Friday, July 08, 2016
History of Newspaper Syndicates by Elmo Scott Watson: Chapter 8
Recent Developments in Syndicate History 1921-1935
The third decade of this century marked the beginning of a period of adding an even greater variety of "big names" to the list of those whose writings the syndicates had made available to the newspaper reading public. But even more significant was the service of one of these organizations in "bridging the gap between science and the public."
From time to time various syndicates had offered science features as a part of their service but they were either too "popular" to be scientific or too technically scientific to be "popular." The need for features which would reconcile these differences was met on January 1, 1921, by the founding of Science Service, Inc., in Washington, D. C. Endowed by E. W. Scripps of the Scripps-McRae newspapers, it was an institution for the popularization of science. All the preliminary work had been done by Dr. William E. Ritter. Traveling about the country, he consulted leading scientists and journalists in all parts of the United States, checking with them the most practical means for launching the enterprise. The result was the formation of a governing board of 15 trustees, ten of whom were scientists and five, journalists.1 The purposes of the organization were stated as follows:
To bridge the gap between modern science and the public by disseminating scientific information in popular form, Science Service was established. It is chartered as a non-profit-making corporation and all receipts from the sale of articles, books and films will be devoted to the development of new methods of popular education in science ... It is not under the control of any clique, class or commercial interest. It is not the organ of any one association. It serves all the sciences. It does not indulge in propaganda unless it be propaganda to urge the value of research and the usefulness of science.
With Dr. Edwin E. Slosson as director and editor-in-chief and Watson Davis as managing editor, Science Service began issuing the Science News Bulletin in April, 1921, and a News Letter for teachers and librarians in March, 1922.2 The slogan was "Not 'Interesting, if True,' but ‘Interesting and True.’"
Starting with 25 clients, mostly daily papers, Science Service doubled that number within a year. Since that time the service has increased steadily each year and its scope has widened until it includes a complete text and picture coverage of every type of scientific material.
The year 1922 saw the beginning of three syndicates which have had varied careers—the McNaught Syndicate, the Metropolitan Syndicate and the North American Newspaper Alliance. On January 1, V. V. McNitt organized the McNaught Syndicate to take over the business of the Central Press Association of New York.3
McNitt began immediately adding to his staff some of the best-known names in the feature world today. Irvin S. Cobb contracted to write an anecdote a day for six months and his fund of stories lasted four years. O. O. Mclntyre was the next to join the new service and Will Rogers began his cowboy philosophizing for it soon afterwards. In recent years these two (until Rogers' death this year) with Arthur Brisbane's column ("Today," syndicated by Hearst and "This Week," by Western Newspaper Union) have been the most widely used of any syndicate text features offered at the present time.
In 1933 the McNaught Syndicate scored a beat by securing a contract from Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt for a daily article. It was the first time in history that a President's wife had written regularly for newspaper publication. Other writers for this service now include Albert Payson Terhune, Roc Fulkerson, Charles B. Driscoll, Frank R. Kent, Alice Roosevelt Longworth and Zoe Beckley, and its leading cartoonists are Ham Fisher, John H. Striebel, John H. Hix ("Strange as It Seems"), Gus Mager and Julian Ollendorff.
In the same month that the McNaught Syndicate started, the Metropolitan Newspaper Service commenced as an independent syndicate. Founded in 1919 as a department of the Metropolitan magazine, it was purchased a few months later by Maxmilian Elser, Jr., and was conducted in combination with the Bell Syndicate until January, 1922. Mr. Elser operated the Metropolitan, which specialized in original fiction by prominent authors, until 1930, when his syndicate was absorbed by the United Features Syndicate.
The third syndicate founded in 1922 was the North American Newspaper Alliance. It was a cooperative organization promoted by Harry Chandler of the Los Angeles Times and Loring Pickering of the San Francisco Chronicle. Backed by some of the same publishers who had started Associated Newspapers, its purpose was to provide its member newspapers with important news feature stories and similar material to he used in conjunction with "spot news."
In 1930 John N. Wheeler, who had returned to the syndicate business after resigning from Liberty, became general manager of the North American Newspaper Alliance which was then composed of more than 50 of the leading newspapers in the United States and Canada. At the same time the organization absorbed Associated Newspapers and a short time later it also took in the Consolidated Press Association of which David Lawrence was then head. It continued all of the features in this syndicate under the name of Consolidated News Features, Inc., except Lawrence's daily dispatches, which he now sells direct but distributes through the wire facilities of the Consolidated News.
In 1927 the Central Press Association, which had previously absorbed the North American Press Syndicate, took over the Editors' Feature Service owned by Mrs. Mary H. Rumsey. Three years later Joseph V. Connolly, who had been with the King Features Syndicate since 1920, acquired these combined feature services and they became a part of the Hearst chain. Connolly, who is one of the younger leaders in the syndicate field, was a reporter on the New Haven (Conn.) Union for six years before joining the editorial staff of the New York Sun in 1919. After serving in the world war he joined the Hearst forces and now, in addition to being president of King Features Syndicate, he also heads the International News Service. Universal Service, Central Press Association and International News Photos.
In 1928 the McClure Newspaper Syndicate was sold to a group headed by Richard Waldo, former business manager of the New York Tribune. Two years later Waldo contracted with ex-President Calvin Coolidge to write a daily series of short articles. This arrangement continued for a year. During this time the sales of the feature amounted to nearly $425,000, which is said to be the largest return ever received for any feature for that length of time. Waldo is also credited with developing the Washington gossip column which has been widely copied among other syndicates since Paul Mallon started his "Washington Notebook" in 1931.
An interesting development during this period was the entrance of book-publishing companies into the syndicate field. It began in 1923 when Frank N. Doubleday established a syndicate department in his publishing house, Doubleday, Page and Company, with the idea of distributing to newspapers a variety of book material, particularly biographies and discussions of current affairs.
