Category : History of Newspaper Syndicates by Watson

History of Newspaper Syndicates by Elmo Scott Watson: Chapter 10, Bibliography & Appendix


The Newspaper Syndicate in American Journalism

The newspaper has been an American institution for 230 years. The syndicate, as a distinct enterprise, has a history of only 70 years.

Approximately 5,000 newspapers were being published in the United States when the syndicate idea became a reality in 1865. Their combined circulation was nearly 17,000,000. Today, a total of 13,700 newspapers, have an estimated circulation of almost 74,000,000.

In 1865 three small syndicates were in operation. They supplied only a limited amount of material, consisting mainly of news items, a story and miscellaneous matter which was little more than “filler.” Today 130-odd syndicates offer the publisher more than 1,600 separate features which cover a wide range of topics and appeal to every interest of the newspaper reading public.

During the first 150 years of American journalism both the numbers of newspapers and their circulation gained slowly. But during the last 70 years there was a rapid increase in both, and in that increase the use of syndicated material played an important role. It reduced the cost of producing a newspaper and that encouraged the founding of new publications. The information, but more particularly the entertainment, which syndicated features afforded newspaper readers was a factor in increasing circulation during the early history of the enterprise and it is an even more important factor today.

The first great increase in the number of newspapers came in the decade from 1870 to 1880. In those ten years 5,484 new papers were started, three times as many as in the previous decade. The increase was particularly noticeable in the south and in the west.

It was the era of Reconstruction in the south. Thither northern “carpetbaggers” flocked to occupy public offices and to loot public treasuries. To sustain their corrupt administrations, it was necessary to establish a party press. So innumerable political organs sprang up overnight and were heavily subsidized from public funds.

Then, too, some of the more intelligent negroes, rejoicing in being freed men, expressed their consciousness of the altered status of their race by establishing newspapers to circulate among their people. The use of syndicated service in the form of readyprint was a convenient aid to issuing imposing-looking publications. Although such sheets could scarcely be dignified with the title of “newspaper,” yet they did help swell the number of weeklies and were taken into account in the statistical data of the period.

The great increase in the number of newspapers in which syndicate service played a part, however, was in the west. The trans-Mississippi empire was rapidly opening up to settlement. “Boom towns,” built along the route of proposed railroads, dotted the map. Local pride in these communities demanded that they have newspapers to cater to the optimistic belief of their citizens that their mushroom village would grow into a metropolis. So one of its first business establishments was invariably a newspaper office.

Sometimes this office was only a tent pitched along the main street which wandered crookedly through the collection of “soddies,” log huts or one-story frame “false-fronts.” In this canvas shelter the adventuring editor, equipped with an old Army press or a “G. Wash.” and the traditional “shirttail-full of type,” began operations as an exponent of frontier journalism. If the final railroad surveys revealed the fact that this future metropolis would not be on its route, “ye ed,” like the other businessmen, loaded his equipment in a wagon and drove away to a new town site along the railroad right-of-way.

To such pioneering and peripatetic journalism, the readyprint was an invaluable aid and it was a life-saver to more than one publisher, struggling under the handicaps of inadequate equipment and an uncertain future. If he had had to depend upon local news and advertisements to fill his paper, it would have been little more than a two-page handbill. But with two, four, six and eight-page ready-prints available, he could get out a newspaper whose size suggested that it was published in a flourishing little city.

So the pioneer form of syndicate service helped to bring into existence hundreds of newspapers on the western frontier and the convenience and economy of the service encouraged the establishment of many new publications in the more settled parts of the east, south and middle west. In fact, the increasing number of weeklies during this period, made possible by syndicate service, resulted in an ominous prediction for the future of the country press by the editor of the Cleveland Herald. Declaring that rural journalism was deteriorating and laying the fault at the door of syndicate service the Herald said:

The “patent insides” and “patent outsides” have damaged it seriously by coaxing into feeble life a host of little rivals published in the smaller towns. Formerly in counties like Lake, Geauga, Portage, Summit and Trumbull there were but two papers—one of each party and sometimes a minority party failed to sustain an organ. Now, the small cost of issuing a paper on a “patent inside” or “outside” has encouraged the starting of new sheets at almost every petty village. Of course, they divide the total business of the county and draw away a part of the support of the older and larger journals.

They are a tax to the communities where they are published, but they gratify local pride, and if people choose to sustain them, nobody, least of all their hard-working and poorly paid publishers, ought to be blamed. No one can be fairly censured on their account. But the editors of the old reliable weeklies at the county seats or at the other large towns find their subscription lists shortened and their receipts from job printing greatly diminished because of them. They cut down expenses, discharge their local editors, get discouraged and relax that eternal vigilance which is the price of a good newspaper.

Immediately the editor of a country weekly, the Ravenna (Ohio) Republican Democrat, took up the cause of his brethren and declared that the competition of the city newspapers was the real cause of any definite decline in the country press because the city papers, with their big weekly editions made up from type saved from their daily editions, gave more reading matter than the country papers could hope to do. He continued:

The country weekly is irretrievably dwarfed. It has not the capital nor the power to cope with the strong financial newspaper printing combinations and corporations of the city. We have sometimes thought that but for the cooperative plan of publishing, the city weeklies would nearly, if not quite, root out the country weeklies—as it is, the latter have but comparatively a feeble, sickly existence and a hard struggle for life.

The editor of the Geauga (Ohio) Republican next took issue with his big city neighbor. He declared that the country press was improving rather than deteriorating and that syndicate service was the instrument by which this improvement was being accomplished. He said:

True, there may be more weak and half-supported sheets in existence now than formerly, as the whole number of all descriptions is increased, but the old-established ones have not only maintained their superiority but as a rule have been enlarged and otherwise improved. To prevent injurious competition from small papers printed on the so-called “patent” plan, their obvious policy is to adopt that plan, and thus secure its manifest advantages to themselves and they need sacrifice neither independence, pride nor originality in so doing.

The time has gone by, if there ever was such a time, when any considerable number of people would support the country paper merely for a sense of duty. It must be made self-sustaining by meeting the popular demand or it will languish; and that demand is now, more than ever before, for news, and in the country press especially, for local news. It need not be, and ought not be, a mere echo of the city press. But what the country press most needs is some plan whereby, while maintaining its own special features, it can combine with these enough of the essentials of a general newspaper to enable it most successfully to bear the competition of the city press. And this end is answered in the “patent insides and outsides,” now so common.

The matter in these consisting chiefly in news, markets, etc., which is nearly the same in all papers, is such as cannot be printed so fully at home and is given in addition to all the other matter of the home paper. If it be objected that it is alike in all co-operative papers, as much may be said of the same departments of the Herald and Leader and all other city papers that keep up with the times.

If, therefore, there are poor papers printed on the cooperative plan, it is justly chargeable to the home management or support and not to the plan itself, which, if improved as it might be, would open a wider field of excellence and independence to the country press than it has ever yet known. Since country papers are a necessity and since the competition of the city papers from which we suffer cannot be prevented, if we are wise we will accept the inevitable and, discarding false pride, pursue the policy which will render that competition less injurious. The cooperative plan is a move in this direction and if the standard is not yet as high as it should be, a more general adoption by the better class of country papers will as surely raise it as supply follows demand.

During the next few years the service was “improved as it might be” and the syndicates offered to the publisher, through an economical and convenient medium of supply, a variety and quality of material that he could not possibly have given his readers otherwise. The addition of the stereotype plate, while it did not help increase the number of newspapers so noticeably as had the readyprint, did extend the popularity of syndicated material and aided in its widespread use, especially in the east.

The decade from 1880 to 1890 was marked by the greatest increase in the number of newspapers American journalism has ever known. They multiplied at the rate of two new publications every day during those ten years. But more significant were the soaring circulation figures during this decade and the next. From 1880 to 1890 more than 37,000,000 Americans became newspaper subscribers, as compared to less than 11,000,000 during the previous decade, and from 1890 to 1900 another 37,000,000 were added.

The principal factors in these phenomenal gains, which was indicative of what was coming during the next half century, were a vastly increased and better educated population, improved transportation, speedier means of communication, lower postal rates and cheaper paper. The rapidly-rising tide of culture and a keener interest in public affairs, coupled with greater prosperity and more leisure (now that the nation’s pioneering was virtually ended) resulted in a never-ceasing demand on the newspapers for more and more reading matter to supplement the local and telegraphic news and editorials. The syndicate was the instrument by which they were able to meet that demand. By the turn of the century it had developed the four media of service through which it was able to supply the needs of every type of newspaper, from the smallest country weekly to the largest metropolitan daily.

During the three decades of the present century each ten-year period has witnessed even more phenomenal gains in circulation. During that time the syndicates have enlarged the scope of their operations, added to the variety of their features and adapted their service readily to changing public tastes. The part which they have played in the swift increase in the number of papers and in the phenomenal increase in newspaper circulation is impossible to state exactly. But the conclusion is inescapable that they must have had a tremendously important part in both. The fact that fully 90 percent of all newspapers in the United States now use syndicate service in one form or another is the best evidence of the position the syndicates hold in American journalism today. Certainly they, with the class of reading material which they supply, have done more than any other element in journalism to make the modern American newspaper “the people’s library.”

Another effect of the syndicate on American journalism has been the so-called “standardization” of newspapers because their use of its material results in a certain similarity of appearance and content. With every force in American life during the last half century showing a trend away from the individual and toward the standardized, it is not so unusual that journalism should reflect this tendency in its own development.

