The Pall Mall Gazette, an evening newspaper, was founded in February, 1865 by Frederick Greenwood and George Smith. The original idea was to digest the news from the morning papers and to publish substantial articles on political and social questions. The newspaper was a supporter of the Conservative Party until John Morley became editor in 1880. Morley recruited William Stead, a radical journalist from the Northern Echo as his assistant editor. When Morley was elected to the House of Commons in 1883, Stead became the new editor.
William Stead now had the opportunity of developing his ideas on journalism. Stead's Pall Mall Gazette featured banner headlines, shorter paragraphs in a readable style, with considerable use of illustrations, diagrams and maps to break up the text. Stead published a high percentage of human interest stories and used the paper to campaign for various causes. He wrote in his private journal that he intended to "lead the leaders of our race in its upward striving, hearing new words of command in every cry of the sorrowing and goaded."
Some like Matthew Arnold, a former contributor to the Pall Mall Gazette, disapproved of what was described as "the Americanisation of English journalism". Others disliked Stead's use of the interview. A rival editor complained that it gave a platform to any "politician, religionist, social reformer, man of science, artist, tradesman, rogue, madman, or anyone else who cared to advertise himself, or his prospects or pursuits, and in whom the public could be expected to take any interest."
In 1883 the Pall Mall Gazette carried a series of articles on the subject of child prostitution. He also published this information as a Pall Mall Gazette Extra called The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon. This approach pushed up sales of the newspaper from 8,000 to 12,000. Other campaigning extras such as Fight or Arbitrate: How Should we Settle the Afghan Frontier, Who is to have the Sudan? Gordon, or the Slave Traders? and the Navy of Old England: Is it Ready for War?, helped to create an interest in foreign affairs.
In 1885 Stead joined with Josephine Butler and Florence Booth of the Salvation Army to expose what had become known as the white slave traffic. The group used the case of Eliza Armstrong, a thirteen year-old daughter of a chimney-sweep, who was bought for £5 by a woman working for a London brothel. However, William Stead was arrested and charged with the abduction of the girl and was imprisoned for three months in Holloway Gaol. As a result of the publicity that the Armstrong case generated, Parliament in 1885 passed the Criminal Law Amendment Act, a measure that raised the age of consent from thirteen to sixteen.
William Stead left the Pall Mall Gazette in 1890. Henry Crust (1892-6) changed the journal from radical to independent conservative. Contributors to the newspaper over the years included John Ruskin, Oscar Wilde, H. G. Wells, and Rudyard Kipling. The newspaper also employed several talented illustrators including Sidney Sime, Frank Brangwyn, Leonard Raven-Hill, George Stampa, and Fred Pegram. The newspaper was incorporated into the Evening Standard in 1923.