Posts Tagged ‘amalgamated press’

On this day in magazines: Magazines try to change their names in 1920 and 1959

February 28, 2017
Record Weekly was the new title for New Illustrated in 1920

Record Weekly was the new title for New Illustrated in 1920

Two magazines here demonstrate a similar approach to refocusing a magazine on a new audience – though exactly 39 years apart. One failed, one worked.

The first, New Illustrated of 28 February 1920, had already changed its name on 15 February the year before from War Illustrated. Now it was changing to The Record Weekly. Quite a challenge for a weekly magazine. And it did not work. Despite one of the most acclaimed editors of the era, John Hammerton, being in charge at Amalgamated Press, the biggest publisher of the era, the last issue was dated March 20. Clearly, it a was desperate change that was given little time to succeed.

Blighty Parade magazine was a step in changing the title from Blighty to Parade (1959, February 28)

Blighty Parade was a step in changing the title from Blighty to Parade (1959, February 28)

In 1959, the magazine environment was changing quickly. A men’s weekly magazine that still had a military feel – Blighty – needed to change tack and respond to the threat from television and the new men’s magazines such as Spick and Span. Blighty had been founded as a free weekly for the troops in the First World War, and the idea was resurrected for WWII.

The magazine had long run a feature called ‘Picture Parade’ and some bright spark reckoned ‘Blighty’ was outdated as a name. So Parade it would be. However, simply changed the name was regarded as too big a step. So, a plan was put in place to do it in stages over several years:

  • 1959: The name becomes Blighty Parade, at first with the Parade very small.
  • By the end of February 1959 , they were about an equal weight.
  • This continued until November, when the Parade dominated, but the Blighty was retained throughout 1960.
  • By January 1961, the Blighty was dropped and the Parade title was run right across the top of the cover and down the left side.

This change was obviously done far more slowly than on Record Weekly. The strategy worked, with Parade soldiering on into 1970. It became more aggressive in its pin-ups, with topless shots in each issue. However, the likes of Penthouse, Mayfair and Playboy were even more aggressive and Parade folded. The title was bought by a pornographic publisher and continued on the top shelf.

 


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: Top Spot in 1958

February 14, 2017
Top Spot magazine with a self referential cover design for 14 February 1959

Top Spot magazine with a self referential cover design for 14 February 1959

The 1950s marked a period when men’s magazines began to differentiate themselves more strongly, a trend that is evident in this copy of Top Spot from 14 February 1960. Note that storyline across the top of the title – The paper with man appeal!

In fact, Top Spot was aimed at teenagers with a mix of fiction, strip cartoons, pin-ups and war and adventure stories.

Amalgamated Press offered ‘Pictures! Punch! and Action!’ from the first issue in October 1958, but January the following year saw pin-ups like that of Michele Manning above dominate the covers. The 14 February is notable for having a self-referential cover, whereby Manning is shown with a copy of Top Spot from the previous month.

Other features in the issue included a centre pin-up page of Mara Corday; several page cartoon strips, such as Slave Girl Tsarina, the St Valentine’s Day massacre and Fabian of the Yard presents Manhunt; and a back page pin-up.

New title design and a cartoon strip cover for Top Spot of 28 November 1959

New title design and a cartoon strip cover for Top Spot in November 1959

Top Spot‘s fortunes can’t have been helped, however, by the printing strike in the summer of 1959 when it would not have come out for six or more issues. It was bad news for magazine publishers, but the printers established the 40-hour week, which would become standard for most British workers over the next decade.

The pin-up strategy does not seem to have worked either. In October, it switched to a strip cartoon cover.

There were more changes for the November 28 issue, which had a new title design and a cartoon strip ‘The Day the Seventh Died’ about the US cavalry’s battles with native tribes. The emphasis was on ‘stories, pics and humour’. Unfortunately, this was no more successful and the last issue was in January 1959.


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

 


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’.

A happy end to a magazine

February 3, 2016
Last issue of Amalgamated Press's War Illustrated on 8 February 1919

No sad ending: the last issue of Amalgamated Press’s War Illustrated on 8 February 1919. Allies from the Empire (to the left) and Europe are portrayed with a statue of Victory

The demise of a magazine is normally a sad time but note the cover line below this image on the front of War Illustrated from 1919: ‘The Happy End’. The cheery angle came about because this issue marked the end of the Great War after more than four years of slaughter. Also, the magazine was about to rise, phoenix-like, from the ashes of closure with a different name – New Illustrated – the next week. In essence, it was being relaunched with a different name and editorial strategy under its editor JA Hammerton.

Alfred Harmsworth’s Amalgamated Press had a winning team on its hands under Hammerton and the back cover ran his editorial ‘An end and a beginning’, along with an order coupon for the next issue. Yet, relaunching a magazine is always a challenge – keeping the established readership while attracting new buyers is very difficult.

