CHUMS, probably the most fondly remembered of all Children's annuals, was famous for its bright crimson covers as seen in the photo at the top of the page. While the BOYS OWN ANNUAL was usually printed to a higher standard on better quality paper, CHUMS ran stories by the most popular boys' authors of its day on what today is termed 'pulp' paper. I still have a CHUMS from the 1920s which was one of several books passed onto me by my dad, and can recall reading it 50 years ago, pretty much from cover to cover. The print is tiny but to boyish eyes that posed no problem. Only later in life when we face our own mortality, and fading eyesight, does that print pose a challenge! Back in the 1960s it was difficult to pick up annuals in good condition while monthlies and weeklies were never seen. Only with the demise of first generation collectors, those born in the 1900-20 period, has it been possible to pick up annuals, monthlies and even weeklies in good or better condition. The late Tom Ebbage left me his set while Geoff Clark's estate provided a number as well.
100 years ago; 1907, next to a 1936-7 volume in a near
faultless dust jacket.
|Some new discoveries in 'Chums' - Daniel Tangri
As a boy I was fascinated by 'Chums'. A friend of mine had three or four of the thick red annuals, and I used to thumb through them whenever I went to his house. I loved the columns of tiny, close-set type, the marvellous illustrations and the grand stories about the Spanish Main, the Napoleonic Wars, adventures in exotic places like Africa, China, South America or India.
'Chums' started in1892 and was clearly modelled on the 'Boy's Own Paper', carrying a mix of stories and articles on all sorts of topics. The first issue featured the start of a serial by D. H. Parry entitled 'For Glory and Renown,' and articles on Harrow School, 'Some of the Doings of Julius Caesar Whilst in Britain' and 'How to Train for the Football Season.' At first it struggled to poach readers from the BOP, but two serials in particular ensured its success 'The Iron Pirate,' by first editor Max Pemberton, which appeared in 1892, and 'Treasure Island,' by Robert Louis Stevenson, which appeared in 1894. By the time of its demise in 1941 it had carried stories by a string of popular authors Geo Manville Fenn, S. Walkey (the master of the pirate yarn), Frank Shaw, Charles Gilson (who was mentioned in despatches in World War One), Maxwell Scott, Hylton Cleaver, Gunby Hadath (who was not only captain of his school, but was capped for rugby at Cambridge, played cricket for the Gentlemen of Surrey, wrote a book on Ancient Philosophy and was a member of the Inner Temple), Geo Rochester, Percy Westerman and John Hunter. It even carried a story by P G Wodehouse, 'The Luck Stone,' published in 1908 under the pseudonym 'Basil Windham.'
At first 'Chums' was published by Cassells. It appeared every week, and at the end of the month the weekly issues were gathered together and published (with a glorious colour cover) as a monthly. In September the previous year's monthly issues were then collected together and published as an annual the large books with the famous red covers that I ogled as a boy.
In January 1927 'Chums' was purchased by the Amalgamated Press. It carried on as a weekly until 2 July 1932, when No. 2077 was the last such issue to be published. Monthly issues continued to appear until July 1934. After that annuals were specially prepared by the editor and appeared in September each year until 1941, when paper shortages brought the title to an end.
One of the quirks of 'Chums' is that, although most stories and pictures would be printed in all three formats, some material was only ever printed in the weekly version or monthly version. One imagines that the editor hoped that this additional reading matter would encourage readers to buy both the 2d weekly and the 1/ monthly. The weekly issues normally had consecutive page numbering, and at the end of the year the page count would reach 832 which was the number of pages in the annual. The outside and inside covers were not numbered in this way but numbered 'A-D', and each weekly also came with an eight-page 'insert' numbered 'i-viii.' These inserts, and the cover pages, were not reprinted in the annuals.
I am not sure when these additional pages were first introduced; Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu stories appeared in the inserts in 1924-25, so the inserts certainly pre-dated the takeover of the paper by the Amalgamated Press. The inserts also do not appear to have been used all the time. For a period at the end of 1930, for example, they appear to have been dropped, only to be reintroduced in 1931, after which they stayed in the paper until it ceased to appear as a weekly.
The monthly issues did not include the pages from the weekly numbered 'A-D,' but did include the eight-page inserts. The monthly also had a magnificent full colour cover and an additional colour plate. The colour plates were bound into the annual, but the lovely covers were not. Incidentally, although a monthly issue was issued at the end of the month during which its weekly issues had been published, it was then given the date of the next month so stories in the January 1931 issue, for example, would have appeared in weeklies during December 1930.
What this means is that some illustrations will have appeared in the weekly only. Other illustrations will have been published in both the monthly and the annual but never in the weekly. This is in fact what we find with W E Johns's contributions to 'Chums'.
