Archive for the ‘women’s magazines’ Category

Winnie-the-Pooh has a Home Chat

June 27, 2016
'Christopher Robin's Braces' by EH Shepard sold at Sotheby's for £68,500

‘Christopher Robin’s Braces’ by EH Shepard sold at Sotheby’s for £68,500

Winnie-the-Pooh has been a favourite of children (and adults) all over the world since AA Milne’s books were published in the 1920s, with their black-and-white line drawings by EH Shepard. The bumbling, philosophical, bear first saw the light of print in a poem in When We Were Very Young (1924) and this was followed by a collection of stories, Winnie-the-Pooh, two years later and then the House at Pooh Corner in 1928. All were illustrated by Shepard.

Forty-odd years later, Shepard was approached by Methuen, the publishers, to provide colour for his original black and white drawings. But the coloured drawing above – which sold for £68,500 at Sotheby’s three years ago  – dates back to the first publication of House at Pooh Corner, and is one of six prints that were commissioned for a weekly women’s magazine, Home Chat, in 1928.

Colour prints of the drawings were given away with copies of Home Chat from the issue dated 6 October 1928. They were described as ‘Six incidents in the lives of Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh specially drawn in colour by Ernest H. Shepard’.

Sotheby’s described the drawing, with an intriguing colourful comment, so:

The scene represented in this present drawing is one recalled by Piglet at the conclusion of chapter four of the House at Pooh Corner (‘In which it is shown that Tiggers don’t climb trees’). Tigger and Roo are stuck in a pine tree and Christopher Robin proposes to remove his tunic so that Roo and Tigger can jump into it. Piglet fails to listen to the entire plan for he was “so agog at the thought of seeing Christopher Robin’s blue braces again. He had only seen them once before, when he was much younger, and, being a little over-excited by them, had had to go to bed half an hour earlier than usual; and he had always wondered since if they were really as blue and as bracing as he had thought them…” Shepard has used a light green for Christopher Robin’s braces which is, presumably, a joke.

The ink and watercolour drawing is signed with Shepard’s initials and measures 130 by 186mm.

Winnie the Pooh appeared exclusively in colour in six 1928 issues of Home Chat

Winnie-the-Pooh appeared exclusively in colour in six 1928 issues of Home Chat

Along with ‘Christopher Robin’s Braces’ (an incident from chapter 4 in the the House at Pooh Corner), other prints in the Home Chat series included: ‘Christopher Robin has a Little Something at Eleven’ (one of Pooh’s favourite things to do is to have ‘a little smackerel of something’ at around eleven, and, funnily enough, his clock is always stopped at five to eleven); This exclusive series of prints must have been a real boon for sales, and is the sort of clever marketing on the part of Amalgamated Press that women’s magazines seem to have lost the knack of.

Also in the Sotheby’s sale was a preliminary pencil drawing, unsigned, of the Pooh Sticks game, ‘For a Long Time They Looked at the River Beneath Them…’. This fetched £58,750. And ‘A Happy Christmas To You All’ went for £32,500.

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

Four things to blame magazines for

May 18, 2016

Four things to blame magazines for.

The ‘greatest liar on Earth’

The Adventures of Louis de Rougement in Wide World Magazine August 1898

The Adventures of Louis de Rougement started in Wide World Magazine, August 1898

Louis de Rougemont conned the Victorian world with his fantastic accounts of being shipwrecked and spending decades fighting off sea monsters and living with cannibals in Australia.

What brought his stories to the public attention was the Wide World Magazine, which used ‘astounding pictures’ and ‘thrilling adventures’ to appeal to readers under the line ‘Truth is stranger than fiction’.

The magazine was published in both the UK and the US and serialised de Rougemont’s life story from its August 1898 issue. The opening page for the first instalment sets the scene: ‘The Adventures of Louis de Rougement … the most amazing experiences a man ever lived to tell.’ Even 55 years later in the US, the articles were the topic of comment in Time magazine’s letters page.

His tall tales were eventually debunked. In truth, de Rougemont’s real name was Henri Louis Grin and he was born in Switzerland. He had several jobs before ending up in Australia.  After the scandal, Grin became a music-hall attraction, billed in South Africa as ‘The greatest liar on earth’. As ‘Louis Redman’, he died in London in 1921.

