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 Frank Leslie  (1821 - 1880)

About: Frank Leslie


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Lived/Active: New York/Florida / England      Known for: newspaper illustrator and founder, "Leslie's Illlustrated News", engraver

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Henry Carter is primarily known as Frank Leslie

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Frank Leslie, a pseudonym taken by Henry Carter, was an English-born American engraver, illustrator, and publisher of family periodicals. Leslie was born on March 29, 1821 in Ipswich, England as Henry Carter, the son of Joseph Carter, the proprietor of a long-standing and prosperous glove manufacturing firm. He was educated in Ipswich and he then trained for commerce in London. As a boy on his way to and from school, he passed a silversmith's shop whose workers he took a detailed interest in, especially those who engraved designs and letters upon various articles of silver and gold. He took note of the tools that were used and the manner of using them and acquired the necessary tools to do the work himself. At the age of 13, he did his first wood engraving of the coat of arms of his home town.

At 17, he was sent to London to learn more about the glove-making business in the extensive dry goods establishment of his uncle, but every moment that could be snatched from the "dreary drudgery of the desk's dead wood" was surreptitiously devoted to sketching, drawing or engraving. His father, uncle and relatives so discouraged his artistic aspirations, that he was constrained to keep his work a secret from them. He contributed sketches to the Illustrated London News, signing them as Frank Leslie to insure his anonymity. These were so cordially welcomed that, at age 20, he gave up commerce and was made superintendent of engraving on that journal. He made himself an expert and inventor in his new work. It was here that he learned the operation known as overlaying ? the system of regulating light and shade effects ? in pictorial printing, a system, which he was the first to introduce to the United States.

He was first married in England, and with his first wife, had three sons, Harry, Alfred and Scipio. He and she separated in 1860. He legally changed his name to Frank Leslie in 1857.

In 1848, he came to the United States, and in 1852 worked for Gleason's Pictorial in Boston. He discovered he could accelerate the engraving process significantly by dividing a drawing into many small blocks and distributing the work among many engravers. A job on a large-format wood engraving which might have taken a month for a single wood engraver to complete, could be completed in a day by 30 engravers.

In 1853, he arrived in New York City to engrave woodcuts for P. T. Barnum's short-lived Illustrated News. After its failure, he began publishing the first of his many illustrated journalistic ventures, Frank Leslie's Ladies' Gazette of Fashion and Fancy Needlework, with good woodcuts by Leslie & Hooper, a partnership which dissolved in 1854. The New York Journal soon followed, with Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper (1855) (called Leslie's Weekly), The Boy's and Girl's Weekly, The Budget of Fun, and many others.

Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, which included news as well as fiction, survived until 1922.

Illustrations made by Leslie and his artists on the battlefield during the American Civil War are well regarded for their historical value. He was commissioner to the Paris Exhibition of 1867 and received a prize there for his artistic services.

When the editor of Frank Leslie's Lady's Magazine had fallen ill, the then Miriam Folline Squier volunteered to fill in, and the ill editor still received the salary. The editor died, and Mrs. Squier took on the position permanently; shortly thereafter, about 1874, she and Leslie were married. It was his second marriage, and her third. Their summer home was in Saratoga Springs, New York, where they entertained many notables.  In 1877, they undertook a lavish train trip from New York to San Francisco in the company of many friends. Miriam Leslie wrote her book From Gotham to the Golden Gate telling the story of this trip. The expense of this trip, and a business depression left Leslie's business badly in debt.

When Frank Leslie died in 1880, the debts amounted to $300,000, and his will was contested. Miriam Leslie took the business in hand and put it on a paying basis, even going so far as to having her name legally changed to Frank Leslie in June 1881. She was a notable feminist and author in her own right. Both his and her remains are buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.


This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Founder in 1860 of the newspaper, Frank Leslie's Illustrated News, Henry Carter as a young man, took the name of Frank Leslie in order to foil his parents who discouraged his interest in drawing. Using the Leslie pseudonym, Carter sold illustrations to the London News, for whom he worked before immigrating to America where he was employed briefly by circus owner P.T. Barnum.

Continuing to use the name of Frank Leslie, he began his own publication, and quickly learned that sensationalism sold and serious subjects did not. His motto became: "Never shoot over the reader's head." Playing the biggest role in the publication other than Frank Leslie, was his wife, Miriam Follin, a talented writer who led the kind of life that fascinated readers. Her escapades fed scandal mongers, and her writing style and subjects were perfect for the readers of "Frank Leslie's Illustrated News". From her western travels, she provided the first coverage of the transcontinental railroad, wrote about Brigham Young and polygamy in Utah, and did articles on Chinatown, Yosemite, and gold mining.

When her husband, Henry Carter, died in 1880, Leslie's publishing company was deep in debt, but knowing her husband's name to be the valuable branding, she legally changed her name to Frank Leslie. The assassination of President Garfield gave the newspaper a big boost in readership, which saved the paper financially and in turn, allowed it to thrive through the 1890s. During its last ten years, management was left primarily to staff members because Mrs. Leslie traveled extensively and then had ill health. She sold the business in 1902.  Sources: Graphic Comm Central,; Walt Reed, The Illustrator in America, 1860-2000

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