guides the feet and shapes our ends
And turns to husbands our boy-friends –
RESERVE YOUR COPY NOW!’

There’s an order form on page 61

A Pore Em’ly poem in Woman’s Fair preys on the beauty worries of its readers

A Pore Em’ly poem in Woman’s Fair preys on the beauty worries of its readers

A few pages later, the message was reinforced, again stressing the danger of becoming a dowdy woman:

Pore Em’ly
Em’ly Brown was a glamour girl,
Witht sparkling figure and hair a-curl,
And luscious teeth of mother-of-pearl’
Oh, Em’ly was delicious!

But that, alass, was in days pre-war’
And now she’s known as the Awful Bore’
Her face is one GIGANTIC poer –
So she stays at home washing dishes.

Poor Em’ly knows as well as not
Why her looks and wit have gone to pot’
For she quite forgot (may her conscience rot,
May she tear her hair in sheer despair)
She quite FORGOT – believe it or not –
To reserve her copy of WOMAN’S FAIR.

The text goes on:

MORAL: Don’t be like Pore Em’ly. The war has made us short of paper and so your newsagent will be short of your copy of WOMAN’S FAIR unless you tell him to keep you one. NOW! – ED

The attitude to readers at Woman’s Fair seems pretty cynical. And the magazine was undoubtedly put together on the cheap, buying in almost all its copy and illustrations from the US. Among the imported material was:

  • cover illustrated by Jon Whitcomb cover (where the woman seems to have a voodoo doll in her hair);
  • Lyn Arnold short story ‘Life begins in January’;
  • Wilton Matthews fiction, ‘She Made His Bed’, illustrated by Jon Whitcomb;
  • ‘She’s a Treasure’ by Lester Ashwell;
  • ‘This Time it’s True’ by Gladys Taber. Illustrated by Earl Cordrey;
  • White Magic serial by Faith Baldwin.

The only prominent British illustrator commissioned was Clixby Watson, who was a regular choice for top magazines such as  Lilliput, Nash’s Pall Mall Magazine and The Passing Show as well as Woman, the leading woman’s weekly at Odhams. He also worked for advertisers, including Mars’ Spangles sweets.

Women’s monthly magazines

Back to the drawing board at Charlie Hebdo

January 8, 2015

If the gunmen thought they would shut Charlie Hebdo up, here is the response from the French satirical magazine’s lawyer:

The next edition of Charlie Hebdo will come out next week and a million copies will be printed.

Charlie Hebdo’s typical sale for an issue is about 45,000 copies. The Guardian assesses the magazine’s likely reaction under the headline ‘Fight intimidation with controversy‘.

The Telegraph has updated its slideshow of cartoonists’ reactions, led by this one from pocket cartoonist Matt:

Telegraph cartoonist Matt's reaction to the 12 murders at Paris magazine Charlie Hebdo

Telegraph cartoonist Matt’s reaction to the 12 murders at Paris magazine Charlie Hebdo

The Financial Times also put up a page of cartoons this morning. Magazine reactions have continued at their websites. At the New Yorker:

The attack on Charlie Hebdo is only the latest blow delivered by an ideology that has sought to achieve power through terror for decade

The Spectator magazine ran a photograph of the vigil at Trafalgar Square with a comment article sparked by the Financial Times that – like many of the paper’s own readers, and commentators around the world – took aim at an opinion piece by one of the paper’s writers:

I am just back from a ‘Je suis Charlie’ vigil in Trafalgar Square, and the solidarity was good to see. I fear it won’t last. I may be wrong. Perhaps tomorrow’s papers and news programmes will prove their commitment to freedom by republishing the Charlie Hebdo cartoons.

But I doubt they will even have the courage to admit that they are too scared to show them. Instead we will have insidious articles, which condemn freedom of speech as a provocation and make weasel excuses for murder without having the guts to admit it.

Tony Barber, Europe editor of the Financial Times was first out of the blocks:

‘Charlie Hebdo is a bastion of the French tradition of hard-hitting satire. It has a long record of mocking, baiting and needling Muslims.’

The writer forgot to add that Charlie Hebdo has a long record of mocking, baiting and needling everyone. It is a satirical magazine in a free country: that is what it does.

The websites were still quiet at Private Eye and Le Canard Enchainé, but perhaps taking time to think is a good thing.

John Bull magazine at the Angel in Rotherhithe

December 19, 2014
Detail from John Bull magazine cover of marching policemen with the Angel pub at Rotherhithe in the background

Detail from John Bull magazine cover of marching policemen with the Angel pub at Rotherhithe in the background

It was the detail in the background that caught my eye for this 1952 John Bull cover by Royal Academy artist Alfred Thomson RA. The line of marching policemen points to the lit-up Angel, clearly a pub. And not just any pub I reckoned, but the Angel in Rotherhithe.

