Victorian London - Publications - Newspapers - The Daily Telegraph

   Having alluded to The Daily Telegraph, we cannot do better, perhaps, than give something like a sketch of the rise and progress of that remarkable journal, which, as the first of the penny daily papers, may claim the proud distinction of having inaugurated a new era in the history of the English press.
    There is an additional reason, too, for selecting this journal, inasmuch as it has firmly established itself in public favour, and triumphantly proved that the principle upon which it is based has all the elements in it of stability and success. The Daily Telegraph, it cannot be denied, is a power in the State, and one the influence of which pervades all classes. For it should never be forgotten that although the penny daily paper has created, and will go on creating, a new class of readers, it has obtained at the same time a strong hold upon those who formerly were led by the high-priced journals. Only a short time since, a conservative organ of some pretensions, complaining of the influence exerted by the organ to which we have just referred, admitted that if it could only afford better paper it might seriously damage The Times itself. It has already done so. It was a fatal blow indeed to the authorities in Printing - House Square when they discovered that a paper could be issued at a penny in all respects save one-the quality of the texture upon which it was printed -as good as the ' leading journal.' Previously it had been the boast of The Times that it stood alone among its contemporaries. 
    ' Look at them,' it used continually to say, in exulting tones; they cost as much as we cost, and yet see how far they are below our standard. We have the earliest news; the fullest news, the most reliable news; we spare no expense to render our journal absolutely perfect; we have correspondents of education and ability in every part of the globe. Telegraphic despatches are sent to us every hour, and are published as soon as they arrive. Then, too, we are absolutely free from the domination of party, faction, or cliquey We care not one straw, personally, whether Lord Palmerston or Lord Derby is at the head of affairs; we are only for the general weal, le bien public. Measures, not men, is our motto. Whatever may arise, we shall watch over the national interests, and guard them from all attacks. Let all who have a complaint to make, a suggestion to offer, or a difficulty to solve, come to us. As we are above all party consideration, so are we above all pecuniary temptation. Public Support is what we rely upon, and to retain that support we have only one policy open to us-the policy of honesty and independence.'
    Such was the tone continually maintained by The Times; and for many years it seems to have been justified by the fact that no other paper laid claim to the position the ' leading organ' undoubtedly occupied in public estimation.
    But the case is different now.
    Another paper has arisen which may fairly take credit to itself for the qualities of which The Times once had the monopoly. The Daily Telegraph can say, and justly say, ' We have a correspondent of ability and education in every part of the globe. Our telegraphic despatches are as good as those of The Times, for they are the same, word for word, and reach us through the same agency. We, too, are under the skirts of no party, and disdain to make ourselves the hired mouthpiece of a faction. We think only of the national welfare, and would as gladly welcome a Tory as a Whig, or a Radical to the head of affairs, if his measures were conceived in a liberal and patriotic spirit. We, too, invite all who have wrongs they wish to redress,- proposals they wish to offer, or sentiments they wish to express-to come to our columns, where they are sure of an impartial hearing, and of attentive regard.'
    Such, we say, might fairly be the programme of The Daily Telegraph, and such, indeed, it is. But the new journal has an advantage over the old, which it may well leave to the last, as its crowning recommendation to favour.
    It can say, We offer to our readers all that you offer, in everything that is primary and essential; and we do this at just one fourth of the price you charge. The Times is sold for fourpence. The Daily Telegraph. costs only a penny.'
    We have quoted the views of a conservative periodical as to the injury which The Daily Telegraph, if printed upon better paper, might inflict upon The Times. Into possibilities and speculations it is not our intention now to enter. We would merely advert to a fact which we believe is not yet very widely known, that The Daily Telegraph has, indirectly, if not directly, been the means of diminishing the circulation of The Times in the country. Immediately it became evident that London could support a penny daily newspaper-the large provincial centres felt that they could support one also. Accordingly, in all those busy places, local Telegraphs have been started, and although some have failed, a large number still remain, and may be regarded as permanently established. Where fifty and sixty copies of The Times used formerly to be taken, only five or six are now received by certain agents.
