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“Amongst the Most Desirable Reading”: Advertising and the Fetters of the Newspaper Press in Britain, c. 1848–1914

  • Anat Rosenberg

Abstract

What is the difference between advertising and news? This essay examines the rise of this dilemma and its precarious resolution in the formative era of modern advertising and press commercialization in Britain, c. 1848–1914, with particular attention to legal powers mobilized in the process. The essay traces a dialectical process, which began with the midcentury campaign to repeal taxes on the press, one of which was the advertisement duty. The campaign framed advertising as a communication of essential information. Its success gave full reign to advertising in the newspaper press, but also triggered a readjustment: Newspaper owners soon faced a threat to their effective control of the medium; their proprietary power to differentiate advertising from their self-proclaimed business - news - was put to the test. Owners' responses established a hierarchic distinction between news and advertising, along an informational metric: advertising was framed as an inferior kind of information, more biased than news. The hierarchy became embedded as a common sense to the point that the process of historical creation has been forgotten; yet, it asserted a difference between news and ads which had little to hang on in theory and practice, giving rise to challenges which still resonate today.

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The author thanks Jennifer Davis, Mark Hampton, Dirk Hartog, Andrew Hobbs, Roy Kreitner, Peter Mandler, Noam Yuran, and participants at the American Studies Seminar, Princeton University 2018, the IALS Fellows Seminar 2018, the Modern Cultural History Seminar, University of Cambridge, 2018, the University of Edinburgh Legal History Seminar 2019, and the Oxford Seminar for Socio-legal Studies 2019 for insightful comments and conversations. The author also thanks Julie Anne Lambert, the John Johnson Collection of Ephemera, Bodleian Libraries, Oxford, for her assistance and advice.

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1. Bury and Norwich Post, and Suffolk Herald, October 9, 1883, 3. Others included Hull Packet, October 12, 1883, 8; Leeds Mercury, October 10, 1883, 5; and Royal Cornwall Gazette, October 12, 1883, 6.

2. Newspaper Society circular, December 1883, 14 (hereafter NSC). On the Society, see Part 2.

3. For reviews of developments in advertising see, for example, Gurney, Peter, The Making of Consumer Culture in Modern Britain (London and New York: Bloomsbury, 2017), ch. 4; Nevett, Terry R., Advertising in Britain: A History (London: Heinemann, 1982); Turner, E. S., The Shocking History of Advertising (London: Penguin Books, 2012); Elliott, Blanche B., A History of English Advertising (London: London Business Publications & B. T. Batsford, 1962); Fraser, W. Hamish, The Coming of the Mass Market, 1850–1914 (London: Macmillan, 1981), ch. 10; Church, Roy, “Advertising Consumer Goods in Nineteenth-Century Britain: Reinterpretations,” Economic History Review 53 (2000): 621–45; and Williams, Raymond, “Advertising: The Magic System,” in Problems in Materialism and Culture (London: Verso, 1980): 170–95. The history of newspapers is recounted subsequently in this article.

4. Habermas, Jürgen, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society, trans. Burger, Thomas (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1991).

5. For example, Curran, James and Seaton, Jean, Power Without Responsibility: The Press, Broadcasting, and New Media in Britain, 6th ed. (London: Routledge, 2003); Hampton, Mark, Visions of the Press in Britain, 1850–1950 (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2004); and Chalaby, Jean, The Invention of Journalism (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 1998). Depoliticization refers to a reduction in political content, and to a depoliticized approach to political news, which emphasizes personal aspects of political figures. Chalaby, Invention of Journalism, 76–78.

6. Curran and Seaton, Power Without Responsibility. See also discussion of the commercialization and professionalization of the press below, note 57. Curran has continued to examine the disproportional advertising revenue and hence success of conservative newspapers, and a general pull toward the young middle class in journalism. Curran, James, “The Impact of Advertising on the British Mass Media,” Media, Culture and Society 3 (1981): 4369.

7. Advertising instruction was available earlier through initiatives such as the Practical Correspondence College, the Dixon Institute of Salesmanship, or Page-Davis Co. Advertising Instruction. See course offerings, John Johnson Collection, Publicity Boxes 5–6, Bodleian Library, Oxford.