But the syndicate has been only one of the agents of newspaper standardization. Press associations share with it the responsibility for duplication of reading matter in our daily and weekly journals. If a subscriber in Maine and another in Oregon see the same comic strip, the same health talk and the same installment of a serial story, they also read the same cable dispatches about the war clouds hovering over Europe, the same story about the latest legislation passed by the congress in Washington and the same details of the kidnaping or murder mystery currently attracting nationwide attention.

The widespread use of syndicated material has had both unfavorable and favorable effects upon American newspapers. In some cases it undoubtedly has weakened editorial initiative by encouraging the publisher to neglect adequate coverage of local news and local features. If the knowledge that he can fill up his columns with syndicated material and still issue a full-size newspaper leads him to do so, then syndicate service has been used as a harmful influence in diverting the newspaper from one of its important roles—that of being a faithful mirror of its community.

On the other hand, intelligent use of syndicate service—the blending of its material with that produced by the newspaper’s staff—makes for the type of well-rounded journal of news, information and entertainment which the modern American reader has come to believe his newspaper should be. The syndicate has enabled newspapers of every class to give their readers that “balanced ration” of mental food, and, through the cheap medium of the newspaper, has brought to the masses the stimulation of reading the words of outstanding leaders of thought in the world today. That fact, perhaps, has been the syndicate’s greatest contribution to American journalism.


Andreas, A. T.—”History of Chicago,” A. T. Andreas Company, Chicago, 1884-86.
Bleyer, Willard Grosvenor—”Main Currents in the History of American Journalism,” Houghton Mifflin Company Boston, 1927.
Bok, Edward W.—”The Americanization of Edward Bok.” Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1930.
Bowers, Claude G.—”The Tragic Era,” Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1929.
Cochran, N. D.—”E. W. Scripps,” Harcourt-Brace, New York.
Crockett, Walter Hill.—”Vermont-The Green Mountain State,” The Century Historical Company, Inc., New York, 1921.
Gardner, Gilson—”Lusty Scripps,” Vanguard Press, New York.
Kellogg, Ansel N.—”Kellogg’s Auxiliary Hand-Book.” A. N. Kellogg Company, Chicago, 1878.
McClure, S. S.—”My Autobiography,” Frederick A. Stokes Company, New York, 1914.
McRae, M. A.—”Forty Years in Newspaperdom,” Brentano, New York.
O’Brien, Frank C.—”The Story of The Sun,” D. Appleton and Company, New York, 1914.
Rosewater, Victor.—”History of Co-Operative News Gathering in the United States,” D. Appleton and Company, New York, 1928.
Rowel], George P.—”Forty Years an Advertising Agent,” Printers’ Ink Publishing Company, New York, 1906.
Young, John F.—”Journalism in California,” Chronicle Publishing Company, San Francisco, 1915.

Annual Directory of Features, Editor and Publisher, New York, 1935.
Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1928-1935.
Directory of Newspapers and Periodicals, N. W. Ayer and Son, Inc., Philadelphia, 1935.
Encyclopedia Americana, Americana Corporation, New York and Chicago, 1929.
International Year Book Number of Editor and Publisher, Editor and Publisher Company, New York, 1935.
National Cyclopedia of American Biography, James T. White and Company, New York, 1892.
Proceedings of the Vermont Historical Society for 1913-14, Vermont Historical Society, Montpelier, Vt.
Wisconsin Historical Collections, Wisconsin State Historical Society, Madison, Wis.


Dill, William A.—”Growth of Newspapers in the United States,” Department of Journalism, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, 1928.
Watson, Elmo Scott—”History of Auxiliary Newspaper Service in the United States,” Illini Publishing Company, Champaign, 111., 1923.
Bulletins and other printed matter issued by the various syndicates.


American Newspaper Reporter and Printer’s Gazette, New York, 1875.
American Press, New York, various dates.
Editor and Publisher, New York, various dates.
Fourth Estate, New York, various dates.
National Printer-Journalist, Milwaukee, Wis., and Springfield, Ill., various dates.
Newsdom, New York, various dates.
The Publishers’ Auxiliary, Chicago, Ill., various dates.


Adams, George Matthew, “George Matthew Adams Started Syndicate on a Shoestring,” Editor and Publisher, Julv 21, 1934.
Benet, Stephen Vincent, “The Story of the United Press,” Fortune, May, 1933.
Clark, Neil M., “Patterson Helps to Edit Twelve Thousand Newspapers,” American Magazine, October, 1927.
McClure, S. S., “And McClure Tells How He Did It,” Editor and Publisher, July 21, 1934.
McNitt, V. V., “Sam McClure Started Something,” Editor and Publisher, July 21, 1934.
Waldo, Richard H., “The Genius of S. S. McClure,” Editor and Publisher, July 21, 1934.
Wheeler, John N., “Selling Other Men’s Brains,” Saturday Evening Post, March 10, 1928.

Edson, J. M.—Unpublished “History of the A. N. Kellog Newspaper Company,” Chicago, 111., circa 1890.
Account books and manuscript records of the A. N. Kellogg Newspaper Company, the Chicago Newspaper Union, the Aikens Newspaper Union, the New York Newspaper Union, the Union Printing Company, the Vicksburg Newspaper Union, the Atlanta Newspaper Union and the Western Newspaper Union.


Beals, James H., former owner of the New York Newspaper Union.
Bacheller, Irving, former owner of the Bacheller-Johnson New York Press Syndicate.
Carr, M. L., assistant editor of Newspaper Enterprise Association.
Conley, E. P., former co-owner of Associated Editors.
Connolly, J. V., president of King Features Syndicate, Inc.
Elser, Maximilian, Jr., manager of the Metropolitan Newspaper Service.
Ferril, Will C, editor of the Colorado Herald, Denver.
Fish, H. H., president of the Western Newspaper Union.
Grant, John D., managing editor of the Western Newspaper Union.
Graves, Ralph H., manager, Doubleday-Doran Syndicate.
Hallock, W. W., Eastern advertising manager of the Western Newspaper Union.
Hicks, Wilson, executive editor of the Associated Press News Feature Service.
Howard, Edward P., editor of the American Press.
Kilgallen, James L., King Features. Syndicate, Inc.
Martin, Henry P., Jr., manager of the Des Moines Register and Tribune Syndicate.
McMillen, M. H., formerly with the Kansas Newspaper Union and now manager of the Chicago office of Western Newspaper Union.
McNitt, V. V., manager of the McNaught Syndicate, Inc.
Millar, John H., former co-owner of Associated Editors.
Miller, Howard E., president of the International Syndicate.
Miner, H. W., editor of the Ledger Syndicate.
Patterson, Wright A., editor-in-chief of the Western Newspaper Union.
Slosson, Edward E., director of Science Service, Inc.
Smith, Courtland, American Press Association.
Wheeler, John N., general manager of the North American Newspaper Alliance; president of the Bell Syndicate, Inc.; Associated Newspapers and Consolidated News Features.

In addition to those listed above, the author acknowledges his indebtedness to his wife, Julia Seldomridge Watson, for her untiring assistance in the preparation of this study; to Edward C. Johnston of Western Newspaper Union, New York, Josef F. Wright of the University of Illinois and Miss Ruth Morton of Milwaukee, Wis., for aid in getting some of the pictures reproduced in the book; to Frank Schock of Western Newspaper Union, Chicago, for the loan of the Edson manuscript and of the picture of his father, James J. Schock; to Mrs. Willet Spooner of Milwaukee, Wis., for the loan of a photograph of her great-uncle, Horace E. Rublee; to Lawrence W. Murphy of the University of Illinois and Charles A. Wright of Temple university for suggesting additional source material; and to many others who have rendered minor, but nonetheless appreciated, service in the preparation of this history.


A Directory of Newspaper Syndicates in the United States (compiled from the Ayer Newspaper Directory for 1936 and Editor and Publisher International Year Book Number for 1936.)

