ARCHIBALD, JULES FRANÇOIS (1856–1919)
J.F. Archibald, who with John Haynes founded the Bulletin in 1880, is better remembered for his bequests than for his remarkable work as an editor. His most substantial legacy was to the Australian Journalists’ Association (later the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance); he also endowed the Archibald Prize for portraiture, and left money for a grand public fountain in Hyde Park.
His French names were assumed—he was born John Feltham Archibald in Warrnambool, where he learned his craft in the provincial press. Through an interlude in a North Queensland mining community, he developed a romantic admiration for the toiling solitary bushman, ‘the lone hand’. In Sydney, he joined the Evening News, and there, with Haynes, he determined to establish a new weekly. The result was the Bulletin, which attained enormous popularity and influence.
During the period of his major editorship (1886–1902), Archibald practised a radically democratic open-pages policy. He believed that everyone had a story to tell, and that every reader should have the chance to write. Most contributions would be cut down to their essential points, perhaps only two or three lines, before finding their places in the paper’s endless columns, cheek-by-jowl with vigorous illustration.
Through the later 1880s and 1890s, the Bulletin was a major example of print journalism at the peak of its cultural power; Archibald’s gifts of wit and irony were central to it. It is also true that the journal’s darker strains—its racism, frequent misogyny and anti-Semitism—were all evident on Archibald’s watch. They coexisted with a lively cosmopolitanism, anti-imperialism and pursuit of social justice.
For 20 years, Archibald worked with obsessive energy, at great cost to his marriage and his health; he suffered a nervous collapse before he turned 50. He handed over the editorship of the Bulletin to James Edmond in 1902, then worked to set up monthly magazine to be called the Lone Hand, becoming increasingly manic in the process. His business partner, William Macleod, committed him to an asylum; though considered incurably mad, he made a full recovery. The Lone Hand, under Frank Fox’s editorship, was eventually published in May 1907.
In 1914, Archibald sold out of the Bulletin, a much more conservative journal by then. He was working happily for the new Smith’s Weekly when he collapsed suddenly and died in September 1919. Archibald had never sought personal prominence; instead, he disappeared into his work and his legacies.
REF: S. Lawson, The Archibald Paradox (2006).