Posts Tagged ‘Tit-Bits’

Magazines and adverts in Fleet Street

April 20, 2020

Fleet-Street-postcard

Fleet Street has run with printing ink ever since Wynkyn de Worde moved Caxton’s press from Westminster into Shoe Lane, just off the east end of the street, in the 1490s. This coloured postcard tells of much of that history.

The view looks east along Fleet Street across Ludgate Circus and through the railway viaduct that once spanned Ludgate Hill up to St Paul’s Cathedral. The church spire in front of the cathedral’s dome is St Martin’s Ludgate, a church that, like St Paul’s, was rebuilt by Christopher Wren after the 1666 Great Fire of London. Ludgate Hill station closed in 1929, but the bridge was not demolished until 1990 as part of the construction of Thameslink, the line that crosses the capital to join the south coast with the Midlands.

Fleet-Street-newspaper-seller

Newspaper seller by Poppin’s Court

Bride Lane is the the right and a newspaper seller stands on the left at the archway leading into Poppin’s Court. Shoe Lane would be behind to the left.

At least three pubs can be seen. The King Lud is in front of the rail bridge on the left. Today, it’s split into a Santander branch and a Leon fast food joint. There’s a plaque up on the wall on the Ludgate Hill side of the Leon marking the site of publication of the first regular English daily newspaper, the Daily Courant, in 1702. The pub was named after the king who, legend has it, founded London and gave his name to Ludgate. A statue of Lud and his sons that was once part of the gate now stands in the porch of St Dunstan-in-the West at the other end of Fleet Street.

Fleet-Street-quiver-tit-bits-smiths-agency-1914

Signs for Smith’s Advertising Agency, Quiver magazine and Tit-Bits, probably in May 1914

On the right of the postcard, can just be made out the square white sign for the Punch Tavern (No 99), which was called the Crown and Sugar Loaf, but took the new name after Punch magazine moved to 85 Fleet Street in 1845. The pub developers Saville & Martin rebuilt the pub in 1890s and it is now grade II listed. Smith’s, one of the biggest advertising agencies, occupied the offices above the Punch Tavern, named Publicity House. The SAA lettering can be seen on the corner of a building it occupied from 1885 to at least 1936. Coming back in this direction on the right is Bride Lane, home to both the journalists’ church and now St Bride’s Printing Library. There’s then an awning with a shop frontage below and the white sign for The Old Bell Tavern (No 95).

Today, the newsagents under the awning is gone and there is a fancy windowed frontage to the Old Bell, but photographs show there used to be just a tiled entrance way into the pub (like the Punch Tavern today).

Above the Old Bell are two hoardings. The lower one with a green background is for Tit-Bits, promoting ‘£500 in simple cricket competition’.

The larger hoarding shows a poster for The Quiver, a popular monthly, headed up with the words ‘Special mothers’ and daughters’ number’. The name Annie S Swan tops the billing. Swan was a famous romantic fiction writer, and editor of Women at Home from 1893 to 1917. She was also a founder of the Scottish National Party. The Quiver serialised Swan’s Corroding Gold from early 1914 and Cassell published the book that same year. The poster appears to be advertising the May issue, suggesting the photograph was taken at that time.

Other writers on the Quiver list include Amy B Barnard LLA (author of The Girls’ Encyclopaedia), the author Mrs George de Horne Vaizey,  Mrs Elizabeth Sloan Chesser MD, and Helen Wallace. 

quiver-magazine-cover-1914-february-arnold-bennett-horne-vaizey

The Quiver, February 1914. The cover lines are for Arnold Bennett’s ‘mental stocktaking’ and the romantic serial ‘Heart’s Desire’ by Mrs George de Horne Vaizey

The Quiver, which ran from 1861 to1926, was published and printed by Cassell at La Belle Sauvage Yard, a few hundred yards away near the foot of Ludgate Hill. Cassell was a publishing house that pioneered cheap reprints of classic books and hit it big in 1883 with Stevenson’s Treasure Island and Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines two years later. The Quiver was originally ‘designed for the defence and promotion of biblical truth, and the advancement of religion in the homes of the people’, what would have been called ‘Sunday reading’, but became more general in its coverage in the Edwardian era. The name Cassell is now associated only with books, but the company was also one of the biggest magazine publishers of the Victorian and Edwardian eras, and sold its titles to Harmsworth’s Amalgamated Press in the late 1920s. The titles included Cassell’s Magazine, the short-lived Woman’s World (edited by Oscar Wilde), Cassell’s Saturday Journal, Chums, the Penny Magazine, New Magazine and The Story-Teller.

