Introduction - John

CHUMS, probably the most fondly remembered of all Children's annuals, was famous for its bright crimson covers as seen in the photo at the top of the page. While the BOYS OWN ANNUAL was usually printed to a higher standard on better quality paper, CHUMS ran stories by the most popular boys' authors of its day on what today is termed 'pulp' paper. I still have a CHUMS from the 1920s which was one of several books passed onto me by my dad, and can recall reading it 50 years ago, pretty much from cover to cover. The print is tiny but to boyish eyes that posed no problem. Only later in life when we face our own mortality, and fading eyesight, does that print pose a challenge! Back in the 1960s it was difficult to pick up annuals in good condition while monthlies and weeklies were never seen. Only with the demise of first generation collectors, those born in the 1900-20 period, has it been possible to pick up annuals, monthlies and even weeklies in good or better condition. The late Tom Ebbage left me his set while Geoff Clark's estate provided a number as well.



CHUMS 100 years ago; 1907, next to a 1936-7 volume in a near faultless dust jacket.
The 1907 volume is arguably the finest cover design ever seen on a children's annual.
To the right below is the jacket of 'The Best of CHUMS', an anthology with historical snippets published by Cassell over 30 years ago.

Some new discoveries in 'Chums' - Daniel Tangri

As a boy I was fascinated by 'Chums'. A friend of mine had three or four of the thick red annuals, and I used to thumb through them whenever I went to his house. I loved the columns of tiny, close-set type, the marvellous illustrations and the grand stories – about the Spanish Main, the Napoleonic Wars, adventures in exotic places like Africa, China, South America or India.

'Chums' started in1892 and was clearly modelled on the 'Boy's Own Paper', carrying a mix of stories and articles on all sorts of topics. The first issue featured the start of a serial by D. H. Parry entitled 'For Glory and Renown,' and articles on Harrow School, 'Some of the Doings of Julius Caesar Whilst in Britain' and 'How to Train for the Football Season.' At first it struggled to poach readers from the BOP, but two serials in particular ensured its success – 'The Iron Pirate,' by first editor Max Pemberton, which appeared in 1892, and 'Treasure Island,' by Robert Louis Stevenson, which appeared in 1894. By the time of its demise in 1941 it had carried stories by a string of popular authors – Geo Manville Fenn, S. Walkey (the master of the pirate yarn), Frank Shaw, Charles Gilson (who was mentioned in despatches in World War One), Maxwell Scott, Hylton Cleaver, Gunby Hadath (who was not only captain of his school, but was capped for rugby at Cambridge, played cricket for the Gentlemen of Surrey, wrote a book on Ancient Philosophy and was a member of the Inner Temple), Geo Rochester, Percy Westerman and John Hunter. It even carried a story by P G Wodehouse, 'The Luck Stone,' published in 1908 under the pseudonym 'Basil Windham.'

At first 'Chums' was published by Cassells. It appeared every week, and at the end of the month the weekly issues were gathered together and published (with a glorious colour cover) as a monthly. In September the previous year's monthly issues were then collected together and published as an annual – the large books with the famous red covers that I ogled as a boy.

In January 1927 'Chums' was purchased by the Amalgamated Press. It carried on as a weekly until 2 July 1932, when No. 2077 was the last such issue to be published. Monthly issues continued to appear until July 1934. After that annuals were specially prepared by the editor and appeared in September each year until 1941, when paper shortages brought the title to an end.

One of the quirks of 'Chums' is that, although most stories and pictures would be printed in all three formats, some material was only ever printed in the weekly version or monthly version. One imagines that the editor hoped that this additional reading matter would encourage readers to buy both the 2d weekly and the 1/ monthly. The weekly issues normally had consecutive page numbering, and at the end of the year the page count would reach 832 which was the number of pages in the annual. The outside and inside covers were not numbered in this way but numbered 'A-D', and each weekly also came with an eight-page 'insert' numbered 'i-viii.' These inserts, and the cover pages, were not reprinted in the annuals.

I am not sure when these additional pages were first introduced; Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu stories appeared in the inserts in 1924-25, so the inserts certainly pre-dated the takeover of the paper by the Amalgamated Press. The inserts also do not appear to have been used all the time. For a period at the end of 1930, for example, they appear to have been dropped, only to be reintroduced in 1931, after which they stayed in the paper until it ceased to appear as a weekly.

The monthly issues did not include the pages from the weekly numbered 'A-D,' but did include the eight-page inserts. The monthly also had a magnificent full colour cover and an additional colour plate. The colour plates were bound into the annual, but the lovely covers were not. Incidentally, although a monthly issue was issued at the end of the month during which its weekly issues had been published, it was then given the date of the next month – so stories in the January 1931 issue, for example, would have appeared in weeklies during December 1930.

What this means is that some illustrations will have appeared in the weekly only. Other illustrations will have been published in both the monthly and the annual but never in the weekly. This is in fact what we find with W E Johns's contributions to 'Chums'.

