Frederick Gleason, born in Germany c. 1817, is regarded as the founder of illustrated journalism in the United States. The Congregationalist had a different opinion. “The first illustrated newspapers in this country were The Illustrated New York News, which appeared on June 8, 1851, and Gleason's Pictorial Drawing-room Companion, which was started on July 2, 1851, by Frederick Gleason.” This turns out to be wrong since Volume I No. 1 of Gleason’s Pictorial was published on 3 May 1851.
“I commenced the publication business in 1842, in the old Solly Building, Boston, issuing from there a number of novelettes and other cheap works.” These cheap romances of pirates, knights, and smugglers were written by Sylvanus Cobb Jr., Ned Buntline, Osgood Bradbury, A. J. H. Duganne, Dr. J. H. Robinson, Lieutenant Murray, and Harry Halyard.
“In 1843 I established the Flag of Our Union, the first really literary publication of its class, which soon brought hosts of imitators. Among these were the True Flag and the American Union… About 1850 the Flag of Our Union had a large circulation from which my income was $25,000 per annum.”
Inspired by the Illustrated London News Gleason issued 25,000 copies of Gleason’s Pictorial in 1851. One of his early employees was Henry Carter, known as Frank Leslie, who joined him in 1851 in the engraving department and remained two years. He later sold the newspaper to Maturin Murray Ballou in 1854 with circulation at 110,000 copies. Four years later the renamed Ballou’s Pictorial failed and Gleason took over publication once again.
In 1892 Gleason was publishing The Home Circle and Gleason’s Monthly Companion from 47 Franklin Street.
“When I commenced the publication of the Pictorial I published a paper of facts and not of fancy, as most of the illustrated journals of today do. If there was a disaster in mid-ocean I did not have my artists on the spot. In 1853 the artists of the United States presented me with a solid silver service valued at several thousand dollars.”
Gleason died 6 Nov 1896, the inmate of a home for the aged in Boston.
* “He was the Pioneer. Gleason Founder of Illustrated Journalism.” Weekly Argus News 3 Dec 1892.
**Images courtesy E. M. Sanchez Saavedra