• U.S.

The Press: Great Mystery

6 minute read

One Sunday morning late in January, six men bent upon a secret errand slipped into the empty, silent offices of Cosmopolitan Magazine in Manhattan. Doors were locked, keys turned. Thus barricaded against intrusion, Editor Ray Long of Cosmopolitan sat down with five excited assistants to examine the “dummy” of their April number. The first thing they did was tear out the leading article. It was to be replaced by another article, a mystery article that commanded precedence. Plans were cunningly laid, and when Editor Ray Long entrained for California that night he felt that the secret was left behind him in safe hands.

In the plant of the Cuneo Press, where Cosmopolitan is printed, numerous compositors set portions of an article that were “meaningless fragments” to them. Only Printer Cuneo and his chief assistant had been added to the circle of those who knew the truth. Under the lynx-eyes of private detectives the fragments were assembled and plates made. During the two weeks required to run off 1,850,000 copies of the magazine.* the detectives stood at their posts; at night the precious plates rested securely in a safe. Late one afternoon, five men with sawed-off shotguns robbed the Cuneo plant of $8,000, but not the “mystery” plates. Then came the most perilous operation: 1,850,000 copies of Cosmopolitan had to be distributed throughout the land to wholesalers and retailers without the nature of its leading article being made public. All leeway time allowance for distribution was eliminated. Shipment was made by express instead of freight at additional cost of $12,000. Wholesalers were admitted to the secret and enjoined to secrecy at the moment of shipment. Not until three days before the Cosmopolitan reached newsstands was the truth let out. Then, because other magazines were beginning to get publicity by boasting of similar features to come, Editor Long announced that the leading article of the April Cosmopolitan was “On Entering and Leaving the Presidency,” by Calvin Coolidge. Thus were the Coolidge record for silence, and the Coolidge respect for the dignity of office, kept unblemished. Thus did Editor Long cash the publicity of his surprise at practically face value. Contrary to early reports, the first instalment of the Coolidge article was not written on a train between Washington and the Bok bird sanctuary in Florida which the President pilgrimaged to dedicate (TIME, Feb. 11). The train saw the birth of instalments three and four. The first instalments were written earlier, in Washington. When Editor Long received the manuscript from the hands of President Coolidge at the White House and went into the Cabinet room to read it, he was clutching at something for which he had asked and begged and bid ever since Calvin Coolidge said “I do not choose. . . .”

Short, stocky, chesty Editor Long, radiating success and brisk efficiency, had reason to be pleased; and more, perhaps, than Mr. Coolidge realized. Had not the President said to persistent Editor Long: “Yes, when you pay 35 cents for a magazine, that magazine takes on in your eyes the nature of a book and you treat it accordingly.”? Editor Long reproduced this incomparable “blurb” in full page newspaper advertisements.

The Air Press

In December, the Federal Radio Commission set aside 20 transoceanic and 20 inter-continental wavelengths in the short-wave spectrum for the use of the U. S. Press. Soon, newspapers and press associations found themselves in disagreement over what waves should be whose. Hearings were held before the Federal Radio Commission in Washington, D. C., during the last fortnight. The Hearst representative charged that the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle had combined forces to snatch an unwarranted share of the wavelengths. The New York Times representative replied, among other things: “The Times, for reasons of its own, does not care to take Hearst news from Chicago.” Another complication was the position of the giant Associated Press, a non-profit-seeking organization serving some 1,200 newspapers.

Finally, last week, partly through the good offices of Karl August Bickel, president of the United Press, an agreement was reached. The Federal Radio Commission was asked to allocate the 40 wavelengths as follows:

Two transoceanic and five intercontinental wavelengths each to the Associated Press, United Press (jointly with Scripps-Howard newspapers), International News Service (jointly with Hearst papers).

One transoceanic and two intercontinental wavelengths to the Consolidated Press.

The other wavelengths were to be divided among the Chicago Tribune, New York Times, New York Herald Tribune, New York World, Christian Science Monitor, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Daily News, San Francisco Chronicle, and American News Traffic Corp.

But this whole arrangement was blown into the air when the Radio Commissioners decided that the Associated Press, from the nature of its membership, could not be regarded as a “public utility” and was therefore ineligible to use the public ether.

Further confusion resulted when the Radio Commission was attacked on the ground that, with only three (out of five) members now in office, it could not legally take, any action at all. The commission’s attacker was the newly formed National Radio Press Association, Inc. (TIME, March 4), which plans to gather news items throughout the U. S., write them, and sell them to radio broadcasting stations. The N. R. P. A. had asked the Commission for 20 wavelengths but in the confabulations of the rest of the U. S. press it had been wholly ignored.

Charks A. Sloan, president of the N. R. P. A., announced last week what was suspected last fortnight, that all of its capital stock is owned by Herbert Bayard Swope, retired-executive brain of the New York World, and “a group of wealthy and influential associates.”


Standard Oil Co. of New York, Ward Baking Corp., Reid Ice Cream Co., R. Fischman & Sons (soda fountains), Trommer Breweries, Drake Bakeries Co. and Adolf Gobel, maker of skinless hot dogs, are some of the backers of a magazine now called The Wayside Stand, a monthly carrying news for wayside pop and hot-dog vendors. Not the least part of this magazine’s program is to make the hot-dog stand contribute beauty to the countryside.

A magazine with that object seems worthy of a better name than The Wayside Stand so last week, with the collaboration of Manhattan’s Art Centre and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller Jr., a $50 prize was announced for a name in five words or less to be submitted by April 15, in time for the spring trade.

Suggestions received: Kennel News, Mustard Monthly, Horn & Hound, Filling & Feeding.

*The Cosmopolitan’s normal circulation per month is 1,620,222.

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