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« L'Univers Illustré » de La Presse : the Animation of Newspaper Pages in Late 19th Century



In the late 1890s, all media were striving for the same aims of technological reproducibility : immediacy, imaginative association, and bridging located temporality through communication and amusement. This essay considers newspapers as part of that milieu, reversing the idea that early cinema emulated a "visual newspaper." Journalism itself was becoming visual in the 1890s, following a "cinematic" ideal. In Quebec, this is most apparent in La Presse, especially its weekly feature L'Univers Illustré (1897-1898), which depicted a montage of newsworthy events in picture form. By introducing illustrations, colour printing, and even experimenting with Sunday editions, La Presse played a key role in transforming newspaper reading in Quebec into a popular pastime, in parallel and concurrent with the emergence of cinema.

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The first years of projected moving pictures have been characterized as an era when cinema's capacity as a "visual newspaper" was primary; filmmaking centred upon photographing actualities before 1903 when narrative story films became predominant. This essay aims to reverse that argument by showing how newspapers themselves became more animated and illustrated in the mid-1890s, following what might be termed a "cinematic" ideal. Given the printed form of newspapers "pre-cinematic" is the more appropriate term, but that label fails to capture how a variety of media in the late nineteenth century were seen to provide the same aims in technological reproducibility : immediacy, imaginative association, and the bridging of located temporality through communication and amusement. We pursue these concerns more broadly in our larger project on the emergence of modern leisure through the Sunday paper in the United States and the Saturday paper in Canada. In Quebec journalism, the shift is especially apparent in La Presse in the last years of the century, when it turned to emulate aspects of "yellow journalism" in the style of Hearst and Pulitzer in New York, pursuing sensational effects in reading. Rather than consider this transition in terms of the written word and substantive content of journalism's stories and pictures, this essay will demonstrate the link between cinema and newspaper reporting by considering the form and aesthetic style of La Presse, focusing especially on its weekly feature L'Univers Illustré (1897-1898).  Appearing in February 1897, the feature began as a four-column spread that depicted a range of international news in a variety of visual styles. Its format was unlike other illustrations that preceded or followed it in La Presse; the "stories" from around the world were a montage of stand-alone vignettes of newsworthy events, with little, if any, text accompanying them. Although these illustrations were drawings that did not employ photographic halftone or rotogravure printing processes, we contend they are a response to an emerging cinematic form of description in journalism where visuals take the place of words.

     Within six weeks L'Univers Illustré had developed into a full page, with vignettes of varying visual styles and forms. The banner eventually disappeared as the illustrated news became a generalized feature of the leisure supplement of the Saturday edition of La Presse. Reconfiguring American sensationalist journalism for specifically Canadian tastes was common for Canadian papers (Gabriele & Moore 2009), but La Presse retained a reputation for being much bolder than its other Quebec or Canadian counterparts (Porter 1954, Roy & de Bonville 2000). By introducing illustrations, colour printing, and even experimenting with Sunday edition "extras" at the turn of the twentieth century, La Presse was central to the transformation of newspaper reading in Quebec into a popular pastime, in parallel and concurrent with the emergence of cinema as a popular pastime with similar form and content. Animation, illustration, and instantaneous photography predate cinema—although the turn to including them as a central part of Quebec's mass circulation newspapers does not. The coincident development of illustrated daily news and moving pictures can be taken to signify the emergence of a visually-mediated environment through the public use of media technologies. As a result, the early "cinematic" period can be cast in terms of a general shift away in media away from textual description and toward modern mass mediation through visual description. It is important to understand that the adoption of illustration and colour printing in weekend newspaper supplements was not a technological innovation; colour lithography and newspaper illustration had been available before the 1890s. Barnhurst & Nerone (2001) trace the emergence of a "realist ethos" in journalism in parallel with a generalized embrace of realism in art and literature and the social sciences (Orvell 1990). Early illustrated newspapers appeared in the United States by the 1850s, but the incorporation of photographic halftone printing took until the early 1900s to become widespread, at least a decade after it was feasible and used, for example, in the Saturday supplements of The Mail and The Globe in Toronto (Gabriele & Moore 2009). The adoption of illustration in mass-circulation daily newspapers signals, instead, a paradigm shift in how newspapers addressed their publics, especially in the weekend edition as it emerged as a cornerstone of mass leisure and popular culture.

