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Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries: Volume 12, page 187 [newspaper clipping]

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Identifier: DX02977830

Title: Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries: Volume 12, page 187 [newspaper clipping]

Description: Newspaper clipping regarding the competition between The New York Illustrated News and Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper in 1860.


How a Newspaper Secured a "Beat."

To a correspondent of the Indianapolis Journal Mr. Henry L. Stephens has told the following story: "It was about 1860. The Illustrated News, published by [William Jennings] Demorest, and Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper had been fighting for months over [Daniel] Sickle's trial and the John Brown trials and execution: and it was about nip and tuck, for the News had [Thomas] Nast. Then came the [John] Heenan-[Thomas] Sayers prize fight, in England. It was a mortal struggle between the two papers. Both sent artists to England.

"About the time the fight was to come off, and a week or two before we could possibly hear of it, for there was no cable then, the Illustrated News came out with the announcement that they had sent Mr. Thomas Nast to England to draw a picture of the fight, and Mr. [Andrew] Anthony to engrave it on wood on the Vanderbilt while coming home, and that it would be published on the very day of the steamer's arrival. Something must be done to save us from wreck. Next morning ‘the governor' (Mr. [Frank] Leslie) called me to a vacant room up stairs, and locked the door as I went in. ‘We must have a picture of the fight,' said he. ‘on this.' And he laid his hand on a great block on the table, large enough for a four-page picture. Said he, ‘take this room. Keep it locked. Admit nobody but me and the two or three other artists that you will need and compel us to give a certain specified signal. We must knock the News out of time.'

"He told me to call for anything or any man I wanted. I sent for Perkins, who was English, and who knew the low country around Farnsborough. Leslie, who was English too, thought the fight would come off on level ground with a background of English farms. Perkins was sworn on the horns of Highgate, and then he struck the ring and laid out a vague perspective with English trees and hedge-rows.

"Then we sent down to ‘The Pewter Mug' for Brown to represent [John C.] Heenan. Brown was a strapper, standing at least six feet three inches and weighing not less than two hundred pounds. We got Thad. Glover to do [Thomas] Sayers. He was a very lively and pretty sparer. They went at it hammer and tongs, as I waited, crayon in hand, to catch their attitude when it was right. I can see them now skittering and hopping around the little room, driving one another into a corner, and getting one another's heads in chancery, and finally, when Heenan-Brown gave Sayers-Glover a vicious side-winder on the ear, taking pains not to hit him though, the governor cried ‘stop!' and they posed in that attitude, and I caught it on paper. Then the pugilists went out and took a drink. I drew the faces of Heenan and Sayers on the bodies; then I put a lot of figures and heads, and then sent for Wollin, an Englishman, and he put in a dozen or so typical English heads, with English hats, etc., and then I sent for Twaites, and he added a great lot of English spectators. I took it then and finished it up, and then the block was sawed into sixty pieces and divided among sixty artists to be engraved. About half of it was sent to Philadelphia and Boston. Of course, they didn't recognize their own work when the paper was out. Then the whole was electrotyped, and an immense edition of the paper was printed on one side, ready for the type on the other.

"When we came to write out the account of the fight we made it very vague, making much of the preliminaries already known here, with biographies of the men, etc. Everything was ready. One morning I came down town and found the streets flooded with Frank Leslie's Newspaper. It seemed to me there were millions of copies. I never saw so many papers in my life. . .

Rights: NoC-US


Dates: 1860

Type(s): Diary

Maker/Creator: Stephens, Henry L.

Subjects: Diaries
Publishers and publishing


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