George Matthew Adams Service, 444 Madison Ave., New York.
American Features Syndicate, 1925 E. 17th St., Brooklyn, N. Y.
American Feature Writers Syndicate, 545 Fifth Ave., New York.
American Motion Picture Review Service, 472 Russ Bldg., San Francisco, Calif.
American News Features, Inc., 420 Lexington Ave., New York.
Associated Newspapers, 247 W. 43rd St., New York.
Associated Press Feature Service, 383 Madison Ave., New York.
Associated Publishers, Inc., Republic Bldg., Louisville, Ky.
Authenticated News Service, P. O. Box 326, Hollywood, Calif.
Banner Newspaper Service, 111 Westminster St., Providence, R. I.
Bell Syndicate, Inc., 247 W. 43rd St., New York.
Better Features, Box 173, Middletown, Ohio.
Bond-Barclay Syndicate, 3160 Kensington Ave., Philadelphia.
Brookings Institution, 722 Jackson PI., Washington, D. C.
Burba Service, Box 1046, Dayton, Ohio.
Business Feature Service, Room 1140 Merchandise Mart, Chicago.
Cambridge Associates, Inc., 174 Newbury St., Boston, Mass.
Central Press Association, Inc., 235 E. 45th St., New York; 1435 E. 12th St., Cleveland, Ohio.
Joe Mitchell Chappie, Inc., 952 Dorchester Ave., Boston, Mass.
Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate, Inc., News Building, New York; Tribune Tower, Chicago.
Cleveland Syndicate, 10609 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, Ohio.
Grady W. Coble, P. O. Box 203, Greensboro, N. C.
Consolidated Information Service, 280 Broadway, New York.
Consolidated News Features, 280 Broadway, New York.
Continental Feature Syndicate, P. O. Box 326, Hollywood, Calif.
Courier-Journal and Times Syndicate, Times Bldg., Louisville, Ky.
Curtis Features Syndicate, 45 W. 45th St., New York.
Devil Dog Syndicate, 33 Delmonico Pl., Brooklyn, N. Y.
Dench Business Features, Ho-Ho-Kus, N. J.
Distinctive Newspaper Features, P. O. Box 65, Hamilton, Ohio.
Donner’s Fashion Service, 200 W. 54th St., New York.
Doubleday-Doran Syndicate, Garden City, N. Y.
Duplex Newspaper Service Co., Inc., 41 West 45th St., New York.
Eagle Syndicate, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn, N. Y.
Editor’s Copy, Orangeburg, S. C.
Ellis Service, Swarthmore, Pa.
Escobar Feature Syndicate, 123 East Pico, Los Angeles, Calif.
European Picture Service, 353 Fifth Ave., New York.
Fact Feature Syndicate, 649 Macon St., Brooklyn, N. Y.
Famous Features Syndicate, 230 Park Ave., New York.
Fashion Coordinator, 247 Park Ave., New York.
Feature News Service (New York Times), 229 W. 43rd St., New York.
Fine Arts Syndicate, P. O. Box 852, Chicago.
Gallup Research Service, 30 N. La Salle, Chicago.
Gilliams Service, Inc., 225 W. 39th St., New York.
Gordon Feature Syndicate, 1015 Vine St., Cincinnati, Ohio.
Gruber Service, 4 E. 53rd St., New York.
Handy Filler Service, 401 Russ Bldg., San Francisco, Calif.
Fred Harman Features, 1509 North Vine St., Hollywood, Calif.
Harper Features, P. O. Box 1016 or 1615 Royal St., Dallas, Texas.
Haskin Service, Washington, D. C.
Henle Syndicate, 2017 W. Clinch St., Knoxville, Tenn.
Hollywood Press Syndicate, 6605 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, Calif.
Holmes Feature Service, 135 Garrison Ave., Jersey Citv, N. J.
Hosterman Syndicate, Inc., Springfield, Ohio.
Albert Crawford Hurst Features, 2114 Westgate Drive, Houston, Texas.
Independent Syndicate, Inc., Ouray Bldg., Washington, D. C.
Inter-American Newspaper Syndicate, 31-33 E. 27th St., New York.
Intercity News Service, Bond Bldg., Washington, D. C; 63 Park Row, New York.
International Feature Service, 235 E. 45th St., New York.
International Press Bureau, 330 S. Wells St., Chicago.
International Religious News Service, 1831 Sheldon Rd. E. , Cleveland, Ohio.
International Syndicate, 1615-1617 Guilford Ave., Baltimore, Md.
Johnson Feature Service, Exchange Bldg., Memphis, Tenn.; 185 Church St., New Haven, Conn.
Jordan Syndicate, 201 Albee Bldg., Washington, D. C.
Will Judy Press Syndicate, Judy Bldg., Chicago.
Junior Feature Syndicate, 505 Fifth Ave., New York.
Kay Features, Inc., 420 Lexington Ave., New York.
King Features Syndicate, Inc., 235 E. 45th St., New York.
Arthur J. Lafave, 2042 E. 4th St., Cleveland, Ohio.
David Lawrence Syndicate, 2201 M. St., N. W., Washington, D. C.
Ledger Syndicate, Independence Square, Philadelphia, Pa.
Los Angeles Times, Times Bldg., Los Angeles.
Magazine Feature Service, Room 1140, Merchandise Mart, Chicago.
Matz Unique Service, 523 Weiser, Reading, Pa.
Maywood Syndicate, Sidney Center, N. Y.
McClure Newspaper Syndicate, 345 Hudson St., New York.
McCoy Health Service, McCoy Bldg., Los Angeles, Calif.
McNaught Syndicate, Inc., 1475 Broadway, New York.
Metropolitan Newspaper Feature Service, 220 E. 42nd St., New York.
Midland Feature Service, 35 E. Wacker Drive, Chicago.
Modern Features Syndicate, 134 W. 31st St., New York.
L. J. Mordell Newspaper Features. 420 Lexington Ave., New York.
National Feature Service, 4035 New Hampshire Ave., Washington, D. C.
National News-Feature Syndicate, 51 E. 42nd St., New York.
National Newspaper Service 326 W. Madison St., Chicago.
National News Service, Inc., 3727 N. 17th St., Philadelphia, Pa.
NEA Service, Inc., 1200 W. 3rd St., Cleveland. Ohio; 461 Eighth Ave., New York.
N. E. Newspaper Service, 755 Boylston St., Boston, Mass.
Newspaper Features, Inc., 1530 Healey Bldg., Atlanta, Ga.
Newspaper Feature Service, 235 E. 45th St., New York.
Newspaper Information Service, Inc., 1322 New York Ave., Washington, D. C.
News-Week Syndicate Service, Rockefeller Center, New York.
New York Herald Tribune Syndicate, 230 West 41st St., New York.
New York Post Syndicate, 75 West St., New York.
Nick Nichols Syndicate, Times Bldg., Chicago.
North American Newspaper Alliance, Inc., 247 W. 43rd St., New York.
Nu-Way Features, 4545 Beacon St., Chicago.
O’Connor Features Service, 472 Russ Bldg., San Francisco, Calif.
Oil Features Syndicate, P. O. Box 1880, Houston, Texas.
Outdoor World Syndicate, North Chattanooga, Tenn.
Pan-Hellenic American Foreign Press Syndicate, 1228 Park Row Bldg., New York.
Penn Feature Syndicate, 2417 N. 15th St., Philadelphia, Pa.
Premier Syndicate, 235 E. 45th St., New York.
Progressive Features, 905 North Fifth St., Springfield, Ill.
Publishers Autocaster Service, 225 W. 39th St., New York.
Publishers Financial Bureau, Babson Park, Mass.
Publishers Syndicate, 30 N. La Salle St., Chicago.
Rayburn’s Odd-Way Service, Sulphur Springs, Texas.
Register & Tribune Syndicate, Des Moines, Iowa.
Albert T. Reid Syndicate, 103 Park Ave., New York.
Religious Copy Service, 2715 Overbrook Terrace, Ardmore, Pa.
Russell Service, Hartford, Conn.
Science Service, 21st and Constitution Ave., N. W., Washington, D. C.
Scriptural Research Bureau of Hollywood, 332 N. Orlando, Hollywood, Calif.
Seeba Feature Syndicate, 247 Park Ave., New York.
Service for Authors, Inc., 280 Broadway, New York.
Wm. Southern, Jr., Independence, Mo.
Standard Editorial Service, 440 Woodward Bldg., Washington, D. C.
Standard Press Association, 755 Boylston St., Boston.
Sterling Features Syndicate “Garden Gossip,” 136 16th St., Denver, Colo.
W. Orton Tewson Syndicate, 420 Riverside Drive, New York.
Thomasson’s Feature Service, Minneapolis, Minn.
Thompson Service, 818 Oak St., Cincinnati, Ohio.
Times Syndicate, Times Bldg., Los Angeles, Calif.
Tomkins Syndicate, Box 17, Point Loma, Calif.
Triangle Newspaper Syndicate,136 E. 64th St., New York.
Triton Syndicate, Inc., Capital National Bank Bldg., Hartford, Conn.
Ullman Feature Service, Woodward Bldg., Washington, D. C.
United Feature Syndicate, Inc., 220 East 42nd St., New York.
Universal Service, 235 E. 45th St., New York.
Christy Walsh Syndicate, 235 E. 45th St., New York.
Walters Feature Service, 320 E. 45th St., New York.
Washington Post News Service, Washington, D. C.
Watkins Syndicate, Inc., 705 Lewis Tower, Philadelphia.
W. E. Features Service, P. O. Box 326, Hollywood, Calif.
Western Newspaper LTnion, 210 S. Desplaines St., Chicago.
Woman’s Page Copy, Plymouth, Ind.
World Color Printing Co., 420 De Soto Ave., St. Louis, Mo.
World Feature Service, 220 East 42nd St., New York.
World-Wide News Service, Inc., 56 Bellevue St., Newton, Mass.
Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn.
Zain Features Syndicate, Inc., Chrysler Bldg., New York.
Zak Zook Syndicate, Liverpool, Pa.

History of Newspaper Syndicates by Elmo Scott Watson: Chapter 9


The News Syndicates

Although “newspaper syndicates” and “press association” (“news services” or “news agencies”) are commonly regarded as two very different types of journalistic enterprises, essentially their functions are the same. Both furnish a newspaper with reading matter which members of its staff are unable to supply. The newspaper syndicate provides feature material and the press association, news from outside the newspaper’s territory. Thus the press association is in fact a syndicate, selling state, national and international news.

As stated in Chapter 1, the first example of newspaper syndication in the United States was the distribution of a news story. That was President John Tyler’s annual message to congress, which Moses Yale Beach of the New York Sun sold in the form of a printed sheet to other newspapers in 1841. Moreover, the printed sheets supplied regularly by Atwood and Rublee of the Wisconsin State Journal, first to A. N. Kellogg of the Baraboo (Wis.) Republic in 1861 and later to other weeklies in the Badger state, contained news as well as “miscellany” (feature material). The same was true of the printed sheets sold by Cramer, Aikens and Cramer of the Milwaukee Evening Wisconsin. Very soon after the first independent syndicate was organized by Kellogg in Chicago its service included one column of news.

