Edward George Hulton

Edward George Hulton

Edward Hulton the son of the wealthy newspaper propietor, Edward Hulton, was born in Harrogate, Yorkshire, in 1906. After being educated at Harrow and Brasenose College, Oxford, he became a lawyer.

In November 1936 he inherited £6 million from his father's estate. He used the money to establish the Farmer's Weekly and Nursing Mirror.

In 1938 Hulton purchased Lilliput for £20,000 from its founder, Stefan Lorant. Later that year Hulton agreed to a suggestion by Lorant and Tom Hopkinson to publish Picture Post, a magazine that pioneered photojournalism. The magazine was an immediate success and after four months was selling 1,350,000 copies a week.

When Stefan Lorant emigrated to the United States in 1940 Tom Hopkinson took over as editor. Hopkinson recruited a team of talented writers and photographers including Tom Winteringham, Macdonald Hastings, Maurice Edelman, Walter Greenwood, Lionel Birch, A. L. Lloyd, Anne Scott-James, James Cameron, Robert Kee, Sydney Jacobson, Ted Castle, Bert Hardy and Kurt Hutton.

Hopkinson used the Picture Post to campaign against the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany. In the journal published on 26th November 1938, he ran a picture story entitled Back to the Middle Ages. Photographs of Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, Herman Goeringand Julius Steicher were contrasted with the faces of those scientists, writers and actors they were persecuting.

In January 1941 Tom Hopkinson published his Plan for Britain. This included minimum wages throughout industry, full employment, child allowances, a national health service, the planned use of land and a complete overhaul of education. This document led to discussions about post-war Britain and was the forerunner of the Beveridge Report that was published in December 1943.

The sales of the Picture Post increased rapidly during the Second World War and by December 1943 the magazine was selling 950,000 copies a week. The trend continued after the war and by the end of 1949 circulation reached 1,422,000 with profits of over £2,500 a week.

Tom Hopkinson was often in conflict with Hulton, who supported the Conservative Party, and objected to Hopkinson's socialist views. In August 1945 Hulton wrote to Hopkinson telling him that "I cannot permit editors of my newspapers to become organs of Communist propaganda. Still less to make the great newspaper which I built up a laughing-stock."

In 1950 Hopkinson sent James Cameron and Bert Hardy to report on the Korean War. While in Korea the two men produced three illustrated stories for Picture Post. This included the landing of General Douglas MacArthur and his troops at Inchon. Cameron also wrote a piece about the way that the South Koreans were treating their political prisoners. Hulton considered the article to be "communist propaganda" and Hopkinson was forced to resign.

Ted Castle took over as editor but several journalists, including James Cameron, Lionel Birch and A. L. Lloyd, refused to continue working for the magazine.

When Tom Hopkinson left the Picture Post it was selling over 1,380,000 copies a week. By June 1952 it had fallen to 935,000. Sales continued to decline and by the time the magazine was closed in May 1957 circulation was less than 600,000 copies a week.

Edward Hulton died in 1988.

Primary Sources

(1) Tom Hopkinson, Picture Post: 1938-50 (1970)

The idea of Picture Post - most British of magazines - came from abroad. Its first editor, Stefan Lorant, was a Hungarian Jew - one of a small and brilliant band who left their country after the First World War because they found its political climate oppressive, and Hungary too small to give scope to their talents; and the paper's two first cameramen, Hans Baumann (or Felix H. Man as he signed himself) and Kurt Hubschmann (K. Hutton), were both Germans who had mastered their craft on magazines in Berlin and Munich.

The original conception owed everything, to Lorant. I met him first, four years before Picture Post was launched, when he turned up at Odhams Press where I then worked, with a suggestion for starting a picture magazine. This was in June 1934, and he arrived at one of very few moments in Odhams' history when an original idea had a chance of being accepted.

(2) Picture Post (26th November, 1938)

It was November 7, on which Herschel Grynsban, 17-year-old Polish Jew shot Vom Rath, Counsellor at the German Embassy in Pans. Vom Rath died in Paris on the afternoon of November 9. Almost simultaneously the German government in Berlin issued the first of its decrees against the Jews, which must have been prepared before Vom Rath died. These ordered all Jewish newspapers to stop publication. All Jewish cultural and educational associations were to be dissolved

On the same day, two synagogues were burnt down in different parts of Germany, and there was a small demonstration against the Jews in Berlin.

Early in the morning of November 10, after the beer hall and cafes had closed bands of young Nazis, acting simultaneously in towns all over Germany, set fire to synagogues, desecrated Jewish religious vestments and books, smashed the windows of Jewish shops, harried, beat and stoned Jewish people in the streets, and began widespread arrests of Jews.

Later that day began the worst pogrom since the Middle Ages. Looting went on all over Germany and Austria. The houses of Jews were broken into, children were dragged from their beds, women were beaten, men arrested and taken to concentration camps. Foreign journalists were prevented, as far as possible, from gathering details, but it is known that in Berlin several Jews were stoned to death. In the provinces, the number must have been higher.

The police did not interfere. The fire brigades turned their hoses only on non-Jewish buildings. All Jews in the streets or in wrecked shops, who were not manhandled, were arrested. In Munich, 10,000 Jews were rounded up and ordered to leave within 48 hours.

