|Towns & Cities||London in the 19th Century||Entrepreneurs & Business Leaders|
Harold Harmsworth, Lord Rothermere
Harold Harmsworth, the son of an English barrister, was born in London in 1868. Harold joined with his brother, Alfred Harmsworth, to publish Answers to Correspondents. The brothers told his readers that every question sent in would be answered by post, and the answers of those of general interest would be published in the magazine. Answers to Correspondents was a great success and helped them finance the children's paper, Comic Cuts and a woman's magazine, Forget-Me-Nots.
It has been claimed that the partnership worked well because whereas Alfred had good journalistic skills, Harold was an impressive accountant. In 1894 the Harmsworth brothers purchased the Evening News. With the help of Kennedy Jones, the brothers dramatically changed the fortunes of the newspaper.
After the success of the Evening News, Alfred Harmsworth suggested producing a newspaper like those being published in the USA. The Daily Mail was published for the first time on 4th May, 1896. The eight page newspaper cost only halfpenny. Slogans used to sell the newspaper included 'A Penny Newspaper for One Halfpenny' and 'The Busy Man's Daily Newspaper'.
The Daily Mail was the first newspaper in Britain that catered for a new reading public that needed something simpler, shorter and more readable than those that had previously been available. One new innovation was the banner headline that went right across the page. Considerable space was given to sport and human interest stories. It was also the first newspaper to include a woman's section that dealt with issues such as fashions and cookery.
The Daily Mail was an immediate success and circulation quickly achieved 500,000. With the strong interest in the Boer War in 1899 sales went to over a million. The brothers continued to expand and purchased the Sunday Dispatch and several other provincial newspapers.
In 1903 the brothers produced the first newspaper aimed at women. Kennedy Jones was put in charge of the project and spent £100,000 in publicity, including a gift scheme of gilt and enamel mirrors. On its first day, the circulation of the Daily Mirror was 276,000. However, sales dropped dramatically after the initial launch and by January, 1904, circulation was down to 24,000 and the newspaper was losing £3,000 a week.
Alfred Harmsworth decided to change his original plan. The editor, Mary Howarth, was replaced by Hamilton Fyfe, who changed it to a picture paper for men as well as women. As Harmsworth later recalled: "Some people say that a woman never really knows what she wants. It is certain she knew what she didn't want. She didn't want the Daily Mirror. I then changed the price to a halfpenny, and filled it full of photographs and pictures to see how that would do." Within a month sales had increased sevenfold.
Fyfe also experimented with using different types of photographs on the front-page. On 2nd April, 1904, the Daily Mirror published a whole page of pictures of Edward VII and his children, Henry, Albert and Mary. This was a great success and Harmsworth now realised the British public had an intense interest in photographs of the Royal Family.
Another successful innovation was the sponsorship of special events. In June, 1904, the Daily Mirror paid D. M. Weigal to drive a twenty-horse power Talbot on a 26,000 mile motor run. A month later the newspaper offered a hundred guinea prize for the first person to swim the Channel. This approach was popular and later that year the circulation of the newspaper had reached 350,000.
In 1914 Alfred, now Lord Northcliffe, decided to sell his share in the Daily Mirror to Harold, now Lord Rothermere. In the First World War the Daily Mirror became the most popular newspaper on the Western Front. The soldiers particularly liked the fact that the newspaper included so many pictures of life back home. The newspaper also published a large number of pictures of the war. Probably the most dramatic example was the German daylight air raid over London in 1917.
Rothermere loyally gave support to the British government in the war and in 1917 David Lloyd George appointed Rothermere as his Air Minister. The war was an unhappy time for Rothermere with two of his sons, Vyvan Harmsworth and Vere Harmsworth, being killed in action.
Four days before the 1924 General Election Rothermere decided publish what became known as the Zinoviev Letter urged British communists to promote revolution through acts of sedition. The letter, later discovered to be a forgery and contributed to the defeat of Ramsay MacDonald and the Labour Government.
Rotheremere's newspapers continued to increase their circulation. By 1926 the daily sales of the Daily Mail had reached 2,000,000. Rothermere personal wealth was now £25 million and he was estimated to be the third richest man in Britain.
Rothermere became increasingly nationalistic in his political views and in 1929 joined with Lord Beaverbrook to form the United Empire Party. Rothermere urged the Conservative Party to remove its leader, Stanley Baldwin, and replace him with Beaverbrook. He also argued for a reform of the House of Lords to make it possible for peers to be elected to the House of Commons. This dispute divided conservative voters and this enabled the Labour Party to win the 1929 General Election.