In 1873 the Chicago Newspaper Union began offering state news in its readyprint and from that time on the early syndicates supplying the country field included news matter in their services. In fact, the idea of a weekly “News Review,” an interpretative news feature now so popular in many metropolitan papers, originated in the service of one of these syndicates—the Western Newspaper Union, which started it in 1914.

In 1883 the Kellogg Newspaper company inaugurated the practice of supplying daily papers with a daily news service in plates, which, according to a Kellogg advertisement, “furnished a complete summary, morning and evening, of the day and night telegraphic news, thus enabling the country daily to compete successfully with metropolitan papers in giving the important news of the day well digested and comprehensively edited and prepared for such service.” Kellogg was able to do this, as was the American Press Association later, through a contract with the Associated Press to deliver copies of its daily report as received.

As both syndicates developed this feature of their service, their patrons often were able to print news from stereotype plates as soon, if not sooner, than member newspapers of the Associated Press who received the report by wire and had to set it in type. Objection to this practice by the member papers, because they were thus fostering competition with themselves, resulted in the Associated Press declining to renew this arrangement with both syndicates when their contracts expired. Thereafter the Kellogg company obtained a news service through the Chicago Inter-Ocean from the New York World and the American Press Association got its news reports from the New York Sun.

The Western Newspaper Union also maintained a daily plate service for a number of years and in 1913 supplemented this with a daily news picture mat service which continued until 1918. Suspended during the war, this was resumed in 1922 when a daily mat service of both pictures and reading matter was inaugurated and continued until 1924.

Thus it will be seen that the service of the feature syndicates overlapped that of the press associations and continues to do so, to some extent, even today. Similarly, as noted in previous chapters, the service of the press associations has overlapped that of the feature syndicates, a fact which has become especially noticeable during the last decade.

The history of press associations in their original role of news-gathering and news-distributing organizations began in New York about 1830 when the Association of Morning Newspapers was founded to maintain boats to meet incoming ships bringing European news. In 1849 the Harbor News Association (which Beach had helped establish the previous year) was reorganized and a little later the Telegraphic and General News Association was founded. In 1856 these two organizations were consolidated into the General News Association of the City of New York, which has been called the “Father of All Associated Presses.”

Out of this association grew the New York Associated Press, founded in 1857 as a cooperative organization of New York papers, who pooled their news-gathering and news-distribution efforts during the Civil War. Later the New York Associated Press began selling (or “syndicating”) its news reports to papers outside New York City and eventually a number of sectional news-gathering agencies, such as the New England Associated Press, the Southern Associated Press and the Western Associated Press, came into existence.

A rival national organization, the United Press, was established by the newspapers that were not affiliated with the New York Associated Press, but in 1892 it combined with the latter organization.1  Late in the same year the Associated Press was incorporated in Illinois, to succeed the Western Associated Press. Prominent in the new set-up were Victor F. Lawson, who in 1888 had bought the Chicago Daily News from his partner, Melville E. Stone.2  Through the influence of Lawson, Stone became general manager of the Associated Press in 1893 and this marked the beginning of the rise of the AP to its position of supremacy in the press association world.

One of the first things Stone did was to go to London to secure a contract with the Reuter Telegram Company, and through it, with the Havas Agency of Paris and the Wolff Agency of Berlin. The contract which the New York Associated Press had had with these agencies since 1865 expired on January 1, 1893. Stone’s coup in obtaining this valuable European connection was a death blow to the United Press, which went into the hands of a receiver in 1897. Furthermore, under Stone’s direction, the Associated Press in May, 1900, was incorporated under the Membership Corporation law in New York as a purely cooperative association that could declare no dividends and that shared the cost of operations among its members. By doing this it could limit its membership and serve only its members, despite the fact that the Illinois supreme court, in a test case, had ruled that the Associated Press was a common carrier and must furnish its news to any paper that was willing to pay for it. From that time on the Associated Press operated as a mutual news-gathering and news-distributing organization serving only its member papers who hold an AP franchise, in contrast to the other press associations who sell their news service to any newspaper.

In 1921 Stone retired as general manager of the Associated Press, although he remained as counsellor for it until his death in 1925. He was succeeded by Frederick Roy Martin, who in turn was succeeded by Kent Cooper in 1925. Under Cooper’s regime a feature service, an outgrowth of a mail and obituary service which had been in operation for some years, was established on January 1, 1927. At present approximately 1,100 of the 1,350 members of the Associated Press use one or more divisions of the feature service.

The service is classified in five divisions: 1. the basic proof sheets carrying text matter—-close-to-the-news stories, set features, special articles on sports, science, agriculture, fashions, food, aviation, religion, finance, radio, etc.; 2. the feature service mats, supplying mats of all illustrations on the proof sheets, in addition to crossword puzzles, radio programs, style, interior decoration and house plan features going only to feature mat subscribers. (There are separate services of proofsheets and feature mats for morning and evening papers) ; 3. the daily news photo mats, prepared in five regional strategic centers and sent daily from these matting centers to members; 4. the comics and daily news cartoon budget comprising a three-column cartoon, five comic strips and four comic panels; 5. the state mat services, which supplement the daily news photo mats with subjects of primary interest to their states, are prepared by the state bureaus and sent only to members in the states where the pictures originated.

The Associated Press’ latest expansion was Wirephoto, for the quick transmission of news pictures, which was inaugurated on January 1, 1935. It is now participated in by 55 member newspapers served with prints and by more than 500 through the news photo mat service. Altogether approximately 1,000 member newspapers participate in some manner in the picture service, which, like the feature service, is available only to newspapers which are members of the association.

During the time that Melville Stone was building up the Associated Press to its position of supremacy in the news field, a new competitor sprang up. This was the Scripps-McRae Press Association, organized in January, 1897, primarily to serve the newspapers in the Scripps-McRae League, although later it began selling its news to other papers.3  When the United Press went into receivership, the Publishers’ Press Association was organized in New York City. The Scripps-McRae Association and the Publishers’ Press entered into an arrangement by which the former covered the territory west of Pittsburgh and the latter east of that city.

In 1904 Scripps-McRae bought out the Publishers’ Press and three years later the two associations were reorganized by E. W. Scripps as the United Press Associations, now popularly known as the United Press. At first the United Press maintained a news service only for evening and Sunday papers but later the United News was established in connection with the UP to serve morning papers. Both sold news to any newspapers willing to buy it, whether or not competing papers in the same field were already using it or were members of the Associated Press.

In 1912 Roy W. Howard, who had been New York manager of the Publishers’ Press Association and later of the United Press Associations, became president and general manager of the United Press. Under his management the organization, especially during the war, gained rapidly in prestige and number of clients. It established bureaus in a number of European cities and soon grew into a world-wide organization.

From the beginning of the UP the importance of human interest had been stressed in its news and this was emphasized even more under Howard. “Interviews and features were to be played up in preference to mere routine. Signed articles, written by and from the angle of the men and women making the news, were introduced as a regular part of the day’s report . . . . The United Press was working in intimate cooperation with Scripps services supplying features to the same journals; it took the lead in graphic news-feature stories, in news photography, in special signed correspondence, in covering distinct fields such as sports or politics, by particular assignments by special writers.”4

These policies, inaugurated by Howard, were continued by William Waller Hawkins, who succeeded him in 1920, by Karl A. Bickel, who became president in 1923, and by Hugh Baillie, the present executive, who succeeded Bickel in 1934. Its service today includes an eight-hour daily leased wire news service, delivered by teletype; a “pony” service delivered by telephone; and the Red Letter, a daily mail service, which includes a full newspaper page of advance news, “canned cable,” sport gossip, Washington letter and Paris fashions.

The history of the third of the leading press associations, or news syndicates, the International News Service, has been given in a previous chapter in its relation to the Hearst syndicates. One other such organization which combined both the news and feature characteristics deserves mention. That was the Consolidated Press Association.

In 1919 David Lawrence resigned as correspondent for the New York Evening Post and began syndicating his telegraphic Washington correspondence under the name of David Lawrence, Inc. The next year he reorganized and enlarged the service and began operating under the name of the Consolidated Press Association.

His was a service for evening and Sunday morning papers only and was sold to not more than one paper in a town to be used to supplement or substitute for parts of the regular news report obtained from press associations. Later by a combination with the Chicago Daily News, the distribution of the latter’s extensive foreign correspondence, coming from 20 special correspondents abroad, was included in the service.

The value of these news stories lay largely in the prominence of the writers under whose by-lines they appeared and the announced object of the service was to “give the news behind the news,” to furnish “a national perspective to the day’s developments in sports, business, politics and economics” with interpretations by specialists in those fields. Subsequent additions included fashion news, radio activities and “big events” covered by specially-assigned staff men.

While headquarters remained at Washington, offices were established in New York, Chicago and San Francisco, all linked together by telegraph trunk lines which facilitated the speed of delivery to the papers purchasing the service. For papers not on the leased wire circuit, live news was relayed in the form of press messages and other matter, in which the element of time was not so important, was sent by mail from the nearest distributing center. This service continued until 1930, when it was absorbed by the North American Newspaper Alliance, another news feature organization (noted in a previous chapter) similar to the Associated Press in the mutual element of its operations.