     Cinema's early narrative and visual style aimed to convey journalistic sensationalism among its attractions, acknowledging the general cultural influence of newspapers as the primary form of mass communication at the turn of the twentieth century. Indeed, before the narrative story film emerged as the film industry's primary commodity around 1903, the "unifying principle" of early cinema's first decade has been termed the "visual newspaper" by Charles Musser (1991) for its intertextual reliance on actuality footage of contemporary news, but equally for its variety format overall in espousing a combination of information and amusement as its goal. "Individual films had strong ties to different types of journalistic features : news stories, editorial cartoons, human interest columns, and the comic strip. Even fight films and travel scenes were not inconsistent with cinema as a visual newspaper, for the papers covered both sports and travel" (Musser 1991, 10). Musser's research demonstrates the prevalence of the notion at the time, both outside and within the emergent film industry, that cinema remediated the pre-existing styles of the press, reflecting a linear chronology of media change that remains evident in new media forms a century later (Bolter & Grusin 2000). However, the intermedial relation between the two media was not unidirectional; if early cinema was tied to journalistic aesthetics, then newspapers concurrently incorporated cinematic forms; the newspaper, too, was itself becoming a more visual medium.

     Musser notes how the common public for moving pictures and newspapers structured and conditioned viewers to expect film to exceed and complement the limitations of reading the printed page. Early cinema viewing was acting as a supplement to newspaper reading, and viewing audiences were interchangeable with newspaper readerships. In 1899, for example, Leslie's Weekly commented on how "The Biograph goes hand in hand with the daily press in presenting to nightly audiences events which they have seen during the day or read of in the evening papers" (qtd. in Musser 1991, 163). A special relation emerged between the Sunday illustrated supplement and the cinematic variety program. The heavily illustrated, colour pages of Joseph Pulitzer's New York Sunday World and Wm. R. Hearst's New York Sunday Journal, for example, directly paralleled cinematic sensationalism, in which moving pictures stood on the populist side of the "yellow journalism" divide :

Hearst's papers also combined information and amusement in ways disquieting to the journalistic standards of the highbrow press. The New York Journal published artists' sketches of news events, particularly when appropriate photographs were unavailable. What was lost in accurate reporting was gained in romantic melodrama (Musser 1991, 167).

Forms of animation bound the Sunday newspaper in an intermedial relation to early cinema. On top of the shared primary level of sensation and visual sense, the weekend newspaper and the early cinema program contained a unique aesthetic combination of photographic illustration and cartooning. The aesthetic features of the Sunday supplement also employed logics of popular art appreciation to reinforce its circulation amongst a mass, reading public who related to the newspaper (the news and all of its supplements) with connectivity and immediacy. Through the weekend edition's variety of sensory and sensational material, reading publics were already also addressed as seeing and listening publics for audio-visual media. The illustrated weekend paper strained against the constraints of newsprint as the material basis of its own circulation, and embraced the worldwide circulation of eyewitness reporting as a modern ideal. In Quebec, this is most clearly labeled in the 1897 feature L'Univers Illustré in La Presse.

     Description and depiction were twinned in journalism even while it remained composed merely of black and white type. Particularly descriptive columns were routinely labeled "pen pictures," a phrase used by the popular writer Henry Ward Beecher in the 1850s to denote how he provided "A book that talks!," written in animated and accessible language (e.g. Philadelphia Inquirer, 6 July 1855). The term was taken up by popular novelists and journalists, especially foreign correspondents, as an appropriate moniker for their vividly descriptive writing. In this light, the model and motivation behind reportage can be taken as a form of intermedial montage. The evocative "pen pictures" of written journalism had long been presented as a form of visualization and illustration. In that sense, the medium of newsprint—well before its turn to illustration, photographic halftones, and colour printing—had a firmly entrenched purpose as conveying experience, not just words, to help the reader imagine being there with the eyewitness reporter. John Nerone's (2008) work on the history of journalism professionals cites the distinction between the reporter and the correspondent before the 1890s. The former worked locally to write a faithful reproduction of the novelty within everyday life, whereas the latter provided political intelligence at a distance through colourful observation and personal insight. "Unlike the reporter, whose work and work routines inclined toward voicelessness, the correspondent was supposed to be the readers' eyes and ears at the centers of power" (141). While Nerone is concerned with technology's role in reshaping a distinction between editing and reporting in the workplace, his observations are applicable to the wider changing relation between newspapers and other media technologies as the printed word became supplemented with other forms of visualization. Corresponding at a distance implied a more descriptive and embodied perspective, even as that personal vision depended upon technologies to transmit and circulate the correspondent's writing as a replacement for direct experience. Reporting about modern events and novelties closer to home—often reports about technologies—could be depicted instead with strict empiricism as a supplement to experience. The function of reportage as correspondence, in that sense, did not merely span distance; it needed to theatrically sustain disbelief across space and time; the story had to become immediate in the sense of its mediation falling away through the idealistic conflation of the here and now of the reader with the there and then of the news.

