Thursday, November 11, 2010


“Things have changed since those days of Chums,” said Sir Max with a smile.

“Everything has changed. When I sent down number one of Chums to the printers the horse omnibuses rattled through the streets of London; there were no tubes or electric trains; no wireless; no motors -- and, indeed, hardly any of the present conditions which we now accept as part and parcel of daily life.” -- Sir Max Pemberton, the Founder of Chums, (1931)

Max Pemberton was born on the 19th of June in 1863, a native of Birmingham. On entering journalism one of his early associates was Alfred Harmsworth, who became Lord Northcliffe. As a boy Harmsworth wrote a ripping penny dread called “The Black Hand,” never published, in collaboration with his friend Percy Westerman. It is true that Pemberton approached Cassell’s with the idea for a boy’s story paper, but Cassell’s director told him that the firm did not enter into partnerships. “We are thinking of starting a paper for boys. Will you take charge of it at the salary of four hundred pounds a year?”

Pemberton described Chums as “a modest success from the outset, though in my opinion Cassell’s hampered it by the form they adopted -- a page of two columns in the fashion of the Spectator… The size chosen was almost impossible for illustrations and within a year we had to go back to the form of the old B.O.P. (that excellent thing) and to give the boys their expected 3 columns.”

Max Pemberton edited Chums from only 1892 to 1894. He resigned when his first novel “The Iron Pirate,” became a bestseller. Pemberton’s successor was Ernest Foster, who edited until 1907. Pemberton returned to Cassell’s in 1896, and until 1906 was the editor of Cassells’ Magazine. His Most popular novel was “The Iron Pirate” published in 1893 in Chums. “Even to this day (1931) I cannot get away from the Pirate. When I was at Miami, in Florida, a stranger came up to me, smiling and holding out his engineers’ hand, and said, “I read your CHUMS as a boy, and still remember the good old Iron Pirate!” I met with a similar incident in Quebec; and while turning over some papers in a railway bookstall in New York; the head clerk spotted me and said, “Gee! Your Pirate was great stuff!”

“D. H. Parry, who knew every button on every uniform in the British Army, brought his drums and fifes and wrote me “For Glory and Renown,” a soldier’s story which many old boys remember to this day,” said Max Pemberton, of the first story in Chums first number.

Cassell & Co. published this in hard-cover as “For Glory and Renown: a story of the Wars.” David Harold Parry, the author, was born in 1868. Parry was the grand old man of Chums until 1935, and died in 1950. One of his latter serials was in the 1934-35 Chums Annual, “The Tiger of Tangier, a stirring story of fighting in North Africa in the Days of Charles the Second.” The illustrator was Paul Hardy, who when available was the artist of choice for serials written by Parry or S. Walkey.

S. Walkey’s first serial was “In Quest of Sheba’s Treasure,” which ran through the 1895-1896 volumes. A Canadian from Nova Scotia, George Hutchinson, was the illustrator. Hutchinson would also contribute 18 drawings to Chums serialization of “Treasure Island,” which ran from 29 Aug 1894- 2 Jan 1895. “Treasure Island; or, the Mutiny of the Hispaniola,” illustrated by William Boucher, cartoonist on “Judy,” first appeared in Volume 19 of James Henderson’s “Young Folks” from October 1, 1881, to January 28, 1882. Stevenson also contributed “The Black Arrow,” running from June to October, 1883, and “Kidnapped,” May to July, 1886.

George Hutchinson shipped out of Nova Scotia as a cabin boy when he was fourteen. Tiring of his job he determined to become a painter and studied in London and Paris. Hutchinson worked some time as a portrait painter and found success as an illustrator and cartoonist for the comic paper Ariel. The Review of Reviews wrote that “Like Mr. Bryan, Mr. Hutchinson never takes notes. His drawings are all done, however, when he gets home, while for his types of faces he relies on his observations on ‘bus, tram, or railway.” In 1892 he illustrated Doyle’s “A Study in Scarlet” for Ward & Lock.

Frank Hubert Shaw (pseudonym; Grenville Hammerton) was born 24 Oct 1878. He joined the Royal Navy as an apprentice on a windjammer and rose in rank to Captain. He served as a Naval sea plane pilot in 1916. His first major serial, “The Peril of the Motherland,” began in Chums on 22 April 1908, with England invaded by the current bugbear of Russia. Just before Christmas 1913 the editor wrote “Our old friend Captain Shaw has just come in to see me after a long trip in the north of Africa and through the lands of the Sahara desert. He looked so brown and full of fight that I immediately suggested another serial…” Capt. Shaw revived the future war theme on 13 Dec 1913 with the serial “Lion’s Teeth and Eagle’s Claws,” with England now invaded by Germany. The serial ended 25 April 1914 and England was in the real war by 5 August 1914.

Pemberton styled Chums originally on the Boys’ Own Paper, founded in 1879 by the Religious Tract Society. They were similar in that Chums followed the format of the BOP, including the yearly issue of Annuals, but the BOP was a no-nonsense publication that hectored its readers on cleanliness and the dangers of self-abuse. Over time Chums became closer in spirit to penny dreadful papers like the Boys’ of England, featuring thrilling historical stories with unabashed violence, school stories, and a chummy editorial style. Chums serials were better written, dropping the melodrama of Brett’s Boys’ of England for a more realistic style of writing.

