Thursday, September 2, 2010 | By: Rudi Butt

Newsies In The Nineteenth Century

Updated (partial) on July 30, 2012

Hong Kong Gazette 香港公報 or 香港鈔報 (May 1, 1841 - )

The Friend of China 中國之友 (March 17, 1842 - )

Free Correspondent (1842- unknown)

A weekly newspaper established by some eminent Chinese scholars.

- Friend of China, November 10, 1842

Eastern Globe (1842- )

Weekly Criminal Calendar (1842- )

Hong Kong Chronicle (1842- )

Hong Kong Register 香港紀錄報 (1843-1863)

The Hong Kong Register was the successor of Canton Register, China’s first English newspaper headed by Philadelphian merchant William Whiteman Wood (b. c.1804), but was in fact founded and funded by James Matheson, partner of William Jardine in the opium firm of Jardine, Matheson and Co., with the help of his nephew Alexander. The first issue of Canton Register was printed in 1827 and was printed every two weeks. The newspaper moved to Macau along with the exodus of British merchants in May 1839 and from Macau to Hong Kong in June 1843. It was then renamed Hong Kong Register and continued to publish until its closure in 1863. As the trade paper for the foreign mercantile community in China, the Hong Kong Register contained information such as two pages of Price Current and carried stories / editorials that tend to serve the interest of foreign traders at the risk of being incitant.

The first publisher and editor of the Register W.W. Wood arrived in Canton (Guangzhou) in 1825 from Philadelphia. Son of celebrated actors Burke and Juliana Westray Wood, he was said to be a person of great versatility, mentally and materially. After heading and editing the Canton Register for a number of years, he worked for the American opium firm of Russell and Co. in Guangzhou. He left Canton in 1833 and settled in Manila where he managed a coffee and sugar plantation in Jala-Jala and coincidentally became the first person to introduce photograph to the the Philippines. He later joined Russell, Sturgis and Co. in Manila and there he died. Wood is remembered by his book - Sketches of China.

John Slade succeeded Wood as the Newspaper’s publisher and editor. I don’t have much information on Slade except that he was said to be a gentleman of good classic attainments and a Chinese scholar, he is well-remembered by his book - Narrative of the late proceedings and events in China published in 1839 (check my Google Library). He was one of the first land buyers in Hong Kong in 1842. A year later he moved with the newspaper and settled here, but not for long, he died from fever in August 1843, about two months after moving from Macau. Slade was succeeded by John Cairns.

The China Mail 德臣西報 (1845-1974)

First issue printed on February 20, 1845. The China Mail was founded by Scotsman Andrew Shortrede 蕭德銳, a prominent printer in Edinburgh, who learnt the printing craft as an apprentice in 1920s. He was the proprietor of the publishing house East Thistle Lane between 1830 and 1840. Judging from the large number of titles printed by Thistle Lance, Shortrede ought to be a very successful publisher. From 1841 to 1843 he owned and managed another publishing house in Edinburgh, George IV Bridge. It was said in the Scottish Book Trade Index (SBTI) that he fell into bad health in around 1843-44 and went to China although I do not know at what time he arrived in Hong Kong and whether the China Mail was the first venture he embarked on here. Being a learned but humble person, Shortrede soon became a well respected member of the community. In 1846, he drafted the by-laws of the Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong Branch [1], which was then founded in February the following year. He had a keen interest in education and was one of the financiers who support the schooling of three young Hong Kong men in the United States and Britain [2]. He was a keen promoter for the establishment of the St. Andrew School, a public school opened in 1855, which was the first school in Hong Kong not run by missionaries. It was also the first school to be funded by public subscription.

Shortrede established the publishing house A. Shortrede and Co. in Hong Kong in the 1850s, which continued to publish books well after his death and into the twentieth century. A. Shortrede was famous for publishing the Hong Kong Directory, which also came with a list of foreign residents in China. The earliest edition I have read was for 1859.

[1] The first office-bearers of the Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong Branch included Shortrede, second Colonial Governor John Francis Davis (as President), Lieutenant Governor Major-General George Charles D’Aguilar, Colonial Surgeon Peter Young, Colonial Treasurer William Thomas Mercer, John Charles Bowring, partner of Jardine, Matheson and Co. (1858-1864); and Thomas Francis Wade, British Envoy to China and later inventor of the Wade System of Romanization of Chinese 韋氏拼音.