8. Russell, Thomas, Commercial Advertising (London: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1919), 48 n. 1. For the lingering old use, see, for example, the first legal treatise on advertising law, Jones, T. Artemus, The Law Relating to Advertisements (London: Butterworth, 1906).

9. The advertisement duty in 1853, the stamp duty on newspapers in 1855, the paper duty in 1861.

10. For example, Hewitt, Martin, The Dawn of the Cheap Press in Victorian Britain: The End of the ‘Taxes on Knowledge,’ 1849–1869 (London: Bloomsbury, 2014); and Oats, Lynne, “The Abolition of the Taxes on Knowledge,” in Studies in the History of Tax Law, vol. 2, ed. Tiley, John (Oxford: Hart, 2007), 287306. See additional examples in Hewitt, Dawn of the Cheap Press, 1–2.

11. The reading of taxes together in functional terms has typified histories coming from different schools and methodologies; for example, Nevett, Advertising in Britain, 67; and Thornton, Sara, Advertising, Subjectivity and the Nineteenth Century Novel: Dickens, Balzac and the Language of the Walls (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 4.

12. For the interpretation of taxes as political inhibitions among Victorian constitutional historians see, for example, May, Thomas Erskine, The Constitutional History of England, vol. 2, 2nd ed. (London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts, & Green, 1865); and Smith, Philip Vernon, History of the English Institutions (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1874). For debates in current historiography between politics and finance needs as the driving motivation, see Oats, “Abolition of the Taxes on Knowledge.” The 1830s campaign was rooted in seventeenth and eighteenth century traditions that associated civil liberties with freedom of the press from direct state control. Jones, Aled, Powers of the Press: Newspapers, Power and the Public in Nineteenth-Century England (London: Routledge, 1996), 12.

13. Hewitt, Dawn of the Cheap Press, ch. 1. Collet Dobson Collet, one of the campaign's leaders, explained the quiet after 1836 as an effect of the consolidation of the entire press industry under the supervision of the Commissioners of Stamps, which protected a monopolist trade. Collet, Collect Dobson, The History of the Taxes on Knowledge: Their Origin and Repeal, vol. 1 (London: Fisher Unwin, 1899), 6263. Even after reduction, the taxes functioned as anticompetitive entry limitations to newspaper publishing; the advertisement duty was not imposed at the source but on newspapers, and therefore put pressure directly on those strained for cash. The 1836 reform also mounted entry limitations in other ways, such as increased penalties for possession of unstamped papers, greater powers of confiscation of printing presses, and augmented securities. Meanwhile, stamp-paying papers enjoyed postal privileges. The greatest benefactor was the Times; as Hewitt observes, much of the hostility that fuelled the midcentury campaign was against its monopolist power. Hewitt, Dawn of the Cheap Press.

14. Saunders, Robert, Democracy and the Vote in British Politics, 1848–1867: The Making of the Second Reform Act (Farnham: Ashgate, 2011); on the prevalence of political lobbying aimed at extracting social legislation from government in this era, see Mandler, Peter, Aristocratic Government in the Age of Reform: Whigs and Liberals, 1830–1852 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), ch. 1.

15. Russell's cabinet was also not as enthusiastic about reforms as he was; he was facing complaints about unprincipled responsiveness to factional criticism. Parry, Jonathan, The Rise and Fall of Liberal Government in Victorian Britain (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993), ch. 8.

16. The decision passed when government supporters had left the House after voting for Gladstone's budget. On the drama of the night's votes, see Hewitt, Dawn of the Cheap Press, ch. 2; Collet, History of the Taxes on Knowledge. The government finally accepted the result. On the budget, see, for example, Matthew, Henry C. G., “Disraeli, Gladstone, and the Politics of Mid-Victorian Budgets,” The Historical Journal 22 (1979): 615–43; Gurney, Peter, Wanting and Having: Popular Politics and Liberal Consumerism in England, 1830–70 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2015), ch. 8; and Hewitt's account of Gladstone's indecisiveness between repeal and reduction, in Hewitt, Dawn of the Cheap Press.

17. The fact that the duty applied only to newspaper advertisements, and was a minor source of government revenue, rightly raised suspicions that its real target was indeed political control of newspapers. For example, Leader and Saturday Analyst, March 29, 1851, 290.

