The Illustrated London News and Its Rivals -- Lloyd's Illustrated London Newspaper, The Pictorial Times, and The Illustrated Times

C. N. Williamson (1890)

[Decorated initial "A" appears in the original article.]

decorated initial 'A' s in the early history of most newspapers, there was a period when the success of The Illustrated London News was by no means assured; for although 26,000 copies of the first number were disposed of, there was a great falling off in the sale of the second and subsequent numbers. Mr. Ingram, however, was determined to make his property a success, and one that is still spoken of as a brilliant stroke of journalistic enterprise. He sent to every clergyman in the country a copy of the number containing illustrations of the installation of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and by this means secured many new subscribers. The first volume of the paper ended with the close of 1842, and with the new year several improvements were introduced. Henry Cockton, whose "Valentine Vox" was the success of 1840, contributed a story called "A Romance of Real Life," and stories by Thomas Miller ("The Basket Maker") and others followed. It is claimed by Mr. Mason Jackson that this "was the first attempt to infuse a new interest into newspaper literature by the introduction of fiction." The circulation by the end of the first year is said to have reached the high figure of 66,000 copies weekly; and the first year of the papers existence was celebrated by the publication of a double-number mainly illustrated by Gilbert, Harvey, and Kenny Meadows.

When The Illustrated London News was started, there were very few draughtsmen on wood whose services were available for such a publication. Most of these were employed in book illustrations, and their style of drawing was not suited for rapid reproduction in a newspaper. Foremost among "the black-and-white men" of the day were William Harvey, Kenny Meadows, W. B. Scott, William Dix, G. F. Sargent, W. H. Prior (the last two being landscape and architectural artists exclusively), John Gilbert, George and Robert Cruikshank, John Leech, Alfred Forrester ("Crowquill"), and S. Williams. Some of these men as we have seen, early devoted their talents to the service of the new paper, and it gradually attracted other artists of repute; notably George Thomas (elder brother of Mr. W. L. Thomas, the manager of The Graphic), Birket Foster, E. Duncan, Dodson, J. L. Williams, son of S. Williams, a clever architectural draughtsman and engraver who executed such subjects as Barry's new Palace of Westminster, T. Beech, who used to copy old and modern pictures, L. Huard, a Belgian figure draughtsman, Harrison Weir, and many more. Among the early literary contributors were Mark Lemon, Stirling Coyne, and Henry, Horace, and Augustus Mayhew. Howard Staunton was the first editor of that chess column which has always been a "feature" of The Illustrated London News. In 1847 and 1848 Mr. W. J. Linton was the chief engraver, and the work he contributed to the paper in those years has not been surpassed at any later period in its history. In 1848, Dr. Charles Mackay, the veteran poet and journalist, succeeded to the literary and political editorship, and in 1852 he took the entire management and control of the paper. Under him worked for many years the late John Timbs, author of "The Curiosities of London," and many another excellent piece of paste and scissors work.

Elated by the success of his weekly paper, Mr. Ingram attempted in February, 1848, to found a daily paper called The London Telegraph. It was to give for threepence, as much news as the other papers gave for fivepence. Mr. Thomas Hodgskin was the editor, and Dr. Charles Mackay the foreign leader writer. It was Mr. Ingram's idea to publish the paper at noon so that it might contain later intelligence than the other journals; and he introduced what was at that time the exceedingly bold innovation of a feuilleton after the French manner, Albert Smith contributing to the paper "The Pottleton Legacy." The journal could not, however, be made to pay. On May 15th its size was reduced, and its last number, containing' the last chapter of "The Pottleton Legacy," came out on July 8th. Mr. Ingram lost much money over the transaction, and was furious at its failure. Dr. Mackay has said that Mr. Ingram accused Mr. Hodgskin of being the cause of the failure of the paper "from his constant use of the word "bureaucracy," which, Mr. Ingram said, had occurred at least ten times in one week in the leading articles. "Bureaucracy, bureaucracy," he exclaimed in irate terms, "such a word is enough to damn any newspaper, and it has damned The Telegraph."

Mr. Ingram died tragically. With his eldest sun he went in 1860 on a tour in the United States. After visiting Niagara they took steamer at Chicago for an excursion to Lakes Michigan and Superior. On the 7th of September there was a heavy gale, and early in the morning of the 8th, in the darkness a schooner collided with the steamer, and injured her so seriously that she sank within half an hour. Only 114 persons were saved out of the 393 on board. The body of Mr. Ingram was washed on shore, but that of his son was never recovered. Mr. Ingram''s body was brought to England, and at his native town of Boston, which he had represented in Parliament, he received the honours of a public funeral. Not long afterwards a statue of him was erected in the marketplace by public subscription. The proprietorship of the paper passed to Mrs. Ingram, by whom it is still retained. The management is mainly in the hands of her two sons, William and Charles, Mr. Mason Jackson being head of the art, and Mr. John Latey of the literary department.

