Alfred Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Northcliffe
|Alfred Charles William Harmsworth|
Alfred Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Northcliffe
July 15, 1865|
Chapelizod, County Dublin, Ireland
|Died||August 14, 1922
London, England, UK
|Education||Stamford Grammar School, Stamford, Lincolnshire, England|
|Title||1st Viscount Northcliffe|
|Relatives||Cecil Harmsworth (brother)
Harold Harmsworth (brother)
Leicester Harmsworth (brother)
Alfred Charles William Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Northcliffe (1865–1922) was a British newspaper and publishing magnate.
His company Amalgamated Press employed Arthur Mee and John Hammerton, and the Amalgamated Press subsidiary the Educational Book Company published the Harmsworth Self-Educator, The Children's Encyclopædia, and Harmsworth's Universal Encyclopaedia.
During his lifetime, he exercised vast influence over British popular opinion.
Early life and financial success
Although born in Chapelizod, County Dublin, Harmsworth was educated at the Stamford School in Lincolnshire, England. He was the elder brother of Harold Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Rothermere, Cecil Harmsworth, 1st Baron Harmsworth, Sir Leicester Harmsworth, 1st Baronet and Sir Hildebrand Harmsworth, 1st Baronet.
He was at school in Kilburn, London, with the young H.G. Wells. A teacher at that school (Henley House) who was to prove important to his future was J.V. Milne, the father of A.A. Milne, who encouraged him to start the school magazine.
Beginning as a freelance journalist, he founded his first newspaper, Answers (original title: Answers to Correspondents), and was later assisted by his brother Harold, who was adept at business matters. Harmsworth had an intuitive sense for what the reading public wanted to buy, and began a series of cheap but successful periodicals, such as Comic Cuts (tagline: "Amusing without being Vulgar") and the journal Forget-Me-Not for women. From these periodicals, he built what was then the largest periodical publishing empire in the world, Amalgamated Press.
Harmsworth was an early pioneer of tabloid journalism. He bought several failing newspapers and made them into an enormously profitable chain, primarily by appealing to the popular taste. He began with The Evening News in 1894, and then merged two Edinburgh papers to form the Edinburgh Daily Record.
On 4 May 1896, he began publishing the Daily Mail in London, which was a hit, holding the world record for daily circulation until Harmsworth's death; taglines of The Daily Mail included "the busy man's daily journal" and "the penny newspaper for one halfpenny". Prime Minister Robert Cecil, Lord Salisbury, said it was "written by office boys for office boys". Harmsworth then transformed a Sunday newspaper, the Weekly Dispatch, into the Sunday Dispatch, then the highest circulation Sunday newspaper in Britain.
In 1899, Harmsworth was responsible for the unprecedented success of a charitable appeal for the dependents of soldiers fighting in the South African War by inviting Rudyard Kipling and Arthur Sullivan to write The Absent-Minded Beggar. Harmsworth also founded The Daily Mirror in 1903, and rescued the financially desperate Observer and The Times in 1905 and 1908, respectively. In 1908, he also acquired The Sunday Times.
Harmsworth was created a baronet, of Elmwood, in the parish of St Peter's, Thanet in the County of Kent in 1904. In 1905, Harmsworth was elevated to the peerage as Baron Northcliffe, of the Isle of Thanet in the County of Kent, and in 1918 was raised to Viscount Northcliffe, of St Peter's in the County of Kent, for his service as the head of the British war mission in the United States.
Alfred Harmsworth married Mary Elizabeth Milner on 11 April 1888, at which time her married name became Harmsworth, and she was styled as Baroness Northcliffe, effective 27 December 1905. She was later elevated to Viscountess Northcliffe on 14 January 1918. She was appointed Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE) and Dame of Grace, Order of St John (D.St.J), both in 1918. This union had one daughter, but no male heir to carry on the baronetcy.
Political influence, World War I home front
Northcliffe's ownership of The Times, the Daily Mail and other newspapers meant that his editorials wielded great influence over both "the classes and the masses". In an era before TV, radio or internet, that meant that Northcliffe dominated the British press "as it never has been before or since by one man". For example, his newspapers—especially The Times—reported the Shell Crisis of 1915 with such zeal that it brought down the wartime government of Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith, forcing him to form a coalition government. Lord Northcliffe's newspapers led the fight for creating a Minister of Munitions (first held by David Lloyd George) and helped to bring about Lloyd George's appointment as Prime Minister in 1916. Lloyd George offered Lord Northcliffe a post in his cabinet, but Northcliffe declined and was appointed Director for Propaganda.
Such was Northcliffe's influence on anti-German propaganda during the First World War, that a German warship was sent to shell his country home in Elmwood, Kent  His former residence still bears a shell hole out of respect for his gardener's wife, who was killed in the attack.in an attempt to assassinate him.
However, Northcliffe's editorship of the Daily Mail in the run-up to the First World War, when the paper displayed "a virulent anti-German sentiment", led The Star to declare, "Next to the Kaiser, Lord Northcliffe has done more than any living man to bring about the war."
He was a close friend of Claude Johnson, Commercial and Managing Director (chief executive) of Rolls-Royce Limited, and in the years preceding the First World War became an enthusiast for the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost.
Alfred Harmsworth's health declined in 1921 due mainly to a streptococcal infection. He died in August, 1922, and left three months' pay to each of his six thousand employees.
Northcliffe lived for a time at 31 Pandora Road, West Hampstead - this site is now marked with an English Heritage blue plaque.
Promotion of Group Settlement Scheme
Through his newspaper empire, Northcliffe promoted the ideas which led to the Group Settlement Scheme. The scheme promised land in Western Australia to British settlers prepared to emigrate and develop the land. A town founded specifically to support the new settlements was named Northcliffe, in recognition of the role that Lord Northcliffe played in bringing about the scheme.
- Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, 1975
- Cannon, John. "The Absent-Minded Beggar", Gilbert and Sullivan News, March 1987, Vol. 11, No. 8, pp. 16–17, The Gilbert and Sullivan Society, London
- The London Gazette: . 15 July 1904. Retrieved 2008-12-12.
- The London Gazette: . 5 January 1906. Retrieved 2008-12-12.
- The London Gazette: . 19 February 1918. Retrieved 2007-11-15.
- Blake, Robert (1955). The Unknown Prime Minister: The Life & Times of Andrew Bonar Law 1858–1918. p. 294.
- Fromkin, David (1989). A Peace to end all Peace. p. 233.
- "Kent Today & Yesterday". 1 January 2010. Retrieved 19 July 2011.
- Bingham, Adrian (May 2005). "Monitoring the popular press: an historical perspective". History & Policy (in English). United Kingdom: History & Policy. Retrieved 9 December 2010.
- Pugh, Peter (2001). The Magic of a Name The Rolls-Royce Story: The First 40 Years. Icon Books. ISBN 1-84046-151-9.
- D. George Boyce (2004). Harmsworth, Alfred Charles William, Viscount Northcliffe (1865–1922). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press.
- Sullivan, March (September 1922). "Northcliffe: Living, Dying, Dead". The World's Work: A History of Our Time XLIV: 648–654. Retrieved 2009-08-04.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Alfred Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Northcliffe|
- Works written by or about Alfred Charles William Harmsworth at Wikisource
- DMGT, Rothermere and Northcliffe
- Alfred Harmsworth, Lord Northcliffe on Spartacus Educational
- Who's Who: Lord Northcliffe
|Peerage of the United Kingdom|
|New creation||Viscount Northcliffe
|Baronetage of the United Kingdom|