Paul Howard Sampliner was born May 16, 1898 in Cleveland, Ohio. His father, Phillip Howard Sampliner, was born in 1871 in Ohio of Austrian Jewish ancestry. His mother, Gizella Falter, was born in 1873 in Iowa of Austrian Jewish ancestry. His parents married in 1896 and he was their only child. The family lived at 123 Beech Street in Cleveland. His father owned and operated P. H. Sampliner & Company, a cigar store and factory at 733 St. Clair Avenue.
At that time the Jewish community of Cleveland was an enlightened model of racial tolerance and religious respect, with civic-minded public programs and well funded integrated public schools.
In June of 1916 Paul Sampliner graduated from Glenville High School in Cleveland, after which he attended the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
On November 7, 1917 his father, Phillip Howard Sampliner, died at the age of forty-six in Cleveland. At the time of his father's tragic death Paul Sampliner was nineteen years old.
His mother invited her older and unmarried brother, Morris Falter, who was born in 1870 in Iowa, to come to Cleveland to help her run the cigar business. In the summer of 1818 after the completion of his Sophomore year at college, Paul Sampliner left school and returned to Cleveland to also help run the family business with his uncle and mother.
On September 12, 1918 he reported for draft registration during the Great War. He was recorded at the time to be tall, medium build, with brown eyes and black hair. He served as a private in the Army and received Officer Training, but was not sent overseas. He was honorably discharged in 1919.
After the war he returned to his family at 1341 East Boulevard in Cleveland and the family cigar business. He became a traveling salesman, where he met Warren A. Angel, another ambitious regional salesman of cigars, candies, novelties, glasswares, and periodicals.
On January 17, 1920 the Eighteenth Amendment took effect, which made the sale of alcohol a federal crime. Demand exceeded supply to such an extent that enforcement of the law was overwhelmed. Prohibition was intended to prohibit unwholesome behavior, but inadvertently generated a national syndicate of organized crime that controlled and coordinated the wholesale import, manufacture, storage, trucking and distribution of alcoholic beverages. Criminal gangs were suddenly involved in a wildly lucrative mass production industry on a scale that was previously unimaginable.
On September 21, 1921 Paul Sampliner married Sophie Unger in Dayton, Ohio. She was born October 26, 1896 in New York City of German Jewish ancestry. Her prosperous family had lived in NYC at 1096 Fifth Avenue, which faced Central Park on the corner of East 91st Street. Their home was next to the impressive mansion of Andrew Carnegie, which is today the historic landmark Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Museum. Her father, Sidney Unger, owned a cigar factory and was also an optometrist. IN 1916 the Unger family left NYC and moved to Dayton, where the father owned a cigar factory and also opened an optometry office in their home at 304 Oxford Avenue. After their marriage the newlyweds moved in with the Unger family.
On May 26, 1923 their daughter Joan Sampliner was born.
In 1924 Paul Sampliner, with his wife and child, moved to NYC and lived at 611 West 158th Street in an apartment building that overlooked Riverside Park.
In 1924 Paul Sampliner and his fellow traveling salesman, Warren Angel, formed Eastern Distributing Corporation located at 120 West 42nd Street near Times Square. They handled newsstand distribution of cigars, candy, and magazines. One of their first accounts was Screenland, a Hollywood fan magazine, whose Sales Manager was Frank Armer. Another early client was Hollywood Life. According to The Los Angeles Times on December 13, 1925, "The Eastern Distributing Corporation, through its president, Paul Sampliner, has just contracted for a minimum of fifty thousand monthly copies of Hollywood Life for distribution in its territory."
In 1925 Frank Armer agreed to let the production of Screenland be handled by printers affiliated with Eastern Distributing. This deal allowed Eastern Distributing to control the overhead costs as well as the final accounting of profits, from which a negotiated percentage was paid to the publisher. Such an arrangement would only be in the best interest of the publisher if it resulted in a sales increase that could offset the loss of control over production costs.
