Alfred Charles William Harmsworth, later Viscount Northcliffe, journalist, founder of the Amalgamated Press and publisher of comics among other things, was born in Sunnybank, Chapelizod, Dublin, on 15 July 1865. His father was a barrister, and his mother was the daughter of a land agent from County Down.
The family moved to London in 1867, and Harmsworth was working as a journalist from his mid-teens. In 1887 he went into business as a publisher, with magazines like Answers to Correspondents, Marvel and Home Sweet Home. He launched the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror, and for a time was the proprietor of the Observer and The Times.
His first comic papers were Comic Cuts and Illustrated Chips, both launched in 1890 and aimed primarily at adults. The Funny Wonder followed in 1893. In 1901 he gathered all his publishing ventures under one banner, the Amalgamated Press, which went on to become not only the largest publisher of newspapers and magazines in the UK, but also one of the two leading publishers of comics and story papers, the other being Dundee's DC Thomson & Co. Based at Fleetway House in Farringdon Street, London, the AP later became known as Fleetway Publications, and was one of the companies that merged in 1963 to form IPC. Everything from Radio Fun, Buster and Whizzer and Chips, to Tiny Tots, Tiger Tim's Weekly and Jack and Jill, to School Friend, Girl's Crystal and Tammy, to Roy of the Rovers, Valiant and 2000AD, came out of Harmsworth's company.
Harmsworth's newspapers were extremely politically influential, although careful to remain independent of party politics, and he was made a Baronet in 1904, a Baron the following year, and a Viscount in 1918. He died in London on 14 August 1922 at the age of 57, suffering from syphilis and a nervous breakdown. He had expressed a wish to be buried close to his mother, who in fact outlived him by three years.
- D. George Boyce, ‘Harmsworth, Alfred Charles William, Viscount Northcliffe (1865–1922)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2011, accessed 14 April 2012
- The complete AP/Fleetway comic index
- AP/Fleetway - a potted history