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Friday, 19 April 2013

“The Show-Case of the East-end Photographer Gives One a Very Fair Idea of the Evolution of the Foreign Immigrant…” Or: A Day With an 1890’s East-End Photographer:

In the last post here we delved into the history of The Strand magazine and its owner, George Newnes. It felt it quite appropriate, then, to follow that with an article from that publication.

This article relates to one of the real heroes of the Victorian era, and one without whom I doubt my passion and interest for the subject would be so great;

The photographer.

One of the great beauties of studying the Victorian era is the fact that it was the first period in history ever to be photographed, and Queen Victoria the first ever monarch to have a portrait done, not by an artist under pressure to hide the blemishes and bring out the best features of regal subject, but by the ever-truthful camera. We will never know for certain what former kings and queens really looked like, or what the streets of the world looked like in earlier eras, but the latter-half of the nineteenth century is there in photographs for the world to see.

Such is my enthusiasm for Victorian photography that not too long ago I decided to begin sharing the pictures I have saved on a Tumblr photo blog, which you can find here:

Although it is a little London-centric, there are nineteenth century photographs from other parts of the UK there too.

I have many books containing Victorian street photography, which are invaluable research sources, and photographs of people can provide great insights into the fashions of all classes of the day. Having looked at so many photos its great to be able to get an insight into the life of the man behind the lens, and for that, this article is just fantastic, and illustrates what The Strand did so well.

I have published on this blog a few other posts about Victorian photography, for which I will provide links below the main article:

A Day with an East-End Photographer
“Here y’are now, on’y sixpence for yer likeness, the ‘ole thing, ‘strue’s life. Come inside now, won’tcher? No waitin’. Noo instanteraneous process.”

Thus, with the sweet seductiveness of an East-end tout, was a photographer endeavouring to inveigle ‘Arry and ‘Arriet into his studio, which was situated – well, “down East som’ere,” as the inhabitants themselves would describe the locality. It was somewhere near the Docks; somewhere, you may be sure, close bordering upon that broad highway that runs ‘twixt Aldgate and the Dock-gates, for within those boundaries the tide of human life flows most strongly, and the photographer hoped, by stationing himself there, to catch a few of the passers-by, thrown in his way like flotsam and jetsam. He was not disappointed in his expectation. While daylight lasted there was generally a customer waiting in his little back parlour, enticed thither by the blandishments of the tout outside.

The establishment was not prepossessing to an eye cultivated in the appearance of the artistic facades of photographers in the West. The frontage consisted of a little shop, with diminutive windows, which it was the evident desire of the proprietor to make the most of by engaging in other commercial pursuits.
There seemed to be an incongruity in the art of the photographer being associated with the sale of coals, firewood, potatoes, sweets and gingerbeer, but the East-enders apparently did not trouble themselves to consider this in the least. There was, indeed, a homely flavour about this miscellaneous assortment of useful and edible articles, which commended itself to their mind. What was more natural than that ‘Arry, having indulged in the luxury of a photograph, should pursue his day’s dissipation by treating his ‘Arriet to a bottle of the exhilarating “pop,” to say nothing of a bag of sweets to eat on their holiday journey.

The coals, firewood and potato department, so far from being regarded as in any way derogatory to the photographer’s profession, was rather calculated to impress the natives, who were accustomed to look upon a heap of coals – to say nothing of the firewood and potatoes – as a material sign of prosperity.

So far as the photographer was concerned, it was a matter of necessity as well as choice that he came to be thus associated, for it transpired that he had married the buxom woman, whom we now see behind the counter, at a time when he was trying hard to make ends meet in the winter season, when photography is as a discount. She, on the other hand, had a thriving little business of the general nature we have indicated, and was mourning the loss of the partner who had inaugurated the shop, and for a time had shared with her his joys and sorrows, the photographer had won her heart by practicing his art on Hampstead Heath the last Bank Holiday, and the happy acquaintance thus formed had ripened into one of such mutual affection that the union was consummated, and another department was added to the little general business by the conversion of the yard at the back into a photographic studio.

