This is part three of a seven-part blog series exploring the long-forgotten Los Angeles arts & culture magazine The Graphic. The Los Angeles Public Library owns what is likely the most complete collection of this magazine anywhere and our participation in California Revealed means that we can share this rare and unique resource with the world. As part of reintroducing this long-forgotten Los Angeles arts & culture magazine to contemporary audiences, the next few entries in this series will focus on the history of the publication and the Angelenos who kept it operating for twenty-six years.
Part III: Graphic Designers
In February 1904, George Rice sold the Western Graphic to Ohio native, Winfield Scott. Scott, a relative of the famous General Winfield Scott, came to California in 1885 to attend college. After earning a degree in mining engineering, Scott inexplicably moved into the newspaper business when he got a job at the San Francisco Post. From 1890 to 1900, Scott published a magazine, Pacific Wine and Review, before relocating to Los Angeles, where he decided to go out on his own with what was left of The Capital and Western Graphic magazine. The first thing Scott did was to hire H.H. Chapman as his editor and then whittle down the title to the more simplified "The Graphic," a name it would keep until it ceased publication fourteen years later.
During the years Scott owned the magazine, the presentation was generally lackluster. Beyond the new title, the first few issues were largely indistinguishable from The Capital or the Western Graphic, but by 1905, the magazine was noticeably more saturated with advertising, particularly on the cover. Garish advertisements for products like shoes, phonographs, and pianos were the first things Angelenos saw when they picked up the latest issue of Scott's Graphic. By December 1904, Scott reported that The Graphic's circulation had "trebled" in three months and had "over 5,000 regular readers." These statistics were reported prior to the new layout leaving it unclear how this change may have affected circulation, but Scott maintained this layout until he sold the magazine. Occasionally, a "special" event, such as the "Old and the New" Christmas season supplement, would prompt a change to this layout, and it was always well received. Similarly, the arrival of the White Fleet prompted Scott to publish a "souvenir" edition in 1908. The San Pedro Daily News promoted this commemorative edition as an unofficial program for this once-in-a-lifetime event: "It will be a magnificent souvenir for our own people, for the army of visitors from far and wide, and for the officers as well. It will be the finest thing possible to keep as a remembrance of the epoch-making event…"
Under Scott, The Graphic’s content was sharply political and reflected his politics. The December 3, 1904 issue, for example, opens with a commentary on an array of topics related to Los Angeles civic and political life, more specifically, the upcoming municipal elections. The Graphic describes current Los Angeles Mayor Meredith P. Snyder as a "shifty politician who keeps an acrobatic balance by attempting to please everybody with cunning lip service and impotent inaction" while describing challenger Owen McAleer as "a straightforward man with a keen sense of duty and a blunt way of performing it." Sandwiched in between a profile of Charles Lummis and advertisements for Kinney's Venice of America is an appeal for its readers to reject a proposal to build a public library in Central Park (Pershing Square) as it "will spoil the view, obstruct the breeze, and will deprive many men, women, and children of one-quarter of an already too small breathing spot." The cover of this particular issue lacked any sort of image and, instead, featured the following message: "If you want a free and fearless journal of news, comment, and criticism dependent only on truth you cannot afford to miss a single copy of The Graphic." Taking up considerably less space towards the back of the magazine was a rundown of the arts and society announcements that would be the hallmark of later incarnations of The Graphic.
There's no doubt that the advertisements generated a nice profit for Scott but their garishness seems to cheapen the overall character of the magazine and one gets the distinct feeling that he began to see The Graphic as an albatross. This feeling is seemingly confirmed when Scott was offered a job as a reporter with the Los Angeles Daily News and he took the opportunity to dump The Graphic. The man he sold it to would begin to reshape the magazine, turning it into an expression of his love for his adopted city, Los Angeles.
Samuel T. Clover
Originally from London, Samuel Travers Clover was born around 1859. The Clover family emigrated to the United States a decade later and Samuel landed in Chicago around 1879. In 1880, Clover decided to gain "life experience" by traveling to the South Pacific and back, a voyage that was funded by an assortment of odd jobs and resulted in a book, Leaves From a Diary: A Tramp Around the World. Upon his return to Chicago he was able to wrangle a number of newspaper jobs including as a reporter for the Chicago Times and eventually working his way up to managing editor of the Chicago Evening Post. In 1900, Clover relocated to Los Angeles to work as a reporter for the Los Angeles Times.