Eastern Distributing handled many digest-sized fan magazines that featured pin-up photos of semi-dressed starlets from Hollywood and the Burlesque stage, along with rapid-fire jokes and ethnic comedy that reflected the popular irreverence of the roaring twenties. The titles included, Hay Rake, Jazza Ka Jazza, Jim Jam Jems, Pajammas, Pepper Pot, and Captain Billy's Whiz Bang. They were inexpensive to produce and sold briskly for higher prices than most magazines, so publishers were just as eager to produce indecent magazines as the public was to buy them. Their indecency was also attractive to the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, whose agents repeatedly brought obscenity charges against distributors, printers, publishers, and newsstand dealers, which led to arrests, fines, and convictions. To deal with this occupational hazard Eastern Distributing organized a fluid network of incorporated companies designed to dodge the threat of legal restrictions. This group of affiliated printers and publishers included Max Marlin, Theodore Epstein, George Shade, Herman Rawitser, Joe Burten,John F. Edwards, Henry Marcus and Harry Donenfeld. Eastern Distributing persuaded Frank Armer to leave Screenland Magazine and become their general sales representative.
By 1924 connections to notorious Chicago gangsters helped Max and Moe L. Annenberg accumulate enormous wealth and power by dominating distribution of the nationwide newspaper chain of William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951). That year the brothers became Board Members of the Hearst Executive Committee. Max Annenberg bought The New York Daily News and his brother Moe L. Annenberg bought The New York Daily Mirror. They arranged financing for Bernarr Macfadden to purchase The Pictorial Review, The New York Evening Graphic, and The Philadelphia Daily News. These were printed in NYC at Longacre Press, where Max Marlin was Treasurer, and in New Jersey at Jersey City Printing Company. When they needed color for special sections or Sunday supplements they used Art Color Printing of Dunellen, NJ.
Moe L. Annenberg also purchased a nationwide monopoly on racetrack wire services, with an affiliated network of printed racing forms, including The Daily Racing Form, The Running Horse, and The New York Daily Racing Tab, which was produced by Theodore Epstein. Anti-racketeering prosecutors targeted the national wire service of Moe L. Annenberg, because they considered it the lifeblood of the gambling industry that nourished American gangsters. At that time gambling was controlled in New York City by a partnership of three mobsters, Lucky Luciano (1897-1962), Frank Costello (1891-1973), and Arnold Rothstein (1882-1928). It is hard to imagine how Moe L. Annenberg gained control of a nationwide monopoly of racetrack wire services and racing tipster sheets without their complicity.
In 1924 Moe L. Annenberg organized production of six million promotional brochures for distribution as inserts in Hearst publications. Surprisingly the vendor chosen for this massive project was Harry Donenfeld, a salesman at Marlin Printing, who was neither a printer nor an owner of a press. His only qualification was the trust of Max Marlin, Theodore Epstein and Frank Costello. This lucrative contract was the first big break for Harry Donenfeld. To handle such a project he formed Elmo Press Incorporated, which he listed as a printer of "magazines and newspapers." Although legal documents named his wife and brother-in-law as partners there is a distinct echo in the name "Elmo" of "Moe L." Annenberg. Another curious note was the 1924 NYC Business Directory listed the company at 32 West 22nd Street. That was the same address as the Tab Printing Corporation, where Theodore Epstein produced The Daily Racing Tab in affiliation with Moe L. Annenberg.
At that same time pulp publisher William M. Clayton, sold several of his risque magazines, including Ginger Stories and Pepper Pot, to affiliates of Eastern Distributing, who repackaged them as Ginger and Pep!
In 1926 Paul and Sophie Sampliner had a son, Philip Sampliner. At that same time, Harry and Gussie Donenfeld had a son, Irwin Donenfeld, in whose name the proud papa formed Irwin Publishing Company, which produced Juicy Tales, Joy Stories, and Hot Tales. These magazines featured erotic photographs by Edwin Bower Hesser and Lejaren A. Hiller, as well as illustrations by Worth Carnahan, Adolph Barreaux, Otto Greiner, and Cole Brigham. The editor was Merle Williams Hersey (1889-1956). She was the ex-wife of Harold Hersey (1893-1956), who was the editor of magazines produced by Bernarr Macfadden and William M. Clayton, which were handled by Eastern Distributing.
On February 18, 1928 Elmo Press leased space at 143 West 20th Street.
In 1928 Paul Sampliner and Warren Angel distributed the many publications of Hugo Gernsback, whose Business Manager was Irving S. Manheimer. As in their previous deal with Frank Armer at Screenland, Irving Manheimer also agreed to let Eastern Distributing handle the production of Hugo Gernsback's publications with their affiliated printers, Theodore Epstein, Max Marlin, George Shade and Harry Donenfeld. This deal soon resulted in overwhelming debts.