18. For example, Illustrated London News, March 22, 1851, 243 (deputation to Russell).

19. Liverpool Mercury, May 8, 1849, 8.

20. Daily News, September 16, 1853, 7.

21. Collet, History of the Taxes on Knowledge, 128, referring to a speech by Holyoake in a meeting of the Association for the Abolition of the Duty on Paper, January 1851. See also Bradford Observer, January 3, 1850, 4, describing the taxes as “spiritual window duties, which exclude the light of truth from the soul.”

22. Commons Sitting, April 14, 1853.

23. William Ewart in the House of Commons, Times, May 8, 1850, 4; see also The Examiner; January 4, 1851, 3; and The Athenaeum, January 12, 1850, 33 (proceedings of the London Committee for the Repeal of the Advertisement Duty, founded by the Athenaeum’s publisher, John Francis).

24. The Lady's Newspaper & Pictorial Times, July 23, 1853, 3.

25. Part 2 discusses the shift in the role of newspapers themselves from more complex “views” to “news,” which gestured at a neutral communication of information. On the informational emphasis, see also Mussell, James E. P., “Elemental Forms: The Newspaper as Popular Genre in the Nineteenth Century,” Media History 20 (2014): 420.

26. Commons Sitting, April 22, 1852.

27. Bradford Observer, January 17, 1850, 4.

28. Athenaeum, December 4, 1852 (Cobden).

29. Punch, April 27, 1850, 167.

30. Leader and Saturday Analyst, March 29, 1851, 290.

31. Era, July 24, 1853, 9.

32. Reasoner, 1850, Vol. vii. No. 171, 155–56 (citing with admiration the Dublin Commercial Journal). See Observer, February 3, 1851, 3, for a report of the same argument in a deputation to Charles Wood.

33. Newcastle Guardian, October 6, 1849, 5. See also Bradford Observer, January 17, 1850, 4: “This is something more than a tax upon labour; it is a fine levied upon the attempt to seek for it!”

34. Liverpool Mercury, May 8, 1849, 8. See also Aberdeen Journal, April 20, 1853, 8.

35. For example, Examiner, October 25, 1851; and Standard, May 13, 1852, 2.

36. Morning Post, January 14, 1850, 6.

37. Commons Sitting, July 1, 1853.

38. Ibid.

39. Charles Dickens, Letter to W. C. Macready, January 31, 1852, in Pierce, Gilbert Ashville, Life, Letters, and Speeches of Charles Dickens, vol. 1 (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Co. 1891), 300301. The alternative view, promoted in the campaign, was that the removal of taxes would allow real news to replace “trashy tales.” Report from the Select Committee on Newspaper Stamps, 1851, q. 679 (hereafter Report).

40. Household Words, October 1, 1853, 8.

41. Jones, Powers of the Press, ch. 1.

42. Daily News, April 17, 1850, 4, reporting a debate in Parliament (John Roebuck).

43. Commons Sitting, May 12, 1852.

44. Report, qq. 650, 669. See also q. 2356. Provincial newspapers which expanded after the repeal indeed exhibited local contents, advertisements included. Hobbs, Andrew, A Fleet Street in Every Town: The Provincial Press in England, 1855–1900 (Cambridge: Open Book, 2018).

45. Commons Sitting, February 19, 1850.

46. Lords Sitting, July 28, 1853.

47. “Advertisement,” in Thomas S. Baynes, ed., Encyclopaedia Britannica, 9th ed., vol. 1 (1878), 178.

48. But see Hewitt's argument against reductions of the campaign to Manchester free trade radicalism. Hewitt, Dawn of the Cheap Press, ch. 1.

49. The irony is manifest when we look, for example, at Sidney Webb's socialist ideas about advertising: He argued that an informational ideal of the kind promoted by the campaign would only apply to advertising in a socialist cooperative commonwealth, whereas capitalist advertising is “decided by irresponsible individuals…and not even pretending that their statements are either true or for the common good.” Sidney Webb, “Introduction,” in G. W. Goodall, Advertising: A Study of a Modern Business Power (London: Constable & Co., 1914), xvi–xvii.

50. A count based on the British Library catalogue February 2018, representing newspapers for which copies survive, hence this is a rough indication only.

