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SA Newspapers : Comic papers

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The first newspaper cartoons in an Adelaide newspaper appeared in the Adelaide independent and cabinet of amusement in 1841. (These were also the first illustrations to appear in a newspaper in Australia.) The anonymous 'pen and ink sketches' were inserted as loose leaf supplements in the pages of this satirical newspaper, and consisted largely of caricatures of Nathaniel Hailes - auctioneer and proprietor of the newspaper. The sketches were possibly the work of George Hamilton, a lithographer and later the South Australian Commissioner of Police.

The Mercury and South Australian sporting chronicle, founded in 1849 by William Hammond, began printing illustrations in its pages, including satirical cartoons, from 1850. In 1851 these took the form of a personal vendetta against the manager of the South Australian Company, William Giles, through a series of cartoons and poems. The Monthly almanac and illustrated commentator, a small magazine edited by William Ackhurst, had a brief life in 1850. This had connections with the Mercury, but its satire was more light-hearted. Samuel Calvert's cartoon inserts in the magazine include one of newspaper proprietor James Allen (Monthly Almanac, May 1850).

A 19th century comic paper typically contained jokes, comic verse, riddles and parodies, caricatures, cartoons and satire. By the latter part of the century, parody of every possible popular poem and phrase (and even of parts of the Bible) reached an art form. One of the world's earliest comic papers was the Parisian La Caricature founded in 1830 and followed in 1832 - when political caricature was banned by the French government - by the long running Le Charivari. This was a daily satirical comic newspaper of four pages, which promised a new lithograph cartoon in each issue - a format taken up later by many of its South Australian offspring. In the same vein was the English Figaro in London, begun in 1831. This lapsed, despite its extreme popularity, to be revived in 1841 as Punch: the London Charivari. This was perhaps to be the main pattern for Australian comic papers. It was through Punch that the word 'cartoon' came to mean a comic drawing. The paper became enormously popular - even Queen Victoria read Punch.

Adelaide's first comic paper, Adelaide Punch, was published by William Roberts and William Fawcett in 1868. The original cartoonist for the paper was Tom Carrington. Carrington had previously worked for the Melbourne Punch (Pasquin, 14 November 1868, p. 369). However the first Adelaide Punch lasted only 12 issues.

In 1871 Duncan Moodie founded the Portonian at Port Adelaide. The Portonian had a longer life, running for eight years. Edward Savill ('Cerberus') was the cartoonist for most of the paper's life. Moodie was a fiery character and in the columns of his paper he criticised widely and with strong sarcasm. Politicians, ministers of religion and the mainstream press of Adelaide were all held up to scrutiny. The comic press saw itself playing the important role of exposing hypocrisy amongst politicians and other decision-makers, of cutting down to size the vain and proud - but also making fun of the ignorant and uneducated - all through the medium of humour.

A short lived comic paper, the Mirror, appeared between 1873 and 1874. The Mirror artist was the talented Alfred Clint, who went on to contribute to the long running Lantern. Clint came from a family of artists and speny most of his life in Melbourne where he worked as a stage artist. The Lantern was founded in 1874 by George Stevenson, son of George Stevenson who co-founded South Australia's first newspaper, the South Australian gazette and colonial register. In 1876 the Lantern was purchased by Frank Carroll. Carroll enjoyed a degree of notoriety, having previously spent two years in a Melbourne jail for cashing a forged cheque. The well known engraver Samuel Calvert worked for the Lantern. The Lantern filled its pages with a variety of cartoons and caricatures, as well as poems, articles and parodies. Clint was followed by artists including 'Penstone' of the Illustrated Adelaide news, 'Leo', 'Styx', J Hood and Jeffery Bruer. (Bruer left to work on the shortlived Quilp in 1890.) From Carroll, the Lantern passed to Charles Murphy in 1884, and in 1890 was absorbed into Quiz.

In 1878 Adelaide Punch was revived by Caleb Dalwood and William Henry East. The paper underwent several changes of ownership but for some years was published by JCF Johnson. In 1882 it was acquired by well-known newspaper man EH Derrington. Finally, in 1884, it passed to Herbert Woodhouse and Harry O'Donnell, and in the same year Adelaide Punch was taken over by the Lantern.

Quiz: a satirical, social and sporting journal, in its title summed up the range of content of most of the comic papers - apart from theatre - as they had evolved by the end of the century. Quiz absorbed the Lantern, along with all its predecessors, carrying them into the 20th century. The days of the comic papers were numbered by this time, but by expanding its coverage of the theatre and in particular of sport - especially horse racing - Quiz managed to survive for a while longer. Quiz was founded in 1889 by James Hutchison of the Advertiser, with Harry Craker and AWG Smith. It continued until 1930. Henry Congreve Evans and Alfred Chandler were also involved in the early years of its life. The first cartoonist was J De Saxe, but later JH Chinner joined Quiz.

The days of the comic papers came to an end with the closure of Quiz. Most of them had led a precarious existence, even at their height, in the 1870s. In the 20th century cartoons came to be an accepted adjunct of the mainstream press, as they still are today.

Depasquale, Paul. A critical history of South Australian literature, 1836-1930: with subjectively annotated bibliographies, Warradale, S. Aust.: Pioneer Books, 1978

Van Den Hoorn, Rob. J.H. Chinner : drawing the line, Adelaide, S. Aust.: Constitutional Museum, 1984

Vann, J. Don. 'Comic periodicals', Victorian periodicals and Victorian society, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994

 


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