La Belle Sauvage Yard no longer exists, but John Cassell moved his publishing and printing offices there in 1852, when it was part of one of the oldest inns in the City of London, The Bell Savage, dating back to 1380. According to The Story of the House of Cassell, the name derives from a combination of William Savage and the name of the hostelry he owned, Savage’s Inn, otherwise called the Bell on the Hoop. It later became a theatre and coaching inn.

The book places the Francification of the name to La Belle Sauvage at the door of no less a literary figure than Joseph Addison, co-founder of the original daily Spectator in 1711. In issue 82 of the Spectator, despite customers finding their ale at ‘the Sign of a Savage Man standing by a Bell’ he writes about ‘the reading of an old Romance translated out of the French, which gives an account of a very beautiful Woman who was found in a Wilderness, and it is called in the French La Belle Sauvage.’

Cassell gradually took over the yard and rebuilt it. The entrance was through an arch off Ludgate Hill. The inn was demolished in 1873 to make way for the railway viaduct. The rest of La Belle Sauvage was destroyed, like much of Fleet Street, by bombing in 1941.

Notice how prolific the advertising sings are. The Bovril sign atop the building on the far side of Ludgate Circus was there from about 1900 for 40 years. Below are promotions for Schweppes and the Isle of Man office with its Legs of Man logo.

Smith’s, one of the biggest advertising agencies, occupied the offices above the Punch Tavern, named Publicity House. The SAA lettering can be seen on the corner at the level of each of the three floors of the building.

Finally, the postcard demonstrates image manipulation, not only because it was a black-and-white photograph that has been coloured, but part of the view has been edited. Compare the bottom-right corner of the postcard with the close-up of the Quiver poster; you’ll see that the lorry with the Robin starch advertising on its canvas side has been removed and painted over with pedestrians, probably because it was felt to detract from the card.

Magazine titles: what’s in a name?

February 20, 2018
Title from the first issue of men's monthly Loaded-in 1994: for men who should know better

Title from the first issue of men’s monthly Loaded in 1994: for men who should know better

My mention of Private Eye editor Ian Hislop included his editorial philosophy on the satirical magazine. He sees his job as to:

Make jokes about what people know and then tell them things they don’t know.

Simplifying an editorial strategy to a few words is a great skill. Today, companies have their ‘mission statements’ but magazines have been coining these for centuries. What is the magazine about? What is it about a magazine that is different from its rivals?

A Tit-Bits cover from 1955

A Tit-Bits cover from 1955

For James Brown’s Loaded, it was ‘For men who should know better’; for the science fiction weekly Scoops in 1934, ‘Stories of the wonder-world of tomorrow’; FHM‘s mantra coined by Mike Soutar was ‘Funny, sexy useful’.

George Newnes came up with the not-so-pithy title Tit-Bits from all the Most Interesting Books, Periodicals and Contributors in the World for his pioneering weekly magazine in 1881, which was soon shortened to Tit-Bits.

Sometimes, the title goes a long way to saying it all: Answers to Correspondents, Men Only, Motor, Woman, Razzle. But even in these cases, differentiation is needed from rivals.

Alfred Harmsworth's Home Chat from 1895

Harmsworth’s Home Chat from 1895

Think of the woman’s weekly Home Chat. The name dates back to an Alfred Harmsworth (Lord Northcliffe) launch in 1895.  Would House Chat have been as good? Or Home Talk? Or Fireside Chat?

Probably not, and certainly Home Chat lasted until 1959, when it became a victim of new technology in the form of television. The word ‘chat’ was resurrected for the weekly Chat by ITV/IPC in 1985, though by that time the word ‘home’ was a no-no for a woman’s magazine.

A rival to Home Chat was Home Notes (1895-1958) from C. Arthur Pearson. This carried a line of poetry on its cover: ‘The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world,’ by the US poet William Ross Wallace. This summed up the influence of the mother, but today it has sinister connotations.

Charing Cross magazine took its name from a famous place in London -1900-first-issue-magazine-cover

Charing Cross magazine took its name from a famous place in London in 1900

Many Victorian publishers took their titles from fashionable places in the world’s greatest city. Examples include Cornhill, Pall Mall, The Strand, Charing Cross.