51. Curran and Seaton, Power Without Responsibility. See discussion and more data in Wadsworth, Alfred P., “Newspaper Circulations 1800–1954,” in Transactions of the Manchester Statistical Society, session 1954–1955 (Manchester: Manchester Statistical Society, 1955); Altick, Richard, The English Common Reader: A Social History of the Mass Reading Public, 1800–1900, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), Appendix C. Generally, circulations of individual newspapers were in the thousands until midcentury, with some unusual figures in the tens of thousands; hundreds of thousands appeared in the 1860s and 1870s, and millions appeared toward the close the century.

52. Lee estimates that in the 1860s and 1870s one half to two thirds of smaller provincial papers’ revenue came from advertising. For Sunday papers, 30–40% of the revenue came from adveretisements. Lee, Alan J., The Origins of the Popular Press in England, 1855–1914 (London: Croom Helm, 1976). The space devoted to advertisements increased, as did their total numbers. See also Hampton, Visions of the Press, for an account of the rising importance of advertising revenue. See further details below, note 57.

53. Stead, William Jr., The Art of Advertising: Its Theory and Practice Fully Described (London: T. B. Browne. 1899), 128. Stead offered estimates of numbers of advertisements in leadings papers, ibid., pt. 3, ch. 2.

54. R. v. Labouchere, Queen's Bench, Northampton Mercury, March 26, 1881, 13.

55. Formal indications of advertisements within newspapers were diverse, yet most newspapers printed advertisements in running columns occupying the front and back pages. In addition to placement, indications often included separations by whole single lines within columns, and fonts smaller than news after the first line. For a discussion of newspaper forms see, for example, Mussell, “Elemental Forms.”

56. Report, q. 669

57. Whether the period was revolutionary or continuous with earlier trends is a matter of debate. To briefly recall the two processes: The tax reform of midcentury marked one stage in shifting newspapers’ financial basis to the market. The fall in newspaper prices (halved for popular papers in the 1850s, and again in the 1860s), and rising capital requirements, led to dependence on advertising for profitability. Market structures, however, did not imply the end of political patronage. They were an opportunity to divert newspapers to political ends anew, particularly by Liberal elites who saw the market as an agent of diversity, and sought to replace the traditional practices of intimacy between editors and government ministers. Limited liability legislation allowed subscribers to become shareholders to whom editors were directly answerable. Both ownership and the selling of space served political control over press publications. The next stage followed the 1883 Corrupt Practices Act, when political candidates could no longer buy newspapers; direct political finance, if not entirely at an end, had to go underground (it disappeared in the interwar period). The business owners of papers had, of course, identified political allegiances, and advertisers could also exercise political discrimination; for example, a boycott by some on the Daily News in 1886 when it campaigned for Home Rule. The government was itself an advertiser, and worked on a partisan basis. The more common discrimination in financial support, however, was economic; its political edge was rooted in advertisers’ perceptions of the relation between a politics of a newspaper and its economic readership. Newspaper prices continued to fall while newspapers became larger industrial organizations requiring significant capital, and advertising expenditure continued to rise steadily. The same period saw further exponential growth in numbers and circulations. It also saw incorporation and concentration of ownership, ushering in the era of the so-called Press Barons. By 1913, 90% of leading daily and evening newspapers became limited liability companies, replacing the historical structure of individual ownership; from the 1890s, major ones were listed on the London Stock Exchange, while many small ones closed. The professionalization of news reporting involved not only structural reorganization but also attempts to delineate a professional ethics and ideology. News reporting, and the newspaper itself, gradually emerged as a particular calling, distinct from literature, part of a mass communication that would later expand to include new kinds of media. Discussions of the inter-relations between commercialization and professionalization intensified with the New Journalism, characterized by shorter and speedy news coverage, more “human interest” stories, a more informal literary style, visual matter, and typographical boldness. On controversies about the newness of New Journalism see, Hampton, Mark, “Newspapers in Victorian Britain,” History Compass 2 (2004): 18. On professionalization see also discussion accompanying note 178. See, generally, Jones, Powers of the Press; Curran and Seaton, Power Without Responsibility; Lee, Origins of the Popular Press, ch. 4; Wiener, Joel H., The Americanization of the British Press, 1830s–1914: Speed in the Age of Transatlantic Journalism (Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, 2011); and Conboy, Martin, The Press and Popular Culture (London: Sage, 2002). On the process on incorporation, see Taylor, Henry A., Robert Donald (London: Stanley Paul & Co., 1934), 266 (address by Robert Donald, 1913).

