Victorian newspaper proprietor,
publisher and entrepreneur
Lloyd’s main claims to fame arose from his newspapers and early pioneering work. He also published a range of professonal magazines, such as the Municipal Journal, alongside the newspapers.
Work that might link Edward’s own work with what followed in the 1890s and 1900s has yet to be done. The unexplored lines are practical magazines on subjects like housekeeping and gardening, fiction-based magazines and books.
In the mid-1890s, Edward Lloyd Ltd was publishing quality books, including an encyclopedia and an ambitious series on world fauna and flora. It also published Dickens’s novels in paperback form (6d a volume).
This move into a more elite form of publishing does not seem to have lasted long, but it continued under the United Newspapers imprint after that company had been created and Edward Lloyd Ltd was devoted to the paper mills.
Rather than being something that their father had started, it seems likely that the books were the brainchild of one or more of the sons who took over the business – Frank, Frederick, Harry, Herbert and Arthur.
An Australian view
“Edward Lloyd's work in journalism was twofold. He was the forerunner of the cheap popular newspaper, and he was the first man to introduce into this country the fast rotary machines which have revolutionised newspaper production and brought in the era of great circulations. …
“'News, news, news,' was his motto as a journalist; 'plenty of it – the right sort of it – the right proportions’. …
“Personally he was a very interesting man, his talk – shrewd, penetrating, and pertinent – being a reflection of his character.”
Obituary published in the South Australian Chronicle, 11 April 1890, p.6
An American view
"Another remarkable man [is] Edward Lloyd, the proprietor of the Daily Chronicle and Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper … Mr Lloyd is one of the most pushing, driving and enterprising journalists of this or any other land. He is no longer a young man, but his form is sturdy. He is as straight as an arrow, his forehead is broad and high, and he wears side whiskers, but his upper lip and chin are cleanly shaved. He has made journalism, or rather the publishing and selling of newspapers, the business of his life."
Extract from The Headlight, Goldsboro N.C. 1888-1893, dated 5 March 1890. Clues as to when this was written suggest the early 1870s (a paper mill at Bow, his robust physique, Lloyd's Weekly circulation of 700,000).
Edward Lloyd, 1815-1890
Edward Lloyd was one of the 19th century’s leading newspaper proprietors. His two titles – The Daily Chronicle and Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper – were among the century's best sellers, yet he and all his achievements fell into oblivion in the 20th century.
He is now being reinstated to an extent, less as a newspaper magnate than as a publisher of popular fiction. With the advent of internet, his "penny bloods" have gained new fans. He was responsible for one character whose popularity endures to this day – Sweeney Todd.
By understanding what people would enjoy reading, he brought material that was attractive, decent and affordable to poor people. Even his detractors concede that he contributed to literacy. This led to commercial success, driven by his enthusiasm for popular publishing and industrial innovation. He never gave up on his life's work until illness finally overtook him.
It seems likely that his eclipse was partly due to his family's efforts to suppress things that they found embarrassing, such as his humble origins, irregular family life and ambition to publish for the lower classes. When mentioned at all, Lloyd’s memory has been honoured, or vilified, as "the father of the cheap press".
As long as cheap is taken to mean affordable, it is accurate enough – although thwarted for years by the taxes on publishing, he was a lifelong supporter of the "penny press".
If cheap is taken to mean trashy, it is simply wrong. His papers made no concessions in terms of vocabulary, syntax or verbosity. Apart from price, they were totally unlike today's tabloids and their coverage of foreign news matched that of the modern broadsheet. It could be said that he not only fostered literacy but also helped to bring a broader education to the masses.
Lloyd's own background was neither privileged nor destitute. His father was in trade in the City of London, probably as a cloth merchant but always precariously. He was adjudged bankrupt three or four times.
The notion that Edward was left to fend for himself on the streets because his father was in debtors' prison is not credible since it does not match any likely dates. His parents appear to have brought up their three sons supportively and imbued with sound values. The eldest, Thomas, had a successful medical career. Only the middle son, William, fell by the wayside and died an alcoholic.
Edward attended school until 14, signed on as a solicitors' clerk for a short time and started printing popular items like cards and song-sheets soon after he left school. He was able to draw on the technical knowledge he was gaining in the evenings at the London Mechanics Institute.
