As I said in several other pages this year, February is Knapp month around here and to wind it up is a new item I found to be quite "Timely"
To kickoff the start of his syndicated Sunday newsmagazine "This Week", "Old Joe" Knapp came out of his hideout, dusted off an Arnold Genthe portrait he sat for in 1928 and allowed the news media a peek at the real power that was going to launch this publication that would go up against Hearst's "American Weekly" and set the standards for decades.
This was not Knapp's first attempt at this idea . In 1903 he launched Associated Sunday Magazine which was the first ever of these type of newspaper inserts thatseem to get lost today in the barrage of circulars that are inserted by the metric ton, in every Sunday paper everywhere. It makes them weigh in like a Websters College Dictionary and impossible for the local paper carrier to deliver them on a bike. Associated Sunday Mag may of been ahead of it's time and disappeared around 1905. In 1915 Knapp launched Every Week, which sold for 3 cents and was basicaly a thinned version of his Collier's Weekly. It was sold on newstands at 3 cents a copy and by subscription of 1.00 a year, but fell victim to the paper shortage caused by WW1.
Time Magazine Feb 25, 1935
East of the Rockies live 26,000,000 families. To one in every six of those households this week (Feb. 24) goes a new Sunday newspaper magazine section called This Week. Twenty-one newspapers, ranged alphabetically from the Atlanta Journal to the Washington Star, geographically from the Boston Herald to the Dallas News, will carry the new supplement in place of their old home-made magazine sections.
For excellent reason no Hearstpaper is in the group. Hearstpapers have their own uniform magazine section, prosperous & preposterous American Weekly. This Week is the first serious effort to compete with American Weekly for national advertising in color. Against Mr. Hearst's 6,000,000 Sunday readers, This Week claims slightly more than 4,000,000. Advertising rate: $11,200 a color page (tabloid size).
On the circulation front there will be less competition. Lovers of American Weekly's gaudiness will find little to excite them in This Week. Printed in color gravure, This Week is edited by Mrs. William Brown Meloney, genteel white-haired editor of the New York Herald Tribune's magazine (TIME, Oct. 8). First issue includes fiction by Sinclair Lewis, Rupert Hughes, Fannie Hurst; articles by Britain's Lord Strabolgi, Scientist Roy Chapman Andrews, Artist Neysa McMein big names which the average individual Sunday newspaper could not conveniently buy.
Of the 4,000,000 who are expected to thumb This Week's pages, practically none will have the remotest idea whose show it is. Even if they knew the man's name Joseph Palmer Knappit would mean little or nothing to them: just as it means nothing to the 8,250,000 readers of Collier's, American Magazine, Woman's Home Companion, Country Home, although rich old "Joe" Knapp practically owns those magazines as majority stockholder of Crowell Publishing C
Nearing 71, "Joe" Knapp is one of the most potent figures in the printing & publishing business, and the least conspicuous. Brooklyn-born, son of the founder of Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., Joseph Knapp was an early partner of the late Tobacco Tycoon James Buchanan Duke (see p. 59) in publishing the defunct New York Recorder. One of the first to tinker with multiple color printing, he founded American Lithographic Co. Thirty years ago he first tried the Sunday supplement idea with a company called Associated Sunday Magazines, but it failed miserably for various reasons when the War kited the cost of newsprint.
When a smart promoter raised the idea of This Week two years ago, he found Joseph Knapp ready and eager to back it. Since his first attempt, Mr. Knapp had built up Alco Gravure, Inc., biggest rotogravure printers in the U. S. He acquired high-speed color presses that could whip out four copies per second of a magazine the size of This Week. With difficulty, Mr. Knapp's salesmen sold the idea to the 21 newspapers. Then they stormed the advertisers, booked for the first year some $7,000,000 worth of business.
Of the 4,000,000 who are expected to thumb This Week's pages, practically none will have the remotest idea whose show it is. Even if they knew the man's name Joseph Palmer Knappit would mean little or nothing to them: just as it means nothing to the 8,250,000 readers of Collier's, American Magazine, Woman's Home Companion, Country Home, although rich old "Joe" Knapp practically owns those magazines as majority stockholder of Crowell Publishing Co.
