Monday, September 14, 2009

Early American Picture Papers

The oldest pictorial newspaper in America was “Gleason’s Pictorial” which started in Boston in 1851 and ran until 1854. Next was P. T. Barnum’s “Barnum’s Weekly Illustrated News” of 1853. Ballou purchased Gleason's and changed the name to “Ballou’s Pictorial” on 6 Jan 1855. It lasted until 1859. “Harper's Weekly Newspaper” began in 1857 and folded in 1916. The South seceded from the Union in January of 1861 and on April 12 the American Civil War began with the attack on Fort Sumter. Frank Leslie, who got his start as an engraver on the “Illustrated London News,” covered the war in his “Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper” until it ended in the surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865. “Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper” began on December 15, 1855 and lasted to May 4, 1899. Leslie had formed a friendship with the humbug P. T. Barnum, whose chief engraver he had been in 1851 on “Barnum’s Weekly.” They remained close and hardly a Leslie paper appeared without some mention of Barnum’s doings. In 1891 Leslie published photos of the funeral of his old friend in his newspaper. [Illustration TOP: Frederick Burr Opper in Frank Leslie's Newspaper 9 Jun 1877]

Picture Papers

And The Men Who Do The Designing For Them.

A Process for making Illustrations Less Expensive Than by Engraving -- Leading Cartoonists and Sketch Artists -- The Prices Paid.

[New York Correspondence Feb. 3, 1885]

The New York Star claims the bad eminence of having, in 1870, originated the system of pictorial illustrations in the daily journals now so much in vogue among the otherwise irreproachable and business-like papers on that metropolis. Then the Goodsells introduced in the Daily Graphic the Leggo process for making illustrations quicker, simpler and less expensive than by engraving. The Leggo process was first used in column measure by The Democratic News and when the lately defunct Truth newspaper appeared under the management of The Dramatic News people, cartoons, comics, little grotesques, news sketches and outline portraits were printed. There was a lull in the business of sketches, so far as most of the daily newspapers were concerned; but the Star continued to give pictorial sketches in its “Man About Town” columns, by means of the process, which it had adopted as soon as it became known. When Joseph Pulitzer came to New York about a year and a half ago and bought The World, he revived the craze for illustrated daily journalism by printing a lot of outline portraits with written sketches of the characters of the men and women thus shown. Then The Morning Journal followed suit. Old Bob Bonar and, later, Tom Nast, the famous cartoonist, had furnished in the interim some sketches for Bennett’s Evening Telegram. De Grimm, an importation from Europe, continued the pictures in Saturday’s Telegram and occasionally in The Herald, but he has not done anything that has made his name famous like that of Nast, Wales, Keppler, Gillam, Hamilton and others. James A. Wales, formerly of Frank Leslie’s, and who is now making sketches for The News and Texas Siftings, and for a time for Puck, is even better than Nast. His cartoon of the fifteen puzzle, representing Uncle Sam looking for a presidential candidate, four years ago, was so clever that it made him a reputation. He is corpulent, wears specs, is an Ohio man, and has a weakness for dramatic management.

“Do any of the sketch artists combine journalistic writing ability with their pictorial work?”

“Yes, Gribayedoffe, the Russian, or, as Capt. Aleck Williams calls him “Grabyourheadoff.” He combines reportorial with artistic ability and makes many of those clever portrait sketches you see in The World. He is a partner of Schultze of Frank Leslie’s, and is a strong type of the young go-ahead Russian; is well-educated, about 30 years old, with a colorless, sallow face and blonde hair. I think McDougall takes the lead in the daily newspaper work. He makes sketches for The World and The Judge. Young Flanagan is bright and is rising in the art. He has done some clever work. I think that all the other fellows have outgrown Ramsden, who is, singularly enough, too conventional in his work. Theodore Butler, Crill and Johnson are finished portrait engravers; and do those splendid figures you see in Harper’s and The Century. Then there is Charley Kendrick, who formerly had a hand in Chic; he is a fine sketch artist, who is known for the accuracy of his outlines. He is an Englishman, about 30 years old, wears specs like most of his craft and is a decided blonde.

“What salaries are these newspaper sketch artists paid?” asked the reporter.

“The big sums reported to be made by some of them are a fable. Tom Nast, it is said gets $15,000 a year, and Frank Leslie brought Matt Morgan -- who is a long way ahead of Nast as an artist -- over to this country from London and employed him at a salary of $10,000 a year. Morgan is at Cincinnati, and still does clever work for the newspapers, as well as painting theatrical curtains and scenery and pictures in oil and watercolors. But I tell you the best of these sketch artists do not get more than $50 a week, and many of them not more than $25 or $30. Tenniel, of London Punch, gets about $7000 a year for furnishing a cartoon each week, but no one else gets any such large sum. Joe Keppler, the clever cartoonist of Puck, has an interest in that paper, but I don’t think Gillam and Opper get $1000 a minute for their very clever sketches and cartoons. Of the others of the funny papers ‘Zim’ (Zimmerman) on Puck, Hamilton and Dalrymple on The Judge, Nicholls and a few I cannot remember are good artists but poorly paid.”

*Original Matt Morgan letter courtesy Don Kurtz.


  1. John, where and when was this published? I list and link your stories in the Comics Research Bibliography (in its infrequent updates).

    Also, any idea who Nicholls was? The Army Medical Museum had an engraver of the same name who might have moved on after the decade after the Civil War.

    Thanks for all the cool stuff!


  2. Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette (Iowa)3 Feb 1885. I don't know anything of Nicholls, Mike. I would like to find more of Bob Bonar as well, who may have been a cartoonist.

  3. Whoops, my Nichols has one 'L' but it may be the same man. Here's something I wrote about his work at the Army Medical Museum:

    Henry H. Nichols was hired as a wood-engraver for $100 a month, soon after the end of the war. He had been working in the Museum as a private in the Veteran Reserve Corps until he was discharged. (Otis to Barnes, July 21, 1865; Otis to Nichols, July 31, 1865). The following year Nichols seems to have recommended Ephraim M. Wells to Otis. (Otis to Wells, November 21, 1866) Otis sent him two photographs to copy in pencil on Bristol Board to test his work. Wells, "a draughtsman of unusual merit, now employed in the New York Central Railroad Car Shops," was hired as a "draughtsman for wood engraving" for $125 per month, "to be paid from the funds appropriated at the last session of Congress for the preparation of a medical and surgical history of the war." (Otis To Barnes, December 24, 1866) The following year, Otis recommended that Wells and Nichols receive a proposed twenty percent raise, but not the colored laborers who were receiving $40 per month. (Otis to Barnes, April 30, 1867) The artists were obviously valued; eight years later, Acting Assistant Surgeon Lamb requested a raise from $100 to $125 per month, just matching the draughtsman's 1866 salary. (Woodward to Surgeon General, June 12, 1875)
    Nichols was responsible for making wood engravings to be used for photoengraving. In 1875, Harper's published R.W. Bowker's description of the process:...

    Nichols was discharged from the Museum at the end of March 1874, "hereafter to be employed only by the piece,"...

  4. this is really helpful. Thanks