The placards announcing the price coals and firewood, and the current market rates of potatoes, were elevated to the top-most panes of the window, and the lower half was filled with a gorgeous array of specimen portraits in all the glory of their tinsel frames.
From that day the shop was a huge attraction, and the proprietor of the wax-work show over the way cast glances of ill-conceived envy and jealousy at the crowd which had deserted his frontage for the later inducements opposite.

The incoming vessels from foreign ports brought many visitors, and generally a few customers. To the foreign element the window was especially fascinating. Many a face of strange mien stared in at the window, and the photographer being somewhat of an adept with an instantaneous camera, would often secure a “snap shot” of some curious countenance, the owner of which could not be enticed within. These would duly appear in the show cases, and served as decoys to others of the same nationality.
 There was a solemn-faced Turk in showy fez, and with dainty cigarette ‘twixt his fingers, who surveyed the window with immutable countenance, and was impervious to all the unction of the tout. This latter worthy was not aware that it was against the religion of the “unspeakable Turk” to be photographed, or he would not have wasted his energy on such an unpromising customer.

The negro sailor was apparently struck with the presentments of the other members of his race, but asseverated that he was “stone broke,” and did not own a cent to pay for his photograph. He had spent such small earnings as he had received, and was now on his way back to his vessel. “Me no good, me no money,” he told the tout, who turned away from him in disgust.

There has so far been a good many passers-by today for every likely customer, and the tout is almost in despair. “Rotters,” he mutters; “not a blessed tanner among ‘em.”

Ah! Here’s his man, though, and he is on the alert for his prey, as he sees a dapper little figure with unmistakable Japanese features come sauntering down the street. He is dressed in the most approved style of the East-end tailor, who no doubt has assured him that he is a “reg’lar masher.” So evidently thinks the little Japanese man, as he shoots his cuffs forward, flourishes his walking cane, and displays a set of ivory white teeth in his guileless Celestial smile. The tout rubs his hands with a business-like air of satisfaction as he sees the victim safely handed over to the tender mercies of the operator within. “Safe for five bobs’ worth that ‘un,” he soliloquises, winking at no one in particular, but possibly just to relieve his feelings by force of habit.

The next customer attracted in was an Ayah, or Hindoo nurse, a type often to be seen in the show-case of the East-end photographer. These women find their way to England through engagements as nurses to Anglo-Indian families coming home, and they work their way back by re-engagements to families outward bound. Whenever a P.&O. boat arrives there will probably be seen one or more of these women, whose stately walk and Oriental attire at once attract attention.
Prominent also among the natives who find their way up from the Docks are the Malay sailors, in their picturesque white dresses. Sometimes the photographer secures a couple for a photo, but as a rule they have little money. “Like all the rest o’ them blessed haythens,” says the tout, “not a bloomin’ meg among a ‘ole baker’s dozen of ‘em.”

The faces of such types are not, however, interesting to the East-enders. Their interest in the window display is only heightened when familiar faces make their appearance in the tinsel frames. There was, for instance, positive excitement in the neighbourhood when a highly-coloured portrait of the landlord of a well-known beershop in the same street was added to the collection.
Everyone recognised the faithfulness at once, though it was irreverently hinted that in the colouring the exact shade of the gentleman’s nose had not been faithfully copied.

One can imagine the feelings of pride with which the photographer has posed his worthy neighbour, who had arrayed himself in all the glory of his Sunday best suit.
“Head turned a little this way, please! Yes – now – look at this – yes – now, look pleasant!”

Everything would have gone well at this point, but the dog, which it was intended should form an important adjunct to the picture, and symbolically typify the sign of the house – “The Jolly Dog” – set up a mournful howl, and made desperate efforts to et away from the range of that uncanny instrument in front of him. However, the photographer waited for a more favourable moment, and while the dog was considering the force of his master’s remarks, the exposure was successfully made. The result was regarded as quite a chef d’oeuvre in the eyes of those who stopped to gaze at it as it hung in a place of honour in the window of the little front shop.

