Harry Guy Bartholomew, the son of a clerk, was born in 1878. After elementary school he went to Slade School of Art. His first job was as a cartoonist and in 1904 joined the recently established Daily Mirror. Appointed as assistant art editor, progress was rapid and by the age of twenty-five was a director of the newspaper.
On the outbreak of the First World War, Bartholomew attempted to join the Royal Flying Corps. He was rejected because of poor eyesight and instead became a war photographer. Several of his photographs taken at the Western Front appeared in the Daily Mirror and after the war went on display at the Imperial War Museum.
After the Armistice Bartholomew returned to Daily Mirror. Bartholomew held left-wing opinions but these were held in check by the owner of the newspaper, Lord Rothermere. Bartholomew's influence grew after Rothermere disposed of his shares in the newspaper in 1931.
Bartholomew was now promoted to editorial director, and with the support of Cecil King, the advertising director, began to recruit radical journalists such as Hugh Cudlipp and William Connor. Bartholomew noted the success of newspapers such as the New York Daily News. In 1934 Bartholomew and King decided to follow its example and turn the Daily Mirror into a tabloid newspaper. Strip cartoons such as Jane, Buck Ryan, Popeye and Garth were added and Batholomew, who hated the arrogance and snobbery of the upper classes, encouraged the editorial staff to develop an anti-establishment tone.
When Germany and Italy gave support to Franco during the Spanish Civil War, the Daily Mirror began a campaign for Britain to increase defence spending. Stanley Baldwin was attacked for his complacency and Winston Churchill was praised for his calls for the government to rearm.
Whereas newspapers such as the Daily Mail and the Evening News had given support to the right-wing governments in Europe, the Daily Mirror consistently exposed the image of a harmless Hitler put out by some newspapers sympathetic to fascism.
Soon after the outbreak of the Second World War, William Connor introduced the cartoonist, Philip Zec, to H. G. Bartholomew and Cecil Thomas, the editor of the Daily Mirror. Bartholomew liked Zec's work and commissioned him to do a daily cartoon. Zec's cartoons were an immediate success with the readers. Zec, who was Jewish, felt passionately about the need to defeat Hitler, produced a series of powerful cartoons on the war. When Hitler heard about these attacks on his regime, he added Zec's name to the Nazi Black List of people to be executed after Britain's defeat.
Bartholomew had worked closely with Winston Churchill in opposing Neville Chamberlain in the 1930s. However, the two men were often in dispute once Churchill became Prime Minister. Churchill was furious when the Daily Mirror published a cartoon by Philip Zec on the government's decision to increase the price of petrol in March, 1942. The cartoon showed a torpedoed sailor with an oil-smeared face lying on a raft. Zec's message was "Don't waste petrol. It costs lives."
Winston Churchill believed that the cartoon suggested that the sailor's life had been put at stake to enhance the profits of the petrol companies. In the House of Commons, Herbert Morrison, the Home Secretary, called it a "wicked cartoon" and Ernest Bevin, the Minister of Labour, argued that Zec's work was lowering the morale of the armed forces and the general public.
Bartholomew and Cecil Thomas were ordered to appear before Herbert Morrison at the Home Office. Zec's cartoon was described as "worthy of Goebbels at his best" and turning on Thomas, Morrison told him that "only a very unpatriotic editor could pass it for publication". Morrison informed Bartholomew that "only a fool or someone with a diseased mind could be responsible" for allowing a newspaper to publish such material. The government considered closing down the Daily Mirror but eventually decided to let the newspaper off with a severe reprimand.
On V.E. Day Donald Zec produced the extremely powerful cartoon, Here you are! Don't lose it again. The same cartoon was used on the front page of the Daily Mirror on the morning of the 1945 General Election. Next to the cartoon the text suggested that the best way to preserve peace was to vote for the Labour Party.
After the war Bartholomew began to drink heavily. This sometimes clouded his judgement and in December, 1948 he sacked Hugh Cudlipp as editor of the Sunday Pictorial. Cecil King was furious when he heard the news, and he joined up with fellow director, Philip Zec, to remove Bartholomew as editorial director. Soon afterwards, Cudlipp was brought back as editor of the Sunday Pictorial, and later as editorial director of the Daily Mirror Newspapers Group.
Guy Bartholomew died in Camberley on 4 May 1962.