[2] All three were alumni of the Morrison Education Society School in Hong Kong and native of Xiangshan (Chungshan), Guangdong (Kwangtung) and were sent to the Monson Academy in Massachusetts. Kuan Huang 黃寬 went on to study medicine and surgery at University of Edinburgh and became the first Chinese to practice Western medicine in China. Yung Wing 容閎 went on to Yale and became its first Chinese graduate. He later became a diplomat and an educator. Wong Shing 黃勝 only spent a year in Monson and returned to Hong Kong due to poor health. After a stint working for the China Mail, he went on to established two Chinese newspapers in Hong Kong. He was appointed the first Chinese juror and the second Chinese member of the Legislative Council.
These were the key people working at the China Mail in 1859: Andrew Scott Dixson, Proprietor; Andrew Wilson, Editor; and James Jeffrey, Robert Low, N.B. Bonney, Francisco C. Barradas, J.J. da Silva e Souza, A.J. da Silva e Souza.

The May 1, 1855 issue of Chinese Serial carried a story
about Joan of Arc written in Chinese.
遐邇貫珍 Chinese Serial (1853- )

The Hong Kong Daily Press, or simply known as the Daily Press 香港孖剌西報 (October 1, 1857 - )

The Hong Kong Mercury and Shipping Gazette (1866- )

The Daily Advertiser (1871- )

The Hong Kong Times: Daily Advertiser, and Shipping Gazette (1873)

循環日報 Tsun-wan Yat-po or Universal Circulating Herald (1874-1947)

The Hongkong Telegraph 士蔑報 (1881-1951)

First issue appeared on June 15, 1881. The Telegraph was founded by Robert Fraser-Smith (d. February 9, 1895 Hong Kong) to whom the newspaper owed its Chinese name, 士蔑 simply Smith. I was unable to trace Fraser-Smith’s background before he became the proprietor, publisher and editor of the Telegraph. Fraser-Smith was often referred to as atrabilious and scandalous and had been jailed several times for libel. When Fraser-Smith died in 1895, his interest in the Hong Kong Telegraph was acquired by John Joseph Francis Q.C. [3] (b. 1839, Dublin - d. September 22, 1901, Hong Kong) his more than once prosecutor in the court-of-law. Francis was said to be a sparring partner of Fraser-Smith, in-and-outside of the court-of-law. Francis retained the controlling interest of the newspaper until 1900, whereupon the newspaper company was formed into a limited liability company by Francis, the company was registered on February 22, 1900. Robert Ho-tung and several of his Chinese associates became the principal shareholders of the newspaper company, which they felt would serve as an organ in which to give expression of their views. The shares were held under the name of the Chinese Syndicate 香港華商公局, predecessor of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce.

In 1916 or 1917, American dentist Joseph W. Noble acquired a majority interest in the newspaper company and took on the role as publisher. Noble was the second dentist to practice in Hong Kong and one of the keen supporters for the establishment of the Hong Kong’s medical school. He was also the Chairman of the South China Morning Post (1907-1911). For a period of time, SCMP and the Telegraph jointly published an evening paper, named Evening Edition South China Morning Post and The Hongkong Telegraph. The Hong Kong Telegraph merged with the South China Morning Post in the beginning of 1941. The two were split after the Pacific War and five years later in 1951 the Hong Kong Telegraph closed.

[3] J.J. Francis was a leading legal professional at his time and was the third barrister in Hong Kong to become a Queen’s Council.
Chesney Duncan 鄧肯 was the second editor of the Telegraph, who succeeded Fraser-Smith in 1895 and continued until 1899. Duncan was an active republican revolution sympathizer, who had met Sun Yat-sen on several occasions and was listed as a supporting member of the Hsing Chung Hui 興中會. In fact, the English version of the declaration and mission statement of Hsing Chung Hui was drafted by Duncan and Thomas Reid of China Mail. The Telegraph and the China Mail were the first newspapers to openly champion the republic movement in China. On one occasion, Duncan was called before the Colonial Secretary James Lockhart, who reprimanded him for what the paper published, claiming it amounted to incitement of the Chinese to revolt against a government with which Britain was on friendly terms. Despite the warning, the newspaper's pro-revolutionists attitude has not swerved.

E.F. Skertchly replaced Duncan as editor in 1899 and left in 1901. He moved to Penang and later became the editor of the Penang Gazette and then chief editor of the Straits Echo, and there he died, the year unknown to me. His wife remarried a Samuel Bonnett Darby of Rugby and Brighton.

E.A. Snewin became the editor in 1901 at a time when Robert Ho-tung and his colleagues at the Chinese Syndicate became principal shareholders of the Telegraph. Snewin sat in the inaugural committee of the first Journalistic Association in Hong Kong. He left the newspaper in 1906.