Tall, white-haired, blue-eyed, "Joe" Knapp remains behind the scenes of his business enterprises, occupies offices of his own in a separate Manhattan building. But he is the complete autocrat. His cronies are Steelman Myron Taylor, Morgan Partner Thomas W. Lamont. Fabulous stories surround his passion for outdoor life. He owns four miles of trout stream in New York's gamey Beaver Kill, issued gold-engraved membership cards to a half-dozen friends. In North Carolina "Joe" Knapp owns Knotts Island, a 5,000-acre preserve. Becoming attached to the country and its citizenry, he spent some $500,000 to give it a school system, vast sums for roads and other improvements. Once when "Joe" Knapp and a party of friends were dashing in a sea-sled to his Canadian fishing camp for salmon, the boat broke down. Instantly he resolved to buy the boat company *, improve the craft, sell sea-sleds in mass production like Fords. After buying and building, he discovered that masses of people did not want a 40 m.p.h. boat that could not be used at night. "And that," said he last week, "was one of the old man's ideas that didn't turn out so well."
* Well that puts a leak into my theory & mock ad J P did for the start of Knapp's Sea Sled in 1924.... The entire Sea Sled story is located here (click) complete with pictures of J. F. Knapp's 30 footer "Miss Demure"
"Old Joe" Knapp
portrait by Arnold Genthe August 1928
Two years after it's launch "This Week" was "Parading" along in full force as shown in this 4th of July 1937 issue. At 11" x 16 "
it could take full advantage of the state of the art graphics and color presses Knapp had at his disposal.
MORE FROM THE PAGES OF TIME MAGAZINE
SUNDAY BATTLE : Oct. 15, 1934
To 5,800,000 readers every Sunday go Hearst's American Weekly ("greatest circulation in the world") and Comic Weekly. Into Publisher Hearst's purse clink fat profits from national advertisers at $16,000 a page. Weary of trying to battle Hearst singly on the Sunday front, eleven competitors, led by the Chicago Tribune, banded together two years ago to sell comic section advertising for the group. Last week 21 newspapers east of the Rockies formed a gang to carry the fight to the American Weekly.
The new group, named United Newspaper Magazine Corp., includes such potent members as the New York Herald Tribune, Chicago Daily News, Baltimore Sim, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Washington Star, Boston Herald, St. Louis Globe-Democrat. Beginning Feb. 24 the 21 will appear with the identical Sunday* tabloid magazine called This Week. Combined circulation: 4,051,000. Advertising rate: $10,000 a page. This Week's editor will be the Herald Tribune's Mrs. William Brown Meloney (TIME, Oct. 8). She will make it more conservative than The American Weekly, with first-run fiction, tony articles.
Backing the venture is ALCO - GRAVURE Inc. controlled by Joseph Palmer Knapp who heads Crowell Publishing Co. and who's father set up Metropolitan Life Insurance Co.
DIFFERENT THIS WEEK :Jan. 5, 1942
To some 6,000,000 newspaper readers this week goes the syndicated Sunday magazine section This Week in a new format. Cut down to Collier's-size, its new make-up eliminates "jumps," or run-overs to back pages. Its editorial ingredients are 52% articles, 48% fiction, as against its onetime mixture of 80% fiction, 20% articles (serials were dropped two years ago
This Week now will look more like a magazine, less than ever like Hearst's American Weekly. More significant difference: This Week, launched in 1935 with 4,000,000 readers, now has only 400,000 less circulation than American Weekly, about 95% as much advertising revenue.
Backer of This Week is old (77) Joseph Palmer Knapp, son of the founder of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., chief stockholder of Crowell Publishing Co., who also owns Alco-Gravure, world's biggest rotogravure printers, which makes a "modest" profit printing This Week. Its editor is Mrs. William Brown Meloney (mother of Novelist William Brown Meloney), 59, tiny, fragile, grey-haired, who now edits the magazine from her suite in the Waldorf-Astoria. In her 40-year career, "Missy" Meloney has been editor of Everybody's, Delineator, the New York Herald Tribune Sunday Magazine, organizer of the Herald Tribune Forum, and once in three interviews with Mussolini got him to answer eleven out of 20 questions. She declares with flashing defiance: "I have been lame since 15, and had a bad lung since 17 and have done the work of three men ever since." Her salary is $40,000 a year
More newspapers were sold in the U.S. last year than in any other year in history. Editor & Publisher calculated that daily newspaper circulation gained 2% (or about 822,632) over 1940's previous high of 41,131,611. Gains: morning papers 2.79%; afternoon papers 1.26% (but p.m. papers are still behind their all-time 1937 high: 25,541,946); Sunday papers 4.29%. To 21 U.S. newspapers last week went formal notification that their streamlined, syndicated Sunday magazine section This Week has had its first change of editors. Out goes fragile, ailing Mrs. William Brown Meloney, 60, a dominating organizer who has been described as "fine lace made of cable wire." In comes her hand-picked successor, genteel William Ichabod Nichols, 37, ex-publicity man for Harvard, ex-newspaperman (A.P. correspondent at Oxford University), utilities executive (Insull), TVA promotion official.