     Québécois press history has been characterized as developing through three eras, which correspond to distinct paradigms of journalism practice : journalism of opinion, journalism of information and journalism of communication (de Bonville 1988). Under this chronology, Québécois journalism is presented as determined by sociological, technological and economic factors in its transition from parochial, political mouthpiece to centerpiece of a politically independent, but commercial, popular culture. The same transition in histories of Anglo-Canadian and American journalism also makes the newspaper central to the emergence of a consumer society and popular culture (Sotiron 1997, Baldasty 1992). For New York, too, Taylor (1992) includes the Sunday paper and popular journalism squarely amidst the development of commercial entertainments for mass audiences. Roy (2009) notes that recent Québécois research on the press has made a decidedly "cultural" turn, although much research continues to eschew an analysis of the form in favour of analyzing content. Our present focus on illustration and visual intermediality continues Barnhurst & Nerone's (2001) emphasis on "the form of news." Paying attention to elements such as design, colour and Sunday datelines deliberately casts aside the question of political content or sociological positioning of the newspaper in favour of the material and cultural circulation of newsprint amidst popular pastimes in the first years of cinema. We are not concerned here with admittedly important factors such as the rise of literacy and urbanization; De Bonville (1988) accounts for these and other points within an emergent mass culture and market. He notes for Quebec, as others have for elsewhere, that the rise in literacy, reduction in newsprint prices, the introduction of fast presses, with colour printing capability, linotype machines, and halftone and rotogravure printing, all contribute to setting the "necessary conditions" for the emergence of a truly mass, popularized press. 

     Curiously, the emergence of mass market approaches in Montreal journalism broke linguistic barriers, as both The Montreal Star and La Presse adopted similar logics and aesthetics to focus on local, sensational news around the same time. In the 1890s, both papers became increasingly occupied by an intense focus on reporting local news, while expanding their features, including an increased use of illustrations (de Bonville 1999). This focus on the local tended toward populist campaigns that made them infamous (for instance, their 1901 navigation of the St. Lawrence; Porter 1954, 65), while provoking the sympathies of their readers, as was the case with the opening of a "bureau de travail" where the unemployed could advertise their availability (Rutherford 1982, 194). Much like other papers across North America, by the late nineteenth and into the early twentieth century, these newspapers' content was increasingly rationalized and organized, particularly according to geographic region and theme, partly driven by advertisers' demands for greater certainty readers would see their advertisements (Roy & de Bonville 2000, 36). In short, La Presse adopted a strategy to achieve mass popularity that could be summed up in their own words, published in 1904, arguing for a "juste milieu entre l'extrême sobrieté des journaux français et l'ardente propagande des journaux américains" (qtd. in de Bonville 1995, 175).

