Archive for the ‘Odhams Press’ Category

Black and white artists in London Opinion

March 5, 2020
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London Opinion cover, dated 11 April 1908

London Opinion was a popular weekly magazine of the Edwardian period that was heavily illustrated by various black and white artists, such as Alfred ‘Your Country Needs You’ Leete and Bert ‘Are a Mo, Kaiser’ Thomas. This cover, dated 11 April 1908, is signed, but heaven knows what the signature says!

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The cover by the unknown illustrator is unusual in that it combines both line illustration and halftone. The halftone reproduction is reserved for the face.

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Halftone reproduction is only used for the face on this London Opinion cover

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At this stage, Leete does not appear to be one of the star illustrators, though he was regularly doing covers by 1914 when he did the Kitchener image that became the famous recruiting poster. He has at least three illustrations in this 1908 issue, judging by his signature with its dropped ‘T’.

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Alfred Leete’s signature can be seen on this cartoon

 

 

 

 

 

When ‘Put-U-Up’ was a trade mark

March 1, 2020

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‘Put-U-Up’ is one of those expressions that’s a household phrase to me for a folding bed, but, as this pre-war colour advert shows, it was an actual brand, made in Clapton, east London.

The full-page advert is from a 1939 copy of the tabloid-sized Illustrated, one of the biggest-selling weekly magazines at the time. It was a rival of Picture Post, and later John Bull, when the latter adopted colour after the war. Its sales at the time will have been about a million copies a week. Illustrated was printed in Watford for its Covent Garden-based publisher, Odhams Press. It closed in 1957, a time when magazines were losing advertising revenue and readers to commercial television.

> General weekly magazines

 

Kitchener poster and the Washington Post film

November 20, 2019
The cover of Art Buchwald's 1968 book, Have I Ever Lied to You? is on the wall of the editor's office in The Post

The cover of Art Buchwald’s 1968 book is on the wall of the editor’s office in The Post

I rabbit on so much about Alfred Leete’s Kitchener poster that I wrote a book about it, but it still never ceases to amaze me the way that Leete’s Kitchener image – and the many derivatives of it – keep popping up. One example is in the Steven Spielberg film, The Post.

A poster for Have I Ever Lied to You?, a book by the Washington Post columnist Art Buchwald, is on the wall of the editor’s office. It can be seen in several scenes. Buchwald is portrayed as Uncle Sam from the 1917 recruiting poster by James Montgomery Flagg.

The Flagg image, which, like Leete’s, first appeared on a magazine cover (Leslie’s Weekly), was a blatant copy of Leete’s September 1914 cover for London Opinion magazine. Flagg simply replaced Kitchener with himself as Uncle Sam, and the poster has been as big a hit in the US as Leete’s was in Britain.

In The Post, Tom Hanks plays the editor, Ben Bradlee. It comes across just like the 1980s TV series Lou Grant. In that, Mrs Pynchon, the widowed owner of the fictional Los Angeles Tribune, was based on two women: Katherine Graham, the widowed owner of the Washington Post; and ‘Dolly’ Schiff, owner and publisher of the New York Post.

Artists, their signatures and monograms

April 12, 2018
Alfred Leete's monogram

Alfred Leete’s monogram

Alfred Leete, creator of the Your Country Needs You poster of Kitchener, had a distinctive signature for his work, as did one of his artistic contemporaries, Lawson Wood, the creator of the Gran’pop chimpanzee character. Both were famous illustrators and in both cases, the signature evolved over time.

Richard 'Dicky' Doyle's monogram on Punch

Richard ‘Dicky’ Doyle’s monogram from Punch

Other illustrators and cartoonists used a monogram, a graphic device made up of their initials. A great example of this was the Punch illustrator Richard Doyle. He used a reversed R to share the upright of the D, with a bird on top to symbolise his nickname, Dicky Doyle. Monograms seem to have become less popular in the 20th century, but Simon House has a spread of Victorian examples in his book, The Dictionary of 19th Century British Book Illustrators.

Leete’s and Wood’s signatures are easy to make out, whereas Doyle’s is a rebus. However, some cartoonists’ signatures seem perverse in their illegibility – Gilbert Wilkinson being a prime example with his covers for Passing Show and Illustrated weekly magazines.

To help get my head round them all, I’ve started a page of signatures and monograms on Magforum with 100 examples. Another illegible example is East on a Health & Efficiency cover – pointers as to what it says or in identifying some others would be appreciated!

east monogram from 1928 Health and Efficiency

Illegible signature for part of ‘East’


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

 

 


 

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

 

 


 

 

 

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.

 

On this day in magazines: Today and John Bull in 1960 feb 27

February 28, 2017
Today, the first issue of the cover new John Bull magazine, 27 February 1960

Today, the first issue of the cover new John Bull magazine, 27 February 1960

The year 1960 was a watershed in the history of weekly magazines. The sales of women’s weeklies peaked and the general interest weeklies were already well on the slide, with Picture Post, Illustrated and Everybody’s having already folded. They needed to maintain sales of a million copies a week  to be able to offer national coverage to advertisers, but the world was changing, with magazine readers turning into television viewers.

