Beginning life as a strike sheet for the London printing unions, the Daily Herald became the world’s top-selling newspaper in 1933. It documented local, regional, national and international news for over half of the 20th century before its eventual decline.
The photos in this archive capture major social and political events such as the Spanish Civil War, unemployment and hunger marches, and the abdication crisis of King Edward VIII.
There are literally millions of photographs of important personalities, politicians, royalty and celebrities, as well as local news stories, sporting events (especially horse racing), arts, science, industry and entertainment—some of which were taken by famous photographers, such as James Jarché, who contributed assignments to the newspaper. Together, they provide a fascinating photographic record of events spanning this period in history.
The entire archive is stored and cared for here in Bradford, divided into three sections: places, events and people.
What’s interesting about this archive is that it not only preserves the images themselves, but also the pre-digital systems of archiving—down to the very same storage cabinets and box files that were used at the Herald, and handwritten cropping notes. There’s even a ‘morgue’ section, where photographs were moved to when person in the photograph had died!
The Daily Herald Archive gives us an incredible insight into myriad aspects of the world’s history, but no less importantly, it also offers a wonderful portrait of the world of 20th century print journalism.
Look through the storage cabinets and you’ll find a little bit of everything from adorable kittens (some things don’t change) to Hollywood stars, from air raids to peace protests; politicians and suffragettes, workers and criminals.
The history of the Daily Herald newspaper
The Daily Herald was launched in January 1911 as a strike sheet for the London printing unions, who were at that time involved in an industrial dispute to support their pleas for improved pay and conditions. So successful was the sheet in helping the unions win their argument, that a movement began for the Herald to be adopted as the daily newspaper in support of the socialist cause.
In April 1912, this mobilisation of effort resulted in the paper being relaunched as a daily, dealing with issues directly relevant to the working man and woman. The early days of the paper were, however, beset by lack of money, even though the Trades Union Congress (TUC) took the paper over in 1922. The paper reeled from one financial crisis to another until, in 1929, Odhams Press stepped in to save it.
The financial injection meant the paper’s immediate future was secured and in March 1930 the new Daily Herald was launched. Odhams Press held 51% of the shares, with the remainder owned by the TUC. The immediate priorities of the new owners were to increase circulation, broaden the socialist profile of the paper and ensure its financial viability.
Late 1929 saw a massive drive to achieve these aims. The size of the paper was doubled from ten to twenty pages; rallies and events promoting the new Herald were held across the country; members of the Labour Party were recruited to promote the paper; and a prize incentive scheme was implemented, with premium cameras and free gifts given away with purchase of the paper. These initiatives resulted in a steep increase in the Herald’s circulation—from 250,000 to 1 million. This trend continued and, in 1933, the Herald became the world’s top-selling popular daily newspaper, with certified net sales of 2 million.
This sharp increase in circulation spurred the Herald’s rivals into action; they envisaged the erosion of their financial and political powerbase. Soon newspapers from the more conservative Beaverbrook stable, such as the Daily Express, began to solicit support for their publications. The ensuing circulation war took both an immediate and long-term toll on the Herald. The paper’s circulation declined.
Throughout this period, and for many years afterwards, the Herald continued to espouse official Labour policies, defined by the Labour Party and at TUC conferences. However, while its appeal had broadened, Odhams Press felt that the political ties were hampering its growth. Nevertheless, the increasingly uneasy TUC/Odhams relationship managed to last for about 30 years until finally, in 1960, faced with a downward spiral in sales and the loss of advertising revenue, Odhams persuaded the TUC to relinquish their shares.
The slide had, however, become irreversible and, in March 1961, Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN/IPC) assumed ownership of the paper on taking over the Odhams empire. The company began a massive drive to revive the ailing Herald. After an initial period of assessment, MGN/IPC decided to enliven the image of the paper in order to broaden its appeal.
In September 1964 the paper was relaunched as the Sun, with the slogan ‘A Paper Born of the Age We Live In’. Despite this change of image, the paper’s format remained stale and uninspiring. After an initial upsurge in circulation, sales again declined. MGN/IPC decided to cut their losses and in 1969 sold the Sun to Rupert Murdoch’s News International, whereupon its content and message completely altered.
About the Daily Herald Archive
Today, the photographic archive of the Daily Herald is part of the Science Museum Group collection, and resides here at the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford. Comprising over 3 million photographs and covering a period from 1911 to the mid-1960s, the archive includes work by many famous photographers who contributed assignments to the newspaper, as well as the staff photographers of the Odhams Press stable.
The archive is broadly split into three sections: places, events and people. The latter is further divided into individuals who were alive during the paper’s existence and those who had died (the ‘Morgue’). The archive offers a fascinating photographic record of local, national and international events spanning 50 years. It is particularly rich in 1920s and 1930s photojournalism, covering such major events as the Spanish Civil War, the rise of fascism, the Abdication crisis, the General Strike and hunger and unemployment marches, and important personalities such as Hitler and Churchill. The archive also strongly represents the monarchy, politics, sport (especially horse racing), the arts and entertainment, science and industry.
The photographs also reveal much of the Herald’s editorial and political policy. Close examination of the cropped and shaded images, and analysis of their content and composition, greatly enhance our understanding of the development of press and documentary photography and the work of the photojournalist.
Research using the Daily Herald Archive
Anyone is welcome to make a free appointment to visit Insight, our collections and research centre, but you must book in advance. To make an appointment, contact us by email or in writing, and if you’d like to access the Daily Herald archive in particular, let us know.
Write to: Collections Assistant, National Science and Media Museum, Bradford, BD1 1NQ