Thursday, January 20, 2011
This Just In ... Mystery Solved!
Well, we have an answer to the mystery courtesy of research by Jeffrey Lindenblatt. He hoofed it down to the New York Public Library to see if he could solve the mystery, and by gum, he nailed it!
First of all, he found that there are two additional High Pressure Pete Sundays that appeared in the October 8 and 15 sections (as alluded to by Grizedo in a response to the original post). Muggs McGinniss appeared only the one time.
He also found that the American increased the page count of it's Sunday section from 14 pages on September 24 to 16 pages on October 1 and 8, and then to 20 pages on October 15. After that the page count was scaled back to 16. To fill the extra pages, they not only used those old Muggs McGinniss and High Pressure Pete strips, but also ran Buck Rogers and Joe Jinks starting on the 8th, and some regularly appearing strips that were usually run as halfs were run as full pages.
But that leaves the central mystery -- why did the American suddenly increase its page count when they were obviously not well-prepared to fill that space? Lindenblatt has the answer to that, too. It was on October 1 that the New York Daily News, the American's main competitor, upped the page count on its Sunday section, adding the new features White Boy, On The Wing (soon renamed Smilin' Jack), Sweeney and Son, Little Joe and the new series of Teenie Weenies. The American had to try to keep up.
Major kudos to Jeffrey Lindenblatt for solving this mystery!
Well, we don't have a interoffice memo saying so or anything like that, of course, but it is not coincidence when two major papers beef up their comic sections on the same day. The NY Hearst papers were DEATHLY afraid of the Daily News, which took a major bite out of their circulation from its first day of publication, and just kept siphoning off more seemingly every week. Make no mistake, the Hearst papers watched every move the News made and countered it as best they could.
Let's put it this way. If I was a betting man, I'd bet the farm and my first-born that Lindenblatt has hit the nail on the head.
The Mirror was the Hearst organization's someone feeble response to the Daily News, and it never really took off, dying a somewhat quiet death in the early 60s. The emergence of the Daily News, in combination with radio and the depression, also probably was a factor in the merger of the Hearst New York papers the Journal and the American in the late 30s.
I think at one point Hearst even tried to buy the Daily News, and was shot down for a number of reasons.