The “reg’lar” East-enders, as distinguished from the foreign element, were, indeed, very easy to please; but, unfortunately, they were not the mainstay of the photographers business. He must needs look for other customers to eke out a living. And here his difficulties began. He had to be careful not to take a low type of Jewish features in profile, for the foreign Jew, once he has been acclimatized, does not like to look “sheeny”; and the descendants of Ham – euphemistically classed under the generic term of “gentlemen of colour” – were always fearful lest their features should come out too dark. One young negro who came to be photographed expressly stipulated that he should not be made to look black. To obviate this difficulty, the photographer wets his customer’s face with water, so as to present a shiny appearance to the lens of the camera, and a brighter result is thus secured.
On this particular occasion the ingenious dodge failed, and the vain young negro loudly denounced it as representing him a great deal blacker than he was in the flesh. Indeed, the tears sparkled in his eyes as he protested that he was “no black n***er.”

There is a subtle distinction, mark you, between a “n***er” and a “black n***er” in the mind of a “coloured person,” and no greater insult can be leveled at him than to apply the latter epithet.

The tout’s thoughts are soon distracted by the appearance of a German fraulein, evidently of very recent arrival in England, who is admiring the photos in the window. She is arrayed in a highly-coloured striped dress, which is not of a length that would be accepted at the West-end, for it reaches only to the ankles, and shoes her feet encased in a clumsy pair of boots. An abnormally large green umbrella which she carries is another characteristic feature that seems inseparable from women of this type.

The tout has a special method of alluring women folk within the studio. He has a piece of mirror let into one of the tinsel frames which he carries in his hand as specimens. He holds this up before the woman’s face, and asks her to observe what a picture she would make. This little artifice seldom fails to attract the women, whatever their nationality, for vanity is vanity all over the world.

John Chinaman is quite as easily satisfied, and the tout has no difficulty in drawing him within, but the drawback to his custom is that he seldom has any money, or, if he has any, is not inclined to part with it. It is just a “toss-up,” as the tout says, whether he will pay, if he gets the Celestial inside, though it is worth the risk when business is not very brisk.

Here is a fine specimen of a Celestial coming along. Western civilisation, as yet, has made no impression on him, and he looks for all the world the Chinaman of the willow-pattern plate in the window of the tea shop. John falls an easy prey to the tout, who ushers him inside, and whispers to the “Guv’nor” in a mysterious aside: “Yew du’im for nothin’, if ye can’t get him to brass up. Lots o’ Chaneymen about to-day, an’ ‘e’ll advertise the business.”
He customer is thereupon posed with especial favour, the photographer feeling that the reputation of the business in the Celestial mind depends on the success of this effort. Chinese accessories are called into play; John Chinaman is seated in a bamboo chair, against a bamboo table, supporting a flower vase which looks suspiciously as though it had once served as a receptacle for preserved ginger. Overhead is hung a paper lantern, and the background is turned round so that the stretcher frame of the canvas may give the appearance of a Chinese interior. There is no need to tell the sitter to look pleasant, for his features at once expand into that peculiar smile which Bret Harte has described as “child-like and bland.”

The photo is duly completed and handed over to the customer for his inspection and approval. He manifests quite a childish delight, and is about to depart with it, when he is reminded by word and sign that he has not paid. John very well understands the meaning of it all, but smiles vacuously. When, however, the photographer begins to look threatening, he whines in his best English that he has no money. The photographer slaps him all round in the hope of hearing a jingle of concealed coins, but to no purpose. “Another blessed specimen, gratis!” he mutters, as he allows his unprofitable customer to depart with the photo, in the hope that it will attract some of his fellow-countrymen to the studio. This seems quite likely, for the Chinaman goes off in a transport of delight. He stops now and again to survey the photo, and the appearance of it evidently gives such satisfaction that he goes dancing off like a child to show it to his Celestial brethren. They straightway resolve to go and have a photograph for nothing.