    So much for the influence of The Daily Telegraph. Yet the paper at its commencement had to encounter difficulties and obstacles which most people thought must prove insurmountable. To begin with, the majority of established journals looked with absolute disfavour upon the new corner. The first copy of The Daily Telegraph and Courier appeared on Friday, June 29, 1855, during the heat of the Crimean War. Its price then was twopence; and for this sum it did not give very full or very recent news. Four pages were all it contained, and there was but little in them which had not previously appeared elsewhere. People shook their heads, and referred to the unsuccessful attempt of The Daily News years before to break up the monopoly of high-priced journalism. This second essay they said would be as unsuccessful as the first. And it might have been, had not the authors of it modified their plans. Taking advantage of the abolition of the impressed newspaper stamp, they had started a daily journal at a price which they imagined would be sufficiently low to insure them success. But they soon found they had made a miscalculation. Two- pence was at once too much and too little for the commodity offered. New readers were not created by it, and the old were not allured away from journals already established; accordingly, after a very short trial, The Daily Telegraph reduced its price to one penny. This was on Monday, September 17, 1855.
    The step was a bold one, but it was the only one likely to lead to success. At once the paper Increased in circulation and in influence. It was still very far from equalling the established high-priced journals. Its news was necessarily somewhat bald; its reports a little behind time; it had no foreign correspondents, and but a limited London staff. Still, from the day on which its price was reduced to a penny, a fresh element of vitality had been introduced into its organization, and it could scarcely do otherwise than go on improving. 
    Slowly, but surely, as it made its way amongst enemies and rivals, it strove to render itself worthy of. the most extended support. Writers of distinguished talent were engaged to write its leading articles; a good staff of parliamentary reporters was secured; foreign correspondents of eminence were engaged. Day by day the public noted the change, and began to talk more and more about the new organ. Even those who had disdained at first to notice it now found themselves compelled to accord it some little attention. 
    Success carried with it of course its usual penalties. Other London penny papers arose directly it was seen that the first was becoming an established journal. There was thus the competition of old and new rivals to stand against. But The Daily Telegraph still kept steadily advancing on its way. 
    From the first The Times had indirectly shown itself bitterly hostile to the cheap press. Among the many country imitations of The Telegraph which speedily arose, it was natural that some should prove failures. Whenever one of these unlucky speculations came to an untimely end, ' the Leading Journal' ostentatiously chronicled the fact, never omitting to mention that it was a penny paper which had succumbed. The inference to be drawn was of course that none but fourpenny papers could stand their ground.
    A large portion of the public, however, declined to accept that verdict, and continued to support the new organs. 
    Soon came another era in the history of low-priced journalism. From the first The Daily Telegraph and its imitators had contained only four pages, and it was not thought possible, even with a knowledge of the American press to guide opinion, that this size could be enlarged without a corresponding increase in price; but a London morning newspaper, inventing a new system by means of which it appeared with some slight modification under two titles, and at two different rates, suddenly astonished the metropolis by giving a double sheet on exactly the same terms as the single sheet of The Telegraph. The Standard at one penny contained in fact exactly the same news as The Morning Herald at fourpence, both being owned by one proprietor, and both being printed with the same types. The leading articles and the texture of the paper alone were different.
    It was not to be supposed that The Daily Telegraph should allow itself to be outdone by a younger rival. Accordingly, although it had no such appliances at its disposal as those to which we have just referred, it almost immediately followed the lead of The Standard, and on Monday, March 28, 1858, appeared for the first time as a journal of the same size as The Daily News, The Post, and the other morning papers.
    By this step many people said it had sealed its own ruin. There was no chance of its maintaining existence. Persons who should have known better were the loudest in prophesying evil. The writer of this paper was at a public meeting on the evening of the day when The Daily Telegraph doubled its size, and was so placed that he could not but over- bear the conversation of ' the gentlemen of the press' close at hand. They were nearly unanimous in adopting this tone:
    ' Did you see The Telegraph this morning?' said one.
    ' Yes, indeed,' replied the person addressed, seeming to indicate by gestures that the sight had filled him with acute suffering.
    ' Did you notice the advertisements?' inquired another of the party, with a look of deep compassion.
' Shovelled in,' was the pitying rejoinder.
    ' I give it three months,' said a fresh speaker. And more remarks of this kind would doubtless have been uttered but for the observation of a gentleman who had hitherto remained silent, and who now announced that he had the honour of representing The Daily Telegraph, and that he felt bound to intimate this fact to the speakers before they continued their conversation. 
    The Daily Telegraph
doubled its size as we have raid in the spring of 1858, and to, judge by its pre sent appearance, in the winter of 1860, it has not had cause to regret the change. We will not enter, into any dry details or statistics to indicate its existing position; we will merely take the reader with us to the premises in which the paper is published, and let him draw his own conclusions from what he sees there.