In addition to these various co-operative press associations, represented today by the Associated Press and the North American Newspaper Alliance, and the news agencies or news services, represented by the United Press and the International News Service, various newspapers have “syndicated” their news to other papers. Among the first to do this were the New York World and the New York Sun, and later the Philadelphia Ledger. The list of those who do it now includes the New York Herald Tribune, New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Ledger, Baltimore Sun and Washington Post.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

1. This was the “old United Press,” referred to in Chapter 6, and should not be confused with the “new United Press” or United Press Associations, founded by E. W. Scripps in 1906 by consolidating the Scripps-McRae Association and the Publishers’ Press association.

2. Stone was born in Hudson, Ill., in 1848. His first newspaper experience was as a reporter on the Chicago Tribune in 1864 and from 1871 to 1874 he edited several Chicago dailies. With a partner he established the Chicago Daily News in 1875 and the next year bought out the partner and sold that interest to Victor F. Lawson. Stone served as general manager of the AF for more than a quarter of a century. He died in 1925.

3. This league, the first chain of newspapers, was founded in 1895. It was headed by E. W. Scripps, who retired in 1908. Roy W. Howard became general manager in 1920 and two years later the name was changed to the Scripps-Howard Newspapers. Scripps died in 1926 at the age of seventy-one.

4. Rosewater, “History of Co-operative News Gathering in the United States.”

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.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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.

History of Newspaper Syndicates by Elmo Scott Watson: Chapter 7


The Era of Consolidation 1890-1920

The opening of the last decade of the nineteenth century witnessed the concentration of the syndicate business, carried on through the two media of printed service and stereotype plates, into the hands of one dominant organization. The mat and copy services rapidly increased in number and almost as rapidly decreased through consolidations and mergers. It was an era of “big business” in every branch of American industry and syndicate service followed that trend.

In the same year that the Western Newspaper Union took over the plate business of the Standifords’ International Press Association in Chicago, thereby bringing it into active competition in this branch of syndicate service with the American Press Association and the Kellogg Newspaper Company, Joslyn, as trustee, bought the Western from its directors, giving them stock in the Western Newspaper Union of Illinois which was incorporated in that state on July 23, 1890. He was determined to make his syndicate supreme in the country newspaper field and set about energetically to accomplish that ambition.

In 1891 editorial headquarters were established in Chicago and placed in charge of E. C. Standiford, who was authorized by the board of directors to “get up all matter to be used in readyprint and plates, to employ editors and such other help as he may deem necessary for this purpose.” In the same year the Galveston office was closed but in 1892 a branch house was opened at Winfield, Kan.

In 1894 the Western re-entered the Texas field with a branch office at Houston and in the same year combined its Winfield branch with the Kansas Newspaper Union and moved the office to Wichita. In 1897 Joslyn’s company penetrated even farther into the Rocky Mountain territory with a branch office at Salt Lake City, Utah, and four years later opened a new office at Oklahoma City.

During all this time the Western’s expansion of its printed service business was being bitterly contested by the Chicago Newspaper Union, which had opened additional offices at Fort Wayne, Ind., and Sioux City, Iowa, but more particularly by the Kellogg company, which had established branches at Wichita, Kan., in 1890 and at Little Rock, Ark., in 1892. Moreover, the Kellogg list of papers was mounting steadily—from 1,760 in 1890 to 1,887 in 1895 and to 1,957 in 1900. Thereafter the number fluctuated up and down each year but never again reached the mark set at the opening of the new century.

In 1905 the Kellogg company put into effect a new business method of supplying printed service which had been worked out by Wright A. Patterson, editor-in-chief of the company.1  It was the acme of business efficiency and completely revolutionized some of the former haphazard methods of supply by the early syndicates. This “service plan,” when combined with a new “non-interference system” and modern transportation, allowed a rapidity of supply and an almost unlimited flexibility of make-up that justified the claim that the Kellogg company was “a composing room just across the street from the editor.”2

In January, 1906, Joslyn attained the first objective in his ambition to dominate the syndicate field when he purchased the Kellogg company and in June took over its plate business and its list of 1,827 papers supplied with printed service from the nine Kellogg offices.3  The acquisition of this company, however, was only the first step. In 1909 the Western Newspaper Union absorbed the Northwestern Newspaper Union at St. Paul, Minn., with its branch houses at Fargo, N. D., and Sioux Falls, S. D., and the Indiana Newspaper Union at Indianapolis.4 The St. Paul syndicate had been supplying 526 newspapers and the Indianapolis company, 65, so Joslyn’s company added nearly 600 more newspapers to its list of printed service customers.

In 1910 Joslyn purchased Beals’ New York Newspaper Union with its seven branches, supplying 1,021 newspapers, and in the same year Cramer, Aikens and Cramer’s Chicago Newspaper Union with its four offices and its list of 906 papers. Two smaller lists, one of 47 papers supplied by the York (Neb.) Newspaper Union, and another of 34 papers which received printed service from the Wisconsin State Journal at Madison, were also absorbed at this time.

Joslyn now had a virtual monopoly on the syndicate business supplied through the medium of printed service. In the space of four years he had bought out all of his principal competitors and added more than 4,000 newspapers to the Western Newspaper Union lists. The acquisition of the Kellogg company had also given him the largest plate supply department of any syndicate then operating. But there was still an important rival in that field—the American Press Association.

The conflict between the Western and the American Press started with a bitter price war in 1912 and this economic battle became a legal one, carried on in the federal courts. The final result was a petition by the American Press Association to the United States district court to sell out to its rival. The petition was granted. On September 15, 1917. Joslyn’s syndicate paid the American Press Association $500,000 for its plate, mat and photographic business and took over the American Press offices at Philadelphia, Buffalo. Columbus, San Francisco and Portland, Ore. Thereafter the American Press confined its activities to the advertising business.5

Joslyn, however, had not lived to see his triumph complete. He died in Omaha, Neb., October 4, 1916. At that time the Western Newspaper Union was capitalized for $6,500,000 and was operating on a nationwide scale—a far cry from the almost bankrupt State Printing company of 40 years before. The greatest factor in its growth had been the financial genius and aggressive leadership of the young New Englander w ho had started as the $18-a-week manager of its Omaha office back in 1880.

Joslyn was succeeded as president of the Western Newspaper Union by H. H. Fish, its present chief executive.6  After acquiring the plate business of the American Press Association, the Western also began building up its facilities for supplying service through the medium of mats and copy and today it is not only the largest newspaper syndicate in the world, in point of number of newspapers using its service, but it is also the only syndicate which supplies that service through four media of delivery—printed service, plates, mats and copy.

During the time Joslyn’s organization was rising to its position of supremacy in the printed service and plate field, other syndicates were springing up to compete in the mat and copy field. Some of these were independent ventures which started up and soon disappeared or consolidated with rivals to form new organizations. Others were subsidiaries of metropolitan newspapers which added to their prestige and financial standing by syndicating the work of their most popular writers and artists to other newspapers.

The year 1895 was especially significant in this era of syndicate history. It was about that time that Frank Carpenter started syndicating his series of travel letters to newspapers and became so successful that he soon had a number of imitators or would-be imitators. At that time, too, the New York Herald Syndicate entered the field. It began with a news bureau which T. O. Davidson found in operation when he joined the Herald staff and under his direction the news bureau branched out into the feature syndicate field, supplying first news pictures in mat form and later Sunday comic pages, daily comics, and a variety of general features syndicated in copy form. Among the Sunday pages were Winsor McCay’s “Little Nemo” and “Dream of a Rarebit Fiend.” When the New York Tribune purchased the Herald in 1924, it also took over this syndicate and merged it with its own which had been established in 1914.

The first of the Hearst syndicates was also started in 1895. In that year one of the editors of the Pittsburgh Press, observing the rapid rise of the circulation of the Hearst papers, wrote to the New York Journal to inquire if he could buy some of its features for his paper. The result was the organization of the Hearst syndicate with Curtis J. Mar as its general manager.

The features supplied by this syndicate included daily and Sunday magazine articles by “Dorothy Dix,” Garrett P. Serviss, “Beatrice Fairfax,” Max O’Rell and Ambrose Bierce; the well-known “Mr. Dooley” stories by Finley Peter Dunne; poems by Ella Wheeler Wilcox and a number of comic strips.

In 1906 Hearst organized his International News Service and three years later Richard A. Farrelly, as general manager, took over the distribution of the features mentioned above, thus discontinuing the name of the Hearst syndicate. In 1916 William H. Johnston succeeded Farrelly and at that time the Hearst feature organization became a producing concern. It took charge of all the work of the Hearst writers and began selling their product to Hearst papers in the same manner as it sold them to other publications.

In 1913 a Hearst executive, M. Koenigsberg, started a new company called the Newspaper Feature Service, launched the King Features Syndicate the next year and soon afterwards the Premier Syndicate. While these three were ostensibly separate organizations, it was generally known that all of them were Hearst subsidiaries. Then Koenigsberg succeeded Johnston as head of the Hearst feature enterprises, all of them being merged into one company with the Newspaper Feature Service and the Premier Syndicate acting as the producing agencies and King Features Syndicate as the sales agent.

About 1898 the New York World, in response to the requests of other newspapers, began syndicating some of its features, including the colored comics which had resulted in adding the term “yellow journalism” to the American vocabulary.7  But it was not until 1905 that the World syndicate, as a subsidiary to the Pulitzer paper, became a real business organization. It continued its operations until 1931 when the Scripps-Howard chain of newspapers purchased the World and merged this syndicate with the United Features Syndicate, an outgrowth of the “literary department” established by the United Press in 1891.