(3) Robert Kee, Picture Post (3rd July, 1948)

Although there are no official figures, the coloured population of Great Britain is estimated by both the Colonial Office and the League of Coloured People at about 25,000, including students. This total is distributed over the whole of Britain, but there are two large concentrated communities: one of about 7000 in the dock area of Cardiff round London Square, popularly known as 'Tiger Bay', and the other of about 8000 in the shabby mid-nineteenth century residential South End of Liverpool. It is most important to remember that all colonial coloured people, of whatsoever origin or class, have been brought up to think of Britain as 'The Mother Country'. This is particularly true of the West Indians, who no longer have the tribal associations and native language which can still provide some fundamental security for the disillusioned African. The West Indian disillusioned with Britain is deprived of all sense of security. He becomes, quite understandably, the most sensitive and neurotic member of the coloured community.

For Britain's colour problem there are a few practical and remedial steps that can be taken. But it can only be solved By a true integration of white and coloured people in one society. And for that to take place there must be some sort of revolution inside every individual mind - coloured and white - where prejudices based on bitterness, ignorance or patronage have been established.

(4) Edward G. Hulton, Picture Post (February, 1950)

Nearly everybody is now persuaded that the Soviet Government constitutes a grave menace, not only to Peace, but to our very lives. The Soviet Government, with the Communist Party, is what Mr. Churchill would rightly call 'a relentless foe' - determined on the complete destruction of all peoples who will not obey their dictates one hundred per cent. Although it may very well be true that the Kremlin does not desire war at this particular moment, this is merely because it is waiting, crouching, for a better opportunity to spring upon us. All and every form of appeasement is worse than vain.

At this perilous moment, I am, personally speaking, appalled that the conduct of our foreign policy should be in the hands of Mr. Ernest Bevin.

(5) Tom Hopkinson, Of This Our Time (1982)

The winter of 1949-50 passed quietly enough, but early in 1950 I began to be bombarded with complaints, first, the familiar ones from Edward Hulton expressing anxiety over the Communist danger and his conviction that Picture Post was "too left-wing". At the same time there started to reach me from management criticism of a different kind: that the paper had lost all vitality, readers were now finding it dull and uninspiring, out of touch with the lively new spirit of the times. Some of the photographs were too large, some too small; other ought not to have appeared in any size. I was advised to study the popular weeklies. Weekend and Reveille, and told that if I would only print similar articles and pictures we could soon double our circulation.

I answered that if we were to imitate such totally different magazines we should destroy the reputation so carefully built up and be more likely to halve our readership than double it. This uncooperative attitude was put down to my always wanting to have things my own way-a failing to which I have certainly been prone. My personal interest in social conditions, I was told, was dictating the contents of the magazine and so standing in the way of the success it would enjoy if it were made more 'bright' and entertaining.

(6) Tom Hopkinson lost his job as editor of Picture Post after publishing a story on the treatment of political prisoners during the Korean War.

During their time in Korea Hardy and Cameron made three picture stories, the most dramatic of these being the record of General MacArthur's landing at Inchon, the port of Seoul. Seoul was not only the capital of Korea but the key centre of communications for the invading armies - North Koreans backed by Chinese - now operating far down to the south after driving the South Koreans and their allies into what Cameron called "the toehold enclave of Pusan". The Inchon landing effectively cut the legs from under the attackers, dramatically reversing the whole military situation. This was the second most powerful seaborne invasion ever launched - only that against Normandy five years earlier having been bigger - and our two men were the only British photo-journalists present.

The Inchon landing was not the only story our two men had sent back, and one of the others posed a problem. Text and photographs showed vividly how the South Koreans, with at least the connivance of their American allies, were treating their political prisoners, suspected opponents of the tyrant Synghman Rhee. Rhee himself would in due course be ditched as the insupportable head of an intolerable regime by the American protectors who had kept him in power for so long; but that was still ten years on into the future, and in the meantime Rhee and his henchmen were our gallant allies and the upholders of our Christian democratic way of life. By the 1980s we have all seen treatment of prisoners more openly murderous than that revealed in Hardy's pictures, and Cameron's accompanying article would today be accounted mild. But in the climate of that time, with British and Australian troops involved in the fighting, any criticism of South Koreans was certain to be regarded as criticism of 'our' side. Such criticism, moreover, being anti-Western, must inevitably be 'pro-Eastern', and hence - with only a small distortion of language - 'Communist propaganda', a crime of which I was already being accused by my employer.

(7) James Cameron, Picture Post (7th October, 1950)

They have been in jail now for indeterminate periods - long enough to have reduced their frames to skeletons, their sinews to string, their faces to a translucent terrible grey, their spirit to that of cringing dogs. They are roped and manacled. They are compelled to crouch in the classic Oriental attitude of submission in pools of garbage. They clamber, the lowest common denominator of personal degradation, into trucks with the numb air of men going to their death. Many of them are. The spectacle is utterly medieval. Among the crowds drifting indifferently around, a few bystanders take snapshots, grinning.

(8) The Times (25th October, 1950)

Mr Edward Hulton states with the deepest regret that, following a dispute about the handling of material about the Korean war, he has instructed Mr Tom Hopkinson to relinquish the position of editor of Picture Post. There is no personal hostility between Mr Hulton and Mr Hopkinson. Mr Ted Castle, associate editor of Picture Post and for six years the assistant editor of the paper, is the new editor.