A group of chattering Chinamen soon appear in the front of the photographer’s shop, with the late customer in the midst explaining how the trick is done. It seems to be finally resolved that they should go in one at a time, the others waiting outside. One young member of the party accordingly steps forward, and the tout, delighted to see the bait has so soon taken, never considers the possibility that this customer likewise has no money.

The same scene is enacted as in the previous case, but when it comes to the point of paying for the photo, and John Chinaman is found to be absolutely penniless, there is an unrehearsed ending to the little comedy. The proprietor of the photographic establishment seizes the Chinaman by the collar and drags him into the front shop, where the tout, in instant comprehension of the state of affairs, takes the offender in hand and very neatly kicks him over the doorstep, whence he falls into the midst of his compatriots, who all take to their heels, screaming in a high-pitched key. The tout looks at their rapidly retreating figures with a countenance eloquently expressive of mingled sorrow and anger, vowing vengeance on any other of “them haythen Chaynees” who might choose to try the game of securing photos for nothing. “Ought to be all jolly well drownded in the river,” he remarks to his colleage in-doors.

'Some Foreign Immigrants'

On the other hand, the heavy-browed, gaunt-cheeked, male Teuton is not so easy to attract, but the photographer can trust the course of things to bring him eventually to the studio. When first imported he stares in at the window in a stolid, indifferent manner. His face has a hungry look, and is shadowed by a heavily slouched hat; his hair is unkempt; he wears an untidy and unclean scarf; his boots are big and heavy, and his trousers several inches too short for him.

In a short time, however, he will blossom forth into a billycock hat, with broad and curly brim of the most approved East-end cut; patent leather boots to match, and a very loud red tie. The hungry look has by this time given way to a sleek, well-fed nature, and he will stroll along with a Teuton sweetheart, likewise transformed very much from her former self. The short, gaudily striped dress has given way to the latest “’krect thing” in East-end fashion, and the green stuff umbrella has gone the way of the striped skirt, to be replaced by the latest novelty in “husband beaters.” Then it is that Teutonic ‘Arry and ‘Arriet patronize the photographer, and rejoice his heart with, perhaps, a five-shilling order.

The show-case of the East-end photographer gives one a very fair idea of the evolution of the foreign immigrant.

The tout seemed to know the history of every person whose photograph was displayed in the show-case, and he was rattling it off to us at a rate which precluded any possibility of storing it up in our memory, when a slight diversion was created by a coster’s barrow, drawn by a smart little pony, being driven up to the front of the photographer’s.
The driver was Mr. Higgins, we learnt, and the other occupants of the barrow were Mrs. Higgins and the infant son and heir to the Higgins’ estate, which was reputed to be something considerable in the costermongers’ way, as was evidenced by the fact that Mr. Higgins was enabled to keep a pony to draw his barrow. Mrs. Higgins had determined that ‘Enery – at one year and eight months – should have his photograph taken and afterwards be glorified in a coloured enlargement. Mr. Higgins had assented to this being done regardless of expense. It was a weighty responsibility for the photographer, who always considered the taking of babies was not his strong point. But he reflected upon the increased fame which would accrue to his business if he was successful, and he determined to do it or perish in the attempt.

He made hasty preparations by selecting the most tempting stick of toffy he could find in the sweetstuff window, and the tout was instructed to procure from a neighbouring toy shop a doll, a rattle, a penny trumpet, and other articles dear to the juvenile mind.

The youthful Higgins was duly placed in a chair, behind which Mrs. Higgins was ensconced with a view to assisting the photographer by preserving a proper equilibrium in the sitter, and also ensuring confidence in the infantile mind.

So far, the child had been quietly sucking his thumb and surveying the studio with an interested air, but no sooner was his attention directed to the photographer than a distrustful frown settled upon his face and, and his irritation at the photographer’s presence found expression in a yell of infantile wrath. The more the photographer tried to conciliate by flourishing toys the more the child yelled. The photographer danced and sung, and blew the penny trumpet, and was about to give up in the operation in despair, when it dawned on him that he had forgotten the toffy stick. It was produced, and had its effect.

