Sunday, March 24, 2013

PICK-ME-UP, 1888-1909

1 [1891] PICK-ME-UP splash-page ‘London Night by Night’ by Dudley Hardy — with an early batwoman, March 28.

by John Adcock

PICK-ME-UP (1888-1909), ‘printed for the proprietors by Wertheimer, Lea & Co., London,’ was a glossy penny paper that did what its name implied: it cheered you up.
‘It may not be coincidental that PICK-ME-UP and the earlier Punch both picked a title that also stood for a nice alcoholic drink. Both intended to stimulate as well as intoxicate their readers. Self-labeled ‘A Literary and Artistic Tonic for the Mind,’ PICK-ME-UP in particular had the changing role of the turn-of-the-century woman on its mind.’ — Huib van Opstal
2 [1891-92] PICK-ME-UP cartoon ‘Mr. Albert Chevalier’ by Phil May, in his series ‘On the Brain.’ Albert Chevalier (b.1861) was a very successful comedian-actor.
3 [1888] PICK-ME-UP front-page logo or ‘masthead’ — first logo, designed by Leslie Willson.
4 [1891-92] PICK-ME-UP cartoon ‘The £1,000 per Night-ingale’ by Phil May, in his series ‘On the Brain.’ This is probably a performer who was as well paid as famous singer Jenny Lind, ‘the Swedish Nightingale,’ who died in 1887.

Modern females were a prominent feature in PICK-ME-UP. Since 1890, its art editor — at twenty-three — was artist Leonard Raven-Hill who also contributed illustrations. One of its later editors was Clement King Shorter, who also became part proprietor. In PICK-ME-UP the style of art in the 1890s was modern, bohemian, cosmopolitan and mildly titillating. 

5 [1891] PICK-ME-UP cartoon by L. Raven-Hill, March 28. ‘Sarah Jane to Mary Ann: — County Council be ’anged; this ain’t no music hall!
6 [1891] PICK-ME-UP front-page, Bob and his sister with their Governess, April 4.
Many PICK-ME-UP illustrators became celebrated names, and in its twenty-years run it seems to have invited every talented artist in England. Artists like Leslie Willson, René Bull, Phil May, Chip, A.E. Sterner, Sidney Sime, Dudley Hardy, H.S. Hebblethwaite, Charles Altamont Doyle, M. Woolf, John Hassall, A. Chasemore, Max Beerbohm, Thomas Arthur Browne, Alfred Gray, Bert Thomas, J.F. Sullivan, Alfred Leete, and Hilda Cowham when she was an art student. All artwork was reproduced the modern way, photomechanically, via Process.  

7 [1891-92] PICK-ME-UP cartoon ‘Mrs. Besant’ by Phil May, in his series ‘On the Brain.’ Annie Besant (b.1847) was a theosophist.
PICK-ME-UP also featured cartoons and strips from German and French sources which included work by Thomas Theodor Heine from the German magazine Simplicissimus, and by Frenchman Adolphe Willette. Cartoons from New York’s Judge and Life periodicals appeared in many issues. Cartoons by Eugene Zimmerman and Frederick Burr Opper appeared regularly in it. 

8 [1891] PICK-ME-UP Girl, ‘Fripperies,’ opening capital F, January 24.
Historian David Kunzle saw the paper as a ‘particulary egregious pirate’ though, which ‘had the gall to print over its masthead “All our sketches are specially drawn for PICK-ME-UP, and persons reproducing them become liable under the Copyright Act”. ’

9 [1891] PICK-ME-UP strip by L. Raven-Hill, ‘The Saint’s Manual; or, How To Wear a Halo,’ May 2.
10 [1891-92] PICK-ME-UP cartoon Sir George Newnes by Phil May, in his series ‘On the Brain.’ Newnes was founder-proprietor of successful papers like Tit-Bits (1881) and The Strand (1891).
11 [1891] PICK-ME-UP page ‘Picture of a Sporting Lady in 1900 A.D.’ by Dudley Hardy, May 2.
Suffragettes were figures of fun, that is, if male-dominated funny books of the time took any notice of their struggle at all. Few females contributed to comic periodicals of the nineteenth century. Little notice of politics was taken and the majority of PICK-ME-UP cartoons involved beautiful women, a perk for the (mostly) male artists who provided illustrated copy, and probably of interest to fashion-concious female readers.