This first issue of Today is part of that change. The 27 February 1960 issue of the ‘new John Bull, incorporating Everybody’s Weekly‘ marked the end of one of the most famous – and at times notorious – magazine titles in publishing history.

The bizarre cover photograph promoted a colour centre-spread on skiing.

Marketing was vital to keeping up magazines sales, so this issue included:

  • A win a car competition – promoted on the cover as the £1,000 competition.
  • Free insurance offer for registered readers – a technique that went right back to the 1880s with railway insurance from Tit-Bits and, in the First World War, insurance against being killed or injured in a bombing raid in Britain.

Note the plug on the cover for that other vital ingredient of magazines, fiction, with the ‘Trustee from the Toolroom’ by Nevil Shute being serialised.

Today was printed by Odhams in Watford, Herts, and published by Odhams Press, Long Acre. The editorial office was at 189 High Holborn. It came out every Wednesday.


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

 

 


This day in magazines: Woman’s Realm launch

February 22, 2017
The first issue of Woman's Realm dated 22 February 1958

The first issue of Woman’s Realm dated 22 February 1958

Woman’s Realm was launched as a mass-market women’s weekly magazine on 22 February 1958 to take sales pressure off Woman – which was selling three million copies an issue – and use printing capacity at a plant in Watford, Herts, owned by Odhams, its publishers.

Woman’s Weekly was an updated version of the well-tried formula of fiction plus domestic tips and information. By 1960, the latter dominated. It added a medical page, personal problems, fashion and regular spots for children. The Odhams publicity machine took sales to over a million. Clarity of hints on domestic matters in Woman’s Weekly, particularly cookery, kept those readers.

There had been intense rivalry since the 1930s between Odhams with Woman, George Newnes with Woman’s Own and Amalgamated with Woman’s Weekly (the oldest of the women’s weekly magazine trio, dating back to 1911). There was also a printing rivalry with both Woman and Woman’s Own being printed in Watford, at Odhams – the Art Deco building is still a print works today – and Sun Engraving. All that is left of the Sun plant, the biggest printing works in Europe in the 1930s producing a huge range from Picture Post to Vogue, is the clock building that stood at the factory entrance, some road names and a Sun bar in a hotel built on the site.

In spring 2001, Woman’s Realm magazine folded after 43 years and was merged with sister title Woman’s Weekly. Press reports quoted editor Mary Frances saying it could not get away from its old-fashioned image and an ‘association with knitting patterns’. Most sales for mass-market magazines had been falling since 1960 but Woman’s Realm had seen a sharp drop in 2000, down 15% year-on-year to 152,053. It was selling 500,000 copies a week in 1989.

Woman’s Weekly has proved its staying power over more than a century, having overtaken its more lavishly designed rivals to register an ABC figure of 276,208, with no freebies, against Woman (208,145) and Woman’s Own (185,172).

Contraction in magazine publishing had set in during the 1950s after the launch of commercial television and later Sunday newspaper supplements. Odhams, Newnes and Amalgamated all merged to form IPC – which then controlled the bulk of British magazine sales – in the 1960s. In 2001, the group ended up in the hands of the US media group Time Inc. Turmoil in the US owners has resulted in cost-cutting and turmoil for the UK offshoot since 2018 and a massive drop in value for the company.

Addendum (April, 2019; February 2020)

With magazine sales in gradual decline, IPC was bought and sold several times:

  • 1998: Reed Elsevier sells IPC  for £860 to Cinven, a venture capital group.
  • 2001: Cinven sells IPC for £1.15 billion to AOL Time Warner. The US publishing giant ran down its British arm, closing or selling many magazines – including Woman’s Realm (after a half-hearted attempt to relaunch it as Your Life under editor Mary Frances). In 2015, it also sold IPC’s Blue Fin office building in London for £415m, moving half of the magazines to an industrial estate in Farnborough.
  • 2018: after Time Inc (what was left of AOL Time Warner) was itself bought by Meredith, another US group, the remains of IPC were sold to private equity company Epiris for a paltry £130m. It changed the name to TI Media.
  • September 2018: TI sells its comics division to Oxford-based 2000 AD and games publisher Rebellion Developments.
  • June 2019: TI sells NME and Uncut to BandLab Technologies, a music specialist group established in 2016 and based in Singapore.
  • September 2019: TI closes the print edition of Marie Claire, a title launched in 1988 as the ‘thinking woman’s magazine’ with serious features, fashion and beauty.
  • In October 2019, Epiris announced it was selling TI Media‘s 41 brands to Future for £140 million. The new owner said it would own 220 global media brands (nobody just publishes magazines any more). Listed as part of the ‘compelling strategic and financial rationale’ for the deal was the entry into ‘three new specialist verticals’, one of these being Women’s Interest with Woman’s Weekly, Woman’s Own, Woman and Chat. Another reason was that TI Media was historically UK-focused whereas Future had a global operating model.