    We are in a clean and cheerful-looking counting- house in Fleet Street, and stand in the presence of some five or six clerks busily engaged with their account books. This is the advertisement office of The Daily Telegraph, we are told, and if we had not been told we should have divined the fact from the transactions taking place at the counter in front of us, and the clink of precious metal which accompanies them. We see a calculating gentleman adding up a long list of figures, and we know that the total represents the day's receipts in the department we have entered. Lest we grow splenetic let us depart at once, and declare that we envy no man his prosperity while we can do so with a good heart.
    We pass by a side door into Peterborough Court, along which the premises connected with the paper extend for many yards. We proceed onward and then re-enter by another door, and find ourselves in a very different part of the building. On our left is a porter's lodge, a little like the loge of a Paris concierge, but a good deal more like the stage doorkeeper's abiding-place at a theatre. Unless we are provided with good credentials it will be in vain for us to attempt to pass beyond. The Cerberus on duty is not surly, he is merely suspicious. Six feet in his stockings, and with strong muscular development in the arms and legs, he is evidently not a man to be trifled with. He is tormented by so many visitors who want to see the ' editor,' who must see the editor, who never do see ~the editor, and who yet will not be persuaded that the editor is invisible, that he looks askance upon a stranger, and is already preparing to repeat to us his usual formula, ' you must write what you have to say, and it will be sent up.' Fortunately our eye falls at this moment upon one of the principal proprietors of the journal, by whose courtesy we have received permission to visit the establishment, and upon a sign from this gentleman we are permitted to pass onwards.
    We descend a staircase, the walls of which have no other adornment than is conferred by whitewash painted upon rough brick, and after a very few steps find ourselves in a cellar redolent with the damp and unsatisfactory odour which even the best-ventilated cellars are only too prone to accumulate within their cavernous walls. A turning to the right takes us into an inner cellar stocked with piles upon piles of paper, extending from floor to ceiling. We are about to hazard some pleasant remark upon the large number of reams we see before us, and to express our opinion that they are sufficient for many months; but we altogether think better of it when we learn that. we are looking upon little more than a couple of days' supply.
    Of the accuracy of this' information, indeed, we are soon enabled to form some idea. For in the 'wetting room,' where the paper is being damped, quire after quire is being passed by hand rapidly in and out of a cistern of water, and huge as the pile is which has already accumulated, it is only a small portion, we are told, of what will be required on the morrow.
    And now we are in the printing-room itself, and stand in presence of the beautiful ' ten-feeder' ma chine, invented by Colonel Richard M. Hoe, of New York, and sent from that city to London expressly for The Daily Telegraph. The description of the machine, published by the journal, is so complete that we cannot do better perhaps than introduce it here.
    'It is, as its name (The Ten Cylinder Type Revolving Machine) indicates, on the rotary principle; that is, the form of type is placed on the surface of a horizontal revolving cylinder of about four feet and a half in diameter. The form occupies a segment of only about one-fourth of the surface of the cylinder, and the remainder is used as an ink-distributing surface. Mound this main cylinder, and parallel with it, are placed ten smaller impression cylinders. The large cylinder being put in motion, the form of types thereon is carried successively to all of the impression cylinders, at each of which a sheet is introduced and receives the impression of the type as the form passes. Thus as many sheets are printed at each revolution of the main cylinder as there are impression cylinders around it. One person is required at each impression cylinder to supply the sheets of paper, which are taken at the proper moment by fingers or grippers, and after being printed are conveyed out by tapes, and laid in heaps by means of self-acting flyers, thereby dispensing with the hands required in ordinary machines to receive and pile the sheets. The grippers hold the sheet securely, so that the thinnest newspapers may be printed without waste. The ink is contained in a fountain placed beneath the main cylinder, and is conveyed by means of distributing rollers to the distributing surface on the main cylinder. This surface being lower, or less in diameter, than the form of types, passes by the impression cylinder without touching. For each impression cylinder there are two inking rollers, which receive their supply of ink from the distributing surface of the main cylinder, and ink the form as it passes under them, after which they again advance to the distributing surface. Each page of the paper is locked up on a detached segment of the large cylinder, which constitutes its bed and chase. The column-rules run parallel with the shaft of the cylinder, and are consequently straight, while the head, advertising, and dash rules, are in the form of segments of a circle. The column-rules are in the form of a wedge, with the thin part directed towards the axis of the cylinder, so as to bind the type securely. These wedge-shaped column-rules are held down to the bed by tongues, projecting at intervals along their length, and which slide in rebatted grooves cut crosswise in the face of the bed. The spaces in the grooves between the column-rules are accurately fitted with sliding blocks of metal, even with the surface of the bed, the ends of which blocks are cut away underneath to receive a projection on the side of the tongues of the column-rules. The form of type is locked in the bed by means of screws at the foot and sides, by which the type is held as securely as in the ordinary manner upon a flat bed, if not even more so. The speed of these machines is limited only by the ability of the ~feeders to supply the sheets. From twenty to twenty-five thousand impressions an hour can be worked by the ten-feeder machine.
