In the 1860's, illustrated journalism was born. Newspapers, until then, were typeset words. The new art of photography had not yet found its way into publications. Books were illustrated with woodcuts and engravings that were months in production. Topical illustrations of news events took too long to be current.
It would take the work of Frank Leslie, the man, and Frank Leslie, the woman, to make the illustrated newspaper a household item.
Henry Carter was born in England in 1821, the son of a glove maker. He loved to draw, but his family discouraged his ambitions because they didn't contribute to the family business.
Carter secretly sold illustrations to London magazines under the professional name of "Frank Leslie." Later, Leslie worked at the Illustrated London News in the engraving department and then moved to America. After a brief experience working for P.T. Barnum, he started his own illustrated publications.
The great expense of producing illustrated magazines forced Leslie into circulation-boosting stunts and sensationalism. His motto was "Never shoot over the reader's head." His papers and magazines pandered to the popular issues.
Miriam Follin was born "to class," in 1836, in New Orleans. Her early life was fodder for the gossips. Questions of her parentage, a forced marriage "to preserve her honor," and an early career as a traveling actress followed her throughout her life. Her second marriage was to a successful diplomat and anthropologist, E. G. Squier. Through Squier, she met and was employed by, the then successful, Frank Leslie as editor of "Frank Leslie's Ladies Magazine."
Miriam eventually left her husband and married Frank Leslie. The life of wealth and scandal suited them. They entertained and traveled. Miriam's talent at writing was to capture a loyal readership among women. She wrote on topics that would advance the cause of votes for women. It was more that she, a woman, wrote them than on what they were about.
Miriam turned an extravagant coast-to-coast train vacation in to a series of articles that captured the interest of all readers of the Leslie publications. This was the first coverage given to the new transcontinental railroad. She wrote about San Francisco's Chinatown, Yosemite, Los Angeles, and Virginia
City, Nevada. On the return trip she interviewed Brigham Young in Salt Lake City and debated the subject of polygamy with him.
Frank Leslie or Henry Carter was, indeed, a brilliant printer and engraver. His technical skills made the illustrated newspaper a practical reality. However, his business skills were very much lacking. Near bankruptcy many times, Carter relied on sensationalism to increase circulation and keep the creditors back.
Miriam, was a gifted writer, linguist, and translator who could write to the level of her readers. She was a strong, educated, beautiful, and outspoken
woman in an age of oppression. She traveled the world, lived a life of glamour, fame, and scandal. All of which caused her to be both hated and admired. She was an icon for change for women.
When her husband died in 1880, she was left with a newspaper empire in deep debt, a contested will, and stepsons wanting to move in and strip the carcass of their father's former business. But Frank Leslie, the man left his wife something more valuable - his name! On request of her husband, Mrs. Frank Leslie legally became Frank Leslie. This gave her legal right to all Frank Leslie publications, even over the protests of Frank Leslie, Jr. and his brother.
But the business was little more than debts. Then disaster struck the country and saved the newspaper. President Garfield was assassinated. The next issue of the "Weekly" contained illustrations and stories that were quickly sold out. Debts were paid and the paper was saved!
In the 1890's, the Frank Leslie empire was well established. She turned the management of the publications over to staff. She took an extended trip abroad, but had to return and again pull the business out of debt. The pressure was too much. She was weakened by illness and turned her attention to what legacy she wanted to leave.
In 1902, she sold the business and gave up the name Frank Leslie. She
adopted an old family title and called herself "the Baroness de Bazus."
She spent several years sailing between Europe and America. She corresponded
with Susan B. Anthony and others who worked in the cause of woman suffrage.
On her death in 1914, she left in excess of two million dollars to the women's cause. Unfortunately, most of the money was lost to legal and administrative actions.
Frank Leslie - a man of outstanding technical accomplishments in the
graphic arts; and Frank Leslie - a woman who advanced the cause of equality
through her talent and business skills.
Frank Granger Note: My Thanks to Jen Phelps, Charlotte, NC for the suggestion for this column.
Copyright © 1998/1999 by Frank Granger
The purpose of Printing's Past is to preserve the motivating spirit
in the printing heritage, the ethic of work and craftsmanship, and the appreciation of the contributions
of a free press. Free reprints and information on other Printing's Past stories in book form is available.
Correspondence is welcome and appreciated. Write Frank Granger, 549 Harper Davis Road, Lake Wylie, SC 29710; email Printpast@aol.com
According to TSBJ (The Small Business Journal), online at www.tsbj.com
in an article entitled:
WOMEN IN BUSINESS
"Liquid Paper" and Other Female Cover-Ups
by Irene Stuber
"When death claimed her in 1914, her extraordinary will flabbergasted the world. She left $2 million to Carrie Chapman Catt for her to personally get women's suffrage passed. Mrs. Catt was the president of the National-American Woman's Suffrage Association. After legal battles that seemed to go on forever and caused Catt to remark that the money seemed to be more of a curse than a boon, Catt received slightly less than a million, the other half eaten up by legal fees as family members tried to break the will."
For more interesting material concern- ing the Frank Leslies, both husband and wife, try Frank Leslie's Illustrated Civil War Battle Scenes: for sale at http://www.netlizard.com/cwindex.html or more Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspapers for sale at Larry's Antiques at
http://www.larrysantiques.com/historical_paper_for_sale.htm You can even buy reproduction Leslie's Civil War Prints by Historic Images at www.historic-images.com
However, there is MUCH more on the internet than just stuff for sale. Check out PICTURING THE NEWS
Frank Leslie and the Origins of American Pictorial Journalism by William E. Huntzicker at http://www.utc.edu/commdept/conference/Huntzicker.html and Northwestern University has an interesting series of articles concerning old newspapers of the time period at http://fire.at.nwu.edu/fire/media/essay-3.html
Need information on how to take care of your old newspapers and prints?
Check out the Primer on Collecting Old & Historic Newspapers at www.historybuff.com/primer.html
There is some great history under the James Buchanan page at the White House Historical Society website:
http://www.whitehousehistory.org/whha/news_reception.asp along with a drawing by Albert Berghaus, executed in preparation for a wood engraving to be published in the March 10, 1860 Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper. Berghaus work for Frank Leslie's and after the Civil War traveled west, collaborating with Frederic Remington in the late 1870s.
Also, do check out Ron O'Callaghan's Civil War home page at http://www.rugreview.com/cw/cwhp.htm
You'll even some politically incorrect Leslie's pictured online including
"dog fights" at the American Social History Projects' website at: http://www.ashp.cuny.edu/fig4a.html
or try the Leslie images on The History Net of the Dred Scott slave case/trial