La Ilustración Obrera

Barcelona, 1904 – 1907

This weekly, published by J. Masgrau and edited by Ángel Alcalde, was launched ‘for the worker’ on 20 February 1904. Its pages featured contributions from key labour leaders, such as Anselmo Lorenzo, Federico Urales or Pablo Iglesias, as well as regenerationist intellectuals of the time, such as Joaquín Costa and Miguel de Unamuno, amongst others. The aim was to eradicate ‘popular ignorance’ in a pedagogical spirit with a ‘luxuriously illustrated’ format.

La Ilustración Obrera offered news on the labour movement, as well as other articles and feature stories, for example, on the Russo-Japanese War. It also included articles on science, inventions, new applications of technology, art, literature, education, and hygiene. Reflection, general culture, and practical information were spread across 14 pages.

The presence of images was one of the magazine’s hallmark features. The cover was always an illustration, alternating between drawings (Graner, Casas, Opisso) and photographs (Castellá, Rodríguez). Metalworkers, railroad workers, fishermen, vendors, net menders, stevedores, bakers, etc., at their workplaces parade before the camera in costumbrista portraits of daily life captioned with laudatory, often paternalistic rhetoric. Inside, there were topical photographs of building sites, official visits, workers hard at work or at workers’ schools, and drawings of planets, machines for ironing or cutting out leather, architectural wonders, and war scenes.

From the very first issue, the magazine showed great interest in photography, to which it devoted the section ‘Ante el objetivo’ [In front of the lens], where it reported with text and drawings on new camera models, flash lamps, tricks for taking portraits, and myriad other technological advances, such as the enlarger.

La Ilustración Obrera was published until July 1905, when it announced a temporary farewell and its merger with El Mundo científico, which had the same owner. Fifteen months later, it embarked on a second period, this time under the editorship of the socialist Josep Comaposada, publishing three issues. In November 1906, it began a third period, which lasted until July 1907.