On being assured by Mrs. Higgins, behind the chair, that the “ducksy darling would have its toffy stick,” the youthful sitter held that prospective joy with his tear-glistening eye, and the photographer seizing a favourable moment performed the operation with a sigh of satisfaction. Baby Higgins had its toffy stick, Mrs. Higgins had a pleasing photo of her infant offspring, and the photographer proudly congratulated himself on having so successfully performed his task.

The production of such elaborate efforts as the coloured enlargements was, however, attended with disadvantages and disappointments at times. It was hard to give entire satisfaction to such exacting critics in these matters as East-end folk. And there was always the risk that the picture might be thrown upon his hands if not liked.

Taking it all round, his time was much more profitably enjoyed out of doors on high days and holidays, in taking sixpenny “tintypes” “while you wait!”

We have seen him on a Bank Holiday beaming with good luck. He has started out early in the morning with the intention of proceeding to Hampstead, but instead of going thither, he pitches his camera near the walls of the Docks, and manages to catch a good many passers-by before they have had the opportunity of spending their money in the pleasures of a London Bank Holiday. Here he has succeeded in inducing ‘Arry and ‘Arriet to have their photos taken.

Such is a chapter in the life of an East-end photographer. Today he may be doing a “roaring” business, but tomorrow he may be reduced to accepting the twopences and threepences of children who club together and and wait upon him with a demand that he will take “Me, an’ Mary Ann, an’ little Mickey all for thruppence.” He invariably assents, knowing that, though there can be little profit, the photo will create a feeling of envy in the minds of other children who will decide on having a “real tip topper” at sixpence.

The stock-in-trade of an East-end photographer is not a very elaborate one. He may pick up the whole apparatus second-hand for about £5, and the studio and fittings are not expensive. The thin metal plates cost not more than 10s. per gross, and the tinsel binding frames about 3s. per gross, while the chemicals amount to an infinitesimal sum on each plate. On a good day a turnover of £2 to £3 may be made, but there are many ups and downs, and trials of temper and patience, to say nothing of the unhealthy nature of the business, all going to make up many disadvantages associated with the life of an East-end photographer.
-          Strand Magazine, 1891

There are so many wonderful cultural references in this article that it is a mine of great information, and the pictures are just stunning (particularly Baby Higgins!)
A Teuton, by-the-by, is a Germanic person. In this article the author is probably referring to a German.

In these days in which every member of the public has a powerful camera in their pocket, spare a thought for the tout on the street in 1891 trying to drum up business to take the type of pictures we today can take anywhere, anytime and in a matter of seconds!

If you enjoyed this, you may also like these other Victorian photography-based articles (click on descriptions to go to the articles)

Thursday, 4 April 2013

“American Magazines were Supplanting Those of Native Birth. The Strand Magazine Checked That, and Established a New Record of Sales in this Country…” Or: George Newnes & The Strand Magazine:

After the history of the famous Punch magazine was explored in the previous post, I thought it a good time to delve into the story of another favourite historical magazine of mine; The Strand.

Without question, The Strand is most famous for being the first to give page-space to Sherlock Holmes. Indeed, Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective – and in particular ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ – was responsible for the magazine’s highest distribution figures, peaking at over half a million copies per month during the serialization of the aforementioned story.

The Strand was a combination of factual articles (a couple of which I have used here on this blog) and fictional tales written by many of the leading authors of the day.
During its sixty year run from 1890 to 1950 the magazine published stories and articles by notable writers such as H.G. Wells, Arthur Morrison, Agatha Christie, P.G. Wodehouse, Rudyard Kipling and Dorothy L. Sayers. Even Queen Victoria and Churchill had pieces published within its pages. (Although the Queen Victoria piece was only a sketch she had drawn of one of her children)

Many may also recognize the front cover of the magazine, which is a delightful sketch of The Strand in London looking toward Mary le Strand. The cover was designed by the artist George Charles Haite, who has charmingly suspended the title of the magazine from the telegraph wires which zig-zag the thoroughfare.