Many of the syndicates established during this era required that all papers seeking their features sign a contract for a specified time and in some cases a certain feature much in demand could only be secured by contracting for the whole service. A departure from this method was introduced in 1899 when Howard E. Miller and R. Maurice Miller founded the International Syndicate in Baltimore, Md., as an independent company. They announced a policy of “no contract,” and sold their features separately from the others, giving their customers the privilege of discontinuing the service at any time by merely giving notice.

Another innovation in syndicate practice was introduced in 1901 when Robert F. Paine, managing editor of the Cleveland Press, and William B. Colver, its former telegraph editor, started the Newspaper Enterprise Association and supplied features exclusively to newspapers in the Scripps-McRae (later Scripps-Howard) chain. They offered the first “budget service,” a variety of features selected with the idea of filling every feature need of the Scripps papers. Under the management of A. M. Hopkins, Marlen E. Pew (at present editor of Editor and Publisher) and Sam T. Hughes, the success of this idea became so pronounced that newspapers outside the chain sought the service and in 1909 NEA Service. Inc., was organized. It provided the large city daily with everything it required except local and telegraph news. It specialized in illustrated news features which barely missed being “spot news.” Perhaps the most distinctive factor of this syndicate’s operations was its “preparedness service,” for by constantly looking ahead of the day’s news, it provided its clients with suitable pictures and informative sidelight material for any “spot news” that might come over the wire.

Nine years after the two Cleveland editors started NEA service, another “budget plan” syndicate was begun there. This was the Central Press Association, founded by V. V. McNitt in August, 1910. McNitt had some assistance from Harry Talmadge and Nat Wright, lessees of the Cleveland Leader. However, the backing they provided was withdrawn the next year as McNitt gave them preferred stock on their loan but they still continued to supply him with mechanical facilities at cost.

McNitt’s service included news pictures and features, cartoons and other material that originated in the Cleveland Leader and the Cleveland News. In 1912 William Jennings Bryan was engaged to report the national conventions for McNitt and the sales from the “Great Commoner’s” dispatches to newspapers all over the country helped to put the syndicate on a firm basis. In the same year the Central Press bought the North American Press Syndicate, another budget service, from the Meyer-Both company of Chicago and added 180 papers to its list of clients.8

In 1907 George Matthew Adams, a young advertising man, talked the manager of a Chicago office building into allowing him to have an office for a month on credit. Then he got busy, wrote a series of articles on classified advertising which he sold to the Chicago Tribune and used the money to pay his rent and secure office furniture and a typewriter. Later he syndicated the articles to about a hundred newspapers and this marked the beginning of a successful new syndicate.

It was built mainly on two ideas. One was securing the services of well-known writers to cover big national events. In 1908 Adams sent William Allen White, famous editor of the Emporia (Kan.) Gazette, to cover the Democratic national convention in Denver, Colo., and he followed this up in 1910 by having Rex Beach, the novelist, cover the Jeffries-Johnson fight in Reno, Nev. The other was offering short features which proved popular with editors because of the small space they occupied. Among these were Walt Mason’s “Prose Poems,” George Fitch’s “Vest Pocket Essays,” Kin Hubbard’s “Abe Martin” and the women’s features of Ruth Cameron and Elsie Robinson.

In 1912 Victor Lawson, publisher of the Chicago Daily News, sent Adams to New York to organize a syndicate and the result was Associated Newspapers, a cooperative enterprise supported by the New York Globe, the Chicago Daily News, the Boston Globe and the Philadelphia Bulletin. Within a year Adams had started on their careers such well-known writers and artists as Thornton Burgess, Dr. Frank Crane, Edgar A. Guest, J. N. (“Ding”) Darling, H. T. Webster and “Believe It or Not” Ripley. After a year with Associated Newspapers, Adams returned to his own syndicate which he moved from Chicago to New York, where it has been conducted since that time.

In 1913 a new syndicate was organized by a man who was destined to become an outstanding figure in modern syndicate history. He was John N. Wheeler, who had been a reporter and baseball writer on the old New York Herald and had collaborated with Christy Mathewson, famous pitcher for the New York Giants, in writing a series of baseball stories released by the McClure Syndicate. Associated with Wheeler in the new enterprise were Guy T. Viskniskki and Ed McClure, both of whom had been with the McClure Syndicate.

Wheeler celebrated his advent in the syndicate business by luring H. C. (“Bud”) Fisher, the creator of “Mutt and Jeff,” away from the Hearst organization with an offer said to have been $50,000 a year, the largest salary ever paid for the services of a newspaper artist. This contract was guaranteed by the New York World, which thereby secured the comic strip for its daily and Sunday issues and also paid off an old score against Hearst for his raid on the World staff in 1895. The Wheeler syndicate specialized in sports, features and continued to distribute the articles by Christy Mathewson. But it also syndicated Fontaine Fox’s cartoons and sent Richard Harding Davis to Vera Cruz during the occupation of that port by General Funston and to Belgium as a war correspondent at the opening of the world war.

In 1916 Wheeler, because he did not have stock control, sold out his interest in the Wheeler Syndicate which was taken over a short time later by Clinton T. Brainard of the McClure Syndicate,9  who had become head of that organization in 1911. Soon after the close of the world war Brainard secured for it the rights to the memoirs of Gen. Eric von Ludendorff of the German army. He scored his greatest coup, however, in 1922 when he purchased the exclusive rights to publication of the memoirs of former Kaiser Wilhelm II. for which he paid $250,000, at the rate of approximately $3 a word. At about the same time Brainard also purchased the memoirs of former Premier Asquith of Great Britain.

Wheeler’s next enterprise was the Bell Syndicate, organized the same year he retired from his first venture, and when Fisher and Fox completed their contracts with the Wheeler Syndicate, they immediately signed up with the Bell Syndicate. In 1919 Ring Lardner, whose contract with the Chicago Tribune had expired, also joined Wheeler’s staff.10  Wheeler continued to operate the Bell Syndicate until 1930, except for an interval of two years, from 1924 to 1926, when he was executive editor of Liberty, the magazine established by the Chicago Tribune. However, with the consent of the publishers of Liberty, he continued his connection with the syndicate, although Henry M. Snevily was actively in charge of it.

In 1915 Cyrus H. K. Curtis, owner of the Philadelphia Public Ledger, began offering to other newspapers some of the feature material appearing in the Ledger as well as the work of writers for his three magazines, the Saturday Evening Post, the Ladies’ Home Journal and the Country Gentleman. When America entered the world war he also established a corps of special writers in most of the capitals of Europe. As the scope of the Ledger Syndicate increased a leased wire service was instituted to supply spot European news during the latter days of the war and the several years of peace efforts and League of Nations controversies.

Comics, sports, woman’s page features, Sunday magazine pages, editorial page and other features were also added and today the Ledger Syndicate is one of the best-known in the metropolitan field. Its “leader” is Dorothy Dix’s daily column which goes into nearly 300 newspapers and is translated into ten foreign languages. In the art field the Ledger’s outstanding features are “Vignettes of Life,” by J. Norman Lynd and “Hairbreadth Harry,” one of the oldest comic strips in point of continuous existence.

In 1918, Capt. J. M. Patterson of the Chicago Tribune (which had been selling its features to other papers since 1910) organized a syndicate subsidiary and placed Arthur Crawford in charge. Later Captain Patterson went to New York to head the Tribune‘s sister paper, the New York Daily News, and operated the syndicate from New York, changing the name to the Chicago TribuneDaily News Syndicate, Inc.

In 1919, two young men, John H. Millar and Eugene P. Conley, started a syndicate in Chicago with very little money but a new idea. Heretofore newspapers had been publishing features for children but the majority of these were for very small children. Calling their service Associated Editors, its founders established a “Boys’ and Girls’ Newspaper,” aimed at the “teen” age. This proved a successful venture and although they added other features, notably Robert Quillen’s paragraphs, the “Boys’ and Girls’ Newspaper” remained a best seller until their partnership was dissolved. Millar became the owner of a chain of country newspapers, operated under the name of the Home News Publishing company, and Conley later joined with H. H. Anderson in operating the present Publishers’ Syndicate in Chicago.

By the end of the second decade the syndicate was a well-organized business institution and an integral part of American journalism both in the country and the big city field. Hereafter its main problem would be to satisfy the widening interests of a newspaper reading public undergoing post-war adjustments.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


1. The son of a minister in Missouri, where he was born In 1870, Patterson had his first newspaper experience on country weeklies in Iowa, worked on dailies at Fort Madison and Keokuk from 1887 to 1890 when he joined the editorial staff of the Kellogg Newspaper Company. When the Western Newspaper Union took over the Kellogg company he became editor-in-chief of the combined service, a position which he has held for 29 years.

2. The service plan provided for individual service to each paper, the features and departments to be selected by its editor with the assurance that he would have exclusive use of the material in his circulating- territory. The various features were so segregated that any desired combination could be put together in pages of any standard newspaper size in a few minutes’ time. The system, although intricate in detail, was simple in operation and made it possible for each editor to control the contents of the printed service in his paper to as great an extent as he could the sections printed in his own office. Under the ”non-interference system” the matter of circulating territories was carefully worked out for every city and town in the United States in which a newspaper is published. The various features used by papers in each territory were so recorded as to make the problem of finding the material that was open in the field of any newspaper a matter of only a few seconds. Any material that was sold to a newspaper through the medium of printed service would not be sold to any other newspaper circulating in the same territory.

