Samuel Sidney McClure was born on February 17, 1857 in Frocess, County Antrim, Ireland. His father, Thomas McClure, was born in 1832 in Ireland. His mother, Elizabeth Gaston, was born in 1837 in Ireland. His parents married on April 29, 1856 and had four children, Samuel (b.1857), John (b. 1858), Thomas (b.1860), and Robert (b.1862).
In 1864 their son Thomas died at the age of four. That same year, on November 30, 1864, the father Thomas McClure died at the age of thirty-two in Glasgow, Scotland.
After these tragic deaths the widowed mother and three young sons left Ireland in 1866 and came to America, where they settled in Westfield, Indiana, 17 miles south of Gary, IN.
In 1867 the mother married Thomas Simpson, a farmer who was born in 1830 in Ireland. They had three children, William (b.1868), Charles (b.1869), and Ella (b.1871).
All six children grew up on the Simpson farm and attended Westfield public school. The local high school was in nearby Valparaiso, IN.
In 1875 Samuel S. McClure graduated from Valparaiso High School, and then attended Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, where he worked on the school newspaper and became interested in a career in journalism.
In 1881 he graduated from college and moved to New York City to seek his fortune in newspapers. By 1882 he was the editor of Outing & Wheelman Magazine.
On September 4, 1883 he married Harriet Sophia Hurd. They had five children, Eleanor (b.1884), Elizabeth (b.1886), Robert (b.1888), Mary (b.1890), and Enrico (b.1900).
In 1884 he founded the McClure Syndicate, the first service of its kind, which sold to newspaper publishers editorial content, such as thoughtful essays, political speeches, celebrity interviews and serialized novels.
In 1893 he founded McClure's Magazine, which first introduced to the American public Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930), Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894), and Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936).
By 1898 the McClure Syndicate also provided comic strips and sports features to hundreds of newspapers, whose circulations were boosted by this popular content. His unique syndicated market approach afforded production of in-depth articles that would have been too costly to generate for most editors. Samuel S. McClure promoted social reform through investigative journalism that exposed corporate malfeasances, monopolies, crooked politicians, labor abuse, unsafe working conditions, and the disgrace of child labor, urban slums, and factory sweatshops. Vested interests derisively branded his approach to journalism "muckraking."
In 1911 those interests orchestrated a hostile takeover of his enterprise and demanded his retirement from the McClure Syndicate and McClure's Magazine. Samuel S. McClure retired to Brookfield Center, Connecticut, at the age of fifty-four, but continued to write and tour as a popular public speaker.
In 1912 the McClure Syndicate moved to 373 Park Avenue South and 28th Street. Two years later it was sold to Clinton T. Brainard (1865-1935). He was a graduate of Harvard (Class of 1890) and the former editor of The New York World, which was owned by William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951), and The Washington Herald, which was also owned by William Randolph Hearst. He was also a lawyer and Advertising Executive at Wanamaker's Department Stores, whose advertising account commanded influential power over the American publishing industry.
In 1916 the McClure Syndicate purchased and absorbed a competing company, the Wheeler Syndicate, which had been founded three years earlier by John N. Wheeler (1886-1973). He was a graduate of Columbia (Class of 1908) and a popular sports writer for The New York Herald. Immediately after the sale he founded a new rival company, the Bell Syndicate, which was located at 247 West 43rd Street. According to John N. Wheeler, "Early in life I decided that I could make a bigger profit by selling other men's brains than my own and so far, I don't think I have ever found myself wrong."
In 1918, while President of the McClure Syndicate, Clinton T. Brainard also became President of Harpers Publishing Company and held that title for six years. During that period he was infamously convicted of publishing the pornographic novel, Madeleine, a fictional autobiography of an anonymous courtesan. The case was later dismissed by the New York State Supreme Court.