A lesser claim to fame that the magazine can boast is that it was the first to include within its pages something now featured in all the daily newspapers in this country; a dedicated puzzles page.
Early in the twentieth century (possibly around 1910) under a column entitled Perplexities the magazine contained conundrums and brain-teasers, including the first appearances of cross-number puzzles (think of a cross-word but with numbers)

From 1910 until his death from throat cancer in 1930, the author of these perplexities was the mathematical genius Henry Dudeney.

Born in Mayfield, East Sussex, Henry’s grandfather, John Dudeney, was a self-taught mathematician (and, incidentally, was also a shepherd) and in his early years Henry looked up to his grandfather’s skills (as a mathematician, not a shepherd) with much admiration.
Henry Dudeney c.1910
He learned to play chess as a boy – a hobby which he continued to enjoy throughout life – and he became fascinated with solving problems in the game. The appeal of solving problems led 
to an interest in numbers and mathematics. The creating of numerical puzzles soon followed.

As an adult, Henry worked for the civil service, but created and d
evised puzzles in his spare time which he would often send to magazines and newspapers. In the early 1890’s he became a regular contributor to several publications, including The Weekly Dispatch (a Sunday paper that merged with the Sunday Express in 1961) Cassell’s Magazine (which in the late 1890’s underwent a change from being Cassell’s Family Magazine to simply Cassell’s Magazine and set itself up as a direct competitor to The Strand, carrying the same type of content – factual articles and fictional writing from contributing authors) and later to Blighty (Blighty began life in 1916 as a humorous magazine for British servicemen, but over the years slowly descended down a seedy, smutty slope, turning into a pin-up magazine in the late 1950’s, a nudey magazine in the 1970’s, and went the whole hog in the 1990’s when it changed its name to Parade and its content to hardcore) 

Henry died of throat cancer in 1930 and is buried in Lewes town cemetery in East Sussex.

The Strand, which was based in offices on Southampton Street, just off The Strand, was owned by the publishing giant George Newnes. George was a quite remarkable man with a finger in many pies; I always thought he’d make an excellent character in a Victorian novel.

Born in Derbyshire in the Great Exhibition year of 1851 he was, at various points of his life, an editor, publisher and an MP. His career began in 1867 when, as a sixteen year old he latched onto the soon-to-dwindle consumerism boom created by the Great Exhibition and entered the ‘fancy goods’ trade, sharing his time between Manchester and London selling anything from china, cutlery and snuff boxes to clocks, buttons and buckles. At this time Britain had been economically dominant the world over, and its manufacturing industry was seen as the world’s best, but by the 1870’s growth in the British economy was slowing down. As other countries with more energy and material supplies were connected to each other by the railways, demand for British goods decreased, and growing economic powerhouses such as America and Germany were catching up, and offering goods to the same standard as British manufacturers, and often at a cheaper price.
George Newnes

George married Priscilla Hillyard in 1875, and decided it was time for a change of career path. He set up a vegetarian restaurant in Manchester in order to fund a new project, and six years later he had raised enough cash to set up his first publication; Tit-Bits. (or to give it its full title :Tit-Bits from all the interesting Books, Periodicals, and Newspapers of the World) As its long-winded name suggests, the magazine’s content was part interesting stories from around the globe, and part fictional stories from contributing authors.

The magazine, which in the early days was published in Manchester, was a success, and posted weekly sales figures around the half-a-million mark.

In the mid 1880’s a competition page increased readership further, and publication of Tit-Bits was moved to London. Away from publishing, George – a staunch Liberal – was elected Member of Parliament for Eastern Cambridgeshire in 1885.