3. The Kellogg branches and the number of papers served were as follows: Chicago, 293; St. Louis, 296; Cleveland, 141; Kansas City, 231; Cincinnati, 145; Memphis, 279; Minneapolis, 270; Wichita, 66; and Little Rock, 96.

4. The Northwestern Newspaper Union had been organized about 1880 by H. P. Hall of the St. Paul Globe who sold it to A. E. Bunker. Bunker later sold it to Frederick Driscoll, manager of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press, who early in the 90s turned the business over to that newspaper. Its Fargo branch had been placed at Bismarck, N. D., by C. T. Bowsfield in 1890 and was purchased by the Northwestern in June 1891, when it was moved to Fargo. The Sioux Falls office had originally been located in Aberdeen, S. D. The Indiana Newspaper Union had been founded by W. D. Pratt in 1881.

5. A short time later John H. Perry, president of the American Press Association, organized the Publishers’ Autocaster Service, a syndicate supplying a mat service of news features, editorials, cartoons, comic strips and local advertising layouts with a casting box for the publisher to make his own stereotype plates. At one time the Autocaster syndicate was supplying some 1,500 daily and weekly papers with its service.

6. Fish was born in New York in 1870. During his school days at Neenah, Wis., he published an amateur newspaper, “Wisconsin Boys,” and later served as a carrier boy and apprentice on the Neenah Weekly Gazette. As a student at Lake Forest academy he installed a job printing press and printed the Lake Forest university student paper, the Stentor. In 1887-88 he operated a job printing plant in Neenah, Wis., became manager of the Lincoln office of the Western Newspaper Union in 1893, a stockholder and director of the company in 1897, auditor in 1899, secretary in 1904, vice president and general manager in 1916 and president in 1918.

7. In 1893 the New York World was the first American newspaper to add a colored supplement to its Sunday edition, including some comic pictures by R. F. Outcault (later the creator of “Buster Brown”), picturing: child life in “Hogan’s Alley.” In experimenting with color effects, it was decided to print the dress of the leading character in bright yellow. When Hearst made his raid on the World staff in 1895 and took over Outcault and his creation, “The Kid of Hogan’s Alley,” the World engaged George B. Luks, later a noted painter, to continue the “Yellow Kid” in its Sunday edition. Advertisements of the rival “Yellow Kids” in the World and the Journal plastered every billboard in New York. This war of the comic strips, together with the sensationalism of both papers, led the editor of another New York newspaper to coin the term “yellow journalism,” which survives to this day. [the World was not the first American newspaper to add a color supplement — it was the third, after the Chicago Inter-Ocean and the New York Recorder. Also, the reason the kid was colored yellow being an experimental spot for printing ink is generally now considered to be a tall tale, probably first told by Moses Koenigsberg — Allan]

8. The Meyer Both company was organized in Chicago in 1900 by two young artists, Oscar Meyer and William C. Both, to syndicate drawings for advertisements of men’s clothing. By 1903 their business had become so successful that a matrix department was installed to furnish mats instead of cuts to subscribers to their service which had been expanded to include all lines of display advertising. It is now the largest newspaper advertising syndicate service in the world.

9. Brainard was a Coloradoan, born in Denver in 1865. He worked as a reporter on newspapers in Denver, St. Louis and Chicago, then went to Harvard, from which he was graduated in 1900. For the next five years he practiced law in Omaha, Neb., and in Creede and Cripple Creek, Colo. Going to New York he worked on the staff of the World and other papers. He turned next to advertising and entered the publishing business by founding his own firm, the C. T. Brainard company. He joined Pearson’s Publishing company in 1909 and two years later went to the McClure Syndicate of which he was president and treasurer until his death in 1935.

10. Lardner came on to New York but no specific terms were discussed and the ex-Tribune humorist returned to Chicago. Soon afterwards Wheeler heard that a competitor was bidding for Gardner’s services and sent him a wire saying he would be glad to come to Chicago to close the contract. Whereupon he received this characteristic reply from Lardner: “If you knew anything about contracts you would realize that we have one made in the presence of six witnesses in the Waldorf bar, three of whom were sober.” This was the only contract that Lardner ever had with the Bell Syndicate. He continued to write weekly articles for ten or twelve years in addition to covering world’s series baseball games, international yacht races, national conventions and other outstanding events.

3 comments on “History of Newspaper Syndicates by Elmo Scott Watson: Chapter 7

  1. excellent!
    A single sentence there constitutes the only information I've been able to read on the origin of the Publisher's Syndicate, for which, correct me if I'm wrong, Allen Saunders managed the comics department. It's usually only mentioned in passing under the Hall syndicate, with which it was later merged. (Pogo, Feiffer etc…)

  2. Whoa! Syndicates are coming fast and furious now!
    Appreciate the editorial correction; always interesting to see how early historical mistakes are made.
    Hey – how 'bout following this up with a post of your old Hogan's Alley Comic Strip Barons "cards".

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History of Newspaper Syndicates by Elmo Scott Watson: Chapter 6


The Syndicate Enters the Metropolitan Field 1884-1900

The syndicate idea had originated in the country field but within the next two decades it was destined to spread into the field of the small city and metropolitan dailies. When it did that it added two media of service, mats and copy, extended the use of syndicated material to newspapers in every part of the country and brought into existence the “Sunday magazine” or “Sunday supplement.”

In 1883 Joseph Hatton, the English novelist, came to this country with the famous actor, Sir Henry Irving, to write the latter’s impressions of America—one of the earliest, if not the earliest, example of “ghost writing” in the history of American journalism. Thereupon Irving Bacheller, a young newspaper man, made a proposal to a number of metropolitan newspapers that they purchase one of Hatton’s novels for simultaneous publication as a serial story.1 The novel was not sufficiently attractive, however, for Bacheller to carry out his scheme.

After Hatton returned to England he wrote a series of interviews with John Ruskin, Miss Braddon and other distinguished English writers, and early in 1884 Bacheller was successful in selling these to the Boston Herald, the Chicago News, the Washington Post and several other metropolitan papers. Encouraged by his success, Bacheller added other features to his service, which he supplied to newspapers in proof sheets or copy form, and began syndicating a New York letter by Amos Cummings and a Washington letter by W. A. Croffot for weekly publication.

A short time later he took James W. Johnson in as a partner and the operations of the New York Press Syndicate, as they called their enterprise, grew to important proportions in the metropolitan field. Moreover, it expanded into the country field under the terms of an arrangement with the Kellogg Company whereby the latter was able to offer to its patrons the work of the Bacheller-Johnson writers for simultaneous publication with the big city dailies.2

By 1892, Bacheller’s syndicate was offering to metropolitan papers each week an amount of material equal in volume to one issue of the Century magazine and the features compared favorably in quality with the reading matter in that periodical. They included short stories by such writers as A. Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling, Stephen Crane,3 Stanley Weyman and Mary E. Wilkins, and special articles by such notables as Sir Edwin Arnold and ex-President Benjamin Harrison. During the 15 years that Bacheller’s syndicate was in operation he was, as he phrased it, “on the payroll of every great American newspaper except the Baltimore Sun and the Philadelphia Public Ledger.”4

In the same year that Bacheller got his start, the New York Sun again entered the syndicate field. This time it was under the leadership of its famous editor, Charles A. Dana, who began selling stories by Bret Harte and Henry James, which he had bought for the Sun, to papers in other cities. His syndicating operations, however, were rather limited in their scope and never became so important as those of another man who, like Kellogg and Bacheller, “started on a shoe-string.”

In 1884 a young Irishman named Samuel Sidney McClure, then working for the Century Company in New York City, suggested to his employers that they syndicate stories from St. Nicholas and the Century to country newspapers.5 Realizing, no doubt, that an invasion of this field meant bucking stiff competition with the already-established syndicates, they turned down his idea. When he persisted, they suggested that he go into the business himself if he was so certain he could make a success of it.

Despite the fact that McClure had scarcely enough money ahead to buy more than a week’s supply of food for himself and his young wife, he resigned from the Century Company and set up his syndicate office in the cramped living quarters of a tiny East Side apartment. Unable to afford printed stationery or announcements, McClure secured a supply of trimmed bulk paper and wrote enthusiastic letters in longhand explaining his scheme to authors and editors. The authors warmly approved the idea, but the editors were noticeably cool toward it. Undiscouraged by their attitude, however, he launched his syndicate on November 16, 1884.

McClure could have bought a story by any of the best writers of the time for $150 but instead he paid (or promised to pay) $250 to H. H. Boyesen for a two-part story. His returns were meager, the total coming to $50 less than its cost, despite the fact that some metropolitan papers paid him as much as $20 each for the right to run the yarn. But the young couple determined to go on with their venture. Mrs. McClure translated French and German stories into English when they could not afford to buy the work of American writers. They gave their material free of charge to one newspaper which set the copy for its own use and supplied them with galley proofs to mail to their other patrons, thus obviating the necessity for writing them out in long-hand or paying a job printer to set up the material and furnish proofs.

Despite every effort and every sacrifice to make their syndicate a going concern, the early part of 1885 found them owing $1,500 to authors and newspapers owing them $1,000. But just at this critical time Harriet Prescott Spofford sent McClure a story with a note saying that she had meant it to be a New Year’s present and hoped that it wouldn’t be too late. It was a life-saver, for the proceeds of $275 from its sale to newspapers proved to be the turning point in the career of the young syndicate. Soon afterwards John S. Phillips, a classmate of McClure’s at Knox College, joined forces with him and began to put some sorely needed system into the business management of the enterprise.6 From that time on it flourished.