John Bull cover by Alfred Thomson from September 1952

John Bull cover from September 1952 showing the full painting by Alfred Thomson

The Angel is right on the Thames river wall, in fact at high tide the terrace is a foot under water and the waves splash up against the windows.

There’s no police station nearby now, but a look at a map and a web search fills in the details. The painting’s view is looking north up Cathay Street to the river. The police station, no longer in use, was on the corner with Paradise Street.

The bobbies are all eyes left towards the waiting woman with her dog, apart from the PC at the end of the line.

I like the caption, which fills in the story behind the scene, inside the weekly magazine:

One of the pleasures for AR Thomson, RA, is a pint and a friendly game of darts at a favourite pub. On his way recently to one of his haunts in London, he passed a local police station and saw the scene he has depicted on the cover painting. ‘The girl was obviously waiting for her PC 49 to come off beat,’ he writes. ‘My guess is he got a ribbing when his relief arrived.’

John Bull was a fiction-based, large format weekly published by Odhams, with offices in High Holborn. It was founded in 1906 by the notorious MP and swindler Horatio Bottomley who was only brought to book in 1922. It relaunched with colour covers in 1946 and became Today in 1960. Odhams was one of the companies that merged to form IPC, now Time UK.

Today, the Angel is run by Samuel Smith, with a restaurant upstairs, and, as with all the Yorkshire brewer’s premises, you’ll find just about the cheapest beer in London.

When a woman ruled the roost for Punch ad sales

October 14, 2014

 

Marion Jean Lyon was hard of advertising sales for Punch in 1923

Marion Jean Lyon was head of advertising sales for Punch in 1923 ((c) magforum.com)

Punch advertising manager Marion Jean Lyon  in 1923

Marion Jean Lyon in 1923 (Magforum.com)

The above advert for Punch from the autumn of 1923 describes the veteran weekly as ‘the foremost humorous journal in the world’. No small claim, and backing it up from the weekly’s Bouverie Street offices just off Fleet St was advertising manager Marion Jean Lyon.

She was one of the most successful people in the history of advertising sales, and, as head of sales for Punch, she was able to boast that all the advertising space was sold until the next year. Lyon held the post at Punch, which was a national institution, until she died in 1940. She was one of many women working in the industry in such roles, alongside women advertising managers at Everywoman, Woman and Housewife.

Lyon’s success was noted in another weekly, the Spectator (21 October 1922, p37):

A remarkable illustration of the ever-increasing part women are playing in business life is afforded by the appointment of Miss Marion Jean Lyon, a Scotswoman who came to London 16 years ago, to the position of advertising manager of Punch. Joining the office staff of Punch 12 years ago, Miss Lyon gradually worked her way upwards till she was made assistant to the late advertising manager, Mr Roy Somervell. She has recently been appointed to the vacant position, to the great satisfaction of all those who had experience of her business ability. The position of advertising manager of Punch is one of the most important and highly paid in Fleet Street and it is interesting to find that a woman has won it.

The year 1923 was a big one for Lyon, because she married Leonard Raven-Hill, who had joined Punch in 1901 and been second cartoonist to Sir Bernard Partridge since 1910. Not only that, she helped found, and became first president of, the Women’s Advertising Club of London in 1923. The WACL is still going today.

There is an intriguing symbol used in the advert – a clockwise swastika, below the words ‘goodwill throughout the civilized world’. Ten years later the symbol would become associated with the Nazis, but it is one of the world’s oldest symbols and was, for example, regarded as a a good luck totem by early aviators.

swastika symbol

Notice the swastika symbol below the text

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kitchener – this is not a poster!

May 29, 2014
Daily Mail's Event magazine with its Ralph Steadman article

Daily Mail’s Event magazine with its Ralph Steadman article that mistakenly identifies a poster as the original London Opinion cover

Whatever the faults of the Daily Mail, it exhibits a sense of history in the logo it carries on its ‘answers to readers questions’ page. The logo is based on the original title for the magazine that founded the Daily Mail dynasty back in 1888: Answers to Correspondents on Every Subject under the Sun, founded by Alfred Harmsworth.

Logo from the present-day Daily Mail - based on a magazine title from the 1880s

Logo from the present-day Daily Mail – based on a magazine title from the 1880s

As Answers, this became a massive success, building on the pioneering George Newnes’s Tit-Bits, for which Harmsworth had worked, to help establish British magazines as the first truly mass media. Answers claimed to answer questions sent in by readers directly by post, and those of general interest were published. Answers was a such a success that it was the foundation of a magazine and newspaper empire, the likes of which the world had never seen. Alfred and his brother Harold went on to found both the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror, then buy up both the Sunday Observer and the Times and become lords Northcliffe and Rothermere. Alongside the newspapers, the Harmsworth’s Amalgamated Press (later Fleetway) became the largest periodical publishing empire in the world. Viscount Rothermere rules the roost at today’s descendant, the Daily Mail & General Trust.