On February 21, 1929 Hugo Gernsback was legally forced to declare bankruptcy. His company was reorganized in cooperation with Bernarr Macfadden and split into several independent companies, whose names included Stellar Publications, Teck Publishing, Forward Publications, Experimenter Publications, Modern Publications, and Grenpark Novelties. The executive officers of these companies included Hugo Gernsback, Bernarr Macfadden, William M. Clayton, Irving S. Manheimer, Theodore Epstein, Harry Donenfeld, Frank Armer, and Harold Hersey, while the production and distribution was handled by Eastern Distributing.
In October of 1929 the NYC Stock Market crashed and chaos struck the American banking system, which undermined the national economy. The ensuing hardships of the Great Depression affected workers and farmers, as well as industrialists. The established order of manufacturing collapsed, which devastated the advertising and publishing industries. One of the few businesses that enjoyed rising profits were pulp magazines, which sold cheap thrills to the idle masses from corner newsstands for pocket change. The first to recognize this trend were the distributors, including Paul Sampliner and Warren Angel, who swiftly moved to cast a wider net.
In February 1930 Eastern Distributing Corporation moved to the Albano Building at 305 East 46th Street. During this expansive phase Eastern Distributing employed Louis Silberkleit, Martin Goodman, Frank Armer, and Michael Estrow as Circulation Promoters. The compnay extended credit to ambitious entry-level publishers in exchange for partial ownership and the required use of affiliated printers, suppliers, and advertising representatives. This sort of deal gave the distributor complete control, as well as maximum profit.
Three young editors who accepted such a deal were Aaron A. Wyn, Ned L. Pines, and Harold Hersey, who later recalled, "Wow! Them was the days! Warren A. Angel was Business Manager and co-owner of my company, Magazine Publishers. We produced Flying Aces, Underworld Magazine and twelve other titles, which were sold by the hundreds of thousands of copies every month. After Bernarr Macfadden and William M. Clayton, Warren A. Angel was the third and most brilliant of all my teachers."
By the summer of 1930 Warren Angel left Eastern Distributing to form Kable News Company with Samuel J. Campbell and the Kable Printing Company of Mount Morris, Illinois. Warren Angel sold his shares in Eastern Distributing to Paul Sampliner and dissolved the corporation in October 1930, after which Paul Sampliner ran Eastern Distributing as president and majority owner.
Aaron A. Wyn, Ned L. Pines, and Harold Hersey all preferred to leave Eastern Distributing and follow Warren Angel to Kable News. To handle their accounts, as well as to offer a similar deal to other aspirant publishers, Warren Angel and Samuel Campbell also formed C&A (Campbell & Angel) Publishing Company.
In 1931 Harry Donenfeld hired Jack Liebowitz as accountant and business manager. On June 5, 1931 Harry Donenfeld formed Donny Press, whose address was the same as Elmo Press at 143 West 20th Street. He hired his youngest brother Irving Donenfeld to supervise the operation.
In 1931 Harry Donenfeld formed D.M. (Donenfeld Magazines) Publishing Corporation. He leased office space on the ninth floor of 480 Lexington Avenue. The building occupied the entire four sides of one city block. The east side faced Lexington Avenue. The south side faced 46th Street. The west side faced Park Avenue, and the north side faced 47th Street. The main lobby entrance was at 480 Lexington Avenue. There was a delivery entrance on the south side at 125 East 46th Street. The entrance on the west side was 245 Park Avenue. The north side had a service entrance at 114 East 47th Street. These four entrances to the same building all served to insulate the rising wealth of Harry Donenfeld from the inevitable jeopardy of his various risky business ventures.
This giant 480 Lexington Avenue building was one part of a massive development project, which covered twelve city blocks around Grand Central Station and included the Chrysler Building, the Waldorf-Astoria, the Commodore Hotel, the Helmsley Building, and the Graybar Building at 420 Lexington, where Warren Angle rented office space for C&A, Kable News, as well as his affiliated Advertising Representative, William J. Delaney, who headed the Newsstand Fiction Group.
On July 14, 1932 The New York Times reported that Eastern Distributing Corporation had signed a contract for the world's largest distribution deal with the publisher Sidney M. Biddell to handle 5,000,000 books for 70,0000 nationwide retail outlets. Each book was written by an established author, but printed in editions of 100,0000, which permitted them to be sold for only fifty cents each. Distribution would blanket the United States covering every State and over 750 cities, including Canada, England, and the Irish Free State. The books would be sold at newsstands, drug stores, railway terminals, hotels, department stores, novelty shops, and cigar stores. This historic project was all the more remarkable for being launched during the Great Depression, when most publishers experienced poor sales.