A.W. Brebner was appointed editor in January in 1906 and continued until 1910. Brebner hailed from Aberdeen, Scotland and received education at the Robert Gordon’s College. After graduation he joined the Aberdeen Free Press at a editorial staff. In 1895, he went to Jamaica and became the sub-editor of the Daily Time, and from there he proceeded to Hong Kong in 1906.

Three more names appeared as editors of the Telegraph but no information on the time period in which they held the position can be found. They are: E.B. Helme, F.L. Pratt and A. Hick. I found nothing about Helem and Hicks.

Frederick Lionel Pratt (b.1872-d.1940s) was an Australian who was famous as co-owner-publisher of the Who’s Who in the Far East.  The other owner was another Australian William Henry Donald (b.1875-d.1946), the managing director of the China Mail. The book (1906, 1907 editions are known to me) was printed by the China Mail.

J.P. Braga
Jose Pedro Braga 布力架 (b. 1871 Hong Kong - D. 1944 Macau) was the manager of the Hong Kong Telegraph between 1902 and 1910 who also succeeded Francis as the publisher. Braga came from a Portuguese family with long standing in Macau. His maternal grandfather Delfino Noronha ran a printing press in Hong Kong since 1844, Noronha and Co., a quasi-government printer, which eventually became the Hong Kong Government Printer. Braga studied at the Italian Convent School (predecessor of the Sacred Heart Canossian College) and St. Joseph’s College in Hong Kong and went to India afterward, and there he graduated from the University of Calcutta. On his returned to Hong Kong in 1899, Brada worked for his grandfather until Noronha’s death in July 1902. Thereafter Braga joined the Telegraph at the invitation of Robert Ho-tung. After having spent eight years (1902-1910) with the Telegraph, Braga went on to become the Hong Kong correspondent for Reuters. He was succeeded as publisher by the new proprietor Joseph Noble. In c.1920, he gave up journalism and ventured into the business domain. He was appointed Chairman of China Light and Power Company in 1934 (and again in 1938) after the founding chairman Robert Gordon Shewan was oust by the principal shareholders the Kadoorie family. Braga also sat on the board of several prominent companies which were managed by Shewan, Tomes and Co., a firm controlled by Shewan.

Braga was a member of the Sanitary Board between 1927 and 1930. He was appointed the first Portuguese member of the Legislative Council in 1929, he continued to serve in the council until 1937. He was created an OBE in 1935 and was honored with the naming of Braga Circuit 布力架街. Braga married Olive Pauline Pollard (b. January 16, 1870 Launceston, Tasmania, Australia - d. February 13, 1952) 1884 in Calcutta. She was the pianist and violinist with the Pollards Lilliputian Opera Copmany, her father James Joseph Pollard was the founder. Jose and Pauline Brada had five children. One of their sons, Jose Maria (Jack) Braga (b.1897-d.1988) was a famous writer.

香港華字日報 The Chinese Mail (1895- )

The Hong Kong Weekly Press (1895- )

Tse Tsan-tai

At the Dawn of the Twentieth Century

None of these newspapers and periodicals remains today. The oldest surviving newspaper is the South China Morning Post, which was founded on February 6, 1903 by republican revolutionist and collaborator-turned-rival of Sun Yat-sen, Tse Tsan-tai 謝纘泰, and Briton Alfred Cunningham. A republican revolution sympathizer who had become an active participant, Cunningham was an editor for China Mail and Hong Kong Daily Express as well as a correspondence for New York Sun prior to joining SCMP. The newspaper, which was named South Qing Morning Post 南清早報 rather than SCMP before the establishment of the China Republic, had its first issued printed on November 6, 1903. Cunningham assumed the post of Editor-in-Chief.

Hong Kong's First Press Association

The first journalistic association in Hong Kong, and in the East, was formed on December 16, 1903 and inaugurated on January 6, 1904. These were the first office-bearers: President, Thomas H. Reid of China Mail; Chairman of Committee, P.W. Sergeant of Daily Press; Committee, Douglas Story of South China Morning Post, W.H. Donald of China Mail, and E.A. Snewin of the Telegraph. The object, as shown in the constitution of the association was "the elevation and improvement of the status of journalists in the Far East." It was said that the association did not last long but I have no information when the association was dissolved.

The modern day journalist association, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club was formed in Shanghai during the 1940s. The FCC moved to Hong Kong in 1949 and has resided at its current quarters of the historic ice house since 1982. The club, as its name suggests, functions more as a social club than a press association. The Hong Kong Journalist Association, which comprises mainly local journalists, was established in 1968.



Post a Comment