     By the early 1880s, Canadian illustrated weekly magazines were available in English and French. Montreal's lithograph printers presented these publications as a public service outlet and, in a sense, a form of advertising since their profits relied upon commercial contracts rather than magazine sales. Of particular note is Le Monde Illustré, created by Trefflé Berthiaume and Napoléon Sabourin in 1884 as they established their own lithography shop amidst the bustle of Montreal hub of journalism on rue St. Jacques. The pair had been running the pressroom of a daily paper, La Minerve, on contract. Similarly, but on much better financial terms, Berthiaume later became publisher and owner of La Presse in the 1890s, at first by contracting to run its press and typesetting floor in 1889 before taking control of the entire operation in 1894. As the leading English-language paper in Montreal, The Star had included illustrations for its leisure features and news reporting since the late 1880s, some quite large and elaborate. At first relying on freelance illustrators for special commissions, Henri Julien was hired as a full-time staff illustrator around 1887, after he had gained a reputation for illustrated reportage in the Canadian Illustrated News and other publications. In September and October 1887, a continuing feature in The Star on the 1837-38 Lower Canada Rebellions was illustrated with 110 drawings by Julien and published in both English and French as "The Great Insurrection! / La Grande Insurrection!" In no small part due to visual elements and Julien's pictures, the popularity of The Star crossed linguistic lines; La Presse would rely on the same in reverse in the 1890s. Soon after Berthiaume took oversight for its publishing, La Presse followed suit, hiring A.S. Brodeur as their first staff illustrator in 1891 (de Bonville 1988).

     Berthiaume's background was as printer and lithographer, rather than journalist, and he was familiar with the special role of illustrated news and the form of the weekly magazine—elements that he would bring together in the weekend edition of La Presse. The turn to illustration in L'Univers Illustré in 1897 was not without precedent in Berthiaume's career and not merely an effort to copy the emerging "yellow" design tactics of Hearst's and Pulitzer; Saturday editions of La Presse were more like the weekly pages of Le Monde Illustré than a Sunday New York World. Occasional, extensively illustrated features were common by 1893, such as three-quarters of a page on Le Siam with 15 etchings (29 juillet 1893) or nine illustrations animating a tour of public libraries in Montreal, Paris and London (30 septembre 1893). While the Saturday edition's main illustrated section rarely featured an editorial comic (an exception lampooned the United States military, 18 janvier 1896), the serious tone of the illustrated features followed the traditions of European illustrated news, from London or Paris, rather than the caricature and comics of the New York Sunday papers. The introduction of L'Univers Illustré in 1897 could, in fact, be considered a condensed and cheap adaptation of Berthiaume's own magazine. Each advertised in the others' pages, indicating they were intended to supplement each other within a general milieu of an increasingly visual and pictorial news reading (and viewing) culture. The appearance of L'Univers Illustré coincided with La Presse surpassing the Montreal Star in circulation, to become the largest circulation newspaper in all of Canada in any language. Early in 1897 in its ads in Le Monde Illustré, La Presse had promoted itself as "le plus populaire des journaux français de Montréal." Starting in May, however, the now illustrated Saturday edition, among other factors, allowed it to claim to have "le plus grand tirage du Canada, sans exception." Equally important is the shift from emphasizing the classified and business notices to the much more broad claim of popularity for La Presse : "il satisfait, instruit, intéresse, et amuse tout le monde." (See figure 1)

Fig. 1 : In May 1897, advertisements for La Presse began to claim the largest circulation of any newspaper in Canada, implicitly overtaking its English-language rival, The Montreal Star. Left : 8 mai 1897; Right : 15 mai 1897, Le Monde Illustré.

     While the illustrated design of L'Univers Illustré borrowed from Berthiaume's other preoccupations, the feature still marked a departure from La Presse's distinctive focus on local history, news, crime and events. L'Univers Illustré gave La Presse an opportunity to position itself outside of its conventional offerings. As Dubois (2011) observes, the international coverage offered on the front pages of La Presse steadily declined over the course of its first 20 years from 1889, making the short-lived appearance of L'Univers Illustré all the more interesting. Its first appearance on February 13, 1897, covered four columns on an inside, seven-column page. A modest first attempt, the column gathered six photorealistic etchings; while all had descriptive captions only the top two came with short paragraphs explaining the story. The stories are disconnected in content, and linked only in the form of the image and caption : an English massacre at an African mission in Benin; burning the dead from a plague in India; an Arab Musulman visiting the French parliament; an anti-combine investigation in the U.S. Senate. The two with longer stories profiled a Polish cardinal and a Russian count. A humourous comic strip completed the length of the page underneath the column. By March, President McKinley's inauguration spurred La Presse to publish a full-page illustration of the White House interior, splayed open as if a doll's house, for the cover of its second section of weekend features. The cover was subsequently given to L'Univers Illustré, which became a full-page section cover for six months from March 13, 1897, although the bannered title was intermittent. The page included only a handful of local scenes—Montreal and Quebec events that would be international news, such as a ceremony with Prime Minister Laurier (March 27, 1897, see figure 2). Week after week, the column featured Catholic clerics, American and European politicians and royalty, the Yukon Gold Rush, the Indian Famine, conflict in the South African Transvaal, and various oddities of international and colonial culture and events. By the end of 1897, with L'Univers Illustré retired as a formal label, pictorial news and features in Saturday's La Presse had become more variable in form, size and visual style. Invariably, however, the French paper's circulation exceeded The Star by almost 20,000 papers each day, with the Saturday illustrated paper reaching above 75,000 (see the circulation audit published 15 janvier 1898).