58. There was no single contractual setting for newspapers’ relations with advertisers. Much of the discussion concerned advertising agents. By the late nineteenth century, most papers would not sell space to an agent (or the so called “advertising contractor”) without a specified client, but rather would work with orders. Agents were usually paid commissions of 10–15% by newspapers, rather than directly by the business client; some rebated clients, thus lowering the cost of advertising for them; many others proposed to leverage their position with the newspapers. The newspaper charge was paid by the client in some cases, and by agents in many others. Agents provided varying services: the largest agencies handled full campaigns, including the writing of copy, whereas smaller ones might have just placed advertisements.

59. For example, H. Gilzean-Reid, “Mr. Harold Cox on Journalism,” Times, March 29, 1910, 9.

60. Held by St. Bride Institute, London.

61. NSC, April 1900, 2.

62. NSC June 1903, 3.

63. NSC June 1908, 18.

64. NSC June 1885, 2. The explicit goal of supervising advertisers was submerged in 1889 under “all topics having a practical interest for Newspaper Proprietors,” NSC August. 1889, 1, but the interest in advertising continued as a persistent preoccupation. The “supervision” over advertisers was a tricky business, not least because doing so in a circular issued in a few hundred copies every month ran a risk of libel suits, and of jeopardized business. Amusingly, the circular was issued as confidential, and Wholrlow was repeatedly disappointed to learn that it landed in the wrong hands.

65. NSC June 1903, 3.

66. The section morphed in the 1900s into a generalized “advertisement department,” reflecting not only an expanding array of issues, but also the incoherence of the conceptual boundaries that marked advertisements apart from news.

67. NSC, December 1883, 14.

68. H. James Palmer, “The March of the Advertiser,” Nineteenth Century, January 1897, 135–41.

69. NSC June 1903, 4; and NSC January 1904, 10–11. The history of its support may have been less straightforward: As Hewitt suggests, there are indications that a significant number of its members were apprehensive about repeal. Hewitt, Dawn of the Cheap Press, ch. 2. The later consciousness, however, is the important point here.

70. Bristol Mercury, May 17, 1851, 8.

71. Daily News, September 24, 1851, 5.

72. York Herald, September 13, 1851, 5.

73. Daily News, September 24, 1851, 5.

74. Times, May 8, 1950, 2.

75. Era, March 19, 1848, 9.

76. Athenaeum, August 22, 1835, 652; and Age, November 16, 1828, 364.

77. York Herald, April 16, 1831, 3.

78. York Herald, May 4, 1833, 3.

79. Liverpool Mercury, September 28, 1827, 6.

80. Leeds Mercury, December 23, 1848, 5; see also Newcastle Guardian, October 6, 1849, 5.

81. Newcastle Guardian, October 6, 1849, 5.

82. Era, March 19, 1848, 9.

83. Quoted in Goodall, Advertising, 10.

84. NSC February 1894, 7.

85. NSC August 1902, 7; see also NSC July 1903, 3.

86. NSC April 13, 1882, 11.

87. NSC March 1892, 7–8.

88. NSC March 1888, 16.

89. NSC September 1883, 12.

90. NSC April 1903, 10; and NSC December 1903, 10.

91. Russell, Commercial Advertising, 24–25.

92. NSC January 1887, 17.

93. NSC August 1896, 7; and NSC December 1897, 7.

94. NSC January 1896, 7.

95. NSC September 1907, 11.

96. NSC December 1896, 8.

97. NSC May 1904, 11.

98. Sell, Henry, Sell's Dictionary of the World's Press (London: Sell's Advertising Agency, 1887), 12.

99. Moran, Clarence, The Business of Advertising (London: Methuen & Co., 1905), 3.

100. J. B. Williams, “The Early History of London Advertising,” The Nineteenth Century, November 1907, 793–800.

101. Stead, Art of Advertising, 16.

102. This was one major implication of the rise of the New Journalism. On changing considerations in news selection see, for example, Chalaby, Invention of Journalism, 81–84.