In doing so, they spread the fame of these thoroughfares and places even farther around the world, in a way that song lyrics would do in the 20th century (Ferry Across the Mersey, Wichita Lineman, Twenty-Four Hours from Tulsa) and TV does today (Jersey Shore, The Only Way is Essex).

Many magazine titles have changed the meaning of words, or at least influenced our perception of them, such Punch, Eagle and Delayed Gratification.


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 Victorian personification of Tit-Bits

May 25, 2016
James Wilson in his prize Tit-Bits costume, probably in the 1890s

James Wilson in his prize Tit-Bits costume, probably in the 1890s

It’s dificult to imagine today what an influence the magazine Tit-Bits was in the late Victorian era. George Newnes launched the weekly in 1881 and its sales soon ballooned and encouraged imitators such as Answers and Pearson’s Weekly. These magazines established the first mass media.

This magazine cutting gives a sense of that influence. It shows James Wilson of Farsley near Leeds, dressed, with his bicycle, as the personification of Tit-Bits. He even has the magazine’s name writtten across his face. His costume, the cutting reports, came to the notice of the magazine, which awarded him a ‘massive silver medal’ for his ‘highly original and ingenious fancy dress’.

Note that prominence is given to two of the magazine’s advertisers – Beecham’s Pills on the handlebars of his bicycle and Old Gold tobacco behind his head, suggesting money might have changed hands for the promotion. The cutting is possibly from the sister magazine to Tit-Bits, the Strand, which was founded in 1891.

Self-referential covers at Christmas

April 20, 2015
A 1929 Tit-Bits Christmas extra issue with Santa delivering the issue on which he is depicted

A 1929 Tit-Bits Christmas extra issue with Santa delivering the very issue on which he is depicted

Two cheery Christmas covers from the 1920s and 1930s with the magazine in question being part of Santa’s Christmas Day delivery. Tit-Bits from George Newnes favours the cover referencing itself while the Amalgamated Press magazine Popular Wireless uses a different recent issue.

Christmas special issues in the form of colour supplements, issues covering two weeks or extra issues were popularised by titles such as the Illustrated London News in the Victorian era. The strategy is still followed today by magazines as varied as New Scientist, The Economist, Private Eye and Radio Times.

Popular Wireless has Santa dropping off a standard issue of the magazine from his sack while an expectant-looking boy watches from behind the door in 1933

Popular Wireless has Santa dropping off a standard issue of the magazine from his sack while an expectant-looking boy watches from the door in 1933

In computer coding circles, the act of a routine calling itself is known as ‘recursion’ and was popularised in home computing by BBC Basic in 1980. A similar ‘recursive’ illustration approach as Tit-Bits on a different title can be seen on a 1946 issue from John Bull.

The Science Museum has digitised the first issue of Popular Wireless.

 

 

 

 

 

Reverse publishing – way to go

March 30, 2007

I added a glossary entry to Magforum a year ago – ‘reverse publishing’ that I picked up at the FT. There, online news editor David Crouch used the term to mean taking readers’ comments from the paper’s website and publishing them in the paper. The back page of the FT on a Monday now relies on such postings, and summaries of the web-based Q&As are regular features in its pages.

The term popped up again the other day, this time in the context of magazines (I had thought in an IPC press release about Digital Camera – but I can’t for the life of me see where now!).

Yet magazines have always done this – what, after all, are letters page, or readers’ queries?

Now, magazines and newspapers, with the help of the web, are going back to an 1881 business model that spawned so many of them – Tit-bits launched by George Newnes. He established a model of rewriting material from many sources (copyright is undoubtedly something he had little time for at this stage in his career), using cheap newsprint and selling in volume. In other words, the content was very cheap. Alfred Harmsworth’s Answers to Correspondents on Every Subject under the Sun did the same and later spawned the Daily Mail (the column of the name still exists in the Mail and similar features adorn other papers, such as the Guardian); he became press baron Lord Northcliffe. Felix Dennis is on a similar tack with The Week.

Not only does reverse publishing take magazines back to their roots in terms of finding cheap copy, it does the same for the web. In his book Weaving the Web Tim Berners-Lee, its inventor, describes how a book of compiled Answers was one of his inspirations for the WWW.