At first the material offered by McClure amounted to about 5,000 words a week. Within a year he had increased that to 30,000 words, including cooking recipes which McClure wrote himself under the name of “Patience Winthrop.” Among his first authors were Frank R. Stockton, Julian Hawthorne. H. C. Bunner and Henry Harland, who became well-known about that time as the writer of a novel published under the name of “Sidney Luska.” Harland held a job in downtown New York in the daytime and did his writing at night, producing thus a novel, “The Yoke of the Thorah,” which McClure syndicated as a serial.

At the end of McClure’s second year in the business he was offering the work of Octave Thanet, Mrs. Burton Harrison, Sarah Orne Jewett, Brander Matthews, Joel Chandler Harris, Charles Egbert Craddock and Margaret Deland. By 1892 the “S. S. McClure Newspaper Features,” syndicated to a large number of newspapers, included new novels by such literary celebrities as Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, William Dean Howells and Bret Harte; new short stories by Rudyard Kipling, A. Conan Doyle, and Mary E. Wilkins; special articles by Henry Cabot Lodge and Theodore Roosevelt; a woman’s page and a youth’s page. The following year, when McClure’s Magazine was founded, management of the syndicate was left largely to a brother, Robert McClure, and its founder devoted more and more time to making his magazine one of the most popular and widely circulated in the history of American periodicals.
[image 3]

The next syndicate in the metropolitan field was founded in 1886 by Edward W. Bok.7 He offered a weekly article on current events written by Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, for which he paid the famous minister $250. His success with this feature led to the organization of the Bok Syndicate Press, conducted by Bok and his brother.

Bok had seen that the American woman of that period was an indifferent newspaper reader and decided that the absence of any material of special interest to her was the reason why. Accordingly he secured the right to syndicate “Bab’s Babble.” A chatty, gossipy news letter published in the New York Star. This feature was instantly successful and appeared in some 90 newspapers throughout the country. He next engaged Ella Wheeler Wilcox, the poet, to furnish a weekly women’s letter and he also secured contributions from famous women writers and from men who were able to write on subjects of interest to feminine readers.

Included in his service was a feature of his own, “Bok’s Literary Leaves,” which at one time was appearing regularly in 45 big city newspapers and which he continued even after he became editor of the Ladies’ Home Journal in 1889 and made that magazine pre-eminent in its field. The principal contribution of the Bok Syndicate during its career was to aid in the development of a woman’s department or page in the newspapers and to foster its growing importance in American journalism.

In the same year that Bok retired from the direction of his syndicate, Tillotson and Son, the pioneer syndicate in England, established a New York office and began offering American newspapers short stories, serials, a London letter, a woman’s letter and a children’s letter. Two years later the United Press, a news service, added a “literary department” to its news service. This supplied weekly to papers 10,000 words of “the highest class of Sunday miscellany,” including short stories, serials, fashion articles for men and women and special articles.

Primarily, the material supplied by Bacheller-Johnson, McClure, Bok, Tillotson and the United Press was designed for the Sunday editions of the dailies. This was the heyday of the “Sunday supplement” and one journalistic historian has pointed out how profoundly it affected the reading habits of the American people during this period.8 He says:

This is a country in which libraries, large and small, abound and there are probably more collections of books in private ownership not dignified by the title of library. . . . Nevertheless and notwithstanding the fact that the output of “best sellers” is enormous, and that the sale of standard works is on a scale which makes the demand for such publications by other people seem small, it is true that the chief mental pabulum of the American people is the contents of their newspapers. And it may be urged, in response to the adverse criticism this sometimes calls forth, that the best products of modern literature sooner or later, in some form or other, find their way into the Sunday magazine which is at once an anthology, a repository of knowledge, a compendium of history and often history itself. It is the fashion to speak lightly of the Sunday magazine because it is not wholly made up of contributions which a fastidious literary taste could approve and it is said that a cultivated person can find in its columns only a small proportion of matter really worthwhile, but if that is a defect, it is one it shares in common with the greatest library whose shelves harbor a hundred books that are never read to one that is.

The popular judgment concerning the value of the Sunday magazine has long since received the endorsement of the most gifted in the ranks of authorship. There is no writer of consequence today unappreciative of the opportunity it affords to get his works before the people, or who disdains the rewards it offers. It has lifted the man of letters out of the slough of despond and given him a chance in the struggle for existence. It has eliminated Grub Street, and has enabled genius to market its wares at a figure somewhat commensurate with their real value. The author of merit no longer burns the midnight oil in a garret; oftener than otherwise he revels in the blaze of electricity and lives in marble halls, because he is able to reach a world of readers through the Sunday magazine. That he can do so is due in large part to the development of the syndicate.

The success of the Sunday magazine soon led to the use of fiction, special articles and departmental material in the weekday editions of the dailies, for the publishers found that these features were a factor in increasing the circulation of their papers. Their readers enjoyed the entertaining information furnished by this syndicated material and it played a leading role in starting the American public on its way to becoming “the greatest newspaper-reading nation in the world.”

The first quarter century of syndicate history found the idea firmly established as a vital factor in American journalism. Like any other new and successful business it had called into existence a host of “mushroom” enterprises. The next period was to see the elimination of some of them or their merger with the more substantial organizations.

*** Footnotes ***
1. Irving Bacheller was born in Pierpont, N. Y., in 1859. After graduation from St. Lawrence University in 1882 he became a newspaperman in New York City. He continued in that work for many years and from 1898 to 1900 was one of the editors of the New York World. One of the most prolific of American writers, he is the author of 26 books published during the period 1890 to 1933.

2. For a list of these writers see the broadside illustrated in this section. Moses P. Handy (not Hanly) was once on the staff of the New York Tribune. He, with Noah Brooks, W. C. Wyckoff and Isaac Bromley, composed the verses of a famous jingle, the refrain of which (“Punch, brothers, punch with care, punch in the presence of the passenjare”) and its various parodies enjoyed country-wide popularity. Will C. Ferril, perhaps the last surviving member of this corps of writers, is now (1935) editor of the Colorado Herald in Denver. One of the articles which he wrote for Bacheller, a Thanksgiving piece which appeared under the title of “No Grandmothers There” or “A Land Without Grandmothers,” has attained the dignity of a “Newspaper Classic.” Ellen Osborne and Eliza P. Heaton were the same person writing women’s features under the two names. She was the wife of John L. Heaton, associate editor of the New York World.

3. One of Crane’s stories which was syndicated by Bacheller and Kellogg was his famous “Red Badge of Courage.” Wright A. Patterson, now editor in chief of Western Newspaper Union but at that time a member of the Kellogg editorial staff recalls that the job of editing the manuscript of this story and preparing it for publication was assigned to him. It consisted of 40,000 words written with a lead pencil on both sides of the paper, without a single capital letter or punctuation mark and without any paragraphing from the start of the story to the finish.

4. These included among others the Boston Herald, Brooklyn Times, New York Mail and Express, Philadelphia Press, Chicago Herald, Savannah News, Louisville Courier-Journal, New Orleans Times-Picayune, Dallas News, Galveston News, St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Kansas City Journal, Denver Republican, Salt Lake Tribune, San Francisco Call, Helena Independent, and Portland Oregonian.

5. McClure was born in County Antrim, Ireland, in 1857. He was graduated from Knox College in 1882 and the next year married Harriet Hurd, the daughter of one of the professors at Knox. His first employment in New York City was on the Wheelman, a magazine for bicyclists published by the Pope Manufacturing Company. Next he held a job with the De Vinne Press, going from that organization to the Century Company.

6. Phillips, a native of Iowa, where he was born in 1861, was associated with McClure as manager and treasurer of the McClure’s Magazine from its start in 1893 until 1906 when he became president of the Phillips Publishing Company. He was editor of the American Magazine from 1906 to 1915 and since 1910 has been a director in the Crowell Publishing Company.

7. Edward William Bok was born In Helder, Netherlands, in 1863. He became editor of the Brooklyn Magazine in 1882, editor of the Beecher Memorial in 1887 and was editor in chief of the Ladies’ Home Journal from 1889 to 1891, serving as vice president of the Curtis Publishing Company after 1891 to the time of his death in 1930.

8. “Journalism in California”—John P. Young.

2 comments on “History of Newspaper Syndicates by Elmo Scott Watson: Chapter 6

  1. "…it is true that the chief mental pabulum of the American people is the contents of their newspapers."
    Geez, a hundred years later that statement no longer applies, and hasn't for a while.

    Liked how McClure endured early strife to eventually succeed.
    Though according to a McClure biography he didn't maintain his riches. A 1963 review of Success Story: The Life and Tmes of S. S. McClure

  2. Hi DD —
    McClure's is an interesting story. I've read both his biographies, and there's exactly ONE SENTENCE between the two of them regarding his syndication of comics sections, but never mind. Interesting Reads. In addition to Success Story, I'd recommend My Autobiography, a hagiography ghost-written by Willa Cather. In either one you learn that McClure was one of those "believe in yourself and you will grow rich" fellows. He made a tremendous success almost in spite of his bold and often frankly dumb business moves, but in the end his lack of business smarts was his downfall, and boy did he fall. I enjoy both the Horatio Alger-esque aspect and even the comeuppance for a man who just kept rolling the dice in a game that he didn't even seem to fully comprehend. — Allan

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