Open main menu

Carter, Henry (DNB00)


CARTER, HENRY, otherwise Frank Leslie (1821–1880), son of Joseph Carter, glove manufacturer, was born at Ipswich in 1821. He passed his boyhood in his father's factory to learn the glove-making business, and that he might perfect himself in it was sent to London at seventeen years of age to the care of an uncle who had an extensive drapery establishment. Both at Ipswich and in London he indulged in a taste for drawing, sketching, and engraving, particularly on wood, and to escape the reproaches of his father and uncle, who had destined him for trade, he concealed his identity by the use of the name ‘Frank Leslie.’ In his twentieth year he began to practise art as his only pursuit in life. At this time also he married, the issue of the marriage being three sons; this union was, however, unfortunate from the commencement, and after nearly twenty years' continuance ended in a separation in 1860. In his career as an artist he first entered the establishment of the ‘Illustrated London News,’ whose engraving department was entrusted to his charge, and here he mastered the details relating to an illustrated paper. He emigrated to New York in 1848, and shortly after his arrival had his name, Henry Carter, changed into ‘Frank Leslie’ by a special act of the legislature. His first connection in America was with ‘Gleason's Pictorial,’ but in 1854, having accumulated a small capital, he began publishing on his own account. He commenced with the ‘Gazette of Fashion,’ which was soon afterwards followed by the ‘New York Journal.’ He purchased the ‘Journal’ for a low figure, and then by skilful management made it a paying property. The work, however, with which his name is more intimately associated in the public mind is ‘Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper,’ the first number of which was issued on 14 Dec. 1855. In this periodical he produced illustrations of current history, together with pictures copied from European journals. He invented for his establishment a new system of engraving large pictures. Finding that the constant work of an engraver was required for two weeks to produce a double-page illustration, he had the wood block cut into thirty-two squares and employed an engraver for each square. By this means the work was done in twenty-four hours, and the success of this method was at once so clearly apparent that it has long been generally adopted by the proprietors of illustrated newspapers. In 1865 he started the ‘Chimney Corner,’ the editing of which he entrusted to his second wife. He married her after the separation from the first had been legally effected, she also having been divorced from her husband, Ephraim George Squier, the archæologist. To her he assigned likewise the editing of the ‘Lady's Magazine,’ a continuation and enlargement of the ‘Gazette of Fashion.’ To these he then added in rapid succession the ‘Boys' and Girls' Weekly,’ ‘Pleasant Hours,’ the ‘Lady's Journal,’ edited also by Mrs. Leslie, the ‘Popular Monthly,’ the ‘Sunday Magazine,’ the ‘Budget of Wit and Chatterbox,’ and ‘Die illustrirte Zeitung.’ From these various publications, which proved generally profitable, he gathered a great deal of money. From the ‘Chimney Corner’ alone he is said to have cleared in one year 50,000 dollars. The war between the North and South was to him a field of most abundant harvest, the circulation of his papers, chiefly those that were illustrated, having during that period very greatly increased. He spent the money which poured into his office with great liberality. He owned a magnificent residence about midway between Saratoga and Lonely Lake, surrounded by an estate of six hundred acres. Here he extended his hospitality to his numerous friends and fairly squandered his money, and the result was inevitable. In September 1877 he saw ruin staring him in the face. His property had to be surrendered into the hands of a receiver, he himself being retained as general manager of the publishing business, with an allowance of twenty per cent. of the profits for his own use. One of his heaviest trade losses was on the publication of the ‘Historical Register of the Centennial Exhibition, Philadelphia, 1876,’ a valuable work, but far from a commercial success. In April 1879, by some judicial proceedings, he was enabled to recover a large portion of his business. The American Institution of New York awarded him the medal for wood-engraving in 1848; the state of New York appointed him her commissioner for the fine arts department in the Paris Exhibition of 1867, and again in 1876; the state of New York named him commissioner to the Centennial Exhibition at Philadelphia, where his brother commissioners from the other states elected him their president. His employés for some time numbered upwards of three hundred, and the money paid for their work exceeded 6,000 dollars weekly. He was beloved by them all, as the manner in which he treated them was always remarkably kind, and whenever occasion offered most discriminating and generous. He died of cancer at his residence, Fifth Avenue, New York, on 10 Jan. 1880. Other works brought out by him and not previously mentioned were: ‘F. Leslie's Pictorial History of the American Civil War,’ edited by E. G. Squier, 1862; ‘F. Leslie's Illustrated Almanack and Repository, 1866;’ ‘The Paris Exposition, Report on Fine Arts, by F. Leslie,’ 1868; and ‘California: a Pleasant Trip from Gotham to the Golden Gate,’ written by his wife, M. Florence Leslie, in 1877.

[New York Times, 11 Jan. 1880; Appleton's Annual Cyclopædia, 1880, pp. 427–9.]

G. C. B.