Tuesday, May 04, 2010

News of Yore 1930: Another Syndicate Gobbled

United Feature Syndicate Buys Metropolitan Service From Elser
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Both Firms Will Retain Separate Identities, With Elser Remaining as Vice-President -- Monte Bourjaily to Direct Both Organizations

(Editor & Publisher, 3/15/30)

United Feature Syndicate, Inc., this week announced the purchase of Metropolitan Newspaper Service, Inc. from Maximilian Elser, Jr., who will continue under the new alignment as vice-president. Both syndicates will retain their separate identities (for about two years - Ed.) and Monte Bourjaily, general manager of United Features, will direct both organizations. Metropolitan has been re-incorporated under the name of Metropolitan Newspaper Feature Service, Inc. The amount paid by United Features was not revealed.

The feature staffs of both syndicates will continue undisturbed. George Carlin, chief of the editorial staff of Metropolitan, has been appointed to head the combined editorial departments and Albert Moody, United Feature production manager, is in charge of production for both organizations.

Metropolitan has specialized in fiction, strips, humor and sports cartoons, while United has handled principally news features. It was to strengthen the fiction and cartoon branch of the service that the purchase was made. Mr. Bourjaily told Editor & Publisher. The combined syndicates serve about 800 newspapers in all parts of the world.

United Feature Syndicate is about 15 years old. Its first general manager was Norris Huse, now manager of Associated Press Picture Service. Mr. Bourjaily joined it as manager in May 1928. It has concentrated on features based on the news written under the bylines of world figures. Among the statesmen whose writing it distributes are Rt. Hon. David Lloyd George, Benito Mussolini, Eduard Herriot, former Premier of France and Wilhelm Marx, formerly Chancellor of Germany. Occasional contributors have been Cardinal Cerretti, former under-secretary of state of the Vatican, who wrote the first authentic biography of Pope Pius XI; President Hoover, Winston Churchill, Portes Gil, Pascual Ortiz Rubio, Sinclair Lewis and Commander L. M. Kenworthy.

The Ellis Service of Swarthmore, Pa., by arrangement with Dr. William T. Ellis, was recently merged with United, and its regular Sunday School lesson was started Jan. 1 this year. Other features handled by this syndicate are Heywood Broun's daily column, travel articles by Edward Hart II; "Beauty and How," by V.E. Meadows; and two comic strips, "Doings of the Duffs," continued by arrangement with Mrs. Theresa H. Allman, widow of the creator, and "Young Buffalo Bill," by Harry F. O'Neill.

United is also authorized distributor for the fashion services of Fairchild publications.

The sport cartoon by "Stookie" allen has been changed to a sports strip, "No Foolin," which will feature the comic aspects of sport. The purchase of Metropolitan gives United the benefit of Feg Murray's daily sports drawing.

One of the leading features acquired from Mr. Elser's syndicate is the Twelve Star Serial Wheel, which provides a 30-installment story for each month in the year. Writers represented on the service's list are Mary Roberts Rinehart, Edgar Wallace, P.G. Wodehouse, E. Phillips Oppenheim, Clarence Budington Kelland, John Esteven, Gene Markey, J.S. Fletcher, Rafael Sabatini, Frank R. Adams, Henry Kitchell Webster and Sax Rohmer. Humorists whose writings Metropolitan has handled are Stephen Leacock, Sam Hellman, Ellis Parker Butler, Donald Ogden Stewart and Richard Connell. The syndicates art included, in addition to the Feg Murray cartoon, "Dickey's Dogs" by Robert L. Dickey; "Ella Cinders" by William M. Conselman and Charles P. Plumb; "Good Time Guy" by Fred Fox; a "Tarzan" strip based on Edgar Rice Burrough's stories; and "Folk Tales" by Edward McCandlish.

Metropolitan was organized by Mr. Elser in 1911 and has remained under his direction since then. Earl Hadley, vice-president and part owner for several years, recently sold his interest to Mr. Elser and retired from the syndicate field.

Mr. Bourjaily, who will direct both syndicates, worked on several newspapers in the east and mid-west before joining United Press. He was graduated from Syracuse University in 1917, worked on the Syracuse Herald until the war, when he enlisted in the army air service. After the war he went to the Cleveland Plain Dealer and later was in the office of the editor-in-chief of the Scripps-Howard Ohio dailies. He served as publisher of the New Haven Union and later of the Yonkers Statesman. He joined United Press in 1926.


  1. Then, in 1931, they got the World Syndicate strips (Fritzi Ritz, Captain and the Kids, more). Following the 1929 crash there must have been some good bargains.
    So anyway, was this the start of United Feature growing bigger than NEA, or had United already surpassed NEA in syndicated offerings?

  2. Nah, United was still a rather small fish, at least stripwise. It always seemed odd to me that United bought Metro and not the other way around. Metro had a big hit with "Ella Cinders", whereas United really had nothing to compare.

    Course that's just my blinders -- evidently United was doing well with their news features.

    NEA is a whole different sort of animal than 'normal' syndicates, being a blanket service for smaller papers. I think comparing it to United is a tough one since their business models were completely different.