The early and rapid success of The Illustrated London News soon provoked the competition of rivals, of which the most formidable was The Pictorial Times, started by Mr. Henry Vizetelly in conjunction with Mr. Andrew Spottiswoode, the Queen's printer. Mr. Vizetelly, as has been shown in a previous article, had a considerable share in projecting The Illustrated London News. It was not long, however, before there was a disagreement between him and Mr. Ingram. Mr. Vizetelly seceded, and started a rival paper, its full title being, The Pictorial Times: A Weekly Journal of News, Literature, Fine Art, and the Drama. The first number appeared on March 18th, 1843. It was published at 135, Fleet Street, and was sold at sixpence, the same price as the other paper. The early numbers were certainly not so good as the corresponding numbers of the older journal, and though The Pictorial Times consisted of sixteen pafires, its illustrations were mostly small and ill-engraved. They were scattered among the text; the paper was of indifferent quality; and there were few half-page, and scarcely any page blocks. The first illustration on the front page of the first number was a view of the New Houses of Parliament. This number also contained pictures of "The Factories at Canton," "Unlading Chinese Treasure," "St. Kitts," "Nevis," "Antigua," "The Emperor of China," " Drawing-Room in the House of a Chinese Nobleman," and a good drawing of Macready as "Virginias," besides some illustrations from a new edition of Milton with drawings by William Harvey. The draughtsmen chiefly employed on the new venture were John Gilbert, W. H. Prior, and others who had been brought up in Mr. Vizetelly's wood engraving establishment, namely, F. Danby (landscape), W. H. Thwaites (figures), R. Hind (figures), and Martin, son of John Martin the painter (figures and portraits). It is but fair to say that the later numbers show conspicuous improvement; and on the next page is reproduced an engraving of the Waterloo Banquet which appeared in No. 15.

Waterloo banquet

The Waterloo Banquet from The Pictorial Times, 1843

It was one of Mr. Vizetelly's ideas in starting The Pictorial Times to have it well written, and he secured an excellent literary staff. The sub-editor was Knight Hunt, author of "The Fourth Estate," formerly a clerk in the office of the Anti-Corn Law League. When Mr. Vizetelly severed his connection with the paper, Knight Hunt took the editorship, and retained it till 1846, when he and Mr. W. H. Wills became subeditors of The Daily News, then just started by Charles Dickens. In 1852 he became editor-in-chief, and died in 1854 at the early age of forty. Other members of the literary team were Douglas Jerrold, who wrote the leaders, and Mark Lemon, who was theatrical critic. Thackeray was art-critic and reviewer. He began his duties with the first number, in which appeared No. 1 of a characteristic series of "Letters on the Fine Arts," signed " M. A. Titmarsh, Esq." As a reviewer Thackeray criticised Macaulay's "Essays'" and Disraeli's "Coningsby," and both of these papers, if I mistake not, have escaped the researches of all the bibliographers of Thackeray. Gilbert A'Beckett, who looked after the humorous column, and Peter Cunningham, author of "The Handbook of London," were also constant contributors. In The Pictorial Times, too, Hood's "Bridge of Sighs'" made its first appearance. With so experienced an editor, and such a competent staff, the paper should have been a brilliant success. That, however, it never became. It lingered for a short time, and then died disregarded.

About the time of the foundation of The Pictorial Times, Mr. George Stiff, who had been foreman of the engravers in the office of The Illustrated London News, started a paper of his own called The Illustrated Weekly Times. It had an existence, however, of only a few weeks, Mr. Stiff being more successful with his second effort, The London Journal. Another venture which might have been a more serious rival than any was Lloyd's Illustrated London Newspaper, started on November 27th, 1842, with the avowed object of competing with Mr. Ingram's journal. While The Illustrated London News was published at sixpence, Lloyd's Illustrated was sold at twopence, and for that the reader had a paper of eight pages with three columns of type per page and several woodcuts. At the end of the seventh weeky, however, the authorities interfered and told Mr. Lloyd that he must either stamp his paper or cease to publish it, "the especial item of important information which he was condemned for publishing without a stamp being a report of the escape of a lion from its cage." The paper was consequently re-shaped, and appeared in future as we know it now without illustrations under the title of Lloyd's Weekly London Newspaper.

