Friday, January 19, 2024

More on Thorndike Rice and his 1885 newspaper syndicate

As shown on Melvilliana, the formerly mysterious appearance of Herman Melville's sea-poem "The Admiral of the White" (revised and re-titled The Haglets in his 1888 collection John Marr and Other Sailors) in multiple newspapers on the same day in May 1885 was enabled by Allen Thorndike Rice (1851-1889) and his pioneering though short-lived newspaper syndicate. 

24 May 1889, Fri Public Weekly Opinion (Chambersburg, Pennsylvania)

Early in 1885 the Springfield Massachusetts Daily Republican gave interesting and highly relevant details of Thorndike Rice's ambitious scheme for the "simultaneous publication" of non-fiction articles, short stories ("or novelets") and poems "in the Sunday editions" of involved newspapers, "or where a paper has no Sunday edition, in the weekly." Melville's poem "The Admiral of the White" appeared in the Sunday editions of the Boston Herald and New York Tribune on May 17, 1885; and the weekly edition of the Cincinnati Star-Times on May 21st. 

Found on and transcribed below.

Springfield Daily Republican 1 of 2
January 5, 1885

Springfield Daily Republican 2 of 2
January 5, 1885

ALLEN THORNDIKE RICE, editor of the North American Review, has taken a very remarkable step in the way of coöperative journalism, as it may be termed. Heretofore its only development beyond "patent outsides"--or insides, as the case might be--has been in the formation of "syndicates" for the simultaneous publication of stories, short and long, in various newspapers throughout the country. Mr. Rice has conceived a scheme of great importance on the same principle, which his possession of a considerable fortune enables him to launch with an assurance of success. This is to enlist in the service of the American newspapers the pens of the most distinguished men of Europe and America, in every department of human interest,--statesmen, publicists, generals, scientists, philosophers, churchmen, jurists, financiers, merchants, manufacturers, poets, novelists. When any event of moment occurs, or any great question springs into immediate importance, Mr Rice will procure from the man best qualified to explain and discuss its significance and its bearings an article upon the subject. When the occasion demands it, the procurement will be made by cable, and the article sent to him at New York by cable, and thence distributed by mail or telegraph, as may be necessary, to the various newspapers that have entered into the arrangement. These newspapers, in several parts of the Union, have each the exclusive copyright of each article for a certain extent of territory, extending over 10 days after publication. The articles will appear in the Sunday editions of the papers, or where a paper has no Sunday edition, in the weekly. The publishing of poems or novelets is, of coursed, governed by the same conditions, but that is of less consequence than the articles. Mr Rice spent a year in Europe principally to secure the eminent contributors to this remarkable scheme, and his list numbers over 300 names. For a single article he will sometimes pay thousands of dollars, and the total expense will therefore be very large, while the expense to each paper will be such as to require a large circulation and advertising patronage to justify. It is another emphatic evidence of the great and constantly increasing domain of the newspaper, which as the universal and continuous medium of information, if in no other character, is becoming the great force of human life in civilized countries. Prince Bismarck does not approve of or trust in the press in his Germany, but when Mr Rice wants his opinion on a great event or a domestic complexity, he will not hesitate to confide it to the press of America.

-- Springfield Daily Republican, January 5, 1885

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