John Hammerton was one of the most successful editors of his generation. He is best known for his work with Arthur Mee producing magazines and partworks that were then republished as some of the best selling books of the day. These included the Harmsworth Self-Educator, Harmsworth’s Universal Encyclopædia and the Children’s Encyclopaedia. In 1933, his Popular History of the Great War was published in six volumes. So, Hammerton set about the task of changing the editorial philosophy of War Illustrated from one of recording a war’s progress to creating New Illustrated as ‘a fascinating pageant of the living history of our own times’.

First, the changes were announced several weeks in advance with a competition to come up with a name for the relaunched magazine – and a tempting £100 prize. This was at a time when a soldier’s pay was about £1 a week, so such a fortune was great publicity. For a month, the back page ran its editorial focusing on the idea with introductions such as: ‘Some of my readers have asked me to help them think of a title for the successor to the War Illustrated … I am yielding to the requests that have reached me by giving a very brief outline of my scheme.’ (By ‘very brief’ Hammerton means the whole of the back page.)

The War Illustrated was launched to record the progress of the war in photographs and illustrations and was designed to be bound into annual volumes. The format was an A4-ish page size on newsprint. Each issue was 32 sides plus the covers (wrappers in the language of the day) and they were numbered sequentially: issue one, 1-32; issue two, 33-64, and so on. Later issues added a four-page centre section printed gravure, which gave a much better reproduction for photographs and raised the pagination to 36 plus 4.

New Illustrated kept to this format and initially looked little different. The volume strategy was still in place with the new title being seen as a ‘continuous sequel’ to War Illustrated. However, as the issues went on, the martial content was slowly decreased. In April, a marked shift took place with a switch to gravure covers. Hammerton announced:

there is nothing quite so costly as the photogravure process which the New Illustrated is introducing for the first time to popular British journalism

Very good artists were always used, such as Harry Rodmell and Francisco Sancha, and the photographs would have looked amazing at the time. May saw a woman on a cover – Lady Diana Manners dressed as Britannia. Manners was one of the leading socialites of the day, and is better remembered today under her married name of Lady Diana Cooper (or as the great aunt of Tory prime minister David Cameron).

From June, the covers always showed women and colour was introduced with dazzling designs befitting the start of the Jazz Age and illustrations by artists such as Billy Bunter illustrator Leonard Shields and photographs by Lallie Charles – who, with her sister Rita, was one of the most successful portraitists of the early 1900s. The women portrayed were shown in the latest fashions, or at parties or at play in the snow, or using the latest technology in the form of the telephone.

New Illustrated starts to change its name to Record Weekly in 1920 (January 17 issue)

New Illustrated starts to change its name to Record Weekly in 1920 (January 17 issue)

However, depression set in as the economy struggled to switch from wartime to peacetime thinking with millions of demobbed troops looking for work. So the start of 1920 saw another relaunch in progress. The masthead became ‘The Record New Illustrated Weekly’, though with the emphasis still on ‘New Illustrated’. With each issue, the emphasis changed until Record Weekly fully emerged from its chrysalis in March. However, the strategy failed and 20 March saw the last issue.

This might finally have been the end of War Illustrated, had not an Austrian painter called Adolph Hitler come along to give rise to World War II. Hammerton – by then Sir John Hammerton – dusted off the War Illustrated strategy and the magazine rose again to record that conflict in a similar way.

EF Skinner's signature on the War Illustrated illustration (8 February 1919)

EF Skinner’s signature on War Illustrated (8 February 1919)

The illustration for the last issue of War Illustrated is by Edward Frederick Skinner, whose works are held by both the Science Museum and the Imperial War Museum. These paintings all depict industry and factories harnessed to the needs of war, but Skinner was a varied and sought-after artist, as the Father Christmas image and the lengthily titled ‘High Priest Coifi riding up Goodmanham Lane to smash the Idols‘ from Little Treasure Island by Arthur Mee (Hodder & Stoughton, 1920) show. The much-enlarged signature here also highlights the crude tones produced by letterpress printing as compared with modern colour lithography.

Greenslade’s mystery of Woman’s Own solved

July 19, 2015
A cover of woman's Own magazine from 17 December 1932, its first year of publication

A cover of woman’s Own magazine from 17 December 1932, its first year of publication

A friend pointed me in the direction of a Roy Greenslade Guardian blog from 2012 that sets up a mystery as to when Women’s Own was founded by George Newnes – 1932, as both the magazine and Wikipedia state, or 1931, which I state on Magforum. I confess I must be wrong.

The earlier version of Woman's Own, from 13 December 1913, published by WB Horner

The earlier version of Woman’s Own, from 13 December 1913, published by WB Horner

I can confirm the existence of the earlier magazine with the same title, however. The British Library has Woman’s Own published by WB Horner’s from 1913, with the modest strapline ‘The best woman’s paper’. I’ve seen copies dated December 1913 and as late as December 1916. The BL has copies into 1917, when it seems it was ‘incorporated with Horner’ s Penny Stories‘. Its offices were at The Fleetway House, Farringdon, in London, the same address later used by Amalgamated Press, the magazine arm of the Harmsworth brothers publishing empire, which took over Horner’s.