I cannot provide a full list of Johns's contributions, as I have only seen weekly issues from 1932. I do know that he contributed paintings to 'Chums', and the ones I have seen were reprints of paintings that had originally appeared in the Graphic and the Bystander. Three of his paintings can be found, in full colour, in two 'Chums' annuals. The painting 'Westward from Peshawar – Bombers on the Northwest Frontier,' which appeared in the Graphic on 30 August 1930, appeared in the 1931-32 annual as 'Guardians of the Khyber Pass.' Two paintings appeared in the 1932-33 annual – 'By Air to India' and 'Where East Meets West.' Both had been published in the Graphic on 18 April 1931, the latter as 'The Desert Route.'

All three paintings previously appeared in Chums monthly issues. 'Guardians of the Khyber Pass' appeared in the January 1931 issue; 'By Air to India' in the September 1931 issue; and 'Where East Meets West' appeared in the 'Summer Number' which was released in July 1932 as a special issue [
See scans below.]. Part of 'Where East Meets West' appeared on the cover of the summer number. One odd thing to report is that I actually have two copies of the January 1931 issue and one has another colour plate inside! I think the plate did first appear in January 1931, for the following reason. By comparing the annuals with the monthly issues I do have, I find that the plates went into the annuals in the same sequence as they appeared in monthlies and next to the same articles or stories. 'Guardians of the Khyber Pass' appears in the 1931-32 annual alongside the stories from the January 1931 monthly. I can only explain the different plate in my other January 1931 issue by guessing that, when the printers were putting together the monthly, they added the wrong plate to this issue by mistake – or because they had run out of copies of 'Guardians.'

Johns' work also appeared in the 'Chums' weekly. I only have the weeklies from January to July 1932, but found one black and white plate in the 2 January issue ('Chums' 2051). This appeared on the inside front cover (page B) and was titled 'Heston – The Aviator's Happy Hunting Ground.' It shows a number of civil aircraft at Heston aerodrome. An article on the picture, titled 'The Aviator's Happy Hunting Ground' took up half of page C and described the various planes.

This picture was a reprint of a picture that had appeared, in colour, in the Bystander on 9 July 1930 titled 'An Afternoon 'At Home' at a Modern Flying Club.' The caption to that picture also described the various planes in somewhat similar phrasing, which may make it likely that Johns was also the author of the article on page C.

As Johns was contributing a lot of artwork to the Amalgamated Press publications 'Modern Boy' and 'Ranger' in 1931, I would think, given this discovery, that it is highly likely that more examples of his work could be found in weekly issues of 'Chums' from 1931. Sadly, weekly issues are scarce and monthly issues are also difficult to find, but this does give us something to add to our lists of wants. Incidentally, Johns contributed to quite a few other Amalgamated Press annuals at the same time. As is well known, he contributed articles, paintings and stories to the various Modern Boy's Annuals, and he also contributed four articles to the 1932 'New Zoo Annual'. He contributed paintings to five 'Greyfriars Holiday Annuals', in 1932-35 and 1937, the latter containing a reprint of a painting that had originally been given away with 'Ranger'. 'Chums' had its own associated annual, which the Amalgamated Press also bought at the same time it bought 'Chums' – the 'British Boy's Annual', which was distributed in Australia as the 'Australian Boy's Annual'. I have checked issues of this annual up to 1930 and found nothing by Johns, but I would be interested in seeing copies of the annual from 1931 and 1932, as these came out at the same time as Johns's work was appearing in other Amalgamated Press annuals. Sadly, these have so far eluded me!

Acknowledgements. I should like to thank John Tipper and Norman Wright for their very helpful comments.


The 2 photos above and below show a set auctioned on eBay early 2007 for around AU$1300.

It's difficult to pick up early volumes in good condition. Below are some from my collection.

Before and around the beginning of the 20th Century, many readers had their weekly or monthly parts privately bound, rather than using the publisher's covers. Such annuals were bound as calendar years whereas the publisher's annuals were not, due to the first issue having appeared in late August. Annuals were often composed of remaindered weekly and monthly parts returned unsold. Annuals were in fact an afterthought. Only after WW1 did annuals generally become the norm.

Jacket flaps front and back listed the contributing authors.

Summer Number for
July 1932, as mentioned
above by Daniel, to the right.

Rare April 1895
monthly issue to the far right.



A list of all major serials appears in THROUGH THE YEARS WITH CHUMS by Brian Doyle, which was published in COLLECTORS DIGEST ANNUAL #15, 1961, pages 36 to 56. Also included in a guide to CHUMS contributors.

From John W. (May, 2011)
I truly appreciate your website containing lots of information about Chums. Recently I gave my 1911 Chums Annual to relatives and enclosed the following note: 
"I would say that Chums was the best of my collection of heirlooms. As a young person I would read Chums avidly and the stories are still brilliant in my memory. It became my most cherished possession. The stories, pictures and even the advertisements are an open window on the social climate of 1911. From the perspective of the twenty-first century the book is a treasure of great intellectual value. These are some of the reasons why the book has survived a hundred years." 