At the end of the 1880’s George met the controversial journalist W.T Stead, with whom he would go on to establish the current affairs magazine Review of Reviews in 1890.
The magazine began publication only a month after the idea had been discussed, and
Stead, ever one to court controversy, wrote most of the magazine himself. He would use its pages to write scathing attacks and sketches on celebrities, politicians and even other publications. It was this that caused George to cut ties with the magazine and sell his share to Stead. Following George’s departure Stead typically went for more shocking headlines, such as ‘Baby-killing as an investment’ and ‘Ought Mrs. Maybrick to be tortured to death?

It was in 1891 that George’s most famous magazine, The Strand was born to great success, and in the same year his publishing business, George Newnes Ltd, was formed, and throughout the 1890’s created further titles to add to George’s cannon, such as the Westminster Gazette, which was a highly regarded Liberal evening newspaper that began life in 1893 (George sold the Gazette in 1908 and it went on to merge with another leading Liberal newspaper, The Daily News, in 1928) In1897 the world saw the first publication of Country Life magazine, which is still running today, and in 1898 the World Wide Magazine was founded. This featured true-life, travel and adventure stories from across the globe. Publication of World Wide ceased in 1965.

In 1895 George received both bad and good news; after ten years as MP for Eastern Cambridgeshire he was defeated by the Conservative candidate Harry McCalmont, but this disappointment was tempered when he was made a Baronet, as reported here in The London Gazette:

Whitehall, February 11, 1895,
THE Queen has been pleased to direct Letters Patent to be passed under the Great Seal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, granting the dignity of a Baronet of the said United Kingdom unto George Newnes, of Wildcroft, in the parish of Putney, in the county of London; of Hollerday Hill, in the parish of Lynton; and Hesketh House, in the borough of Torquay, both in the county of Devon; Esquire: and the heirs male of his body lawfully begotten.
            - The London Gazette, February 1895

In the late 1890’s George developed an interest in films, and particularly in how they could be utilized in the same way as newspapers and magazines to deliver news and current affairs events to the public. In 1899 he invested £2000 in the British Mutoscope and Biograph Company – a subsidiary of the American Mutoscope and Biograph Co.

George was excited by – and involved in – the company’s plans to develop the existing technology of the company (essentially peep-show machines) into a medium for delivering news. They boldly declared that “The novelty of the illustrated newspaper has worn down a little, and what the public want just now is a mutoscopic or biographic newspaper, in which the reader may see the progress of current events.” Hmm…sounds familiar. 

In 1900 the company put its Home Mutoscope to market, but it was not a success. Later the same year George re-entered politics, becoming MP for Swansea, and held the seat until he retired, aged fifty-nine, in 1910.

Lynton – the Devon town in which he lived, and of which he was baronet – and also the neighbouring town of Lynmouth, benefitted greatly from having George as a resident. He helped to redevelop the two towns, a task which included the building of a cliff-side railway which joined them, allowing goods and people to easily travel between the two.

He also provided the town with a town hall in 1900. This from the council’s official website:

Lynton Town Hall was built and given to the community by Sir George Newnes on August 15th 1900. Designed by Read & Macdonald of London this superb Grade II listed building is a unique mixture of manorial, Gothic and Tudor styles.
Constructed of local stone and oak by a local builder, the structure retains its unusual originality both outside and within.
When it opened Newnes wished that the hall would be… “a source of instruction and recreative pleasure, not only to the present inhabitants but to future generations”. These sentiments have been honoured by the local community ever since.

The Beautiful Town Hall

The re-vamping of the towns brought the railways to north Devon in 1898, with the opening of the Lynton and Barnstaple railway, built, ostensibly, to take tourists to the popular two towns from Barnstaple.

Shortly after his retirement from politics in 1910 George died at his home in Lynton having suffered from diabetes. With his death, though, his company, George Newnes Ltd, did not cease, but continued, and in 1963 was incorporated into IPC Media, who today publish magazines such as TV Times, NME, Cycling Weekly, Marie Claire and Nuts.

As the nineteenth century drew to a close The Strand celebrated its 100th volume. To mark the occasion George put pen to paper within its pages:

The Strand
April 1899: Volume 100:
A chat about its history by George Newnes, Bart.