The Bear Alley blog – which takes its name from the passage at the side of Fleetway House – has a history of Horner’s.

Woman’s Own is published to this day by Time Inc UK, alongside Woman. For much of their lives, however, the duo were deadly rivals. Woman’s Own was owned by George Newnes and Odhams launched Woman against it on 5 June 1937. They came together in the 1960s with the formation of IPC. These home-based women’s weeklies were massive sellers in their day, peaking in about 1960 with a combined weekly sale of nigh on 6 million copies a week.

 

The best in magazines of the 20th century

January 8, 2011

Loaded first issueLOndon Opinion 1927Tatler in 1982 under Tina BrownLilliput magazine April 1946London Life Ian Drury coverAbout Town  magazine front coverThe Face first issue may 1980

Surveys of the best magazines are done pretty regularly, but they are usually limited in scope and time. But what happens when you open things up to ask who and what are the great names and titles of the 20th century?

Names pop into the frame that you will never have heard of.

How many hands would go up for Stefan Lorant? Even two of the titles he founded – Weekly Illustrated and Lilliput – are now relatively unknown, despite being bestsellers in their day. You will have heard of Picture Post though, which he founded and ran for two years before going to the US where he disappeared without trace as far as magazines are concerned in 1940.

Mark Boxer will be more familiar. The PPA has an award named after him. He learned the design trade on Lilliput, before transforming Queen into a sixties swinger, launched The Sunday Times Colour Supplement and London Life, before dying young in harness as editor-in-chief at Conde Nast. And even his sideline as cartoonist Marc puts him in the frame of fame.

Tom Hopkinson took over from Lorant at Picture Post and, for a while, Lilliput. But did he ever launch a magazine? What did he do after Picture Post?

As magazine supremos, Alfred Harmsworth (Lord Northcliffe), with Answers and Home Chat; George Newnes with Tit-Bits, The Strand and Wide World; and C. Arthur Pearson with Pearson’s Weekly and London Opinion, all belong to the 19th century.

And what about William Ewert Berry? Who’s he? Lord Camrose. Who? He controlled Amalgamated Press, which published 73 magazines in 1951, with a total circulation of more than 14 million. But then most of that – Answers, Home Chat, Weldon’s Ladies Journal, et al – was bought from Northcliffe’s estate in 1926. And he would probably want to be known for his stewardship of the Daily Telegraph.

But these men left the magazine editorial floor for newspapers and created the world of press barons.

How about cartoonist Alfred Leete? Another new name? But his front cover for London Opinion is probably the most famous ever penned. Or Bruce Bairnsfather, whose Old Bill from Bystander lives with us today as the nickname for a policeman.

Another magazine title – London Life. For 10 years running up to WWII this was the apogee of art deco cover design for a weekly and it seems to have spawned every sexual fetish going, from high heels to maids’ costumes to artificial limbs – in its letters pages. Who was the editor? Haven’t a clue.

From the 1960s and 1970s. Town – Clive Labovitch and Michael Heseltine gave Tom Wolsey his head in designing a great-looking magazine, but it never made any money. Nova, another title that burned bright but leaked money. Harry Fieldhouse launched it and art editor Harri Peccinotti was there throughout in some capacity; David Hillman made his name on it; Dennis Hackett edited both Queen and Nova. Oz tried to blow the system apart and came pretty close – it gave Felix Dennis his first taste of magazines and he went on to launch the world bestselling Maxim. With Honey, Audrey Slaughter showed the way for the teen market and went on to edit Vanity Fair (where she was so outraged over the launch of Cosmopolitan that she went off and launched Over 21) and later Working Woman.

Ruari McLean – he designed the Eagle – and wrote Magazine Design, the world’s first book on the topic according to OUP, in 1969. John Parsons was art director of Vogue from 1948 to 1964, and had a stint at Queen.

And talking of Town, what about the magazine it was created from, Man About Town. John Taylor launched it as an offshoot of the trade journal Tailor & Cutter. He spent 24 years in charge of T&C and made it “the most quoted trade paper in the world”, according to The Times. Now, most great editors will receive such lauding at some stage in their careers, but how many have a portfolio of such quotes from the Daily Mail, the Guardian US weekly Time and The New Yorker!

More recent great names: James Brown certainly set the agenda when he moved from NME to launch Loaded, but he didn’t work out at GQ, and Jack and Hotdog never flew. Mike Soutar took FHM by the scruff of the neck – with a ‘funny, sexy, useful’ mantra – to murder Loaded in the sales stakes, did similar things with men’s magazines in the US, and came back to the UK to launch Shortlist. All that and a former beauty editor on women’s magazine Secrets to boot!

Dylan Jones has proved his credentials at The Face, i-D, Arena and GQ.

But what about the face itself; Vogue (1916 launch in UK); Woman (1937); Tatler (1903); Cosmo (1973); Dazed & Confused; Grazia (one of my favourites for its all-encompassing excellence from paper to design to the editors’ A-team); I’m going to have to stop here! It’s like the song lyric – And those I miss you’ll surely pardon. Your thoughts?