103. NSC December 1881, 17.

104. NSC December 1903, 9.

105. NSC December 1884 10.

106. NSC January 1906, 12 (suggestion by a member of the Newspaper Society, regarding a dispute of the London General Omnibus Company reported in the Times).

107. NSC April 1900, 12.

108. NSC September 1914, 13.

109. NSC April 1903, 11.

110. NSC February 1894, 7.

111. NSC December 1903, 10.

112. NSC May 1911, 17.

113. NSC December 1885 13.

114. NSC February 1894, 7.

115. Billposter, November 1890, 279.

116. Lancaster Gazette and General Advertiser for Lancashire, Westmorland, and Yorkshire, February 3, 1892; Lloyd's Weekly, February 7, 1982, 4.

117. For example, Pall Mall Gazette, February 3, 1892, 4; and Lloyd's Weekly, February 7, 1892, 4.

118. Times, February 4, 1892, 12; and Standard, February 4, 1892, 3.

119. Billposter, March 1892, 141.

120. Sheffield & Rotherham Independent, February 3, 1892, 4; Blackburn Standard and Weekly Express, February 6, 1892, 5; and Morning Post, February 3, 1892, 8.

121. Morning Post, February 3, 1892, 8.

122. Ibid. A similar position was reported in a case at the Belfast Quarter Sessions, Northern Whig v. Northern Union Coursing Club, NSC June 1904, 7. In that case the defendants argued that the material for publication was supplied as a news item, but the judge found that they had ordered the publication of an advertisement.

123. NSC March 1892, 7–8.

124. NSC July 1904, 11. The “supply” of “paragraphs” with advertisements was widely familiar. For example, NSC October 1905, 8.

125. For example, NSC October 1904, 8.

126. Potter, Simon J., News and the British World: The Emergence of an Imperial Press System, 1876–1922 (Oxford: Clarendon, 2003), 122 (letter from C. F. Moberly Bell, manager of the Times).

127. NSC August 1905, 7.

128. The same could be true in the relationsship between traders and agents. For example, NSC March 1906, 15.

129. Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper, February 7, 1892, 4.

130. Builder, February 6, 1892, in Billposter, March 1892, 145.

131. Saturday Review, in Billposter, March 1892, 145

132. Douglas Straight, of the Pall Mall Gazette and the Society's president, The Society's Annual Trade Conference, NSC June 1904, 10.

133. For a study of the influence of interdependencies on the circulation of texts concerning Victorian shows of living foreign people, see Qureshi, Sadiah, Peoples on Parade: Exhibitions, Empire, and Anthropology in Nineteenth Century Britain (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011), ch. 2.

134. NSC December 1901, 8.

135. NSC March 1905, 11.

136. NSC November 1907, 10 (a local paper refused to print details of a high profile golf tournament as news, only to find that most dailies and weeklies published them).

137. NSC June 1888, 6. See also NSC August 1888, 27–28, for the Society's failed efforts to legislatively compel local governments to advertise in local newspapers.

138. Potter, News and the British World, ch. 5.

139. NSC January 1893, 10; see also NSC October 1895, 7.

140. Respectively: NSC January 1883, 8; NSC January 1889, 2–3; NSC August 1889, 23; and NSC January 1892, 34.

141. New York Times, April 10, 1910, C3.

142. For example, Morning Post, November 19, 1897, 2; Era, December 15, 1900, 11; Funny Folks, May 28, 1892, 171; Dart, March 31, 1899, 11; Punch, February 15, 1896, 76; Punch, January 1, 1898, 301; and Punch, April 4, 1896. On the context of the matinee see Barstow, Susan Torrey, “‘Hedda Is All of Us’: Late-Victorian Women at the Matinee,” Victorian Studies 43 (2001): 387411.

143. Times, April 16, 1910, 6.

144. Dann v. Curzon, 104 LT (1910), 66, 67.

145. Saturday Review, October 29, 1910, 535.

146. Times, October. 25, 1910, 4.

147. For example, Pearson's Weekly printed a fictionalized scene of an advertiser-defendant who pleads the court to “pitch into” him so that reporters could hear. “‘Good gracious!’ Thundered the magistrate as a frightful idea struck him. ‘is it possible you have the audacity to use the machinery of the court as an advertising dodge?’ ‘That's it!…I made the complaint myself. These hard times a man must advertise himself.’” Pearson's Weekly, November 24, 1904, 3.