London Opinion 1914

The original magazine cover – this is NOT a poster!

So it’s no surprise that the paper is running a series to mark World War One, including an 80-page souvenir issue of its listings section, Event. Pride of place in the May 4 edition was a feature by the brilliant Ralph Steadman, whose father fought in that war and was injured three times. Steadman interprets Alfred Leete’s famous Kitchener image and the article make reference  to its original appearance as a London Opinion cover – but then shows one of the early London Opinion posters in the centre of the spread rather than the magazine cover!

The error adds to half a century of people getting it wrong: including the Imperial War Museum (which was given the artwork by Leete); Picture Post using the artwork in 1940 and again referring to it only as a poster; and biographers such as  Philip Magnus adding to the confusion. Even the British Library captions the cover as a poster in an article by the historian Professor David Welch. To cap it all, the Royal Mint makes no reference to Leete even as it copies his artwork for a commemorative coin!

The full story of Alfred Leete’s cover illustration for London Opinion is told in the book, The Amazing Kitchener Poster.

Horatio Bottomley – the swindling John Bull

May 4, 2014

Horatio Bottomley was the founder and editor of John Bull, one of the most popular magazines of the 20th century. This postcard promoting the magazine portrays Bottomley as an MP putting the prime minister Lloyd George in his place.

winston-churchill-reading-john-bull-magazineOther members of Lloyd George’s cabinet are shown consulting their copies of the magazine, including Winston Churchill. Bottomley was founding chairman of the Financial Times and twice a member of parliament – but also one of Britain’s biggest fraudsters. The magazine was the medium by which he promoted himself and his dodgy schemes, and not until Robert Maxwell did the media, in that case the Daily Mirror, help create such a monster.

Bottomley was founding chairman of the Financial Times but used it to promote his projects. He came to note in the courts in 1893 when he was able to defend his printing and publishing company, the Hansard Union, from bankruptcy and the fact that £100,000 had gone missing. In 1900, he failed to win election as an MP but won £1,000 in a libel case after he was described as a fraudulent company promoter and share pusher during the campaign. The Financial Times included him in a supplement titled ‘Men of Millions’.

Bottomley’s reputation in the courts dissuaded others from taking legal action – a strategy all used by the likes of Maxwell, known as the ‘Bouncing Czech’ in Private Eye. Maxwell even published a one-off magazine backed by himself and other enemies of Private Eye, Not Private Eye, after he won a court case against the magazine’s campaigns. Bottomley survived other cases against him but his taste for champagne and race horses led to him becoming bankrupt in 1912 and so he was forced out of parliament.

In 1906, Bottomley had founded John Bull with the help of Julius Elias (later Lord Southwell), managing director of the printers Odhams.  The magazine, with its belligerent stance, championing of the common man and prize competitions – including Bullets, which was akin to coming up with cryptic crossword clues – became incredibly successful once the war started. He tried to launch a women’s version, Mrs Bull, in 1910, though this was short-lived.

 John Bull cover from 1917 is a good example of Bottomley

This John Bull cover from 1917 is a good example of Bottomley’s self-promotion

Such was Bottomley’s popularity in wartime that he was despatched by David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill as an unofficial emissary, and persuaded shipwrights on the Clyde not to go on strike.  He toured the country to help recruitment and his visit to the western front was widely reported in the press. The Evening News even ran a poster saying ‘Bottomley Wanted’ to promote a story calling for him to join the cabinet and attacking the government after Haig’s offensive on the Somme failed. Such was the power of the press that Lord Northcliffe was appointed director of propaganda, his brother Lord Rothermere became air minister, and Daily Express owner Sir Max Aitken served as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and as minister for information (and in 1916 became Lord Beaverbrook). However, Bottomley never made it into government.

He was lauded in the music halls, with a 1915 song ‘Mr Bottomley – John Bull’ by Mark Sheridan.

According to the historian Niall Ferguson, ‘Horatio Bottomley’s John Bull was selling as many as two million copies by the end of the war, a figure beaten only by the new Sunday Pictorial [for which Bottomley also wrote a column for £150 a week, a massive sum that had to be personally approved by Lord Rothermere] and the News of the World.’

John Bull led to a cause célèbre in the film world when it accused the makers of what was intended to be an epic feature, The Life Story of David Lloyd George, of being German sympathisers. The Ideal Film Company sued John Bull and won the case in January 1919. Yet the film was never released, because the prints were bought – for £20,000 – by parties acting for Lloyd George. It  was lost until 1994 when it was found at the home of Lord Tenby (Lloyd George’s grandson).

