Issue 5: The Last Monitor (READ IT ON ISSUU) November 3, 2010 Cover: ‘Today & Yesterday’. Gustav Metzger, Eichmann and the Angel, 2005. Exclusive interview: Janine Armin on 'The Last Newspaper's work 'Eating the Wall Street Journal' by William Pope L. Cover Story: Sophie O’Brien on Gustav Metzger ‘Picture Agent: Our singular picture agency’: Jordan Wolfson, artist The Next Newspaper: Irina Chernyakova on ‘The San Francisco Panorama’ Fit to Print: Adam Chadwick on the digital divide 100 Years Ago…: ‘The Bisbee Daily Review’, 1901–1971, November 3, 1910 Media Habits: Mark von Schlegell, science-fiction novelist and art essayist Focus: Marcel Janco on Sarah Charlesworth ‘Readers’ Lives’: 'Paper-Weight Champion', Inveterate collector Harley Spiller – who recently completed a masters thesis, ‘On Newsstands Now! A History of Paperweights and Newsstand Advertising’ – weighs up the ‘pisapapeles’, ‘Papierbeschwere’, and 鎮紙 of the world. Feature: ‘Heralding the Gizmo’ Max Andrews on Kirstine Roepstorff ‘Readers’ Lives’ by Marc D’Andre Infographic: Facebook poll: where does the New Museum's audience get their information? Cartoon: ‘The Woods: Tools’ by Francesc Ruiz ‘Advertising Department’: Ester Partegàs with Holly Coulis and Ridley Howard
All images courtesy Harley Spiller. Photos: Micki Spiller
Inveterate collector Harley Spiller – who recently completed a masters thesis, ‘On Newsstands Now! A History of Paperweights and Newsstand Advertising’ – weighs up the ‘pisapapeles’, ‘Papierbeschwere’, and 鎮紙 of the world. Newsstand paperweights – the usually cast-iron weights that saw their heyday in the 1950s on newsstands across the world – bear the insignia of newspapers and magazines like the New York Times, Toronto Star, Saturday Evening Post, Time, Life, and Newsweek. The Mortimer Spiller Company, Inc., my parents’ advertising and sales promotion business, manufactured and sold these weights from the late 1940s through the mid-1980s. A century of their concerted collecting and documentation efforts has resulted in an archive of 151 unique international newsstand weights, plus the original carved mahogany prototypes, news-dealer aprons and caps, business correspondence, photographs, almost 1,000 news clippings, and more. Advertising and the media have always been linked. The nation’s first mass-market newspapers and magazines arrived in the 1890s and 1900s, their very existence made possible by advertising fees collected from large corporations and retailers. The first weights to hold down newspapers may have been well-worn horseshoes, which were readily available at the onset of the 20th century, about the time automobiles started replacing horses. Paperweights forged expressly for newsstand use started appearing shortly thereafter, and by mid-century, they were a fixture on the urban scene. In the 1950s and 1960s, some of the thousands of weights Spiller was making were shipped overseas by Life, Time, and the Herald Tribune. These weights were deployed on the handful of major newsstands that sold international publications in London, Paris, and other European capitals. Of the 45 total weights my father collected overseas, from the 1970s until 2005, there are 37 in languages other than English. The weights Spiller collected on Barcelona’s Las Ramblas, where throngs of people go shopping, sit in public, people-watch, and while away the time, run the gamut from a rudimentary and well-used bent-steel ingot with its painted name La Visión, almost completely obliterated, to gorgeous heavily lacquered enamel and polished metal specimens from periodicals like ABC and El Mundo. One of the heaviest weights in the collection is a 3 1/4 pound (1.5 kg) metal and plastic rectangle for the German weekly newsmagazine Der Spiegel, its colors reminiscent of Germany’s national flag. Less sophisticated weights made from blocks of wood in countries like Thailand and Venezuela reflect these nations’ less-industrialized position in the world, yet the New York Times has also used wooden weights, and other American publications, such as The National and BackStage have found it cost-effective to produce low-end particle board models. In the late 20th century people in the United States bought, according to Thomas C. Leonard, “less than half as many newspapers per capita than the Japanese, the Finns, and the Swedes; the British and the Germans also were better customers”. According to the United Nations Development Programme’s 2009 Human Development Report, these six nationalities have the same 99% adult literacy rate, but New York City, perhaps because it is a great city for walking, seems to have the most newsstands and weights per capita in the world. Literacy is but one crucial factor in the sale of print media. Three other important factors in the prominence of newsstands and weights are a well-established culture of media advertising; locations within swarming transportation hubs where people have time to kill, or near heavily trafficked pedestrian areas (or in the case of Los Angeles, near slow-moving traffic jams); and a lively competition among an abundant array of publications. Despite the fact that Cubans are voracious consumers of news and boast an adult literacy tied for first in the world at 99.8 per cent, for example, politics on La Isla are such that news dealers are few and far between. One scantily stocked Havana news shanty opens on Sunday mornings only. Its lines are long, its newspapers are much in demand.
In Japan, newspapers and magazines are commonly sold at train stations and other relatively wind-free indoor or semi-sheltered locations. Publications are ordinarily kept in pristine condition until they are handed over to the customer. Outdoor newsstands are uncommon but some Japanese dealers put their publications in outdoor wire racks specially designed to obviate the need for weights. The paperweight for The China Press (which goes by the name ‘Overseas Chinese Newspaper’ in Chinese) claims its “rich content” can “heal the homesickness of overseas Chinese” by allowing readers to “contact the feeling” of the mainland. No matter where they are published or distributed, newspapers and magazines provide a link to their land of origin. Back in Manhattan, for many years, the place to find print journalism from near and far was Hotalings, also known as the Out of Town Newspaper Agency. Hotalings was often the only link between people in New York and their lands of birth. For many others, it was the best place to look for jobs and news from outside Gotham. Its huge selection meant customers could find everything from Pravda to Paris Match to Polish Engineering. Founded in 1905, Hotalings newsstands were located over the years in various parts of Times Square, from teeming street corners to the former New York Times Building to a tourist information kiosk on Broadway and 46th Street. New York City’s ever-shifting demographics have long been paralleled by Hotalings’ clientele. “We don't get the crowds from the theater district anymore. People don't roam in Times Square like they used to. It used to be mostly Western Europeans or people interested in Europe,” said Arthur Hotaling, the founder’s grandson, in 1988. “Now we get a lot more people from Latin America and the third world.” Despite efforts in the 1990s to spruce up the store and expand its offerings, the 105-year-old business is today a wholesale-only operation. The pageantry of print media is in flux. Single-copy sales are down and impulse purchases are more sporadic. Will newspapers and magazines go the way of buggy whips and coin-operated telephones? No one knows, but one thing’s certain – the cast-iron cameos known as newsstand paperweights will last a long time. Submit your story by emailing ‘The Last Monitor’: [email protected]