12 [1899] PICK-ME-UP cartoon page ‘Scenes in Mars,’ installment 4 of 30, by Horace Sydney Hebblethwaite, May 20.
According to an 1897 article in The Critic, PICK-ME-UP was published by a syndicate; both Sir William James Ingram, managing director of The Illustrated London News, and editor Clement King Shorter owned a controlling interest in the paper. The name PICK-ME-UP was also licensed to third parties: it was successfully used to advertise tobacco, whisky and tea, and as the name for a board game called PICK-ME-UP.
13 [1894] PICK-ME-UP advertising page for Brooke’s Soap – Monkey Brand — ‘Won’t Wash Clothes.’
14 [1890] PICK-ME-UP Girl, opening capital A, October 11.
My impression of PICK-ME-UP was that it was aimed squarely at the middle-class male and female reader, and followed the same class system as dominant English society. Seriously though, I doubt there ever was a comic periodical devoted exclusively to women, it never would have sold. Women were probably attracted by cartoonists showing women’s fashions of the day — George du Maurier, Linley Sambourne, Archibald Chasemore, etcetera.

15 [1890] PICK-ME-UP Girl, ‘Old-fashioned Doctor,’ opening capital O, with cartoon ‘First Professor / Second Professor’ by L. Raven-Hill, October 11.
16 [1891-92] PICK-ME-UP cartoon by Phil May featuring the PICK-ME-UP Girl, in his series ‘On the Brain.’ — Mr. Punch looks quite annoyed by all the attention to femininity.
Brainy artist Phil May — in 1891-92, twenty-seven at the time — in his series ‘On the brain,’ poked fun at the fact that PICK-ME-UP even took hold of Mr. Punch’s brain. Two years later, May saw his own drawings published in Punch weekly, and joined the ‘Punch Brotherhood’ in the mid 1890s. Around the same time his colleague and friend Leonard Raven-Hill, PICK-ME-UP’s art editor, also started drawing for Punch.

17 [1901] PICK-ME-UP cartoon by Archibald Chasemore in the middle of a page titled Hare and Hounds, July 12.
I have tons of stuff on comic and cartoon papers but PICK-ME-UP is the most elusive of all. Apparently it started modest; it had roughly an estimated 50,000 readers in its first year (see HERE), more than Judy, less than FUN. A recurrent figure was the PICK-ME-UP Girl — never exactly the same but usually showing a leg or two. Inspired by stage and music hall dancers no doubt.

18 [1891] PICK-ME-UP spot illustration by Dudley Hardy, the Sunday papers and piano play.
19 [1901] PICK-ME-UP front-page with a later logo and ‘Our Curling Club’ cartoon by A. Chasemore, February 9. [photocopy via poor microfilm]
20 [1891-92] PICK-ME-UP cartoon ‘Mrs. Martha Ricks — “Aunt Martha” ’ by Phil May, in his series ‘On the Brain.’
Years ago I browsed an incomplete run of PICK-ME-UP on old fashioned microfilm reels at the University of Alberta. I have only been through a very short run. The machines were all low on ink and not well taken care of. So I saw only segments of PICK-ME-UP’s twenty years. I did pick up some poor photocopies such as the Archibald Chasemore single-panel cartoon above but gave up finally and just took notes. One day, online archives will probably drive microfilm — a lousy substitute for print copies in the first place — into the garbage can of history.

21 [1891] PICK-ME-UP strip cartoon by H. Gerbault, ‘The Clown and the Peacock Feather,’ May 9.
22 [1891] PICK-ME-UP illustration by L. Raven-Hill, ‘Scene from “Antony and Cleopatra” at The Princess’s,’ January 3. 
23 [1891-92] PICK-ME-UP cartoon ‘Duc d’Orleans’ by Phil May, in his series ‘On the Brain.’

PICK-ME-UP, Volume V, 1890-91, is HERE.
PICK-ME-UP, Volume VI, 1891, is HERE.

(For some reason, copyright related perhaps, these so-called ‘Full View Volume’ links for the volumes V and VI show no more than useless snippets in some countries.)


Thanks to Huib, Ed Stewart and Leonardo De Sá.


  1. delightful start to a Monday morning



  2. Thanks, Aine - Cheers back at you :)


  3. Thank you for sharing! I am enlightened. I have tried to find more information about these and did not come across much. They are simply wonderful! I recently came across 10 magazines in there cellophane bags ranging from 1889 to 1895 so I bought them. The illustrations and writings are so much fun. I love them!