His life inspired books such as The Greatest Liar on Earth (1945) and The Most Amazing Story a Man Ever Lived to Tell  (1977). In 2009, Donald Margulies, a US playwright, brought de Rougemont’s story to life for a modern-day generation with Shipwrecked!, reviewed as ‘a breathless story’ and ‘theatrical pop-up book’.

Banner advertising

Hot Wired website from 12 December 1997

Hot Wired website from 12 December 1997

The online magazine HotWired is credited as being the first website to sell banner advertising in large quantities. It also coined the term ‘banner ad’ and established the idea of providing reports on clickthrough rates to its advertisers. The US phone company AT&T bought HotWired‘s first first banner, which went online on 27 October 1994. The web itself was just five years old, having been invented by the British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee while working as a software engineer at CERN, the particle physics laboratory near Geneva.

The swindling Horatio Bottomley

 John Bull cover from 1917 is a good example of Bottomley

This 1917 John Bull exemplifies Bottomley’s self-promotion

Horatio Bottomley was the founding chairman of the Financial Times, twice an MP and one of the greatest orators of the Edwardian era. His Great Patriotic Rally a few months into the start of the First World War saw London’s Albert Hall crammed with 12,000 people. Yet, he had been forced to resign from his first seat as a Liberal MP after filing for bankruptcy in 1912.

The foundation of his mass popularity was the weekly magazine John Bull. By 1915 it was selling a million copies a week with Bottomley’s editorials thundering from the cover of every issue. It was the pulpit from which he supported his money-making schemes and fended off his enemies.

However, Bottomley was pursued by one of the men he had robbed over many years and finally sentenced to seven years hard labour for fraud in 1922. He blew most of the money he had swindled on champagne and horse-racing. Bottomley’s house near Eastbourne, The Dicker, is now Bede’s school.

Celebrity culture

The first issue of Hello from 21 May 1988 with Princess Anne on the cover

The first issue of Hello! from 21 May 1988 with Princess Anne on the cover

Hello arrived in Britain from Spain in 1988. Subjects were given approval of the article and pictures head of publication, encouraging a fawning attitude towards anyone who could sell a few copies that week.

The parent title, Hola!, focused on royalty but rival OK! went after actors and pop celebrities. Owner Richard Desmond famously signed up the Beckhams and the two titles fought a massive battle over access to photographs of the wedding of Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas.

Soon all the publishers were jumping up and down on the bandwagon, such as Here!, with Heat moving away from its focus on entertainment to carry cover pictures of stars at their ugliest. Soon Closer (to the stars) and Now joined the fray every week. There was even a magazine just called Celebrity. The launches took their toll on the mainstream women’s weekly magazines.

In the US, Talk hit the streets, but it was a rare failure for the self-exiled British editor Tina Brown, despite having Hillary (opening up), Gwyneth (going bad) and George W. (getting real) on the cover (surely you know who I mean?).

Geraldine Harmsworth – a park, a printing press and a mother

May 9, 2016

 

Alfred Harmsworth's Forget-Me-Not was founded in 1891

Alfred Harmsworth’s Forget-Me-Not was founded in 1891

Carters Steam Fair, the largest vintage travelling funfair in the world, comes to Southwark this weekend at the Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park, which surrounds the Imperial War Museum. The park’s name immediately strikes a chord because it was dedicated to his mother in 1930 by the newspaper and magazine magnate Lord Rothermere (Harold Harmsworth).

Harold was the business brain behind his brother Alfred, who became the greatest of the newspaper barons – the ‘Napoleon of Fleet Street’ – Lord Northcliffe.

A memorial plaque in the park states that the gift was in memory of Rothermere’s mother, and for the benefit of the ‘splendid struggling mothers of Southwark and their children’. The Harmsworth brothers used their mother’s name much earlier, however, as the issue above of Forget-Me-Not testifies.

This ‘Pictorial Journal for the Home’ was one of the many periodicals founded by Alfred Harmsworth. With Answers (1888) and Comic Cuts (1890), Forget-Me-Not (1891) was the backbone of what was on its way to becoming the largest publishing empire in the world, the Amalgamated Press.

Forget-Me-Not was based in London’s Tudor Street, which runs south to the Thames from Fleet Street, with the advertising sold by Greenberg & Co just up the road at 80 Chancery Lane. The imprint reveals a third address, for Forget-Me-Not was printed by The Geraldine Press at 21 Whitefriars St, which runs parallel to Fleet St but nearer the Thames.