It was not until the abolition of the newspaper stamp duty in 1855 that The Illustrated London News was again threatened with serious rivalry. On February 10th in that year was produced an interesting and high-class paper called Pen and Pencil: An Illustrated Family Newspaper. The money for the enterprise was found by F. Morin, a French artist, and his friends. The directing spirit both in the art and literary departments was Mr. W. J. Linton, and with so accomplished a man in command the paper might have achieved a great success if funds could only have been forthcoming long enough for it to overcome its early difficulties. In the engraving W. J. Linton received valuable help from his brother Henry, while Morin was principal draughtsman.

F. Morin, The Cantinière; click on image for larger picture.

Walter Savage Landor did all he could to help his friend Linton in the new venture, and poems from his pen appeared almost every week. The front page in each number was occupied by a good engraving after some well-known original by a foreign or English master, that in the first number being "The Sisters," by Sir Thomas Lawrence. This was engraved by Mr. W. J. Linton himself. On the opposite page is reproduced from the first number a drawing called "The Cantinière," by F. Morin. The artist's friends soon lost heart, and no more money being forthcoming, this excellent little paper collapsed on March 31st, 1855, after a distinguished existence of only eight weeks.

The most serious of all the early rivals to The Illustrated London News was The Illustrated Times Weekly Newspaper, which was the property of Mr. David Bogue, the bookseller of Fleet Street. Here, again, as in the case of The Pictorial Times, it was Mr. Henry Vizetelly who led the assault upon what had hitherto proved to be a sucessful monopoly of Mr. Herbert Ingram. Mr. Vizetelly was editor-in-chief and he determined to make the paper as good as it cound be made, both in the literary and art departments. It was believed that the Stamp Act was about to be repealed. In the agitation for the repeal Mr. Vizetelly had himself taken an active part, and he conceived the idea of bringing out a cheap popular illustrated paper immediately after the repeal of the obnoxious Act. All the plans were laid accordingly; but the passing of the Repeal Bill was unexpectedly delayed. Mr. Vizetelly decided upon a bold course. His advertisements had been issued, and he did not wish to break faith with the public. Accordingly, on the day appointed (June 9, 1855), the first number of the new paper duly appeared. For weeks it continued to be published without the stamp. The authorities barked loudly, but they did not bite. Mr. Vizetelly was first served with a writ for 12,000 penalty, but the proceedings were dropped, and the triumph was complete. This was an excellent advertisement for the new paper, which, published at the low price of twopence, rapidly won its way with the public. The paper was well illustrated, well written, and energetically conducted. To the curious, it may be of interest to learn that the office was at No. 2, Catherine Street, Strand, on a site long since swallowed up by the Gaiety Theatre and Restaurant. Among the artists were several whose names are already known to us in connection with previous illustrated papers, but there were some clever new men. Julian Portch was an excellent all-round draughtsman, who was especially good at a battle-scene. Edouard Monn, Gustave Doré, H. Valentine, Gustave Janet, A. J. Palmer, Kenny Meadows, Harrison Weir, G. Cruikshank, Birket Foster, C. H. Bennett, W. McConnell, and others, all did excellent work.

G. A. Sala, German Officers Enforcing the Maine Liquor Laws at Folkestone, in The Illustrated Times, 1855. Click on image for larger picture.

To these we may add the name of one who has since become distinguished as a journalist -- Mr. George Augustus Sala. Mr. Sala's name is now, and has for so long been, associated with journalism, that few remembered before the trial of the recent action of Sala v. Furniss that in name of one who has since become distinguished Augustus Sala. Mr. his early days lie was a constant contributor to the illustrated press. "The bulk of my pictorial efforts," Mr. Sala tells me, " were caricatures," and as such they do not come within the scope of these articles. He attempted, however, serious work besides. Here is reproduced, for example, a drawing made by Mr. Sala at Shornecliffe Camp, at the period when the German Legion was stationed there. Mr. Sala tells me, too, that he contributed to The Lady's Newspaper (founded by Ebenezer Landels about 1847) an architectural drawing of The Governesses' Benevolent Institution; and in Howitt's Journal he did a drawing (copied, it is true, from a French print) of "a boy in the snow, looking in at a pastrycook's window."