Fig. 2 : an example of L'Univers Illustré de La Presse (27 mars 1897, courtesy of Bibliothèque et Archives Nationale de Québec and La Presse).

     While it is difficult to ascertain any similarities, it is worth noting that a special "numéro international de 'La Presse' illustré" was issued just weeks before L'Univers Illustré began. The focus was a heavily illustrated profile of Montreal, its commerce, industries, financial, civic, religious, charitable and education institutions, all with a four-colour cover and costing three cents, triple the price of a regular issue at the time (see promotional ad, 23 janvier 1897). Although the special Montreal issue did not include the same material as appeared in the Saturday illustrated columns, its coincident appearance shows that La Presse was experimenting in colour printing, heavy pictorialism and visual display. Colour, illustrated covers became routine from 1897, for Easter, for Christmas, and special occasions such as the Victorian Jubilee celebrations in June 1897 (see figure 3). In these special colour covers La Presse turned to one aspect of many American Sunday papers—not the cartooning of the yellow press, but the scenic tableaux of more establishment papers. Full-page colour covers with large illustrations that could be treated like posters, had been pioneered by the Chicago InterOcean in 1893 during the Columbian Exposition, and then the Boston Globe in 1894 when it purchased a colour fast press for its Sunday edition. Indeed, pastoral scenic posters had been a staple, inserted and given away free with Sunday American newspapers since introduced by the New York Recorder. La Presse had done this on occasion, although not as a weekly free giveaway. In February 1896, a "magnifique portrait au crayon" could be secured for 10 coupons in the following weeks' newspapers.

Fig. 3 : A rare, archived example of one of the colour, souvenir covers for La Presse, here for the Victorian Jubilee, but with the colour back cover devoted to advertising. (19 juin 1897, courtesy of Bibliothèque et Archives Nationale de Québec and La Presse).

     The outbreak of the Spanish-American War in February 1898 is central to the solidification of aspersions of sensationalism in American "yellow" journalism (Campbell 2001; Schudson 1981); Hearst was mythologized as instructing his reporters "You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war" (Pizzitola 2002), although this has been challenged by media historians (Campbell 2010). Coverage of the war in Cuba was nearly as sensational—and illustrated—in La Presse. More radically for a Canadian newspaper, in April and May 1898, La Presse took the unprecedented move of issuing Sunday wartime "extras" to provide its readers continual coverage of events. Here, in the Sunday "extra" editions, La Presse finally emulated, briefly, a short, eight-page version that followed the form and content of New York Sunday "yellow" papers fairly closely. Only three of the eight pages were composed of war news; the others provided categorized leisure reading, bannered and heavily illustrated in a form prototypical of an American Sunday paper. For these special Sunday "extras," La Presse introduced a page of "Nouvelles Religieuses," but also "Curiosités Scientifiques," reading "Pour la Famille," a "Page Humoristique" with several comic strips and funny stories, and a "Page des Enfants" with games and puzzles. Sunday editions later in May turned away from the Cuban War and instead provided colour covers of Queen Victoria (22 mai 1898) and commemorating war between France and England (29 mai 1898). Special "Extra de La Presse" editions appeared for the rest of the summer, for example providing colour souvenir poster covers for St. Jean-Baptiste Day (19 juin 1898) and of Montreal's Archbishop Bruchesi (7 août 1898). Sunday extras with colour covers and thematic leisure pages were a short-lived experiment, as was the earlier moniker L'Univers Illustré, but the Saturday edition of La Presse continued to provide a weekly stipend of visual communication. While the parallels with early cinema are rarely explicit, moving pictures of Pope Leo XIII were reproduced in newsprint to profile "Les Merveilles du Mutoscope" (10 décembre 1898, see figure 4). Effectively a poster of Sa Sainteté giving a benediction to the reading public, the top and bottom borders depicted the incremental movements caught by the cinema camera in a series of illustrations, as if frames of a film strip.