Despite such an ambitious venture Eastern Distributing was accumulating massive debts as a growing number of clients were lost to Kable News Company. Finally in 1932 Eastern Distributing declared bankruptcy.
On September 10, 1932 The New York Times reported Eastern Distributing Corporation had filed for bankruptcy, and listed debts of $20,000 owed to the Isaac Goldmann Co., $1,000 owed to Frank G. Menke, and $40,000 to the New Broad Publishing Co. This last company was owned by Moe L. Annenberg and headed by Theodore Epstein to produce The New Broadway Brevities, a scandal sheet with a jaded history of extortion and blackmail. The magazine reported rumors of disgraceful misdeeds by members of high society, next to coverage of lurid sex crimes, gangsters and political corruption. Subjects of such stories were contacted before publication for comment and invited to invest in the company if they preferred the story to remain unpublished.
On September 13, 1932 The New York Times reported the NYC Court had appointed the bankruptcy receivers of Eastern Distributing.
On November 18, 1932 The New York Times reported that The Brevities Publishing Company, which produced scandal sheets in New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington D.C., was under indictment by the Federal Grand Jury for interstate sales of obscene material. Those indicted were Moe L. Annenberg, Walter Annenberg, The Walter Holding Company, The Cecilia Investment Company, The Daily Running Horse, and The Maryland Newsstand Corporation. It is worth noting that the President of this last company was Joseph Ottenstein, who was employed for many years at newspapers owned by Moe L. Annenberg, and also served as President of S-M Newsstand Distribution Company, which was the largest affiliated member of the Council of Independent Distributors (ID, Inc.). According to the U.S. District Attorney all of these companies were interlocked with The Brevities Publishing Co. In an effort to mitigate penalties the Brevities Publishing Company stopped printing scandal sheets in New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington D.C. Nevertheless, the prosecutor sought convictions of five years in jail and fines of $5,000. At that same time a District Attorney in New York City opened a new libel investigation against Stephen Clow, the editor of The New Broadway Brevities, which was published by Theodore Epstein and illustrated by Ken Browne.
On November 24, 1932 The New York Times reported the NYC Court had accepted the filed schedule of payment to bankruptcy receivers of Eastern Distributing.
One week later Paul Sampliner went into business with Harry Donenfeld to form IND (Independent News Distribution) at 245 Park Avenue, which was the west side entrance of 480 Lexington Avenue. IND handled the stranded clients of Eastern Distributing. In retrospect, many debtors felt this move was designed to avoid contractual obligations.
As President of IND Paul Sampliner offered the same deal to extend credit to aspiring publishers who were willing to form new companies that gave IND control of production costs, sales accounts, distribution, and partial ownership. Such a gamble appealed to Frank Armer, Merle William Hersey, Michael Estrow, Henry Marcus, Hugh Layne, John F. Edwards, William Von Tillzer, and George Shade.
On October 22, 1932 Paul Sampliner rented a brick home on Highfield Road and Sunny Ridge in Harrison, NY.
On October 1, 1935 Paul Sampliner's Uncle Morris Falter died at the age of sixty-four in Manhattan. A few months later the Sampliner family moved to a bigger home in Scarsdale, NY, at 13 Paddington Road, where the family was joined by his elderly widowed Aunt Catherine Falter.
In 1936, during the excitement with the upcoming Olympics in Nazi Germany, Paul Sampliner wrote a thoughtful Letter-To-The-Editor of The New York Times in objection to the choice of a German shipping line to transport American athletes to the event.
The same District Attorney and Federal Judge who had historically convicted Al Capone of tax evasion, brought similar charges against Moe L. Annenberg, who was convicted on April 20, 1940 to serve three years in Federal prison and to pay a fine of $8,000,000, which was the largest such penalty in U.S. history. Before incarceration he installed his son, Walter Annenberg (1908-2002), as business successor to assure smooth continuity of his vast empire. Moe L. Annenberg's health declined while serving his three-year sentence in Lewisburg Pennsylvania State Prison, until doctors urged his release for medical treatment on June 3, 1942. He traveled to the Mayo Clinic in Minneapolis for an emergency brain operation, after which he died at the age of sixty-five on July 20, 1942.
