The Graphic was a British weekly illustrated newspaper, first published on 4 December 1869 by William Luson Thomas's company Illustrated Newspapers Ltd. Thomas's brother Lewis Samuel Thomas was a co-founder. The premature death of the latter in 1872 "as one of the founders of this newspaper, [and who] took an active interest in its management" left a marked gap in the early history of the publication. It was set up as a rival to the popular Illustrated London News.
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 1890 until 1926, Luson Thomas's company, H. R. Baines & Co., 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 than 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 more than 1,000 people. The first or was Henry Sutherland Edwards. A successful artist himself, the founder Thomas recruited gifted artists including Luke Fildes, Hubert von Herkomer, Frank Holl, and John Everett Millais.
The Graphic was published on a Saturday and its original cover price was sixpence, while the Illustrated London News was 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, Edmund Blampied, Alexander Boyd, Frank Brangwyn, Randolph Caldecott, Lance Calkin Léon Daviel, John Charles Dollman, James H. Dowd, Godefroy Durand, Luke Fildes, Harry Furniss, John Percival Gülich, George du Maurier, Phil May, George Percy Jacomb-Hood, Ernest Prater, Leonard Raven-Hill, Sidney Sime, Snaffles (Charles Johnson Payne), George Stampa, Edmund Sullivan, Bert Thomas, F. H. Townsend, Harrison Weir, 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. Mary Frances Billington served the Graphic as a special correspondent from 1890 to 1897, reporting from India in essays that were compiled into Woman in India (1895). Joseph Ashby-Sterry wrote the Bystander column for the paper for 18 years.
There were at least three pages dedicated to advertising, with many adverts for toothpaste, soap products and 'miracle-cure' pills.
The Graphic was designed to compete with the 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 realise a long-cherished project, a daily illustrated paper.
On 4 January 1890, Luson Thomas's company, H. R. Baines & Co., commenced publication of the first daily illustrated newspaper in England, which was called The Daily Graphic.[a] It was published until 16 October 1926, when it was incorporated with the Daily Sketch.
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.