Rats Fleeing the Sinking Ship! Saving the Daily Mail Atlantic Edition for Prosperity

3 min read

By Seth Cayley

The Atlantic Edition

In 2013, Cengage Learning released the Daily Mail Historical Archive 1896-2004, the complete archive of what the New Yorker has described as “the newspaper that rules Britain”. During our research into the project, we discovered a long-forgotten treasure of the newspaper’s history. In the 1920s and 1930s, the Daily Mail published an “Atlantic Edition”; a completely separate version of the newspaper for sale on the transatlantic liners that sailed between New York and Southampton.

What made this so revolutionary was that the day’s news was transmitted to the ships wirelessly, from Britain and America, to wherever they happened to be in the Atlantic. Every day, the newspaper’s on-board staff would work through the night to write-up the stories, typeset, and print them, so a crisp edition of the Daily Mail Atlantic Edition could be waiting at passengers’ breakfast tables.

As one of the Daily Mail’s own correspondents put it: “a specially promising character was given to the venture by the fact that among the passengers were many wealthy Americans on their first visit to Europe.” For “wealthy”, read “millionaires.” For the boutiques of Paris, the tailors of Savile Row, and hotels as far away as Norway, this wealthy Atlantic readership was a dream, and they quickly signed up to advertise in the paper. By striking an exclusive deal with the Cunard Line, and its sister company the Anchor Line from 1924, the Daily Mail had managed to corner a niche but extremely lucrative pocket of the industry.

As a symbol of the cultural dynamism, mania for travel and sheer extravagance of the Roaring Twenties, the Daily Mail Atlantic Edition is a unique record of the interwar years.

Bound volumes of the Daily Mail Atlantic Edition, showing both ‘Wireless Page’ volumes and the ‘Complete’ volume for the “A” Boat in a state of disrepair.
Bound volumes of the Daily Mail Atlantic Edition, showing both ‘Wireless Page’ volumes and the ‘Complete’ volume for the “A” Boat in a state of disrepair.

Scanning the Volumes

These issues are extremely rare, and even the British Library does not hold copies. The only known set is held by Associated Newspapers itself. Long-neglected, the bound volumes have suffered rodent, water and other storage damage over the years, and are deteriorating fast. Cengage Learning strongly believed that preserving this neglected source was an important task for future generations of researchers.

The Atlantic Edition was scanned from the physical copies, as no microfilm exists. The bindings were removed to permit flat scanning, and the volumes were subsequently re-bound and put into deep vacuum storage to prevent further decay. Some issues were in poor condition or missing entirely, but unfortunately no replacement copies were available. Ultimately, we have aimed to provide as full a record of the edition as possible.

By returning these remarkable editions to the world in digital format, it will finally be possible to appreciate this extraordinary enterprise once again.

Scanning the Atlantic Edition.
Scanning the Atlantic Edition.




Seth CayleyAbout the Author

Seth Cayley is the Head of Research Solutions at Cengage Learning EMEA, responsible for publishing the company’s programme of digital archives. He’s especially interested in how primary source archives can be used in the classroom.


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