On September 12, 1942 Paul Sampliner rented an apartment with eleven rooms and five baths at 895 Park Avenue.
On January 28, 1943 during WWII Paul Sampliner was commissioned a Captain in the Army and assigned to the Quartermasters Corps, Exchange Service, Procurement Division, which was located in the business district of midtown Manhattan. He was honorably discharged in October of 1944 and resumed the Presidency of the Independent News Company at 480 Lexington Avenue.
The February 1946 issue of Speed Detective Stories from Trojan Publishing Corporation included a Statement of Ownership that listed the owners as Frank Armer and his wife, Janet De Pinna Armer, Michael Estrow and his wife, Anna Estrow, Harry Donenfeld's wife, Gussie Donenfeld, as well as three additional owners, Joseph Wasserman, Alice Wasserman, and Linda Wasserman. These last three are a lawyer from Dayton, Ohio, and his wife and daughter. The lawyer's wife, Alice Unger Wasserman, was the sister of Paul Sampliner's wife, Sophie Unger Sampliner. The inclusion of three proxy owners from the family of Paul Sampliner reflected his stature as the majority shareholder on the board of this incorporated business.
In 1946 Harry and Gussie Donenfeld were proud to inform social columnists that their son and daughter were engaged. Irwin Donenfeld married Arlene Judith Levy, a Law School graduate, and Sonia Donenfeld married Frederick H. Iger, a veteran of WWII Army Corps of Engineers and a student at NYU. As soon as he graduated Harry Donenfeld made his new Son-In-Law co-owner of ACG (American Comics Group) at 45 West 45th Street. The other co-owner, Benjamin Sangor (1889-1953), was the Brother-In-Law of Paul Sampliner. Benjamin Sangor's wife, Frances Unger Sangor was the sister of Sophie Unger Sampliner.
On January 21, 1949 Warren Angel died at the age of sixty-two. After his death Samuel J. Campbell continued to lead Kable News to even greater prosperity.
Paul Sampliner was an organizing founder of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith.
On November 13, 1950 The New York Times reported the election of Paul Sampliner as Chairman of the Executive Committee of the National Council of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith with a budget of $5,784,321 to combat "bigotry and discrimination throughout the country."
Throughout the first half of the 20th century ANC (American News Company) dominated the national newsstand distribution market. It was a massive company that operated hundreds of wholesale outlets with thousands of employees and a nationwide network of warehouses, cargo and freight handling subsidiaries. The NYC headquarters were at 9 Park Place in Lower Manhattan across from City Hall. The only rival to ANC was ID (Independent Distributors), which was a council of independent distributors, chief among which were S-M News Company, Interborough News, Garfield News, IND, and Leader News. Interborough News, located at 525 West 52nd Street, had a unique monopoly on newsstands in the NYC subway system and related transportation terminals.
In 1955 eleven percent of the stock in ANC was acquired by Henry Garfinkle (1903-1983), who then became President of the Board. He owned Garfield News Company, which was a member of the ID council. He instituted a disastrous reorganization that swiftly caused the complete collapse of ANC. Repercussions from that industrial meltdown devastated the American publishing industry and generated widespread misgivings about the ulterior motives of Henry Garfinkle. When the dust had settled ID was the uncontested dominant National newsstand distributor. Although S-M News had controlling interest of the ID council, IND and Leader News Company were suddenly major distributors. Paul Sampliner and Harry Donenfeld used this power to dominate the comic book field and to force rival publishers to accept stifling constrictions, while their own comic books enjoyed a lucrative era of prosperity.
In 1958 poor health forced Harry Donenfeld to retire from business at the age of sixty-five. Harry Donenfeld died at the age seventy-one on February 26, 1965.
Four years later ANC merged with Kable News, IND, Leader News, PDC and Garfield News to form Ancorp National Services, the nation's largest retailer of periodicals, with Paul Sampliner, Irving S. Manheimer, and Samuel J. Campbell on the Executive Board of Directors, along with the sons of William Randolph Hearst and Moe L. Annenberg. At that same time Paul Sampliner was a member of the New York State Commission Against Discrimination.
In 1970 Paul Sampliner retired from business at the age of sixty-nine. He lived at 150 Central Park South. The vista from his living room was a panoramic view of Central Park and the NYC skyline.
Paul Sampliner died at the age of seventy-six in NYC on January 7, 1975.
© David Saunders 2014