The story of Drum magazine

Mr Drum

 Henry Nxumalo as"Mr Drum". Photo:  Jurgen Schadeberg .

Henry Nxumalo as"Mr Drum". Photo: Jurgen Schadeberg.

Henry Nxumalo was the first black writer for the magazine.

Jim Bailey wrote: "The Greeks had a theory that the first person to do anything was the best at it – Homer among poets, Herodotus among historians, Aeschylus among playwrights. I am sure that it is no skin off anyone's nose to say that Henry in his own way was unequalled. Journalism is a hard-drinking profession. If Henry by heavy drinking had dulled the fine edge of his wit, he more than compensated for this by sheer courage."

He was Mr Drum.

"Study the photograph above carefully – the first person to recognise Mr Drum in each town he comes to and approach him with a current issue of DRUM in his hand, with the words: 'YOU ARE MR DRUM. I CLAIM THE DRUM PRIZE!' will win £5."

Two of Henry's most courageous scoops were when he had himself hired as a farm labourer in Bethal to investigate the conditions and treatment of the working men; and when he got himself arrested and put in jail to experience those conditions and again the treatment metered out by the warders to the inmates. Bob Gosani, Henry's nephew, famously took photos for the prison story with a telephoto lens from the roof of a nearby building. These stories set the pioneering tone of Drum.

 May 1956 cover. Dolly Rathebe being measured up by the DRUM team. She was a star - the girl who invented - and then perfected - emotion. Cover image:   Jurgen Schadeberg

May 1956 cover. Dolly Rathebe being measured up by the DRUM team. She was a star - the girl who invented - and then perfected - emotion. Cover image:  Jurgen Schadeberg

Sylvester Stein joined in 1955 and the iconic status of the magazine grew as did the circulation figures under his editorship.

One area he concentrated on particularly was the use of pictures. He believed that pictures were not there to illustrate but to tell the story. Working closely with the picture editor, Jurgen Schadeberg, who had worked on Drum from the earliest times, they both studied the world's best news magazines, such as Life, in those days a powerful weekly, Paris Match, powerful too and beautiful, and Picture Post.

Sylvester wrote later how it was essential that words and pictures are regarded as equal partners, marching along arm in arm, bringing out the full meaning of the story by taking their allotted places in a carefully schemed pattern of attack.