The Impudent Harlot and The Impudent Fishwoman
Clover didn’t stay with the Times for very long. His intense dislike of Times owner Harrison Gray Otis caused him to leave the Times for a position as editor of the Evening Express. It just so happens that the Times and the Express were at war over a city printing contract and, as editor of the Express, Clover was ultimately accountable for statements that compared the Times to "an impudent harlot" and called out Otis for his widespread abuses. Given Otis' reputation, it's hard to find fault with the Express' editorials but these editorials seem unusual given Clover's mild-mannered, intellectual nature, and that may explain why he left the Express not long after being hired. Clover attempted to start his own newspaper, The Los Angeles Evening News, but the effort proved unsuccessful. This failure allowed Otis to take a swipe at his former employee in the Times , writing that "Clover sat up in his little tinpot newspaper office and imagined he was directing the destinies of the nation. In his own fancy, he was thundering like mighty Jove, but to everyone else, he sounded like an impudent fish woman—scolding and nagging and making faces." In spite of the pointed bitchiness of Otis and the Times, Clover was determined to go out on his own, and in 1908, he purchased The Graphic.
Clover's incarnation of The Graphic feels much more representative of who Samuel Clover was as a person, and The Graphic enjoyed what was (arguably) its most prosperous era under his direction. For his inaugural issue (Sept. 12, 1908), Clover issued the following statement under the heading "Purely Personal," "Having acquired the sole control of The Graphic it will be the aim of the undersigned to give Los Angeles and Southern California a high-grade weekly publication that will take editorial cognizance of the live questions of the day, local state and national discussing the same from an independent viewpoint, in a manner that shall please those who agree with the pronouncements and challenge the intellects of those who disagree with them." Clover was critical of most civic politicians and was committed to his dislike for Harrison Gray Otis but he does not appear to have written any "poison pen" editorials about his former boss. In fact, he chastised Gubernatorial candidate Hiram Johnson for calling out Otis during a speech at Simpson Auditorium: "...much as the editor of the Times is open to adverse criticism for his past sins, the candidate for the highest executive office in the state did not advance his cause by the intemperate language used on that occasion." As reported by historian Jane Apostol in the Southern California Quarterly, Clover professed both his personal and professional integrity as he "assured subscribers that he would print nothing sensational or objectionable and would adhere to a policy of clean advertisements and wholesome progressiveness." Clover emphasized that "art matters at home and abroad will be intelligently treated" while "marked attention will be paid to current literature, and reviews of new books will be a notable feature of The Graphic with each recurring issue."
Some dramatic changes to the magazine occurred during Clover's tenure as owner. Though largely aesthetic, these changes gave the magazine a fresh and more attractive appearance which, no doubt, contributed to its expanding popularity. Artist Ralph Fullerton Mocine was commissioned to create unique headers to identify sections of the magazine—i.e., music, theater, and editorial commentary. As a devoted bibliophile, Clover was committed to expanding literature in the magazine and added the section "Browsings in an Old Bookshop," which chronicled his passion for finding "treasures" in local bookshops and exploring notable publications. Mocine created art for this section; it depicted a man seated at a desk, reading a large book by candlelight. The artwork seemed to resonate with Clover, who would highlight it in the most profound way just one year later.
The most pronounced change under Clover was the cover. As noted earlier, near the end of Winfield Scott's tenure at The Graphic, the cover was littered with advertisements for things like pianos, shoes, and victrolas. With Clover's first issue, he wiped advertisements off of the front page, making the magazine resemble a newspaper with multiple columns of text and few or no images. In December 1911, an expanded version of Mocine's "Browsings in an Old Bookshop" appeared on the cover, and this updated design would serve as the cover image of the magazine for nearly four years (December 2, 1911, to July 31, 1915) utilizing either a red or green background. In August 1915, however, Mocine's cover was inexplicably scrapped. This change was never addressed or explained within the magazine, but it's possible that the war in Europe had somehow impacted ink availability. Save for a month of covers featuring local homes of note, The Graphic basically reverted back to Clover's original 'newspaper column' format.
Sam Clover owned The Graphic longer than anyone else, and the publication was an unequivocal success under his leadership. The San Pedro Daily News described Clover's incarnation of the periodical as "one of the best-edited magazine[s]…from cover to cover The Graphic is full of meat, (good meat, not cold storage) dished up to fit the appetite of everybody who enjoys reading pure English and live down-to-date criticism, and wide awake social and dramatic news." This run of luck seemed to inspire Clover to return to his original passion: the newspaper business. Sam Clover's ventures into newspapers had proved largely unsuccessful, but he seemed determined to keep trying. In 1916, He was offered the chance to purchase the Richmond Evening Journal. The Virginia-based paper would require Clover to both relocate and sell The Graphic for collateral. He took a chance and sold The Graphic, but his newspaper venture proved to be less fruitful than he had hoped. By 1920, Clover had returned to Los Angeles and went back to the magazine business. His new venture would prove to be successful and stayed in operation even after Clover's death in 1934. The new magazine would prove to be a spiritual descendant of The Graphic (but more on that later).