On Monday 28 July 1952, the Melbourne Argus became the first newspaper in the world to print a high-speed action news picture in full colour. In what was a technological marvel for its time, there were coloured photos of sporting events on the front and back pages.

The front page banner was printed in garish alternate blue and red block letters, which hopefully has never been repeated. This was accompanied by a photo of the AV Hiskens steeplechase at Moonee Valley the previous Saturday.

Front cover of Melbourne's Argus newspaper, printed in colour, showing horse jumps racing

The Argus, Monday 28 July 1952, p 1

The Argus wrote “Here’s a picture that makes news – and newspaper history, too. It is the first time ever that a newspaper anywhere in the world has produced a high-speed action news picture in color [sic] within hours of the event. It proves that color [sic] news photography for daily journalism is a practical proposition and no longer a newspaper-man’s dream.”

The Argus did print in colour regularly, but their dream was short-lived as the newspaper closed in January 1957. Before then it was the envy of the newspaper world, especially when it published colour photos for the Olympics, the Melbourne Cup and the Queen’s visit in 1954. Circulation increased by up to 25% for issues covering these special events. However, former staff recall that the colour printers purchased by the paper’s new owners to rescue the struggling paper were unreliable and very expensive. Sometimes, printing problems resulted in The Argus missing all early morning sales as it was not distributed until after 9 or 10 am. It was not until the late 1980s that colour became a daily feature of newspapers, so The Argus was certainly well ahead of its time.

Back page of Melbourne's Argus newspaper, showing Australian Rules football match between Collingwood and Fitzroy

The Argus, Monday 28 July 1952, back page

Written by Chris Wade
Newspaper Librarian

This article has 5 comments

  1. One of employees responsible for Argus being the first color newspaper has written an autobiography. I thought you might be interested:

    https://www.facebook.com/JohnO.Friend/

  2. I have a complete copy of the Herald published on Monday the 15th of October 1934 which I believe was the first newspaper in Australia to print a full colour front and back page.
    It depicts Batman entering the heads and commemorates Victoria’s 100 year anniversary.
    The newspaper is complete in very good condition and framed I am interested in selling this item if anyone is interested.

    • Hi Gary,
      Our Newspapers Librarian will be in touch soon – stay tuned.
      Cheers,
      Katie Flack
      Victorian and Australian Published Collections Manager

  3. Hi Gary,
    Yes: you make a good point re the colour. The first line of the blog now reads… ‘the Melbourne Argus became the first newspaper in the world to print a high-speed action news picture in full colour.’

    With the Herald front page being a colour illustration- rather than a photo- I think that was the difference the Argus was trying to claim.
    Thanks for reading
    Paul

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