The influence of The Graphic within the art world was immense, its many admirers included Vincent Van Gogh, and Hubert von Herkomer.
It continued to be published weekly under this title until 23 April 1932 and then changed title to The National Graphic between 28 April and 14 July 1932; it then ceased publication after 3,266 issues. From 1889 it also published The Daily Graphic.
The Graphic was founded by William Luson Thomas, a successful artist, wood engraver and social reformer. Earlier he, his brother and his brother-in-law had been persuaded to go to New York and assist in launching two newspapers, Picture Gallery and Republic. Thomas also had an engraving establishment of his own and, aided by a large staff, illustrated and engraved numerous standard works. Exasperated, even angered, by the unsympathetic treatment of artists by the world's most successful illustrated paper, The Illustrated London News, and having a good business sense Luson Thomas resolved to set up an opposition. His illustrated paper, despite being more expensive that its competition, became an immediate success.
When it began in 1869, the newspaper was printed in a rented house. By 1882, the company owned three buildings and twenty printing presses, and employed over 1,000 people. The first editor was Henry Sutherland Edwards. A successful artist himself, founder Thomas recruited gifted artists including Luke Fildes, Hubert von Herkomer, Frank Holl, and John Millais.
The Graphic was published on a Saturday and its original cover price was sixpence, the Illustrated London News fivepence. In its first year, it described itself to advertisers as "a superior illustrated weekly newspaper, containing twenty-four pages imperial folio, printed on fine toned paper of beautiful quality, made expressly for the purpose and admirably adapted for the display of engravings".
In addition to its home market the paper had subscribers all around the British Empire and North America. The Graphic covered home news and news from around the Empire, and devoted much attention to literature, arts, sciences, the fashionable world, sport, music and opera. Royal occasions and national celebrations and ceremonials were also given prominent coverage.
Artists employed on The Graphic and The Daily Graphic at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century included Helen Allingham, Alexander Boyd, Frank Brangwyn, Randolph Caldecott, James H. Dowd, Harry Furniss, Phil May, Ernest Prater, Leonard Raven-Hill, Sidney Sime, Snaffles (Charles Johnson Payne), George Stampa, Edmund Sullivan, Bert Thomas and F. H. Townsend, Luke Fildes and Henry Woods.
Writers for the paper included George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, H. Rider Haggard and Anthony Trollope.  Malcolm Charles Salaman was employed there from 1890 to 1899. Beatrice Grimshaw travelled the South Pacific reporting on her experiences for the "Daily Graphic".
- Topics of the Week: 12 paragraphs of news coverage.
- Amusements: A roundup of activities for the week, for the middle-class reader.
- Our illustrations: a summary of all the illustrations in the edition.
- Home: a summary of the news in Britain.
- Church news
- Legal: Trials and Cases of interest to the target reader.
- A weekly serial written by popular authors of the time, such as William Black (although this seemed to appear in the 1880s).
- Book reviews
- A summary of the new developments in science.
- Rural notes: information about the season and tips about crops, and other news concerning the rampant unrest of the farm labourers.
- New Music: Reviews of the latest music and musicals.
- Obituaries: of Church leaders, factory owners, European Royalty, musicians and noteworthy Victorians.
- Sport: coverage of football and cricket (with W.G. Grace)
- Motoring: c. 1903-1908 Dorothy Levitt, The Fastest Girl on Earth, wrote a column on motoring from the point of view of 'A woman's right to motor'. A collection of her articles formed the basis of the book The Woman and the Car: A chatty little handbook for all women who motor or who want to motor in 1907/9.
There were at least three pages dedicated to advertising and it is interesting to see the obsession with hygiene, with countless adverts for toothpaste and soap products (and 'miracle-cure' pills).
The Graphic was designed to compete with the famous Illustrated London News (established in 1842), and became its most successful rival. Earlier rivals such as the Illustrated Times and the Pictorial Times had either failed to compete or been merged with the ILN. It appealed to the same middle-class readership, but The Graphic, as its name suggests, was intended to use images in a more vivid and striking way than the rather staid ILN. To this end it employed some of the most important artists of the day, making an immediate splash in 1869 with Houseless and Hungry, Luke Fildes' dramatic image of the shivering London poor seeking shelter in a workhouse.
It is much more difficult to produce and print illustrations than type. Improvements in process work and machinery at the end of the 1880s allowed Luson Thomas to realize a long cherished project, a daily illustrated paper.
The Daily Graphic
In 1889, Luson Thomas's company H. R. Baines and Co. commenced publication of the first daily illustrated newspaper in England, which was called The Daily Graphic. This is not to be confused with its American precursor of the same name, which was the first American daily illustrated newspaper, founded in 1873.
Luson Thomas's seventh son George Holt Thomas was a director of the newspaper company and became general manager. Holt Thomas founded The Bystander and later Empire Illustrated before abandoning newspapers in 1906 and making a greater name for himself in the aviation industry.
- Mark Bills, ‘Thomas, William Luson (1830–1900)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
- Mr Willliam Luson Thomas, Obituary. The Times, Thursday, October 18, 1900; pg. 7; Issue 36276
- "DANGERS OF PEARL DIVING.". The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939) (Brisbane, Qld.: National Library of Australia). 18 March 1905. p. 40. Retrieved 10 December 2011.
- Vincent Orange, ‘Thomas, George Holt (1870–1929)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
- Time Magazine: "Eight Less One", August 15, 1925
- Mitchell's Newspaper Press Directory, 1870
- The Reference Specialist British Library Newspapers
- Waterloo Directory of English Newspapers and Periodicals 1800-1900 (Canada: North Waterloo Academic Press, 2003)
- The Newspaper Press in Britain: an annotated bibliography (London:Mansell Publishing, 1987).
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to The Graphic.|
- A history of The Graphic newspaper & staff, with image of the paper's engraving room in 1882.
- Publication dates (British Library website)
- Example of an engraving from an 1869 edition of The Graphic
- Images and text from The Graphic (of 1 February 1873)