Fig. 4 : Moving pictures of Pope Leo XIII depicted in still etchings in La Presse (10 décembre 1898, courtesy of Bibliothèque et Archives Nationale de Québec and La Presse).

     The popularity of the Saturday illustrated editions of La Presse differ from American Sunday papers, and equally Toronto Saturday papers, in another key respect : price. Berthiaume kept the Saturday price at "un centin" even as he included illustration. The norm for a U.S. Sunday paper was a nickel, the same as for a Saturday Mail or Globe in Toronto (Gabriele & Moore 2009). This helps explain why La Presse stayed clear of halftone and lithographed sections, which had been standard in Toronto since 1893 and in the New York Times or Tribune, for example, since 1896. The low cost of La Presse kept its circulation high, and the turn to pictorial news was meant to educate and inform readers, not provide the rarefied, exclusive experience provided by the Anglo-elite weekend press. Recall how Berthiaume had the facilities; he could have included Le Monde Illustré as an inserted section in the Saturday edition of La Presse and raised the price, but he chose to keep them separate and complementary, rather than direct supplements. Altogether, La Presse pioneered its own path, neither a yellow and sensationalist rag, nor an elite paper of magazine quality. The result was the largest circulation newspaper in Canada.

     Earlier illustrated weekly magazines, in Canada and the U.S. alike, presumed readers' familiarity with newspapers; although delayed, their pictorial reports complemented the plain text of daily news. Barnhurst & Nerone (2001) carefully studied changing ideologies in the depictions of American illustrated weekly magazines, Harper's and Leslie's, from the 1850s to the 1890s. They note a transformation of the reader's subject position implied in the shift from artistic etching to photorealistic engraving. Earlier pictures provided the perspective of a privileged subject in the "civic gaze" of a social or political participant in the public sphere; in later, realist depictions, "subjectivity floats in the air around great events… [in] a more generic 'public view'" (126). Rather than a culmination of incremental changes, they propose that "the new regime of realism" in the 1890s had fundamentally recast the role of pictorial journalism. "After this revolution, photography, explained in the term of realist ideology, became understood as the zenith in a long drive toward true fidelity, toward the capture of the real, unmediated by human artistry" (137). To explain, they propose a change in the media ecology : as newspapers adopted illustration to graphically complement their description of events, they infringed upon the domain of magazines, which responded with a marked shift to photorealism in turn. We agree that considering media ecology is essential, but add cinema to the mix in order to add further weight to the claim that a "realist ideology" began to distinguish documentary from artistic media. The early 1890s was an age of great advances toward the goal of audio-visual reproduction of moving images in sound, colour, and three-dimensionality, what André Bazin (2009) later called "the myth of total cinema." Photographic technicians in the Lumière Factories in France and in the Edison laboratories in the United States, just two prominent spaces of invention among many others, were building apparatuses to record and recreate scenes in lifelike motion, as well as link the image to sound and transmit pictures electronically. Edison's phonograph and various other devices for sound recording were finally realizing a market for preserving the popular performances of music and speech (Gitelman 1999, 2006). Halftone printing, often in colour, transformed the photograph into an everyday experience in magazines and occasional newspaper supplements (Brake and Demoor 2009, Beegan 2008). With the colour fast-printing press of the 1890s, mass circulation newspapers also began to employ engravings and illustrations as part of the overall development of "the myth of total mediation," to adapt Bazin's phrase.