148. Ibid.

149. Dann v. Curzon, 27 TLR (1911), 163, 164; 55 Solic. J. & Wkly. Rep. 189; 104 LT (1910), 66, 68 (Justice Phillimore); and Times, December 21, 1910, 3.

150. Penny Illustrated Paper, October 29, 1910, 554.

151. The list of victims, and earlier and later possibilities, has never been settled.

152. For a review of sources, see Begg, Paul, Jack the Ripper: The Definitive History (Abingdon & New York: Routledge, 2005).

153. Mixture was omnipresent: Punch speculated that theater poster advertisements that featured crime scenes were indebted to the Whitechapel murders, Billposter, October 1888, 43, and also speculated that these advertisements led to crime, Billposter, November 1888, 53.

154. The analysis supports the hypothesis that the two famous letters were by the same author, and suggests that they were likely linked to a third letter that some believe to have originated with the Central News Agency. Andrea Nini, “An Authorship Analysis of the Jack the Ripper Letters,” Digital Scholarship in the Humanities (2018), https://doi-org.ezp.lib.cam.ac.uk/10.1093/llc/fqx065 (accessed June 20, 2019). The “enterprising” terminology originates in the 1910 memoirs of Robert Anderson, Assistant Commissioner of the Scotland Yard; Anderson, Robert, The Lighter Side of My Official Life (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1910), 138.

155. Ruskin, John, Fors Clavigera: Letters to the Workmen and Labourers of Great Britain, vol. 1 (London: George Allen, 1902), Letter 21, August 1872.

156. Ruskin, John, Fors Clavigera: Letters to the Workmen and Labourers of Great Britain, vol. 2 (London: George Allen, 1900), Letter 38, December 1873.

157. Hampton, Visions of the Press, 81. See also Chalaby, Invention of Journalism, 79–80, on the rise of information as the press's main business. See also Kennedy Jones's proximately contemporary assessments of claims to independence by the press, in Fleet Street and Downing Street (London: Hutchinson & Co., 1920).

158. NSC April 1887, 27.

159. Advertising, May 1893, 460. The article preferred that the reader should be given some indication that the matter was an advertisement, but admitted that the question was controversial.

160. For example, testimony of the advertisement manager of the English Illustrated Magazine, Old Bailey Proceedings Online, Oct. 1901, trial of John Nicholson and Henry Thomas Richards (t19011021-728).

161. For example, NSC April 1904, 10 (Walter Judd, Ltd. v. Longstreths, Ltd., the City of London Court).

162. Daily News, October 22, 1897, 3.

163. NSC October 1897, 9; NSC December 1897, 6–7; Old Bailey Proceedings Online, October 1897, trial of Thomas Tarrant and Stephen Henry Fry (t18971025-709a); Morning Post, November 5, 1897, 7; and Standard, September 28, 1897, 6. For another example of judicial commentary on the danger of defrauding readers who mistake advertisements for editorials see NSC February 1907, 15 (a stockbroker case).

164. NSC April 1899, 8.

165. Trial of Thomas Tarrant.

166. Another example is the debates about proprietary medicine advertising through editorial endorsements in the professional (medical) as well as the popular press. Report from the Select Committee on Patent Medicines, 1914.

167. NSC of 1847, referring to editorial endorsements of Holloway Pills, quoted in NSC December 1913, 17.

168. NSC January 1893, 13.

169. For a parade of Society members boasting their use of the wastepaper basket against seekers of free advertisements see NSC June 1909, 2–3.

170. NSC July 1906, 10.

171. NSC January 1904, 11 (in this case, a “Special Inquiry” into Wills's advertising agency management of advertisements of the Great Western Railway; the hundreds of replies from newspapers to the inquiry spoke to the sense of increasing pressure, yet owners were reluctant to take concerted action. NSC February 1904, 8–10).

