This week we have reached another milestone in our digitisation journey, as we have reached 73 million pages at The Archive, whilst we explore an early festive film, the Christmas Burglars. Not only have we added an early cinema title to our collection, we have also added a new title from England’s north-east, namely the Blyth News Post Leader, as we have added 127,786 brand new pages in all to our collection over the last seven days.
This is our last weekly blog of 2023, as The Archive takes a break over Christmas, but we will continue to add new pages and will return in the first week of 2024. It’s been an epic year here, as we’ve added nearly 11 million pages to our newspaper collection, from across the United Kingdom, Ireland and beyond, whilst we look forward to many more pages to come in the new year.
Meanwhile, read on to discover more about our duo of new titles, and also to learn which of our ten existing titles we have updated this week. We’re also delighted in dive into the early days of cinema, and explore early festive favourite the Christmas Burglars.
We’re starting off in Northumberland with our first new title of the week, which is the Blythe News Post Leader. This newspaper is the Blyth edition of the News Post Leader, which was formed via the amalgamation of several south-east Northumberland publications in the early 1980s. Joining together were the paid-for News Post and the freesheet Leader, and the new title they formed, the News Post Leader, also became a free newspaper title.
The Blyth News Post Leader was distributed to 70,000 homes in the coastal town of Blyth and the surrounding area. Appearing every Thursday with the slogan ‘The Best Newspaper Money Can’t Buy,’ the title focussed on community news and events, whilst reporting on local politics and local football team the Blyth Spartans.
On 30 December 2021 the tabloid Blyth News Post Leader became a paid-for title, and it still runs to this day, covering local news and sport from south-east Northumberland.
The second of our new newspapers this week is early cinema title the Pictures, which was a precursor to film fan magazine the Picturegoer, which is also available on The Archive. First published on 21 October 1911, Pictures was ‘an illustrated weekly magazine of fiction for lovers of moving pictures.’ Essentially, the title published stories relating to films that were set to be released, whilst also showcasing pictures of early cinema stars.
Our Magazine will appear every Saturday, and every number will contain a collection of stories, profusely illustrated, each story corresponding to a set of films about to be shown in the picture theatres. In no case will pictures which have already been seen by the public or are actually on view be made the subject of our stories. We will deal only with pictures which are perfectly new to our readers, who can therefore always rely on the absolute freshness of the literary fare which we provide for them. Our Magazine will be in the hands of the public well in advance of the appearance of the pictures, of whose coming it will therefore serve as a herald.
Regarding the stories to be featured within the publication, Pictures explained how they would ‘make the picture actors real and living personages, invest them with human interest, and lay bare their characters, motives, passions, and mutual relations.’ Meanwhile, ‘each number’ of Pictures would:
…consist of a series of stories, all new, all specially written from the actual films for our readers, all brimful of interest, all thrilling. Our Magazine will be the quintessence of sensationalism. Our stories will be of all kinds and appeal to all tastes. Tales of love, adventure, and mystery, tales sad and gay, tales of land and sea, of prairie and slum, of peasant’s cottage and of the royal palace – all will be found in rich profusion in our pages.
Pictures would, therefore, become ‘quite unique in English periodical literature,’ featuring a range of film-related stories every week, as well as adverts for forthcoming silent movies, like Christmas Burglars, which we shall look at later.
Such stories were sponsored by early film production companies: Lubin, the Biograph Company and Kalem. Lubin was an American motion picture company that produced silent films between 1906 and 1916, whilst the Biograph Company was the first every company in the United States to be devoted to film production and exhibition. The Biograph Company was founded in 1896, and it ran until 1916. Meanwhile, Kalem was another early American film studio, which started out in 1907 and was one of the first companies to make films abroad. It was sold in 1917.
Pictures, meanwhile, which spanned between 20 and 28 pages, would go on to form film-fan magazine the Picturegoer, which would run for many more decades, outlasting the silent age of cinema.
Before we go on to take a look at the Christmas Burglars, we’d like to also highlight our updated titles of the week. Leading the charge with over 60,000 brand new pages added to its ranks from the 1990s is the Gloucestershire Echo, whilst we have also added over 24,000 brand new pages to the Northern Irish title the Ballymena Weekly Telegraph, from nine different decades. This week also sees six of our Kent titles being updated, from Maidstone, Ashford, and Deal respectively.
An Early Christmas Film – Christmas Burglars
Christmas Burglars was an early Christmas film favourite that was produced by the Biograph Company in 1908. Directed by D.W. Griffith (1875-1948), the silent movie ran for eleven minutes and starred Florence Lawrence (1886-1948), a Canadian-American actress who is considered to be one of the first movie stars, alongside Adele DeGarde (1899-1972) and Charles Inslee (1870-1922).
However, it was not until 1911 that Christmas Burglars was profiled by Pictures, which noted how, on 23 December 1911, ‘pathos is the dominant note of this splendid film, and the pathos is natural and genuine.’
Pictures went on to give an outline of the short silent film:
A young window returns on Christmas Eve to her humble dwelling, after a fruitless search for work. Her little girl shows her a letter which she has written to Santa Claus, and which she gravely places in her stocking, hanging the latter up by the fireplace.
To see the little one’s confident expectations disappointed on the morrow is intolerable to the poor mother, and she makes a heroic but futile attempt to avert that misfortune.
Christmas Burglars, however, has a happy ending, Pictures relating how ‘Santa Claus comes, and fills the cottage with good things, to the complete bewilderment of one of its occupants, and to the intense joy of both.’
But how did such a Christmas miracle occur? One of our other film magazines, this time cinema industry title the Kinematograph Weekly, is on hand to explain the machinations of Christmas Burglars, and indeed to give context to the title behind the film:
The mother goes to a pawnbroker’s and offers her cloak in pledge in order to raise money with which to gratify her little one’s desire. Her efforts are unsuccessful. As she leaves the establishment, she accidentally drops the child’s note, and the pawnbroker, finding it, has his better nature awakened and engages two burglars to act the part of Father Christmas and provide a host of good things for both mother and child.
Christmas Burglars was, therefore, one of the earliest Christmas films, and a precursor of perhaps that most famous Christmas movie to feature burglars – Home Alone.
Find out more about the early years of film, Christmas movies, and much more besides, in the pages of our newspaper Archive today.
This week we have updated ten of our existing titles.
You can learn more about each of the titles we add to every week by clicking on their names. On each paper’s title page, you can read a FREE sample issue, learn more about our current holdings, and our plans for digitisation.
|Atherstone News and Herald
|Ballymena Weekly Telegraph
|1895, 1903, 1905, 1917-1920, 1930, 1960-1970, 1985-1989, 1991-1992
|Deal, Walmer & Sandwich Mercury
|Maidstone Journal and Kentish Advertiser
|1873-1875, 1878-1886, 1909
|Pateley Bridge & Nidderdale Herald
|South Eastern Gazette