When I was told that the Hundredth Number of The Strand Magazine was due in April this year, I could hardly realize its truth. How time flies! It seems only the other day that the first number of a Magazine on the lines that I had always wanted, with an illustration on every page, was published, and with such far-reaching results.

The Strand to some extent revolutionized Magazines in this country, and it is a fitting thing that on this Birthday something should be written as to its history.
This will not be done in any boastful spirit, but with a feeling of friendship, loyalty, and affection towards the “good old STRAND” which I am sure is shared by many thousands of people.

First of all let me talk about the name. At one time we thought of calling it “The Burleigh Street Magazine,” because our offices were then situated in that thoroughfare. But that was rather long, and as we were so very near the Strand we thought that to call it after the historic thoroughfare would be justifiable. But the name of a periodical does not really matter so much as people imagine. If you can put such material into the pages as will attract the public, they become so accustomed to the name, that after a while it really signifies very little whether a title be a good or bad one. But still I am very glad the Magazine was christened THE STRAND; and now this celebrated street – perhaps the most widely known of any in the world – is permanently associated with this pioneer Magazine.

What has happened since everybody knows. Most Magazines are now modeled upon the plan of The Strand. By the way, I commenced by saying I would not be boastful, but this rather sounds like it. Is it not, however, a fact? It is not a source of annoyance, but of gratification to me, and those associated with me, that our model should have been made the type of others.

At the time when The Strand Magazine first appeared, I have no hesitation in saying that British magazines were at a low ebb. American Magazines were coming here, and, because they were smarter and livelier, more interesting, bright and cheerful, they were supplanting those of native birth. The Strand Magazine checked that, and established a new record of sales in this country.

It is easy to get a good idea in journalism, but the carrying out of it is most important. I have been very fortunate in having as the Literary Editor Mr. Greenhough Smith, and as the Art Editor Mr. W. H. J. Boot, and I do not want to allow this hundredth monthly birthday to go past without acknowledging the ability, the faithfulness, and the loyalty that they have displayed towards the Magazine. I have had in a busy experience to deal with a great many people, and to ask a great many for co-operation, and I have never been associated with any who gave me less trouble and more assistance than Mr. Greenhough Smith and Mr. Boot. In any gossip or chat about The Strand I could not omit that reference.

I also wish to say how much we have appreciated the work done by authors and artists, of whom we have a large circle of valued friends.

The providing of the world’s thought and reading, whether it is of a light or serious type, is one of the most important professions; and it is a source of satisfaction with regard to The Strand that, whilst the tone has always been high, the interest has been continually retained. Its sale in America has also become very large. The American Edition is specially edited for that market by Mr. James Walter Smith. The International News Co., who are the W.H. Smith and Sons of America, always liked The Strand, and have taken much interest in its welfare, and to this fact it is doubtless largely due that the American success has been achieved.

The Strand, during all these years has maintained and continues to maintain its position.  It even did so whilst I was myself writing some articles for it, and if a Magazine can stand a test like that it can stand anything; and to show my confidence in its hold upon the public, I am going to put it to the further test of writing some fiction for it, but out of kindness to the staff and mercy to its subscribers I am putting off the evil day for as long as possible.

And now, gentle reader, forgive the egotism of these lines. I have been asked by the staff to write something on the Hundredth Monthly Birthday, and here is this little bit of gossip, which will conclude with a wish, that will probably be responded to by all its subscribers, that The Strand will be at its Thousandth Monthly Birthday as vigorous and flourishing as it is at its Hundredth.
            - George Newnes, April 1899

George was proved not be as great a prophet as he was a publisher, and The Strand did not quite make a thousand editions, ending, as it did, at issue 711 in 1950.

I must confess I have never read any of the fiction in The Strand, and, having only begun its life in 1890, the factual articles don’t give an overview of much of the Victorian era, but they are invaluable snapshots of the end of the century, and what would prove to be the end of the era in 1901.