THIS WEEKS SPIRIT : June 14, 1943 :
The switch may not be noticed by the 18,000,000-odd readers (6,000,000 combined circulation) of This Week. Their magazine is a boiler-plate assemblage of Grade-B fiction, short articles of the type known as "punchy," home economics and familiar homilies. This Week avoids all controversial issues. The result is pallid fare. But This Week, now eight years old, is a very profitable venture. Last year its advertising revenue reached $7,000,000, and member papers shared profits greatly exceeding the price they paid (as little as $7.50 per 1,000 copies) for carrying the magazine. Backer of This Week is old (79) Joseph Palmer Knapp, chief stockholder of Crowell Publishing Co. (Collier's, etc.), who also own Alco-Gravure, world's biggest rotogravure printers, which prints This Week.
"Missy" Meloney, onetime editor of Woman's Magazine, Delineator and the New York Herald Tribune Sunday Magazine, organizer of the Herald Tribune Forum, got Nichols four years ago from Sunset, the Pacific Monthly, a home-&-fire-side publication. As managing editor of This Week, Nichols, scion of New England clerics, was so awed by his boss that he observed: "You can see her beautiful spirit shining right through her. "Missy" is not through yet. Her spirit will continue shining through as the magazine's editorial director.
SUNDAY PUNCHER: Feb. 7, 1949
In the sideshow world of the Sunday supplements, where petrrifying pterodactyls often rub wings with faded Broadway butterflies, Hearst's giant American Weekly has long been king. But its crown is slipping. After 14 years of trying, This Week magazine has finally passed it in ad revenues. In 1948, according to figures out last week, This Week carried $16,695,628 worth of ads to the Weekly's $16,466,061. (At $24,900 for a four-color page, This Week's ad rate topped all U.S. magazines.*) The Weekly still led in circulation with 9,410,561 copies, but This Week was less than 550,000 behind.
The man who put it there is a lean journalist and ex-pressagent who figured there was more than one way to give a Sunday supplement a Sunday punch. The Weekly had been weaned (by the late Morrill Goddard) on a formula of blood and sexy scandals. This Week's Editor William I. (for Ichabod) Nichols prescribed a blander fare: so-so fiction, fashions, features, cartoons. For roughage he added articles on such subjects as home-buying, legislators' pay, sex education.
Last week Harvardman Bill Nichols changed his formula a bit. He dropped Emily Post (who went over to the American Weekly) for a livelier "Everybody's Etiquette" with such guest lecturers as John Kieran (etiquette for birdwatchers and motorists). And for eager eaters, he signed up Clementine Paddleford, the New York Herald Tribune's food expert.
No Acres of Flesh. As This Week was a supplement in such family journals as the New York Herald Tribune, Cleveland Plain Dealer and 22 others, Nichols thought it would pay "to be decent." Said he: "I'm neither pious nor preachy but my first principle is success and [decency] has paid off in success. You can bore a mass audience to death with acres of flesh. Why did burlesque die?"
An ex-Rhodes Scholar and later an assistant dean at Harvard, Bill Nichols first looked for success as a pressagent for the late Sam Insull. When Insull's utilities empire collapsed in 1932, Nichols switched painlessly to a Harvard publicity job and then to TVA. In 1937 he became editor of Sunset, a Pacific Coast house-&-garden monthly; in 1943 he became editor of This Week, only four years after joining the staff of its founding editor, the late Mrs. William Brown ("Missy") Meloney. Both money-losers were out of the red a year after he took them over.
No Lack of Bosses. Trim and youngish at 43, Editor Nichols makes $35,000 a year, and spends only seven months a year in his Manhattan office. The rest of the time he travels, on expense account, around the U.S. and Europe, picking up ideas. At home, on Park Avenue, he and his Czech-born wife Marie Thérèse, who speaks seven languages, entertain a babbling stream of foreign authors and artists, who are also tapped for ideas.
*Aged (85), ailing Joseph Palmer Knapp and his Publication Corp. (Alco-Gravure, Crowell-Collier Publishing Co.) control This Week. But on editorial affairs, says Nichols, "I have to please 24 bosses"the editors of the subscribing newspapers (which pay $10 to $15 per 1,000 copies, depending on the size of the supplement, and share its profits, around $3 per 1,000 circulation in 1948). To please them, he shuns anything controversial. Recently, worried about an article on sex delinquency, he submitted it to the 24 papers in advance. They vetoed the treatment; Nichols had it rewritten. Says he: "I'm not a writer, not a lit'ry fellow. I like to show a profit, and we do."
* J.P. Knapp always thought 85 was a proper age to retire !
* The next three: LIFE, American Weekly and the Ladies' Home Journal.