From the mid-1830s when he had a family to support, serialised fiction secured a more regular income. By the mid-1850s he had published 200-230 "romances". These included the penny bloods and the plagiarisms of Charles Dickens that brought his name into disrepute, as well as many more serialisations based on love and adventure. These found a ready market, particularly among impecunious women readers who had previously been ignored by publishers.
Traces of Lloyd's early publishing are scarce. It is widely believed that he tried to destroy his early works, sending people around the country to buy and burn as many as could be found. We have yet to find evidence that he did this, and it seems inconsistent with what we know of him.
That printed copies were remaindered in 1861 is evidence that he was closing down this side of the business but not that he wanted to erase it from the record. It is possible that few specimens remain simply because of their fragility and the lack of interest in preserving them among those who bought them.
Despite his opposition to stamp duty on published news until its abolition in 1855, he decided to pay the duty when he launched the Sunday Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper in 1842. He was keen to pursue his purpose without risking ruinous fines. The stamp duty covered postage, so it also enabled him to circumvent hostile newsagents who demanded a bigger margin. It was not until 1861, after the paper duty had been abolished as well as the stamp duty and duty on advertising, that he could at last charge 1d (40p now).
In addition to Lloyd's continuous innovations in printing – including the introduction of the rotary press for newspapers – he set up a paper mill to make his own newsprint. He first used home-grown straw and then harvested a vast crop of esparto grass on land he leased in Algeria before both were superseded by Scandinavian softwood. The mill he built at Sittingbourne in Kent grew huge. His son Frank ran it after his father's death. By 1912, it was the largest in the world.
Lloyd made his entry into daily newspapers with The Daily Chronicle in 1876. It was a success from the start, which was just as well – he had spent £180,000 (£19m) on buying and transforming a local paper and then setting it up for mass production. Hoe built new rotary presses to his specifications.
After an illness in 1889 (probably a heart attack), he formed Edward Lloyd Ltd. He owned 1,214 of the 2,500 shares and left these in a trust for his children under the will he drew up at the same time (see Will). The remaining shares, a majority interest, were to be held by four of his sons in trust for his grandchildren. When he died on 8 April 1890, he left an estate worth about £565,000 – nearly £65m in today’s money. The rather larger part of his business already in the family trust would have taken his net worth in 1889 closer to £900,000 (£100m).
Lloyd's early publications were distinguished by the combination of entertainment value with respectability of a sort that was seen at the time as the preserve of the middle classes. They were not condescending or evangelical, but nor were they pornographic or corrupting.
Lloyd's Weekly was defiantly anti-establishment in its early years. This may well have reflected his own views, but it was published for the majority who had neither votes nor a public voice. It took a principled stand, but it was also designed to appeal to his target audience.
In the modern idiom of wealth, we must either applaud him as a public benefactor or decry him as a greedy businessman, a saint or a scoundrel. He was neither, though both may have played some part in the normal complexity of human character.
He had several motivations, not least the need to earn a living. Publishing for the poor furthered social justice by helping them climb out of poverty. They in turn offered a large unmet demand.
His devotion to hard work was clearly driven by enthusiasm for publishing and also for the creation of a successful business, both fuelled by his fascination with industrial processes.
Advertising and promotion were another enthusiasm. His more flamboyant efforts included stamping coins with the name of Lloyd's Weekly (until stopped by an Act of Parliament specifically targeting his practices) and painting advertisements on London pavements.
His search for opportunities to promote and sell was a tireless effort. According to Tom Catling, he was shaved and had his hair trimmed several times a day so that he could explore the local potential for publicity and hear the gossip in the barbers' shops.
Money no doubt brought him enjoyment and peace of mind. It also gave visible proof of his managing the business well. However, the strenuous efforts he put into it continued long after he had made his fortune. His penultimate illness in 1889 was almost certainly brought on by a major reorganisation of Lloyd's Weekly that he was masterminding in person.
Someone interested only in the money would surely have retired to enjoy it once the Daily Chronicle was afloat. There is no question of his being a miser. He spent lavishly on the business when necessary and his family always lived well.
As a young man, Lloyd had to earn a living. When more mature, he seems to have been fired mainly by the ambition to be a leading popular publisher and to have a well-run successful business. He took financial responsibility for all aspects of his business empire. Every risk he took was a risk to his own personal fortune – unthinkable for today’s industry titans.