Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Johnstone, James (1815-1878)

JOHNSTONE, JAMES (1815–1878), proprietor of the ‘Standard’ newspaper, son of James and Elizabeth Johnstone, was born at Charles Street, Old Street, London, on 26 June 1815. His father, a messenger of the court of bankruptcy in Basinghall Street from 1820 to 1842, died 11 Aug. 1865, aged 79. The son succeeded his father in 1842, and served until 1861. At that date he became head of the business of Johnstone, Cooper, Wintle, & Co., of 3 Coleman Street Buildings, managers in chancery, bankrupts' accountants, and public auditors. In 1857 Charles Baldwin, proprietor of the ‘Morning Herald’ and the ‘Standard,’ its evening issue, having fallen into pecuniary difficulties, sold his properties to Johnstone for 16,500l., the plant used in printing the papers being included. The circulation of the ‘Standard’ had fallen to seven hundred. John Maxwell, the publisher, for a time a partner in the new enterprise, gave valuable advice, and Johnstone at once issued the ‘Standard’ for the first time as a morning paper on 29 June 1857, reducing the price to twopence, and doubling its size to eight large pages. He started a high-priced ‘Evening Herald’ on the same date, and still continued the ‘Morning Herald’ as a fourpenny paper. In the ‘Standard,’ in addition to the news, he gave a novel by Dr. William Russell, entitled ‘Leonard Harlowe, or the Game of Life.’ On 4 Feb. 1858 the price was reduced to a penny. The evening issue of the ‘Standard,’ which had been discontinued on 29 June 1857, was revived on 11 June 1860. The ‘Evening Herald’ came to an end on 27 May 1865, and the ‘Morning Herald’ on 31 Dec. 1869. The ‘Evening Standard’ appeared in a new form on 1 Jan. 1870, under the editorship of Charles Williams, and during that year on more than one occasion reached a circulation of one hundred thousand copies. Johnstone was a conservative by conviction, and conducted the ‘Standard’ in the interests of his party. He even opposed the reduction of the paper duty, though the change was to aid his special interest. His entire time was given up to the improvement and advancement of his papers. After 1869 he was able to pay off all the loans he had contracted, and ultimately became the sole proprietor. He died at Hooley House, Coulsdon, Surrey, on 21 Oct. 1878, and was buried at Coulsdon on 26 Oct. He was twice married, and left children by each marriage. One son, James Johnstone, junior, edited the ‘Standard’ from 1872 to 1877. His personalty was sworn under 500,000l., and William Henry Mudford, the editor of the ‘Standard,’ was by the will appointed chief trustee and sole manager of the newspapers.

[Bourne's English Newspapers, 1887, ii. 226, 239–41, 336–7; Grant's Newspaper Press, i. 328, iii. 111–13; Hatton's Journalistic London, 1882, pp. 146–54, with portrait; Vanity Fair, 14 Feb. 1874, p. 81, with portrait; Standard, 22 Oct. 1878, p. 4; information from W. H. Mudford, esq.]

G. C. B.