Like all the penny magazines, it was a cheap affair though, on newsprint with a greenish cover not unlike Tit-Bits, the model for Answers, for which Alfred had worked. The masthead page inside described Forget-Me-Not as ‘the most useful home paper’ and it carried fashion hints and articles on fancy work and households management as well as fiction. The best illustrations were saved for the paper patterns that readers had to send for at a shilling or two each. None of the articles or illustrations carried a byline.

Most of the pages carried marketing messages printed at the bottom such as: Forget-Me-Not is a great help to young couples in all household matters’; ‘Home, Sweet Home [another Amalgamated title] is published on Fridays – 1d’; ‘Answers is the paper for a railway journey’; and ‘This paper is published every Thursday’. Amalgamated aimed to have a magazine for all types of readers with three women’s weeklies, the smaller format Home Chat making up the trio.

One of the editors of Forget-Me-Not, a Hungarian called Arkas Sapt, has been credited with developing a new way of publishing several pictures on a spread, a technique that was to be vital in reinvigorating the Daily Mirror as an illustrated paper after its flagging launch.

If you do head for Carters Steam Fair at the weekend, the park may be a suitable venue for such shenanigans, because the Imperial War Museum itself was part of the old Bethlem Hospital, successor to the mediaeval mental hospital in the priory of Saint Mary of Bethlehem in Bishopsgate Without – on the site of today’s Liverpool Street Station. The original mental hospital dates back to 1329 and gave rise to the term ‘bedlam’.

Magazine mantra: ‘No heads above the masthead’

May 9, 2016
Front cover title from Woman's Own from 19 May 1955

Front cover title from this 1955 Woman’s Own magazine overlays actress Dawn Addams

The typographer Dave Farey reminded me of the magazine designer’s mantra ‘No heads above the masthead’ at the recent launch of A History of British Magazine Design. So he immediately came to mind when I saw this front cover design from Woman’s Own dating back to 19 May 1955.

The full magazine front cover from Woman's Own ahowing the Dawn Addams knitted jacket

The full magazine front cover from Woman’s Own showing the Dawn Addams knitted playtime jacket

The actress Dawn Addams is photographed modelling a knitted jacket, but quite what the designer was up to is a mystery.

Were the film star’s eyes deliberately positioned to peer round the letters? Was the photograph cropped to show the most of the jacket? Whatever the intention, the end result is a mess.

Addams was a ‘delightfully vivacious’ British-born actress who had recently married an Italian prince, the ‘darkly handsome’ Vittorio Massimo, and had her first baby.

 

 

Madonna – a scarce face on Cosmopolitan covers

March 7, 2016
Madonna on the front cover of Cosmopolitan magazine in the US for May 1990

Madonna on the front cover of Cosmopolitan magazine in the US for May 1990

Madonna has appeared quite a few times on Vogue covers, but just twice on the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine in the US. In May 1990 she fronted the magazine and the designers made an unusual use of the title to promote its 25th anniversary:

That COSMOPOLITAN girl is twenty-five … and the future is hers

The pop singer was well established as a cover choice by this time, with the first Madonna magazine cover dating back to 1994. But Cosmopolitan seems to have keen to make up for a quarter century without Madonna with its May 2015 issue – when both Madonna and Cosmopolitan celebrated their 50th birthdays (though neither seems to have wanted to be associated with that age!). The publishers, Hearst, ran the cover below and three other Madonna covers. The thing all three covers had in common, as well as Madonna, was ‘Sex! Sex! Sex!’, Cosmo‘s favourite cover line.

Madonna rides again on the cover of Cosmopolitan with its May 2015 issue

Madonna rides again on the cover of Cosmopolitan with a mask and pearls  for the May 2015 issue

But celebrity covers have been rare for most of Cosmo‘s history. Originally, the cover girl was chosen as a ‘Cosmopolitan girl’ who espoused the philosophy of the magazine.

Of course, it wasn’t a silver anniversary for the British edition of the magazine (that only appeared in 1972), so Claudia Schiffer, German supermodel and now Suffolk resident, was the choice for May. Note the cover plug for the Zest insert, Cosmo‘s health and beauty spin-off, which was launched as a standalone magazine in the autumn of 1994.