     Although primarily associated with the caricature and cartoon depiction of comic strips, colour newspaper supplements emphasized aesthetic appreciation in impressionistic and decorative terms; like the use of tinting and stenciling in early cinema, colour cannot in itself be reduced to the simulation of the sense of vision (Yumibe 2012). Nonetheless, it was presented in the context of realistic reproduction. With a self-referential, illustrated article explaining the technology of three-colour printing, Hearst's San Francisco Examiner installed a new press in 1897 to allow its Sunday edition to match the qualities of Hearst's still recent venture at the New York Journal (San Francisco Examiner, 18 April 1897). The accompanying illustration emphasizes the mechanics of the media technology as much as the effect of coloured printing. The three-colour and black ink process was visually explained through a series of one- and two-colour picture fragments, allowing readers to both understand and appreciate the "Wonders of the Newspaper Color Press." The Sunday colour supplement was one of many visual entertainments that can collectively be considered techniques of observation, following Jonathan Crary (1990, 2000), aiming to take pleasure and command in understanding the rational deconstruction and technological reconstruction of the sense of vision. The experience of seeing could be reproduced scientifically through the print interplay of primary colours. With the installation of a new four-colour fast press in 1898, Pulitzer's New York World explained that the improvement of their colour printing since 1893 had increased the variety expected, for "there is no cloying monotony in the unparalleled New Sunday Magazine... Numerous tints can be produced by mingling and shading... Brilliant flashing hues are succeeded by cool translucent tints in agreeable variety" (New York World, 26 February 1898). The variety of the sensory aspect of the colour supplement was a foundation, then, for sustaining sensationalism through constant novelty in illustrations and subject matter.

     Positioned within the media matrix of sound, colour, movement, simultaneity, and circulation, what newspaper illustration lacked in the realm of detail, sound, or movement, was made up for in its ability to circulate, for the newspapers' provided a mass, public address. In this essay we have been primarily concerned with the form of the Saturday edition of La Presse and its relation to the emerging animated and realistic depiction of cinema. We have been careful not to speculate about the social and political context or effects. In their study of the emergence of pictures and photographs in American journalism, Barnhurst & Nerone (2001) provide an important conclusion worth repeating : realism, they claim, casts a fatalism over its audience, who "can neither blame journalists nor take effective action in the public sphere" in response to what is depicted. "Certainly a kind of visual intelligence disappears when readers forget about the authored artistry of pictures and succumb to what philosophers call naïve realism. A more important loss was the disappearance of an implied model of citizenship" (138). This new, modern subjectivity can be related to the disembodied technology of cinema, too. Consider, for example, a Sunday column called "Vitascope Pictures" in The Washington Post that began in October 1896 soon after the public debut of moving pictures. Vivid, eyewitness descriptions of urban scenes fell under the label of moving pictures in the hopes of achieving the same effects. The last of the series makes the rationale explicit; The Sunday newspaper reader observes at a mediated distance. Depicting a woman struggling on a wet and windy sidewalk, receiving no assistance from passersby, "The Post's Vitascope is the only thing watching her, and being inanimate, it cannot come to her rescue" (6 December 1896. Present in sensation, but helplessly absent in reality, the writer laid bare the social failings of media technologies—and newspaper reading in turn. In conclusion, then, allow us to adapt this final point of mediated subjectivity to propose that this history of La Presse can be related to the wider history of Quebec's relation to modernity. In its routine embrace of illustration, adoption of occasional colour printing, and experiments with Sunday editions, La Presse was not simply introducing new journalistic techniques and forms to Quebec; the newspaper was incorporating a new way of seeing, in cinematic realism, that provided its readers a modern, mass subjectivity. Reframing the newspaper-cinema relationship as intermedial, rather than the new media of film simply remediating the old media of journalism, we demonstrate that newspapers themselves were incorporating cinematic forms of animation, illustration and visual sensationalism into their printed pages—using the idea of cinema to move their readers, even if the images themselves were static.


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Paul S. Moore is Associate Professor at Ryerson University. His histories of cinema exhibition include articles in Canadian Journal of Film Studies, chapters in Explorations in New Cinema History and A Companion to Early Cinema, and a book about the nickel show in Toronto, Now Playing : Early Moviegoing and the Regulation of Fun.

Sandra Gabriele is Associate Professor at Concordia University. Her most recent published histories of journalism in Canada have appeared in Topia, Canadian Journal of Communication, and in Intersections of Media and Culture, which she co-edited with Will Straw and Ira Wagman.