Monday, May 01, 2023

C.B. Fry's Magazine: A History, Index and Bibliography by Chris Harte

Fry's was named after... no, not the Turkish Delight but the famous cricketer, C. B. Fry — Charles Burgess Fry — who played cricket in preparatory school before Captaining the team at Repton School, was a blue at Wadham College, Oxford, and used his degree to get a teaching post at Charterhouse. At the same time he was able to earn an international cap playing football, set an amateur record for the long jump, and begin a sideline as a sporting journalist. Leaving Charterhouse, he took up first-class cricket and was picked to open the batting for England against the Australians.

Fry's connection as a writer to various of George Newnes's publications led to an offer to become athletics editor of The Captain. Newnes had the idea to launch a sporting paper and asked Fry to be its editor. Launched in April 1904, Fry soon established his control over the magazine, writing reports of cricket and football matches he played in and appearing in many of the adverts that featured, promoting everything from cocoa to horsehair friction gloves.

The magazine quickly established itself and the monthly issues were widely collected into bound volumes twice a year, although much of the magazine was discarded, even if they had features, so that the 856 pages of volume 5 became 576 in the bound volume. Complaints went unanswered.

Fry himself was prone to diatribes in his editorial columns, often having little to do with sports and involving (amongst other things) sending inner-city lads to Canada to work of farms, and the creation of 'baby farms'.

The paper included short stories and serials, but one serial that did not appear was co-written by Fry and his wife, 'A Mother's Son'; Fry began sneaking extracts from he novel into his magazine, much to the annoyance of Methuen, who were contracted to publish the book and owned the serial rights.

Fry used the pages of the magazine to vent his displeasure at many things and many people; that he was often busy elsewhere was useful to give his fellow staff a chance to concentrate on editing the paper. It did, however, lose much of its vigour without Fry at the helm.

Then George Newnes died and George Riddell took charge of the company and gave fry an ultimatum: concentrate solely on the magazine or leave. Fry quit and the magazine came to an end with its March 1911 issue... only to be relaunched six weeks later as The New Fry's Magazine. Unfortunately, by the fourth issue, the editorial was begging for contributions from readers. This led to a change in the contents by 1912: out went articles on rugby, football and cricket and in came features on cats, dogs and donkeys. By 1913, animal stories were proliferating while illustrations were all but dropped. Walter Burton-Baldry had his own particular obsession: golf. Before long the Fry's Magazine Cups were announced (well, the winners were announced but there had previously been no mention at all of any competition), and the new publisher was to produce Success at Golf in an edition of 10,000.

Fry's moved offices in 1913 "due to the recent rapid increase in the sales of Fry's Magazine and the growth of our advertising and publicity departments". The truth was that the magazine was seeking ways to raise finance because their publisher was about to drop them. Fry's went independent and the number of reprints increased as the magazine struggled to keep it's writers.

A surprise move was the return of C. B. Fry in 1914. The magazine's financial backer, Cuthbert Corbould-Ellis had been disappointed with the direction the paper was taking, although mollified by the success of Success at Golf, which was enjoying a second printing of 10,000 and about to go into a third.

Once again the magazine began covering a broader range of popular sports, but the end was already in sight. The September 1914 issue was its last.

Chris Harte's history offers a great deal more detail in his history of the magazine and more besides, including an issue-by-issue listing of contents for all 125 issues, and listings of writers and artist, each with a brief biographical sketch.

C.B. Fry's Magazine of Sports and Outdoor Life 1904-1914: A History, Index and Bibliography by Chris Harte.
Sports History Publishing ISBN 978-189801017-3, 2 January 2023, 290pp, £14.95. Limited to 100 numbered copies. Available via Amazon.

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