This is a cleverly conducted Sunday paper, occupying perhaps a position in a conservative circulation most like that filled by the Sunday Times amidst those of opposite politics. It is managed on the principle of a mixture of sporting with general news, not giving engrossing prominence to the former: but amply sufficient for any moderate lovers of sport. Its general matter is got up in a manner calculated to satisfy the requirements of a very respectable class of readers. Its attention to the interests of agriculture tends to recommend it to those engaged therein: while its regard for the Licensed Victuallers secures it the favour of that extensive body; so that, among the middle classes, especially in the country, the range of its circulation is extensive. The success and reputation of this paper may be attributed to its careful blending of the 'utile' and the 'dulce'; and its firm and moderate tone, avoiding all that can justly offend or irritate any party, though consistently advocating its own principles (Mitchell, 1846).
In an advertisement, The Era claims it is the "largest Newspaper in the World, containing Sixty-four Columns of closely-printed matter in small type. It is the only Weekly Newspaper combining all the advantages of a first-rate Sporting Journal, With those of a Family Newspaper. Literature and the Metropolitan and Provincial Drama has more space allotted to them in the Era than in any other Journal. The Operatic and Musical Intelligence, Home and Continental, is always most copious and interesting.... The Prophesies of 'Touchstone' appear in its columns, and will be continued throughout the racing campaign. As the firm advocate of the best interests of the Turf, and the fearful exposer of all abuses, the Era has earned a proud pre-eminence...." (Advertisement in Mitchell, 1856).
The first edition appeared Saturday morning at five o'clock, the second edition at mid-day, and the town edition, containing news up to Saturday night, was ready by five o'clock on Sunday morning.
"Commenced in 1838 as a champion of publicans' interests, but ... soon devoted itself more particularly to theatrical matters" (Bourne, H.R. Fox). "It is the acknowledged organ of the Theatrical and Musical professions. Its attention to the Theatrical and Music Hall profession secures it the favour of those extensive bodies, both in London, abroad, and the provinces" (Mitchell, 1900).
"We do not address ourselves to the Tories, the Whigs, or the Radicals, but to the thinking men of all denominations the party, par excellence, which in a little time will swallow up all the others. But we do not teach without being willing to be taught. We offer this journal as a medium for the interchange of thought, where truth may be elicited from the collision even of errors. We dedicate it to the 'people of England' to that great body, who, notwithstanding the existing entanglements of party, have the sense to feel, and the manliness to avow, that their interest is comprised, not in the interest of any political section, but of the whole state" (The Era 1:1, p.6).
"A general newspaper, with a strong sporting element. It became, next to Bell's Life , the leading sporting paper. It is under the conduct of the present editor, Mr Ledger that it has become exclusively a theatrical and musical paper - Lowe. Sub-Title varies. Copy not collated in full" (Arnott and Robinson, p.402).
"Invaluable for reviews, news, and general theatrical information and gossip. Also of value are the assorted advertisements by and for actors and companies" (Conolly, p.475). "[F]ounded in 1838 to defend publicans against beer-sellers-filled a somewhat different role. It stoutly defended the drink interest, but its main purpose was to act as organ for the music-halls and theatres with which the contemporary drink trade was so intimately connected" (Harrison, "A World").
The Era was established by a body of shareholders consisting either of licensed victuallers or of persons in some way or the other connected with their trade. The journal was indeed intended to be a weekly organ of the public-house interest, just as the Morning Advertiser was then, and is now, its daily organ. In the first two or three years of its existence it was conducted on Liberal principles in relation to all political questions. Mr. Leitch Ritchie, a gentleman well known in literature forty or fifty years ago, and for several years before his death editor of Chamber's Edinburgh Journal , was the first editor of the Era ; but owing to the collisions which took place in the committee of management, and their perpetual interference with his editorial policy, not only was Mr. Ritchie's position rendered untenable, but the paper proved a great commercial failure. Eventually MR. Frederick Ledger became sole proprietor and editor of the Era , which he has continued to be till the present day,-a period of more than thirty years. He gradually changed the politics of the paper from Liberalism to moderate Conservatism. Politics, however, have never been an essential element in the character of the Era . It great features since it came into the hands of Mr. Ledger have been its sporting, its freemasonry information, and theatrical intelligence. To the latter subject it has always devoted a very large part of its space. In relation indeed to the amount and accuracy of its theatrical intelligence, it far surpasses every other weekly journal. It still identifies itself with the interests of the licensed victuallers, more especially with those in the provinces. In return for the space which the Era appropriates to intelligence interesting to the provincial licensed victuallers, their association agreed some years ago to take 500 copies of the paper every week...Considering that the price is fivepence, its circulation, which is upwards of 5,000 copies per week, may be considered good; and it had a large number of advertisements that are well paid for. It is a valuable property" (Grant, pp.80-82). "On the publication of the Official Stamp Returns for the preceding year, when the Dispatch mocked the average weekly sale of the Era during 1837-8, reckoning them at a paltry 1221 compared to its own prodigious 51,413" (Law, p.43).
Source: The Waterloo Directory of English Newspapers and Periodicals: 1800-1900.
For this newspaper, we have the following titles in, or planned for, our digital archive:
- 1838–1939 The Era
This newspaper is published by Illustrated London News Group in London, London, England. It was digitised and first made available on the British Newspaper Archive in May 9, 2013 . The latest issues were added in Mar 24, 2016.