I cannot provide a full list of Johns's contributions, as I have only seen weekly issues from 1932. I do know that he contributed paintings to 'Chums', and the ones I have seen were reprints of paintings that had originally appeared in the Graphic and the Bystander. Three of his paintings can be found, in full colour, in two 'Chums' annuals. The painting 'Westward from Peshawar Bombers on the Northwest Frontier,' which appeared in the Graphic on 30 August 1930, appeared in the 1931-32 annual as 'Guardians of the Khyber Pass.' Two paintings appeared in the 1932-33 annual 'By Air to India' and 'Where East Meets West.' Both had been published in the Graphic on 18 April 1931, the latter as 'The Desert Route.'
All three paintings previously appeared in Chums monthly issues. 'Guardians of the Khyber Pass' appeared in the January 1931 issue; 'By Air to India' in the September 1931 issue; and 'Where East Meets West' appeared in the 'Summer Number' which was released in July 1932 as a special issue [See scans below.]. Part of 'Where East Meets West' appeared on the cover of the summer number. One odd thing to report is that I actually have two copies of the January 1931 issue and one has another colour plate inside! I think the plate did first appear in January 1931, for the following reason. By comparing the annuals with the monthly issues I do have, I find that the plates went into the annuals in the same sequence as they appeared in monthlies and next to the same articles or stories. 'Guardians of the Khyber Pass' appears in the 1931-32 annual alongside the stories from the January 1931 monthly. I can only explain the different plate in my other January 1931 issue by guessing that, when the printers were putting together the monthly, they added the wrong plate to this issue by mistake or because they had run out of copies of 'Guardians.'
Johns' work also appeared in the 'Chums' weekly. I only have the weeklies from January to July 1932, but found one black and white plate in the 2 January issue ('Chums' 2051). This appeared on the inside front cover (page B) and was titled 'Heston The Aviator's Happy Hunting Ground.' It shows a number of civil aircraft at Heston aerodrome. An article on the picture, titled 'The Aviator's Happy Hunting Ground' took up half of page C and described the various planes.
This picture was a reprint of a picture that had appeared, in colour, in the Bystander on 9 July 1930 titled 'An Afternoon 'At Home' at a Modern Flying Club.' The caption to that picture also described the various planes in somewhat similar phrasing, which may make it likely that Johns was also the author of the article on page C.
As Johns was contributing a lot of artwork to the Amalgamated Press publications 'Modern Boy' and 'Ranger' in 1931, I would think, given this discovery, that it is highly likely that more examples of his work could be found in weekly issues of 'Chums' from 1931. Sadly, weekly issues are scarce and monthly issues are also difficult to find, but this does give us something to add to our lists of wants. Incidentally, Johns contributed to quite a few other Amalgamated Press annuals at the same time. As is well known, he contributed articles, paintings and stories to the various Modern Boy's Annuals, and he also contributed four articles to the 1932 'New Zoo Annual'. He contributed paintings to five 'Greyfriars Holiday Annuals', in 1932-35 and 1937, the latter containing a reprint of a painting that had originally been given away with 'Ranger'. 'Chums' had its own associated annual, which the Amalgamated Press also bought at the same time it bought 'Chums' the 'British Boy's Annual', which was distributed in Australia as the 'Australian Boy's Annual'. I have checked issues of this annual up to 1930 and found nothing by Johns, but I would be interested in seeing copies of the annual from 1931 and 1932, as these came out at the same time as Johns's work was appearing in other Amalgamated Press annuals. Sadly, these have so far eluded me!
Acknowledgements. I should like to thank John Tipper and Norman Wright for their very helpful comments.
The 2 photos above and below show a set auctioned on eBay early 2007 for around AU$1300.
It's difficult to pick up early volumes in good condition. Below are some from my collection.
|Before and around the beginning of the 20th Century, many readers had their weekly or monthly parts privately bound, rather than using the publisher's covers. Such annuals were bound as calendar years whereas the publisher's annuals were not, due to the first issue having appeared in late August. Annuals were often composed of remaindered weekly and monthly parts returned unsold. Annuals were in fact an afterthought. Only after WW1 did annuals generally become the norm.|
|Jacket flaps front and back listed the contributing authors.
This chart attempts to give general descriptions of CHUMS in STANDARD PUBLISHER'S COVERS. A number of my volumes are actually bound weekly and monthly copies which may (not fully checked) occasionally include special numbers, in which case I would feel a need to retain BOTH volumes. The publishers don't appear to have included these special numbers in any of the regular yearly bound volumes, but I could be wrong! If you can supply details of DUST JACKET ILLUSTRATIONS, or any other information, please contact me.
Further details from Don Taylor, still to be incorporated on the page! Thanks, Don.
CHUMS pre-1910 cover:
worth and where do I sell