It would be impossible to list all the authors who ever worked on Chums. They included D. H. Parry, Robert Louis Stevenson (second serialization of Treasure Island), Captain Frank Shaw, Max Pemberton, S. Walkey, Barry Pain, G. A. Henty, Sax Rohmer, James Oliver Curwood, Sydney Horler, John Hunter, Hylton Cleaver (sports journalist), Wingrove Willson (r.n. Walter Light Herrod,) Richard Bird, Gunby Hadath, Major Charles Gilson, Eric Wood, D. H. Parry, George E. Rochester, John Mackie, Percy F. Westerman, S. Walkey, Fred W. Young, Herbert Maxwell, Alfred Judd, Andrew Soutar, Thompson Cross, and Ivor Gresham.

The artists and cartoonists who illustrated Chums included John Abbey, Gordon Browne, Tom Browne, George Hutchinson, Cecil Glossop, Paul Hardy, Harry Lane, Stanley Berkeley, Albert Morrow, George Soper, ‘Lang’, Thomas Somerfield, H. Valda, Serge Drigin, J. T. Staniland, Herbert Bone, R. Caton-Woodville, Stanley L. Wood, H. E. Brock, Fred Bennett, H. L. Shindler, Moon Goodman, F. R., Sherie, T. Edward Marhew, Robert Strange, Eric Parker, and G. M. Payne

Draycot Montague Dell was the editor of Chums from 1926 until 1939. He contributed the serial “Ghosts of the Spanish Main” to Chums in 1934, and in 1933 co-authored, with Edgar Wallace, the short story “King Kong,” in Cinema Weekly. Cassell’s published Chums weekly and monthly until January 1927 when it was taken over by Amalgamated Press. After 1934 only the Annuals were published, every September, until paper shortages killed off both Chums and the Boys’ Own Paper in 1941. There were 48 Chums Annuals in total.

D. H. Parry:

For Glory and Renown, Serialized in Chums beginning in Vol. I, No. 1, 14 Sept 1892

For Glory and Renown: a story of the Wars, Cassell & Co., 1895

Britain’s Roll of Glory; or, the Victoria Cross, its heroes, and their valour, 1895

The Death or Glory Boys: the Story of the 17th Lancers, Cassell & Co., 1899

The Scarlet Scouts, a story of the great war, illustrated by Dudley Tennant, 1899

Gilbert the Outlaw, Cassell & Co., illustrated by C. E. Brock, 1917

With Haig on the Somme, 1917

The History of the Great War, London: Waverly, no date.

Saber and Spurs!: a tale of the peninsular war, 1926


Sixty Years Ago and After, by Max Pemberton, London: Hutchinson & Co., 1935.

An Interview with the Founder of “Chums,” by Toy Vise, Chums Annual 1931-32, p. 23.

Seas of Memory, by Frank Hubert Shaw, London: Oldbourne, 1958.

Caricatures of the Month: George Hutchinson, London: Review of Reviews, 1892.

The Men Behind Boys' Fiction, by W.O.G. Lofts and D. J. Adley, London: Howard Baker, 1970.

Story Paper Index


  1. Thanks for this information on a kid I somehow got a hardbound Chums annual from the early 1930s. One of the featured serials--called something like "Master of the World"--was a rip-roaring aviation/air-pirate fantasy that helped shape my love for alternate history and "future" aviation.

    I have no idea who wrote or illustrated it.

  2. Master of the World was by Hector Hawton (1901-1975)using the pseudonym John Sylvester. Steve Holland's Story Paper Index does not name the illustrator.

  3. Congratulations for great blog! you would like to exchange links with me? Visit me and leave a comment, ok?

  4. I am researching Victor Jullee Hutchinson(born 1888 in Camden Square, London)who I think may have been George Hutchinson youngest son. He was a photographer in Walthamstow around 1911. His father is shown as George Hutchinson born 1854 in New Brunswien (British Subject)Occupation: Artist. He married Elenora Blanch Jones
    on 7 Sept,1874 in Kennington?, England.

    Do have any further info on George?

  5. Unfortunately no, Bob. Thanks for the further information -- if I come across anything else I will post it to Yesterday's papers.

  6. Do you have any background info on New Zealand Chums, modelled on Chums and published 1946-49? I read it avidly(and Chums) as a child. Some of the stories were published earlier in British boys' papers including Gaunt of the White Tong, but I think The Boy from New zealand, my favourite yarn, was original.


  7. Hi Bob,a New Zealand Chums is new to me but thanks for the information.

  8. Hi, really interesting blog! I'm currently writing an undergraduate thesis on masculinity and morality in boys' story papers in the late 19thC. I was wondering if you had a more exact citation for the 'Caricatures of the Month: George Hutchinson, London: Review of Reviews, 1892' - could you tell me which month it was? I think it could be of use to my research.
    Many thanks,

  9. Sorry, Mike, that's all the information I have.