Picturing Sports: Finding the ‘Actual’ in Nineteenth-Century Illustrated Sporting News

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Fall 2015

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This is an exploratory study of sporting news in selected issues of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper from 1885 to 1895. Asking how the illustrated press portrayed sports and sporting events in the last decades of the nineteenth century, the authors analyzed pictorial content to understand how the ethos of realism was employed in pictorial representations of sports. During this period in journalism history, visual journalism was in transition. Photographic reproduction in newspapers was still being developed and perfected, so illustrating pictorial news content was still widely practiced. Using Thomas Connery’s “paradigm of actuality” thesis, the researchers developed an “actuality” scale to help identify how realism was used to report on both amateur and professional sports in illustrated news reporting. In this exploratory study, the authors attempt to reveal how pictorial news about sports changed over time and suggest how connections between actuality and the cultural messages found in late nineteenth-century pictorial sports reporting can provide clues to intended audiences.

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