    Colonel Richard M. Hoe's invention was the first successful attempt to print, on the rotary principle, with ordinary types made up on a cylindrical form. This system combines the greatest speed in printing, durability of machinery, and economy of labour.
The Daily Telegraph machine, including flyers, is thirty-five feet long, twelve feet wide, and eighteen feet high; it weighs upwards of thirty tons; and was brought to this country in forty-seven cases.
    There is much in the above account which will not be understood, perhaps, by untechnical readers, but one passage every intelligence will appreciate. The machine prints from twenty to twenty-five thousand copies an hour! We see, now that it is in motion, why it is called a ' ten-feeder' machine.
    Ten separate sheets of blank paper are received by it simultaneously every moment, and simultaneously do they immediately reappear printed on one side. And to think that it is a penny which feeds those ten gaping mouths, and which supplies this voracious monster with its daily banquets of paper! The thing appears incredible, and it does not seem less so when we learn that this one machine cost, with its appliances, about 8000l. 
We throw a hasty glance at the twenty-five horse power steam-engines in an adjoining room, by which this wondrous machine is worked, and then having gazed again at the revolving wheels, and hurrying straps, and oscillating cranks, and falling sheets, until our eyes begin to swim, we prepare to ascend into another part of the building; for the noise made by this giant labourer is none 0f the lightest, and is apt to carry suggestions of perpetual deafness even to the dullest ears.
    We pass upwards to the compositors' rooms, where some eighty or ninety men are busily at work ' setting up' the morrow's news. For while one portion of the paper is actually being printed, the other is not even yet in type. A good room is the compositors' room; lofty, spacious, and well ventilated; and the men who are at work evidently are skilled hands. The reader,' who sits alone at his desk, will, no doubt, have plenty of errors to correct in the proofs' handed over to him during the evening; but if every line ,were a blunder, need we feel any surprise when we see the hideous and unintelligible manuscripts which are passing under his hands for fragmentary distribution on all sides?
    Without prying into the literary sanctum of the collaborateurs, or of that awful personage the editor- in-chief, we enter one of the editorial rooms, and note what is passing. Three or four gentlemen are seated at a large table, and before them is a mass of manuscripts and of newspapers. They attack the former with eyes, and the latter with pen. The execution done is rapid and satisfactory. In obedience to the summons of an ever-ringing bell, a printer's boy appears, and supplies upon supplies of matter are sent by this messenger to the compositors. And yet every moment fresh supplies arrive. Here comes a messenger from Reuter's office, fresh continental telegrams in his hand. Anon there appears a porter from the railway with a country parcel. He is succeeded by the office messenger, with reports from the House. Then a small lad brings some flimsy,' containing an account of a conflagration which has just taken place at Limehouse. In a minute a gentleman drops in with a musical criticism he has been writing in another room. The dramatic critic has also been doing duty, and he too makes his appearance with more copy.' That is the unceasing meaning of all these arrivals. They bring more copy,' more copy.' The sub-editor rises from his chair. He has three columns more matter than the paper will hold, omitting police and law reports, and the India mail is not yet in. We leave him finally at 2 A.M., still in the midst of his sub-editorial cares, The London Gazette coming up the stairs as we descend.
    We have described our visit to The Daily Telegraph, and have conveyed some idea we hope of its importance and position. To those who like more direct details, we may state that so rapid has been its growth, that it has accomplished in the face of a paper duty, and in four years, what The New York Herald has taken twenty years to effect in a country where the manufacture of paper is unfettered by excise regulations, and that if it does not enjoy, as its bills declare, the largest circulation of any daily paper in the world,' it commands the largest circulation of any daily paper in Europe. Its diurnal issue is now, in fact, from 60,000 to 70,000-some thousands more than that of The Times-and is still increasing. Its advertisements, too, augment in number day by day, and are in themselves the most satisfactory proof of its wide-spread influence. A more striking illustration of the wonderful development of the cheap press it would be impossible to adduce.

The Busy Hives Around Us, 1861