Lord Rothermere disposed of his shares in the Daily Mirror in 1931. He now concentrated on the Evening News and the Daily Mail. In the 1930s Rothermere moved further to the right and gave support to Oswald Mosley and the National Union of Fascists. He wrote an article, Hurrah for the Blackshirts, in January, 1934, in which he praised Mosley for his "sound, commonsense, Conservative doctrine".
Lord Rothermere with Adolf Hitler
Rothermere also had several meetings with Adolf Hitler and argued that the Nazi leader desired peace. In one article written in March, 1934 he called for Hitler to be given back land in Africa that had been taken as a result of the Versailles Treaty.
Rothermere and his newspapers supported Neville Chamberlain and his policy of appeasement. He was therefore devastated when war broke out between Britain and Germany in 1939.
Lord Rothermere died on 27th November, 1940.
(1) Lord Rothermere, The Daily Mail (10th July, 1933)
I urge all British young men and women to study closely the progress of the Nazi regime in Germany. They must not be misled by the misrepresentations of its opponents. The most spiteful distracters of the Nazis are to be found in precisely the same sections of the British public and press as are most vehement in their praises of the Soviet regime in Russia.
They have started a clamorous campaign of denunciation against what they call "Nazi atrocities" which, as anyone who visits Germany quickly discovers for himself, consists merely of a few isolated acts of violence such as are inevitable among a nation half as big again as ours, but which have been generalized, multiplied and exaggerated to give the impression that Nazi rule is a bloodthirsty tyranny.
The German nation, moreover, was rapidly falling under the control of its alien elements. In the last days of the pre-Hitler regime there were twenty times as many Jewish Government officials in Germany as had existed before the war. Israelites of international attachments were insinuating themselves into key positions in the German administrative machine. Three German Ministers only had direct relations with the Press, but in each case the official responsible for conveying news and interpreting policy to the public was a Jew.
(2) Lord Rothermere, the Daily Mirror (22nd January, 1934)
Timid alarmists all this week have been whimpering that the rapid growth in numbers of the British Blackshirts is preparing the way for a system of rulership by means of steel whips and concentration camps.
Very few of these panic-mongers have any personal knowledge of the countries that are already under Blackshirt government. The notion that a permanent reign of terror exists there has been evolved entirely from their own morbid imaginations, fed by sensational propaganda from opponents of the party now in power.
As a purely British organization, the Blackshirts will respect those principles of tolerance which are traditional in British politics. They have no prejudice either of class or race. Their recruits are drawn from all social grades and every political party.
Young men may join the British Union of Fascists by writing to the Headquarters, King's Road, Chelsea, London, S.W.
(3) Lord Rothermere wrote an article for The Daily Mail where he argued that Germany should be given back Tanganyika, the Camerons and Togoland (21st March, 1934)
Though this proposal may not be popular, I am convinced that it is wise. We cannot expect a nation of "he-men" like the Germans to sit forever with folded arms under the provocations and stupidities of the Treaty of Versailles. To deny this mighty nation, conspicuous for its organizing ability and scientific achievements, a share in the work of developing backward regions of the world is preposterous.
(4) G. Ward Price described how the Black Shirts dealt with anti-fascist demonstrators in, The Daily Mail (8th June 1934)
If the Blackshirts movement had any need of justification, the Red Hooligans who savagely and systematically tried to wreck Sir Oswald Mosley's huge and magnificently successful meeting at Olympia last night would have supplied it.
They got what they deserved. Olympia has been the scene of many assemblies and many great fights, but never had it offered the spectacle of so many fights mixed up with a meeting.
(5) Adolf Hitler, letter to Lord Rothermere (7th December, 1933)
I should like to express the appreciation of countless Germans, who regard me as their spokesman, for the wise and beneficial public support which you have given to a policy that we all hope will contribute to the enduring pacification of Europe. Just as we are fanatically determined to defend ourselves against attack, so do we reject the idea of taking the initiative in bringing about a war. I am convinced that no one who fought in the front trenches during the world war, no matter in what European country, desires another conflict.
(6) Lord Rothermere, telegram to Adolf Hitler (1st October, 1938)
My dear Fuhrer everyone in England is profoundly moved by the bloodless solution to the Czechoslovakian problem. People not so much concerned with territorial readjustment as with dread of another war with its accompanying bloodbath. Frederick the Great was a great popular figure. I salute your excellency's star which rises higher and higher.