Proabbly the first illustrations to appear in an Australian newspaper were a series of crude lithographs entitled 'pen and ink sketches' produced for George Dehane and Nathaniel Hailes' Adelaide Independent in 1841.These were possibly the work of the early amateur artist and engraver, George Hamilton. A sketch portraying a fight between Osmond Gilles and Edward Stephens (manager of the Bank of South Australia) which took place following a dinner in honour of the explorer Edward John Eyre, reputedly caused a libel case and forced the newspaper to close. However, Hailes continued publishing similar sketches in a new title, the Adelaide Free Press.
In 1850 the Register began using simple wood-cut illustrations in its advertisements. A year later the Mercury and South Australian Sporting Chronicle included some fine drawings of early Adelaide buildings engraved by Charles Winston, both in its 'Views in Adelaide' series and within its advertisements and articles. This newspaper, the first in Adelaide to include full illustrations within its pages, also contained cartoons, including several depicting the unfortunate William Giles, manager of the South Australian Company. Samuel Calvert, the early engraver, worked for the Mercury, and also the artist ST Gill contributed at least one 'exclusively commissioned' illustration - a depiction of the murderer James Johnson (Mercury, 25 May 1850, p. 485).
The Illustrated Melbourne Post included illustrations relating to South Australia in its pages from 1863. South Australian artist William Cawthorne began to contribute 'sketches' to the newspaper in 1865. Cawthorne later produced South Australia's first entirely local, fully illustrated, newspaper, the Illustrated Adelaide Post, in 1867. This was based on the earlier Melbourne newspaper, and appears to have had an arrangement to use a selection of their material. The prospectus stated that the Illustrated Adelaide Post had engaged, 'the very best Artists and Engravers' (23 January 1867, p. 15). Samuel Calvert also did engraving work for this newspaper. Cawthorne's newspaper was incorporated in Hugh George's Melbourne-based Australasian Sketcher from the end of 1874, with Cawthorne simply publishing an Adelaide edition until the Sketcher was sold to Goodfellow Brothers in 1875, who in turn sold to GN and WH Birks in 1876. They continued publishing a periodic Adelaide edition of the newspaper until it was taken over by the Victorian publisher Alfred Ebsworth in 1885.
The Illustrated Adelaide News was founded in 1875 to provide, 'an illustrated paper entirely devoted to South Australian scenery' (January 1875, p. 2). However, this newspaper contained very few South Australian illustrations, and from late 1877 began its focus on Australia-wide crime and criminals. Alfred Clint and later HJ Woodhouse worked as artists for this newspaper, which once again employed the skills of Samuel Calvert. 'Cerberus' and 'Penstone' were other contributing artists.
The Illustrated Adelaide News was published by the Frearson brothers, who in 1878 also founded Frearson's Weekly Illustrated. HJ Woodhouse and 'Penstone' contributed illustrations for the latter title, and were joined by Alfred Scott Broad and 'Leonard' in the 1880s. The Illustrated Adelaide News became Frearson's Monthly Illustrated Adelaide News in 1880. In 1884 the two Frearson titles were combined as the Pictorial Australian. The Frearsons employed a range of artists and engravers over the 20 years they produced their newspapers. Broad and Leonard were joined by talented artists such as Edmund Harral from 1887 to 1890, followed by Alfred Levido of the Adelaide School of Art from 1890, and also Hal Vernon.
The invention of the 'half-tone' process in the 1880s allowed newspapers to reproduce photographs by printing them in a format utilising differing sized dots. This was an expensive process, but George Sutherland and Sydney Moody of the Register perfected a technique so that from March 1887 the Observer made a feature of the new technology, printing photographs of prominent South Australian men in its pages. Advertisers were not so keen, as the results could often be smudged - not the best presentation for their products. The introduction of line process blocks in the 1890s was a far cheaper illustrative process than either the half-tone or the older wood engraving processes. This was used in the major morning daily newspapers, such as the Register, from the beginning of the Boer War in 1899. However, these required good quality paper for the best results.
Frearsons pioneered photographic reproduction in the South Australian press by printing more sophisticated photographic portraits of local politicians in the Pictorial Australian in March 1887 and 'sun pictures', showing street scenes, in May of the same year. The quality of the reproduction process improved with time so that from 1892 numerous photographs appeared in the pages of the newspaper. This was ahead of the major Adelaide newspapers, the Observer and the Chronicle did not insert photographs in their pages until 1895. The Chronicle used line process block illustrations in its news columns from 4 February 1893. These were mostly portraits, but were also used for example to show the house in Light Square where a Chinese woman was found murdered (4 February 1893, p. 9). These were particularly used during the South African (Boer) War to illustrate people, places and maps.
The dailies had experimented with the developing photographic techniques sparingly. Following the move of the Frearsons to Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, and the subsequent closure of the Pictorial Australian in 1895, other newspapers began looking to pictorial reproduction. Both the Adelaide dailies, the Register and the Advertiser, were interested in producing an illustrated newspaper, and in September 1895 the Register's weekly title, the Observer published a four page photographic supplement containing scenes from the Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society show, as well as further photographic supplements in November and December of that year. The Advertiser's weekly Chronicle published a single sheet photographic supplement with a portrait and biography of Chief Justice Sir Samuel Way in October 1895, and in December printed photographs of the Advertiser building, the G.P.O. and Port Victor. From early in 1902 both the Observer and the Chronicle began producing weekly four page photographic supplements.
As early as December 1865 the Illustrated Melbourne Post included a colour supplement in its Christmas issue. These supplements were generally copies of works of art, and were published periodically by all the illustrated newspapers, particularly at Christmas time. From 1891 to 1920 the English Pears' Annual produced a series of beautifully prepared chromolithograph 'presentation plates' - often copies of famous paintings - as supplements. Newspapers across the world took up the idea, and in Adelaide both the Observer and Chronicle produced similar prints as Christmas gifts with the newspapers. In 1900, reflecting South Australia's involvement in the Boer War, the Observer produced 'Our boys under fire', portraying troops fighting in South Africa.
The country press too experimented with illustrations. The Pictorial Australian reported (June 1885, p. 114) that the Naracoorte Herald's engraving of General Gordon in its issue of 19 May 1885 was probably the first time that any South Australian country newspaper had made its own engraving for publication. The Pictorial Australian had some doubts about the quality of the illustration however: 'Possibly the Herald's subscribers will agree with us in saying that the unfortunate General might now be more appropriately styled 'the victim of the Naracoorte Herald''. Subsequently the newspaper seems to have only occasionally created original illustrations for use in advertisements.
The Melbourne Argus in 1952 was the first Australian newspaper - if not the first in the world - to print colour photographs in its pages. Other newspapers, including the Advertiser, began to make use of advanced technology to do the same 40 years later in 1992.
Carroll, Alison. Graven images in the promised land: a history of printmaking in South Australia, 1836-1981, Adelaide, S.Aust.: Board of the Art Gallery of South Australia, 1981
Marquis, Len. South Australian newspapers: a selection of material from the extensive research notes gathered for a proposed history of the press in South Australia by Leonard Stanley Marquis/ prepared by Ronald Parsons, Lobethal, S. Aust.: Ronald Parsons, 199H