After this publishing house became Doubleday-Doran and Company, Ralph H. Graves resigned as Sunday editor of the New York Times to organize the Doubleday-Doran Syndicate and its syndicating operations expanded rapidly; its sale of periodic features yielded more than a million dollars in a decade. During this time it sold to newspapers as first rights serials material from such books as “The Letters of Archie Butt," containing the military aide's anecdotal story of Theodore Roosevelt's days in the White House; "Prohibition Inside Out," the first-hand narrative of Roy A. Haynes, head of the federal enforcement bureau; "Eight Years in Wilson's Cabinet" by David F. Houston; "The Open Conspiracy" and "The Science of Life" by H. G. Wells; the Roosevelt-Lodge letters; the memoirs of Gen. Robert L. Bullard; two books by Henry Ford; the Carter Glass banking reminiscences; two more volumes of Archie Butt letters covering the Roosevelt-Taft feud; the memoirs of Marshal Foch; and the biography of Woodrow Wilson by Ray Stannard Baker.
The latter two were among the record-breakers in syndicate history. Sales of the Foch memoirs totaled nearly $120,000 and contracts for $400,000 were signed by newspapers for the Wilson biography which was to appear in four volumes in successive years. Owing to Baker's illness, however, the syndication of this biography was abandoned after an amended schedule left the work still uncompleted with the fifth volume in 1935.
From time to time the Doubleday-Doran syndicate has also syndicated regular newspaper features unconnected with books. These have included fashions, puzzles, articles on golf, tennis and boxing, and a daily aviation column by Maj. Al Williams, speed flyer. Its main business, however, has been short-run features extracted from books about to be published or already issued.
Since 1930, syndicate history has been more a matter of journalistic coups by the established organizations than the founding of any important feature services. The United Features Syndicate scored one such "beat" when it secured the rights to the hitherto unpublished "Story of Our Lord," written by Charles Dickens for his children. In 1931 the North American Newspaper Alliance paid Gen. John J. Pershing $275,000 for his narrative of the world war for publication in its member newspapers and he received an additional $50,000 for publication rights in the New York Times, which was not then a member of the alliance. The narrative was also syndicated to a large number of rural newspapers by Western Newspaper Union.
In 1933 Henry P. Martin, Jr., manager of the Des Moines Register and Tribune Syndicate, created a sensation by purchasing the syndicate rights to the war pictures in Lawrence Stallings' "The First World War."4 He followed this up with such photographic features as "Hollywood (Uncensored)", "Behind the Scenes in Radio," "Picture Sideshow of Life" and "Picture Story of Shirley Temple."
The syndicating of unusual pictures promises to be an interesting future development for during the past year the Yale University Press began syndicating historical pictures from their series, "The Pageant of America," to a large number of newspapers. The latest development in syndicate history took place on February 24, 1935, when a weekly newspaper magazine titled "This Week" appeared as a part of the Sunday editions of 21 metropolitan newspapers which have a combined circulation of more than 4,000,000.5 "This Week" is published by the United Newspaper Magazine Corporation of New York City, headed by P. Gilleaudeau. It is printed in full color gravure by the newly patented Weiss Speedry process. Its cover page is the work of noted magazine illustrators and the table of contents is a parade of the biggest names in American fiction.
Thus the cycle of syndicate history is completed. It began with a printed service, a two-page supplement issued by Moses Y. Beach in New York City in 1841 and sold to a score of papers in the surrounding territory. In 1935 it returns to the original form of printed service in a gaily colored 16-page magazine issued from the same city to a score of newspapers in every part of the United States.
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1. The scientists were W. E. Ritter, director of the Scripps Institution for Biological Research; Vernon Kellogg and R. M. Yerkes of the National Research Council; J. McKeen Cattell, editor of Science; George B. Hale, director of the Mt. Wilson observatory; D. T. McDougal, director of the Desert laboratory; J. C. Merriam, president of the Carnegie Institution of Washington; R. A. Millikan, director of the Norman Bridge Laboratory of Physics at the California Institute of Technology; George T. Moore, director of the Missouri Botanical Gardens; A. A. Noyes, director of chemical research, California Institute of Technology. The journalists were Edwin F. Gay, president of the New York Evening Post company; E. W. Scripps and R. P. Scripps of the Scripps-McRae newspapers; and William Allen White, editor of the Emporia (Kan.) Gazette.
2. Doctor Slosson, who was one of the first to recognize the journalistic value of science, was born in Kansas in 1865. After graduation from the University of Kansas he became professor of chemistry at the University of Wyoming, resigning there in 1903 to become literary editor of the Independent. He held this position until 1920, serving as an associate of the Columbia University School of' Journalism at the same time. He died in 1929.
3. The Central Press Association of New York was organized by McNitt in April, 1920. He was also the founder of the Central Press Association of Cleveland and although similar in name the two companies were financially separate.
4. Martin organized the syndicate branch of the Register and Tribune in 1922. Besides its photographic features it is also noted for its serial story service, its authors including Rob Eden, Vida Hurst, Anne Gardner and Priscilla Wayne. It also syndicates numerous other features and serves some 300 newspapers in the United States and foreign countries.
5. These papers were the Chicago Daily News, the Cincinnati Enquirer, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Dallas Morning News, Detroit News, Indianapolis Star, Memphis Commercial Appeal, Milwaukee Journal, Minneapolis Journal, New Orleans Item-Tribune, Omaha World Herald, St. Louis Globe Democrat, Washington Star, Atlanta Journal, Baltimore Sun, Birmingham News, Boston Herald, Buffalo Times, New York Herald Tribune, Philadelphia Record, and Pittsburgh Press.