Established in December 1819 by Henry Andrew Bacon, The Sheffield Independent soon needed more capital, and two new partners, Thos. Asline Ward and Michael Ellison, came to the newspaper in December 1820. Robert Leader (1779-1861) purchased the newspaper in 1829. He maintained the Liberal political and commercial principles of the paper established in 1819. He was succeeded in the ownership by his son, Robert Leader (1809-85), who was editor and chief writer from 1833 until 1875. An expert shorthand writer and reporter of local events, he did much to widen the reputation of the paper in these years. His two sons, John Daniel (b.1835) and Robert Eadon (b.1839), entered into partnership with their father in January 1860. Robert (b.1860), the son of John Daniel, joined the company in January 1887.
The reduction in stamp duty by the Liberal Government in 1836 from 4d to 1d led to a meeting of nine proprietors of Yorkshire newspapers, at which it was decided to reduce the price of the newspapers from 7d to 4 1/2 d. On 17 September 1836, The Sheffield Independent first published at this price. After the removal of the penny stamp duty in 1855, the price of the paper reduced from 5d to 3 1/2 d; from 1 October 1861, the price was 1d, daily. The circulation figures rose accordingly: by 1838, a weekly average sale of the paper was 1,272; by 1842, the circulation was 2,596; by March 1857, the figure was 12,525; by 1882, it was 35,000.
Under the direction of the Leader family, the installation of new machinery went hand in hand with the expansion of the circulation and coverage. By 1858, two two-feeder Cowper machines were in place, each capable of producing 2,000 copies per hour—a rate which necessitated the installation of a paper folding machine, to supersede their folding by hand. By 1881, the company had installed three Victory printing machines capable of producing a total of 52,000 copies per hour. Stereotyping was introduced by the early 1870s, saving much time and expense in renewal of the fonts.
To accompany the years of steady expansion, the company occupied six premises in Sheffield for the period 1819-92, when production moved to 21 Fargate. The new offices occupied in 1892 offer us a glimpse of the then new production and editorial facilities, and show how rapidly mass circulation was to advance from this time. The Sheffield Independent was incorporated with the Sheffield Telegraph in 1938.
For this newspaper, we have the following titles in, or planned for, our digital archive:
1819–20 The Sheffield Independent, and Commercial Register
1820–39 The Sheffield Independent, and Yorkshire & Derbyshire Advertiser