The Dundee Advertiser was founded in Dundee as the Dundee Perth and Cupar Advertiser in 1801 by local surgeon and radical reformer Robert Stewart. A weekly publication, the first issue comprised 8 pages, but the physical size was increased and the paper reduced to 4 pages by June 1801. Established on broad liberal principles which it was to retain throughout the 19th century, the early Advertiser quoted extensively from the writings of radical William Cobbett. In 1805, ownership of the paper passed to two Dundee solicitor brothers, James and Paterson Saunders.
The Advertiser campaigned vigorously for municipal reform – the abolition of the close corporation and the promotion of openness and accountability through popular representation, thereby preventing the jobbery and corruption which had been rife for many years. It was also a strong supporter of parliamentary reform. Editor at the time of the reform agitation prior to the 1832 Reform Act was solicitor John Galletly, a close friend and partner of the Saunders. Galletly was closely involved in the reform movement being Secretary to the Dundee Political Union. During the protracted “Water War” the Advertiser lent its support to the movement to establish a municipal water supply.
In 1838, James Saunders died and ownership passed to his wife and children. Around 1850, James Pattullo and William Neish purchased the Advertiser as part of a syndicate. They brought in Hull-born John Leng as editor in 1851 to rescue the paper, which had lost its political voice and some of its vigour over the previous ten years. Leng was the first editor to be a trained journalist and he improved the Advertiser’s circulation returning it to its liberal roots, campaigning anew for social improvements and economic and political reform. He remained the editor until 1901.
Leng became the managing partner in John Leng and Company with Patullo and Neish in 1852. He attempted to establish a halfpenny 4 page Daily Advertiser in 1859, but the pressures of producing it alongside the bi-weekly Advertiser (produced since 1845) forced production to cease after only 11 issues. However on 1 May 1861 Leng introduced a new daily Dundee Advertiser costing 1d. The bi-weekly was to be considerably enlarged and its price reduced from 3d halfpenny to 2d halfpenny.
John Leng went on to become MP for Dundee from 1889 to 1905 and was knighted in 1893. In 1905 D.C. Thomson and Company, owners of the Dundee Courier took over John Leng and Company and the DundeeAdvertiser and the Dundee Courier were eventually amalgamated in 1926.
The Dundee Advertiser 1801-1901. A Centenary Memoir A.H.Millar (John Leng & Co, Dundee 1901)
The Lengs: Dundee's other Publishing Dynasty Gordon Small (D.C. Thomson & Co Ltd, Dundee 2010)
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