The Illustrated Police News was one of the earliest British tabloid-style newspapers. Revolving around garish reports and still more garish illustrations, it focused on issues of crime and punishment in London. This front page is typical of the paper’s output in the late 19th century: a pictorial catalogue of sensational stories drawn from initially dry court and coroners’ reports.
Newspapers such as the Police News were perhaps the biggest beneficiaries of the contemporary invention of high-speed printing presses, and in particular of the 1855 abolition of newspaper stamp duty. It was now suddenly much cheaper to produce newspaper pages in large volume – a happy economic development that could be reinforced by producing newspapers in smaller formats and on cheaper paper than the upmarket (‘broadsheet’) press.
Published from 1864 to 1938, the popularity of the Police News was never higher – nor its reputation lower – than during the three-year period of the Whitechapel Murders (1888-1891), when East London was stalked by a serial killer known as ‘Jack The Ripper’. The Police News continued to stoke the case, even after the official police investigation had ended, producing 184 front-page Ripper stories in the four years after the last murder.
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