W.T. Stead

W.T. Stead

A cabinet card portrait of the English journalist William Thomas Stead (1849-1912), with a printed facsimile of his dedication and signature in the lower margin.

Born in Wakefield in 1849, Stead was apprenticed to a merchant’s office but soon gravitated towards journalism. In 1880 he moved to London, where he became the assistant editor of the Pall Mall Gazette under John Morley. When Morley was elected to Parliament in 1883, Stead became the journal’s editor. His enterprise and originality exercised a potent influence on both journalism and politics and he is celebrated today for his modernization of the presentation of the news.

His most notorious crusade was against child-prostitution and in 1885 he published a series of articles entitled The Maiden Tribute of the New Babylon. In order to demonstrate the truth of his revelations, he arranged the ‘purchase’ of Eliza Armstrong, the thirteen-year-old daughter of a Lisson Grove chimney-sweep. Although his stunt is thought to have furthered the passing of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885, technically he had broken the lawn and this led to his conviction and a three-month imprisonment in Holloway. Every year on the anniversary of his release he went about his business for that day wearing his old prison uniform.

W.T. Stead was one of the passengers who drowned when the Titanic sank on 15 April 1912.

Photographed by the London Stereoscopic Company.


Code: 127644
© Paul Frecker 2022