Victory souvenir from John Bull made of metal from a German U-boat

Victory souvenir from John Bull made of metal from a German U-boat

The magazine also bought the Deutschland, a U-boat handed over by the Germans as part of the Armistice, and sailed it around Britain. It was broken up in Birkenhead in 1921 and the magazine sold badges that were: ‘Guaranteed to be made from metal forming part of the ex-German submarine Deutschland.’

In 1920, Beverley Nichols invited Bottomley to speak at the Oxford Union in support of a motion in favour of independent political parties. (Nichols became a popular writer and would go on to write a weekly column for Woman’s Own from 1946 to 1967). He described Bottomley in his book, 25:

A grotesque figure. Short and uncommonly broad, he looked almost gigantic in his thick fur coat. Lack-lustre eyes, heavily pouched, glared from a square, sallow face … It was not till he began to talk that the colour mottled his cheeks and the heavy hues on his face were lightened …

Bottomley won the motion, and Nichols records another aspect of the arrogance of the man – he was disappointed that he had not broken the record for the numbers in the audience at such debates. For breakfast next morning, he ordered, ‘A couple of kippers and a nice brandy and soda.’

Bottomley's Victory Bond club advertised in John Bull

Bottomley’s Victory Bond Club advertised in John Bull in 1919

With the end of war, Bottomley won a seat in the general election as an independent MP for Hackney South. However, the swindling of his Victory Bond Club, which was heavily promoted  in John Bull, was coming to light. Another magazine, Truth, warned its readers off the scheme and Bottomley issued several writs against it, which the magazine ignored. Bottomley also threatened wholesale newspaper distributors – a tactic John Major, the Conservative prime minister, used in 1993 to prevent distribution of the New Statesman when it carried an article about a supposed affair (in 2002, Major admitted having had a four-year affair with the former Conservative minister Edwina Currie from 1984). Reuben Bigland, a printer who had been slighted by Bottomley, had tracked his activities for years and his pamphlet ‘The downfall of Horatio Bottomley: His latest and greatest swindle’ prompted the MP to sue him for criminal libel and blackmail in October 1921. He lost and, along with Odhams, was fined £1000. Bottomley tried again on the blackmail charge, and lost again.

The country turned against him, with the Times thundering out, and Bottomley was committed for trial at the Old Bailey.  The Illustrated London News reported his trial, with the verdict being its front-page illustration (3 June 1922). Bottomley was sentenced to 7 years. Mr Justice Salter said:

You have been rightly been convicted by the jury of this long series of heartless frauds. These poor people trusted you and you have robbed them of £150,000 in ten months. The crime is aggravated by your high position.

Illustrated Evening News reports Bottomley's guilty verdict

Illustrated Evening News reports Bottomley’s guilty verdict in 1922

The report made reference to the Sword of Justice seen hanging on the courtroom wall. Bottomley had earlier told the jury that it would drop from its scabbard if he was found guilty: it did not fall.

Travers Humphreys, the prosecuting barrister, had lost a John Bull lottery prosecution to Bottomley in 1914 but succeeded this time. He wrote in his memoirs:

[In 1914] he was a brilliant advocate and a clever lawyer, though completely unscrupulous in his methods … In truth, it was not I who floored Bottomley, it was Drink. The man I met in 1922 was a drink-sodden creature whose brain could only be got to work by repeated doses of champagne.

In prison, he was recognised and seems to have been popular with many inmates because of John Bull‘s tradition of backing the working man and sending parcels to prisoners of war. A story is told that a padre came to visit and found the prisoner stitching mail bags:

Ah, Bottomley, sewing?
No, padre, reaping!

After prison, Bottomley portrayed his experiences in the manner of Oscar Wilde, with a poem ‘A Ballad of Maidstone Gaol’ by ‘Convict 13’ (his prison number). He also published a book, Songs of the Cell (1928), and toured the music halls. However, he was a sad sight in his later days and died on stage at the Windmill theatre in 1932. His ashes were scattered near his house, The Dicker, in Upper Dicker, near Eastbourne.

As for John Bull, sales plummeted from something like 1m-2m to 300,000 in 1922, but Odhams was able to pull it round as a serious and responsible paper. Within a year it was back selling a million copies a week. After world war two, John Bull relaunched itself with colour, illustrated covers and a focus on fiction from writers such as Agatha Christie and Neville Shute. However, with the advent of commercial television, its sales fell, like all the general interest weeklies, and it was relaunched in 1960 as Today. In this format, it survived until 1964, but it was a slow death for all the popular weeklies and it was taken over by Weekend.

Sources

The Rise and Fall of Horatio Bottomley: The biography of a swindler by Alan Hyman, Cassell, 1972 (well indexed)

Horatio Bottomley by Julian Symons, House of Stratus, 2001 (no index)

‘How the papers went to war’, by Niall Ferguson, 27 October 1998, Independent, p15

‘General weekly magazines’, Magforum.com. John Bull


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