172. Billposter, October 1890, 250.

173. NSC December 1911, 14. The challenge was part of Selfridge's broader strategy, which, as Elizabeth Outka shows, sought to elevate the meaning of commerce and consumption. Elizabeth Outka, Consuming Traditions: Modernity, Modernism and the Commodified Authentic (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), ch. 4.

174. Lee, Origins of the Popular Press, 104–17. Labor organization of journalists began slowly in 1900, with the first national union founded in 1907. Training began in the 1880s, but was both limited and discouraged by low wage levels.

175. Diary of Anthony Hewitson, March 21, 1872, Lancashire Archives, DP512/1/5. On November 21, 1872, he wrote: “Office work in morning; in afternoon out collecting advertisements; in evening writing for Chronicle till 10.30.” I am grateful to Andrew Hobbs for sharing these extracts with me.

176. NSC January 1911, 15. Nevett noted a new type of agent in the early twentieth century who streamlined editorial puffs under the euphemistic title of “reading-notices.” Nevett, Terry, “Advertising and Editorial Integrity in the Nineteenth Century,” in The Press in English Society from the Seventeenth to the Nineteenth Centuries, ed. Harris, Michal and Lee, Alan (Rutherford, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1986), 161.

177. NSC August 1912, 16.

178. Lee, Origins of the Popular Press, ch. 4. On debates about the definition of a “journalist” and the inclusionary use of the term in the late nineteenth century, see Hampton, Mark, “Defining Journalists in Late-Nineteenth Century Britain,” Critical Studies in Media Communication 22 (2005): 138–55; on the difficulties of professionalization in journalism, see Hampton, Mark, “Journalists and the ‘Professional Ideal’ in Britain: The Institute of Journalists, 1884–1907,” Historical Research 72 (1999): 183201.

179. Nevett, “Advertising and Editorial Integrity,” 160–61.

180. See text accompanying note 68.

181. NSC December 1896, 3; NSC January 1897, 3–4; and NSC February 1897, 7.

182. See Nevett's account of a vocal controversy about editorial “puffs” for cars in exchange for booking advertising space in 1907–1908. Nevett, “Advertising and Editorial Integrity,” 157–59.

183. On New Journalism, see note 57.

184. For a similar tension with Central News, see NSC April 1908, 11; and NSC May 1908, 12. See also NSC August 1909, 12, for another complaint, recalling the decision against the per-contra system.

185. Here was one criticism of Street in the circular: “Street and Co., Ltd.—This name as associated with the whole art of exploiting the free editorial puff…continue year after year—decade after decade…” NSC February 1907, 15.

186. Some agencies responded in a similar fashion to the threat of the “per contra” system. NSC January 1897, 3–4; and NSC February 1897, 7.

187. Times, October 25, 1913, 9.

188. NSC November 1913, 10.

189. Times, November 12, 1913, 15. The Times would start using Reuters’ services much later, in 1958.

190. NSC January 1907, 10–11.

191. NSC September 1908, 9; see also NSC July 1914, 10 (“censorship of ‘honest advertisers’ is an alarming eventuality”).

192. NSC January 1907, 10–11.

193. This side of the story is beyond the scope of this article. The Newspaper Society was following the processes closely. It was not happy with the concentration of the industry, but endorsed the broader vision of functional separations.

194. NSC December 1913, 7.

195. Curran, “The Impact of Advertising on the British Mass Media.”

196. Williams, James, Stand Out of Our Light: Freedom and Resistance in the Attention Economy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), 2930, 33.

197. Williams, Stand Out of Our Light, 30.

The author thanks Jennifer Davis, Mark Hampton, Dirk Hartog, Andrew Hobbs, Roy Kreitner, Peter Mandler, Noam Yuran, and participants at the American Studies Seminar, Princeton University 2018, the IALS Fellows Seminar 2018, the Modern Cultural History Seminar, University of Cambridge, 2018, the University of Edinburgh Legal History Seminar 2019, and the Oxford Seminar for Socio-legal Studies 2019 for insightful comments and conversations. The author also thanks Julie Anne Lambert, the John Johnson Collection of Ephemera, Bodleian Libraries, Oxford, for her assistance and advice.

“Amongst the Most Desirable Reading”: Advertising and the Fetters of the Newspaper Press in Britain, c. 1848–1914

  • Anat Rosenberg

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