Claudia Schiffer, German supermodel, on the cover of the UK edition of Cosmopolitan for May 1990

Claudia Schiffer, German supermodel, on the front cover of the UK edition of Cosmopolitan magazine for May 1990

>WATCH OUT for my V&A book on British Magazine Design (Waterstones UK)

>WATCH OUT for my book on British Magazine Design (V&A shop)

>WATCH OUT for my V&A book on British Magazine Design (Amazon US)

>Cosmopolitan magazine profile

 

Merry Christmas – from ‘Mother Christmas’

December 25, 2015

 

 

 

The slow death of the weekly magazine

December 19, 2015
Declining sales for general weekly magazines

Declining sales for general weekly magazines

The war years were a fantastic time for the photography-based general weekly magazines and their high sales continued into the start of the 1950s, as this chart from the Financial Times in 1959 shows (April 16, page 10). Just these four titles – Picture Post, Illustrated, Everybody’s and John Bull – had a combined sale of about 4.5 million copies a week. That is a staggering figure by today’s standards.

Television was gaining a foothold in Britain’s households and, as the chart shows, first Picture Post and then Illustrated folded. Everybody’s also was not long for the world, merging into John Bull in 1959. A year later, John Bull relaunched itself as Today, but that only delayed fate and it was subsumed by Weekend in 1965.

The BBC took away readers and from 1955 commercial television took away both readers and advertisers. Magazines still had a monopoly on colour advertising over newspapers and television, but then the Sunday Times launched its colour supplement in 1962 and colour TV appeared in 1967, with Britain becoming the first country in Europe to offer regular programming in colour – four hours a week on the BBC. Two years later, both the BBC and ITV were regularly broadcasting in colour and 12 million households owned a colour TV set by the early 1970s.

These TV and newspaper trends saw off other weeklies, such as Tit-Bits and Weekend in the 1980s. It’s been a similar story for women’s weeklies.  In 1959, market leader Woman was selling 3.2 million copies a week, alongside three other titles over the 1 million mark; today it’s less than a tenth of that at about 250,000. Of course, new titles have come along with market leader Take a Break was selling 1.2 million in 1990; today its ABC sale is half that figure.

>>A History of British Magazine Design by Anthony Quinn (May 2016, V&A Publishing)

 

Blow by Blow in Vogue

November 20, 2015
Why the hats? ‘To keep everyone away from me, said Isabella Blow

Why the hats? ‘To keep everyone away from me, said Isabella Blow

The A.G. Nauta fashion blog has put together a nice sequence of Isabella Blow photos from magazines, including pages from the 1993 London Babes feature shot by Steven Meisel and conceived by Blow – the fashion muse’s brother has described it as the most expensive Vogue shoot of the era.

The blog quotes Blow, who wore some astounding creations from the likes of Philip Treacy – you have to see them live to really appreciate them:

Why the hats? To keep everyone away from me. They say, Oh, can I kiss you? I say, No, thank you very much. That’s why I’ve worn the hat. Goodbye. I don’t want to be kissed by all and sundry. I want to be kissed by the people I love.

>>>Women’s glossy magazines

 

‘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

Magazine cover design: whatever happened to this Woman’s Own cover?

November 6, 2015
Woman's Own title covers the model's face on this cover from 19 May 1955

Woman’s Own title covers the model’s face on this cover from 19 May 1955

Can this have been what the designer wanted to do with this Woman’s Own cover from 19 May 1955? The cover from the ‘national women’s weekly’ certainly focuses on the ‘playtime jacket’ cardigan being modelled by Dawn Addams, a British film star. But the masthead covering the actress’s face looks crude.

Her eyes peer just between the letters, but the magazine photographers usually famed the cover model to allow space above or had the title covering just part of the head, as in the cover design below from two weeks earlier.

Straightforward treatment for the title on Woman's Own two weeks earlier

Straightforward treatment for the title on Woman’s Own two weeks earlier

Dawn Addam’s career is summed up by IMDB: ‘Maybe because her beauty was too smooth or because her acting talents were limited or both, [Addams] had an undistinguished film career, in which second-rate pictures far outnumber quality ones.’ Inside the May 19 Woman’s Own, she is shown with her baby son, Stefano. She was married to Prince Vittorio Massimo of Italy.

>>>Women’s weekly magazines