The services provided by newspaper syndicates involved the marketing of creative content to subscribing publishers. This was entirely different from the services provided by newsstand distributors, who handled promotion, pricing, and placement of products, such as newspapers, magazines, books, candies, cigars, cigarettes, and novelties. During the Great War the largest national distributor was ANC (American News Company), which was founded in 1864 by Sinclair Tousey (1815-1887). He was a wholesale bookseller and popular editorial columnist who fervently advocated the abolition of slavery. By the turn of the century ANC totally dominated the national newsstand distribution market. This massive company operated hundreds of wholesale outlets with thousands of employees and a nationwide network of warehouses, cargo and freight handling subsidiaries. The NYC headquarters of ANC was at 9 Park Place in Lower Manhattan opposite the Woolworth Building and City Hall.
In 1922 a consortium of fifty newspapers in the U.S. and Canada formed another rival syndicate NANA (North American Newspaper Alliance). George E. Miller (1859-1934), editor of The Detroit News, was an organizer of NANA and served as President.
In 1924 John N. Wheeler became Executive Managing Editor of Liberty Magazine, while he continued to head the Bell Syndicate.
In 1927 Clinton T. Brainard sold the McClure Syndicate, and remained with the company in an executive position. The buyers were a group of investors that included members of the Hearst Executive Council, whose interests were represented by Richard H. Waldo (1879-1943). He was one of the founders of Stars and Stripes, and editor of The New York Herald Tribune, as well as Hearst's International Magazine. Like his predecessor, he was also an Advertising Executive at Wanamaker's Department Stores. When he was an Advertising Executive at Hearst's Good Housekeepinghe created for an advertising campaign The Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.
March 1929 was the final issue of McClure's Magazine. It was purchased and absorbed into The Smart Set, which had been founded in 1900 by Colonel William d'Alton Mann, but had been owned since 1924 by William Randolph Hearst.
During the Great Depression the advertising industry was devastated by the financial crisis, which brought hard times to the publishing industry. In 1930 another rival company, Associated Newspapers Syndicate, which was headed by Henry Herbert McClure (1874-1938), a cousin of Samuel S. McClure, merged with John N. Wheeler's Bell Syndicate to become the Bell-McClure Syndicate.
That same year NANA bought the Bell-McClure Syndicate, which continued to operate independently under joint ownership, with John N. Wheeler serving as General Manager of NANA.
On December 3, 1930, after eighteen years at 373 Fourth Avenue, the McClure Syndicate moved to larger offices on the 11th floor of 345 Hudson Street, between King and Carlton Streets, in the Soho area of Lower Manhattan.
In 1931 Samuel S. McClure's mother, Elizabeth Gaston McClure Simpson, died in Kansas at the age of ninety-four.
On September 3, 1935 Clinton T. Brainard died at the age of seventy in NYC.
In 1937 the McClure Syndicate moved from 345 Hudson Street to 75 West Street in the financial district of Wall Street in Lower Manhattan.
On June 11, 1943 Richard H. Waldo died in NYC at the age of age sixty-four.
On March 21, 1949 Samuel S. McClure died at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx at the age of ninety-two.
In 1952 the McClure Syndicate was bought and absorbed into NANA and its affiliate Bell-McClure Syndicate, which was owned by a group of investors, whose interests were represented by Ernest Cuneo (1905-1988), a graduate of Columbia (Class of 1927), lawyer, military analyst, and Washington columnist. NANA and its affiliate Bell-McClure Syndicate was located at 230 West 41st Street.
In 1963 the investors sold NANA and its affiliate Bell-McClure Syndicate to Koster-Dana Corporation, Ernest Cuneo and John N. Wheeler remained with the company in executive positions.
In 1965 Koster-Dana sold NANA and its affiliate Bell-McClure Syndicate to another group of investors, which included Fortunato "Fortune" Pope (1918-1996). He owned The National Enquirer, as well as the Italian language newspaper Il Progresso, and the Colonial Sand and Stone Company. The new Director disagreed with the editorial policy of John N. Wheeler, who retired at the age of seventy-eight. He planned to remain active and added with a smile, "I'm thinking of starting an advisory service to help editors from being swindled by syndicate salesmen."
Some affiliated descendant of the McClure Syndicate still exists today within the amalgamated corporation that supplies news, editorials, comics, sports, and entertainment to a worldwide media that long ago lost touch with Samuel S. McClure's inspired approach to investigative journalism on behalf of humanity.
© David Saunders 2014