RECOGNISED as the world’s longest-running weekly women’s magazine, The People’s Friend celebrates 150 years of continuous publication this week.
First published on January 13 1869 – from an office in Bank Street, Dundee – the magazine set out to “instruct and entertain” its readers.
A century-and-half and thousands of issues later, it continues to do just that.
With a current weekly readership of 400,000, the magazine is known, loved and trusted around the world. As well as its UK readers, around 20,000 copies are exported each week to recipients as far afield as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada.
Carrying around 600 short stories each year across the weekly magazine, the three weekly special and the annual, The People’s Friend is acknowledged as the biggest publisher of magazine fiction in the UK and adheres to its founding intention that the publication would have “Nothing admitted into its columns having the slightest tendency to corrupt the morals either of old or young”.
To mark the anniversary, a symposium on The People’s Friend will take place in April at Glasgow’s Mitchell Library in conjunction with the University of Strathclyde with a day of talks about the magazine’s place in publishing history.
In May, the Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh will mount an exhibition of original cover art and run a series of events. Later that month, The People’s Friend will host a readers’ weekend at Alvaston Hall, Crewe, to meet the team behind the magazine, hear about the history of the publication and take part in ‘Friend’ activities.
Later in the year, a further series of talks will take place at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh. There are also plans for short story writing workshops during the anniversary year.
Angela Gilchrist, editor-in-chief of The People’s Friend since 2007, said: “We’re proud to have maintained the founding values of the magazine. They are embedded into the ethos of the magazine – this is what The Friend is about and what it stands for.
“The famous founding statement which was in the first issue talks about ‘Nothing in the columns intended to corrupt the morals of young or old’ and that is very much the principle of the magazine. There will be nothing to upset or offend. The Friend is all about entertainment so people feel better for reading it, not saddened, upset or frightened in any way.
“I think that regardless of how up to date you are with what’s happening in the world around, there are moments when you just want to step back and have a bit of escapism and that’s really what we offer.
“Reaching this milestone is amazing and is proof of the relationship we have with our readers. No other magazine can come close to this. And that more than anything is what has made it flourish for 150 years.
“Readers tell me how much they look forward to the magazine coming though their door every week. They say it’s like welcoming a friend in to their home.
“It’s not unusual for people to read The Friend every single day for 40, 50 or even 60 years. Or for one, two or even three generations of the same family to pass on the habit of reading The Friend.
“In its 150-year history The People’s Friend has survived massive social upheaval, world wars, strikes and natural disasters, and, through it all, it’s continued dispensing entertainment, comfort and good cheer, acting as a true friend to its readers in good times and in bad.”
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Notes for editors:
DC Thomson’s The People’s Friend is recognised as the world’s longest-running women’s weekly magazine, first published on 13 January 1869. The magazine was officially added to the Guinness Book of World Records in 2008 when it marked its 140th anniversary. This year (2019) marks 150 years of continuous publishing. The 150th anniversary issue on 12 January 2019 will be issue number 7,759.
The magazine sells over 170,000 copies a week with a readership of around 400,000. A copy of The Friend is sold every 3.44 seconds, that’s almost nine million copies a year. In 1932 The People’s Friend outsold all other women’s weeklies in Scotland, with an estimated 1,520,000 readers or 24.1 per cent of the population.
First published ten years before Edison patented the electric light bulb, the magazine was designed to be family entertainment, read out around the fireplace. The magazine’s purpose noticeably shifted around the First World War, helping and entertaining women left at home as men went to fight. In the 1970s and 80s, the magazine’s audience became a little older as more women were working full-time with less ‘me time’. Today, the editorial team find older readers have busy and active lives which are reflected in the magazine’s pages.
PhD student, Charlotte Lauder, is currently writing her thesis with the National Library of Scotland and Strathclyde University on how popular magazines constructed a Scottish sense of identity and culture between 1870 and the 1920s, with a particular focus on The People’s Friend.
Since illustrated covers were introduced in 1946, each one has been hand-drawn and signed ‘J. Campbell Kerr’. This is, in fact, an alias for many talented artists across the years. The first illustrated cover was Edinburgh Castle and the artworks tend to be of British landscapes with almost four thousand being created over the years. Today, three artists create illustrations for the cover.
Despite being published for 150 years, there have only been nine editors – an average of 16 years an editor. The identity of the magazine’s editor between 1938 – 1945 is also a mystery, as there are no direct records mentioning an editor for this time.
From aprons, barometers, whisks and tea towels to personalised biscuits, the magazine has always provided helpful gifts to its readers every week. A cameraman in the Congo in the 1930s was even saved from a stampeding rhino after he tripped over one of The People’s Friend’s free gifts – a tea caddy.
Between 1897 and 1909, William Crawford Honeyman gave readers advice on playing the instrument and his expert opinion of readers’ violins – which they sent to the office in their hundreds. However, Honeyman had several strings to his bow and was also an accomplished writer, pulling together some of the first detective stories in the crime-writing fiction genre for the magazine, which it’s believed may have inspired Arthur Conan Doyle and the creation of Sherlock Holmes.
In 1917, its wartime readers raised over £1,000 to pay for three YMCA huts, the first located near the Somme in France. The ‘Hand of Friendship Campaign’ raised over £20,000 in 2017 for the Winnie Mabaso Foundation and over £16,000 in 2018 for the Greenfingers charity. The magazine has also run its own charitable appeal – the Love Darg – since 1885, which has now developed into a nationwide charity appeal that has donated thousands of gifts to hospitals, children’s homes and hospices.
The magazine was originally sold for a mere one penny. Remarkably, the cover price was not increased until 1918 (to 1½d).
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