The official sales figures of the three women’s weeklies at the end of 2018 and 2019 were:

  • Woman’s Weekly: 236,429 (227,505)
  • Woman: 133,103 (124,580)
  • Woman’s Own: 124,187 (113,963)

Information about magazines


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


The precursor to Bottomley’s John Bull

June 24, 2016
The first issue cover of John Bull from 1 April 1903

The first issue cover of John Bull from 1 April 1903

Horatio Bottomley is rightly regarded as one of the biggest swindlers in British history, using the pages of both the Financial Times, which he helped found, and John Bull magazine to help promote his financial schemes.

Bottomley was at his most bombastic in the pages of John Bull, which was one of the best-selling magazines during the Great War. It’s the magazine with which he is associated as editor, but, in fact, there was a humorous magazine by the same name launched just a few year before Bottomley used the name, as can be seen above.

The first issue of that John Bull was in 1903 – dated April 1st –  and the editor was Arthur William À Beckett, a magazine veteran who had worked on several titles, including Punch, though perhaps not very successfully. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography describes A.W.’s deputy editorship on Punch from 1880 as presiding over the magazine‘s ‘decline into decrepitude’ because he would change nothing and refused to introduce new blood. Eventually, in 1902, was asked to resign.

A.W. wrote The À Becketts of Punch, about his time on the satirical weekly with his father and brother (Gilbert Abbott and Gilbert Arthur), which was published by Constable in 1903.

The inside masthead for John Bullfeatured famous names such as Louis Wain and Max Beerbohm

The inside masthead for John Bull featured famous names such as Louis Wain, Harry Furniss and Max Beerbohm

The masthead inside the first issue of John Bull by W. Reynolds shows a fabulous roll call of contributors: A.W. carries a bull on his back ahead of a cast made up of A.P. Graves (Irish writer, assistant editor of Punch and inspector of schools), caricaturist Max Beerbohm, cartoonist Harry Furniss, lyricist and writer Adrian Ross, Louis Wain – renowned for his anthropomorphised animals – as Dick Whittington with a devilish-looking cat, Cyril Pearson as a sphinx, Percy Fremlin, adventure writer Sir Gilbert Parker, Sir William Robinson and the Welsh poet Sir Lewis Morris.

A.W. died in 1909, but John Bull appears to have predeceased him, with the British Library holding just one volume, with the final issue dated 25 June 1903.

The magazine was based at 5 Henrietta St in London’s Covent Garden. The street has long associations with publishing. Jane Austen lived at No 9 in 1813-14, the Royal magazine was at No 19 in 1914, along with C. Arthur Pearson’s other titles. In the 20th century, it was the home of Dorling Kindersley for many years.

To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

Arsenal legend Eddie Hapgood – and son

December 9, 2015
Eddie Hapgood, the England and Arsenal captain, on the cover of Weekly Illustrated in 1934 with his son, Tony

Eddie Hapgood, the England and Arsenal captain, on the cover of Weekly Illustrated in 1934 with his son, Tony

Far be it for me to plug an Arsenal player, but this Weekly Illustrated cover from 22 August 1934 of Eddie Hapgood, the England and Gooner defender, has a certain charm to it, with his son Tony beside him. Note the armour-plated shinpads for protection against the opposition’s heavy leather boots – and there should have been head guards against the Christmas-pudding weight of the leather balls on wet days, particularly if you headed a badly-laced-up ball.

Hapgood's autobiography cover

Hapgood’s autobiography cover

The same photograph was used for the cover of a 2009 paperback of Hapgood’s autobiography, Football Ambassador. The photo was taken in the run-up to the start of the 1934-35 season – which saw Arsenal win the league title for the third time on the trot. Hapgood was one of the seven Gunners in the England team that won the ‘Battle of Highbury’ international against Italy on 14 November with a 3-2 scoreline. Goal.com is running a countdown of the top 50 English players and Hapgood is at number 36:

One of the shrewdest signings legendary manager Herbert Chapman ever made was that of left-back Eddie Hapgood, who became a key figure in the great Arsenal side of the 1930s that dominated English football like no club had done before. He became known as the ‘ambassador of football’ – later the title of his autobiography – and is still regarded by many as the greatest left-back in Arsenal’s history.

Note Hapgood’s slick haircut – must be a jar of Brylcreem on that (though I see that Brian Glanville identifies another Arsenal hero, Denis Compton, as the ‘Brylcreem boy’ in 1942).

Tony Hapgood grew up to play for Burnley and Watford in the 1950s.

Stefan Lorant would have been editor of Weekly Illustrated for Odhams Press at this time – it was another four years before he launched Picture Post for Hulton.