Mr. Vizetelly, having the true journalistic instinct, was not content that the letterpress of his paper should be, as it unfortunately is in some of the illustrated papers of to-day, mere padding to accompany the pictures. He was determined that his paper should be not only well illustrated but well written; and he secured the best literary help available. Mr. Macrae Moir, who afterwards went to the Old Bailey Bar, and Mr. Frederick Greenwood, late of The St. James's Gazette, were the sub-editors. Mr. Sala, Mr. Sutherland Edwards, Mr. James Hannay, Mr. Augustus Mayhew, Mr. Tom Robertson, Messrs. Robert and William Brough, Tom Hood, and Mr. Edward Draper, were on the regular staff. A Mr. White, who was a doorkeeper at the House of Commons, wrote a weekly article on "The Inner Life of the House," which was very amusing, and was the forerunner of all the similar sketches of the present day. In The Illustrated Times also was first opened a new line in journalism which has since perhaps been somewhat overdone. This was a weekly article, by Mr. Edmund Yates, called "The Lounger at the Clubs." " For six or seven years," says Mr. Yates, in his "Recollectons" I kept up a continuous comment on the social, literary, iind dramatic events of the day; and it was, I believe, Mr. Vizetelly's opinion that my flippant nonsense did as much for the paper as the deeper and drier wisdom of the day." Later Mr. Yates says: "The little paper did well -- so well that the proprietor of its big predecessor found it necessary to purchase it, and thenceforward let it, fly with partially-clipped wings." . . . . When, some years afterwards, Mr. Sutherland Edwards became the first editor of The Graphic, he carried with him almost all the men who had formed the literary staff of The Illustrated Times, and each continued his special department on the new paper.

The Illustrated Times Weekly Newspaper, "containing numerous first-class engravings of the chief events, and all the news of the week" such was the full title of the new paper. It consisted of sixteen pages, of which seven were occupied by cuts. The Crimean War was then in full swing, and pictures of incidents of the campaign form the chief attraction of the early numbers. It may here be noted, by the way, that war is especially the encourager of illustrated journals. The Illustrated London News itself was started while wars were being carried on against China and Afghanistan, and later the Franco-Prussian war floated The Graphic over all its early difficulties into the safe harbour of 120 per cent. When Mr. Vizetellv started The Illustrated Times, Kertch had just been captured, and in the first page of the first number is a "View of Kertch," and "The Old Market-Place at Kertch."

Gustave Doré Before the Malakoff, June 7, 1855; click on image for larger picture.

Other illustrations in the first number were "The Harbour of Balaclava," "The New Water Police at Balaclava" (these from sketches by Julian Portch), "A Convalescent from Inkermann," "The Crimean Medal," "The Fortress of Arabat," "The Heroes of Balaclava Fighting their Battles over again," "The First Display of the Fountains on the Upper Terrace at the Crystal Palace," "The Floral Fete at the Crystal Palace," " Lord Dundonald," and "The Ascot Race Plate" -- altogether a good two pennyworth. The first page engraving in the second number is "An Old English Custom -- Salutations in Honour of the Trinity," by Kenny Meadows. In No.3 are "Who'll Serve the Queen?" by Phiz, and a spirited drawing by Morin, "The French Carrying the Mamelon." In No. 4 is a drawing by Gustave Doré (which is here reproduced) called "Before the Malakoff, June 7, 1855," and in the same number began Mr. Yates' "Lounger at the Clubs."

The starting of The Illustrated Times had a serious effect upon the circulation of The Illustrated London News, as the cheaper paper constantly fore- stalled the dearer one on many important occasions. For example, although The Illustrated London News was the first London newspaper to receive a letter from its correspondent at Sebastopol after the fall of that place, having outstripped The Times and all the other daily papers, The Illustrated Times received sketches from its correspondents, Julian Portch and Captain Crealock, a week before the older paper received its sketches. Mr. Herbert Ingram was not the man to see a rival paper topping his circulation without making an effort at retaliation. A pretty little journalistic war then set in. First Mr. Ingram, with the view of killing The Illustrated Times, started two other twopenny illustrated weeklies The Picture Times and The People's Times; but their joint circulation is said never to have attained to a quarter of that of The Illustrated Times. Next Mr. Ingram opened negotiations for the purchase of The Illustrated Times, which, despite its large circulation, was yielding to its proprietor an extremely small profit. The paper indeed was offered to Mr. Ingram 4,500, but he refused to pay more than 4,000. The profit was swallowed up in the great expense of electrotyping. To print fast enough to supply the demands of the public, four or five sets of electrotypes had to be used, and as electrotyping then cost sixpence per square inch, this involved an extra outlay beyond the ordinary expenditure of from 50 to 100 per week, and reduced the profits to almost nothing; the income from advertisements being in those days not one-fourth of what it would be now. Ultimately the paper did fall into the hands of Mr. Ingram. Then, that it might not compete with his more profitable sixpenny paper, he lowered the quality of the paper, and a few years after his death it was allowed quietly to drop. Thus came to an end the most gallant of all attempts to rival the success of The Illustrated London News, which reigned in undisturbed security until the foundation of The Graphic in December, 1869.


C.N. Williamson. "Illustrated Journalism in England: Its Development. -- II." Magazine of Art. 1890. 334-40.

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