Further details from Don Taylor, still to be incorporated on the page! Thanks, Don.

About the CHUMS pre-1910 cover:
This cover design contains three components that I've managed to identify.
1) Man on Horse attacked by a Grey Wolf.
This is from Volume 1 (1893), page 1, to illustrate the serial "For Glory And Renown" by D. H. Parry. Artist is Gordon Browne.
2) Footballers.
From Volume 1 (1893), page 79, to illustrate the article "The Rugby Game And How To Play It (Part II)" by "An International". Artist is W. B. Wollen
3) (On the spine of the volume) Two Soldiers In The Soudan.
From Volume 1 (1893), page 236, to illustrate the short story "Croppy Slotter's Vendetta". Artist is Gordon Browne.
About the cover of the 1939 Chums Annual:
This shows a futuristic mid-ocean airport: a sort of artificial island with spaces for aircraft to land. (Looks a bit like an upmarket oil rig.)
Between the landing spaces are various buildings including a hotel and a solarium.
Three planes are disembarking while another seven are circling. Most are biplanes. One 5-engined plane is in the upper foreground just under the Chums logo.
At the lower edge of the cover is a scroll with the slogan "For King And Empire".
The illustrator's name is not quite clear but probably Glossop.
About the cover of the 1941 Chums Annual.
This shows five groups of military aircraft, all heading rapidly eastward.
The main group are monoplanes with irregular green and brown camouflage striping and the circular RAF emblem.
The other groups are biplanes and their tails have vertical stripes in red, white and blue. The colour scheme of their camouflage varies from one group to the next (brown on white, black on brown, black on white, white on brown).
In the lower quarter of the cover are three or four battleships (or similar), also racing eastward.
At the lower edge of the cover is a scroll with the slogan "For King And Empire".
The illustrator is definitely Glossop.
And finally the Issue Numbers:
Here are the issue numbers: I hope the format makes sense.
The last issue of the 1904 volume (622) is inferred: I haven't actually seen it.
The *** symbol indicates volumes where the number of issues is NOT 52.

From John Dawson
I liked your page on Chums and since you mentioned P.G. Wodehouse's The Luck Stone, serialized in Chums, I wanted to draw your notice to a couple of letters P.G. wrote to the editors, the first one in the March 17, 1897 issue "The Editor to His Friends" and the second May 18, 1898, "The Editor to his Chums." These were discovered a few years ago by a Wodehouse annotator and have given the Wodehouse community a nice little insight into P.G. when he was 16 and 17 years old.
John Dawson

Year, Start, End, Issues, Pages Year, Start, End, Issues,P ages
1897,207,258,52,832,+16pp supplement

Th chart below attempts to give general descriptions of CHUMS in STANDARD PUBLISHER'S COVERS. A number of my volumes are actually bound weekly and monthly copies which may (not fully checked) occasionally include special numbers, in which case I would feel a need to retain BOTH volumes. The publishers don't appear to have included these special numbers in any of the regular yearly bound volumes, but I could be wrong! If you can supply details of DUST JACKET ILLUSTRATIONS, or any other information, please contact me.

1 1893 early   Larger (taller) format than all other volumes
2 1894 early    
3 1895 early    
4 1896 early    
5 1897 early    
6 1898 early    
7 1899 early    
8 1900 early    
9 1901 early    
10 1902 early    
11 1903 early    
12 1904 early    
13 1905 early    
14 1906 early    
15 1907 early    
16 1908 early    
17 1909 early    
18 1910 later    
19 1911 later    
20 1912 later    
21 1913 later    
22 1914 later    
23 1915 later    
24 1916 later    
25 1917 later    
26 1918 later    
27 1919 later    
28 1920 later 1410-1461  
29 1921 later 1462-1513 1480 is the final header-numbered issue.
30 1922 later 1514-1565  
31 1923 later 1566-1617  
32 1924 later 1618-1669  
33 1925 later 1670-1721  
34 1926 later 1722-1773 Cassells sold out to Amalgamated Press end of year.
35 1927/28 later *1774-1817* The SHORT volume! Adjusts to calendar year.
36 1928/29 later 1818-1869  
37 1929/30 later    
38 1930/31 later    
39 1931/32 later    
40 1932/33 later    
41 1933/34 later    
42 1934/35 later    
43 1935/36 later    
44 1936/37 later    
45 1937/38 later    
46 1939 later    
47 1940 later    
48 1941 later    

What are volumes worth and where do I sell them?
This is a query I receive at least every other week. Volumes published after WW1 are relatively common and rarely bring more than $40 each on eBay, even in good condition. Earlier volumes can be worth over $100 but they have to be in VERY GOOD condition. This means that MUST be UNDAMAGED. Missing pages and plates will reduce the values by 50% or more. If you sell to a dealer, you will be fortunate if they pay more than $20 each for very good condition books and they won't pay anything for damaged examples! Yes, eBay is the only place to sell, if you want a reasonable price.

MOST of my CHUMS volumes and issues are to be sold.

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