"The Argus" NEWSPAPER

[Janet Creed]

Janet Creed Spoke on "The Argus" Newspaper to an Attentive Audience.

Janet Creed's father, Percy Spiden was employed by "The Argus" for 50 years. He progressed from a 15 year old messenger boy to junior artist, to dark room assistant and in 1928 to photographer. His first work camera, which was a German 'Contessanetta' worth £400, had no range finder and used glass plate negatives. A flash light was produced by mixing magnesium powder and potassium nitrate. Percy did his own developing and his fingers were perpetually stained by the chemicals.

He trained under Jimmy Eastman who was Victoria's first newspaper photographer and he became famous for his photos of horse accidents at race meetings. He photographed the 1939 bush fires and migrants arriving after World War 2. He saw colour photos used in the newspaper in 1952, a world first, and in 1954 on a tour of the outback he used roll film.

When "The Argus" closed Percy was shocked to learn about it only the day before. With his good reputation he was quickly employed by "The Age" where he worked until his retirement in 1977.

After Janet Creed retired she helped index "The Argus." Instruction was given regarding the articles to be indexed, such as editorials and those to be ignored such as bankruptcies. Articles concerning people of interest were indexed but not foreign news stories. Janet found indexing increased her understanding of past events. She was impressed by the depth of feeling in the community regarding Federation, and Women's rights. She was surprised that Ned Kelly's court hearing took only one day. With only the years 1900-1910 still to be indexed, Janet was very upset when funding stopped but she hopes it will be resumed soon.

William Kerr started "The Melbourne Argus" in June 1846. In September 1848 Edward Wilson took ownership and changed the name to "The Argus," the first edition of which was issued on the 15th September of that year.

Wilson was born in London in 1813, and after some unsuccessful ventures, moved to Victoria to take up sheep farming. In 1842 he leased "Eumemmering" at Doveton, with James S. Johnston. They sold out in 1846, and Wilson paid William Kerr £300 for "The Argus." Johnston became joint proprietor in 1849, and the newspaper became a daily. By late 1851 circulation had reached 1,500.

"The Argus" began at 74 Collins Street, moved to 76-78 Collins Street and Wilson lived at number 74. After his ownership ended in 1871 the newspaper moved to 127 Collins Street and much later in 1927 it moved to the corner of Elizabeth & Latrobe Streets, Melbourne.

[Argus Building, Melbourne]
[An Argus Publication]
Argus Building, Melbourne (SLV)
A Publication of "The Argus"

Johnston did not remain in the partnership and Lauchlan Mackinnon became a partner in 1852. The "Melbourne Daily News was absorbed into the paper. Mackinnon took over the management from Wilson in 1855 and in 1857, Allan Spowers became a junior partner. To expand the paper Wilson brought out compositors from England and eventually the price of the paper increased to 4 pence.

From the 1860s all three proprietors, Wilson, Mackinnon and Spowers were mainly living in England and the running of the paper was in the hands of Board Members. Wilson's representative was Gowan Evans and later F. W. Hadden.

Wilson was a passionate advocate of democracy and he saw Governor Charles Joseph La Trobe as a supporter of convicts and squatters. He was first to use the phrase 'Unlock the Land." He called La Trobe 'The Hat and Feathers' and declared his actions as taking a 'sneaking treacherous course.' His articles probably contributed to unrest on the goldfields but he wished to stir people out of their apathy even if he fudged the truth at times. Later he began to doubt his own policies and "The Argus" was toned down.

In 1856, he appointed future politician and chief Justice, George Higinbotham, as editor. Higinbotham resigned in 1859 and H. E. Watts and Gurney Patmore became editors. Wilson detested the Tory articles that were produced by Watts who was a conservative journalist with views different to those of "The Argus."

David Syme took control of "The Age" in 1854 and it soon became more popular. "The Argus" continued until 1936 when "The Argus and Australasian Ltd." was incorporated to take over the business. An attempt in 1933 to set up an evening paper "The Star" was unsuccessful probably because another paper, "The Sun," had begun in 1932.

A new look was introduced in 1932 when Errol Knox became editor. News was put on the first page in place of advertisements. In his first editorial he said "The Argus" would 'plough a straight furrow' and its opinions would not be 'presented as dogma.'

After "The London Daily Mirror" bought the paper in 1949, Sydney Elliot, the "Mirror's" representative shared the position of Managing Director with Knox who was to die soon after. The paper was now seen to be radical. The management had no concept of what people thought and the people didn't like the change.

When the Herald and Weekly Times bought the business in 1957, "The Argus" was closed down, putting over a thousand people out of work. "The Argus" had over the years employed many talented reporters, photographers and compositors. It had covered the introduction of steam, electricity, trains, cars and aeroplanes. It covered half a dozen wars. It is a very valuable source of information about Melbourne and Victoria.

[Janet Creed at the September Meeting]

( The above is a report on Janet Creed's address at the General Meeting on 13 September 2014 )

( Contributed by Jan Hanslow, PPPG Member No. 1057 )


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