The Press: Great Mystery

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One Sunday morning late in January, six men bent upon a secret errand slipped into the empty, silent offices of Cosmopolitan Magazine in Manhattan. Doors were locked, keys turned. Thus barricaded against intrusion, Editor Ray Long of Cosmopolitan sat down with five excited assistants to examine the "dummy" of their April number. The first thing they did was tear out the leading article. It was to be replaced by another article, a mystery article that commanded precedence. Plans were cunningly laid, and when Editor Ray Long entrained for California that night he felt that the secret was left behind him in safe hands.

In the plant of the Cuneo Press, where Cosmopolitan is printed, numerous compositors set portions of an article that were "meaningless fragments" to them. Only Printer Cuneo and his chief assistant had been added to the circle of those who knew the truth. Under the lynx-eyes of private detectives the fragments were assembled and plates made. During the two weeks required to run off 1,850,000 copies of the magazine.* the detectives stood at their posts; at night the precious plates rested securely in a safe. Late one afternoon, five men with sawed-off shotguns robbed the Cuneo plant of $8,000, but not the "mystery" plates. Then came the most perilous operation: 1,850,000 copies of Cosmopolitan had to be distributed throughout the land to wholesalers and retailers without the nature of its leading article being made public. All leeway time allowance for distribution was eliminated. Shipment was made by express instead of freight at additional cost of $12,000. Wholesalers were admitted to the secret and enjoined to secrecy at the moment of shipment. Not until three days before the Cosmopolitan reached newsstands was the truth let out. Then, because other magazines were beginning to get publicity by boasting of similar features to come, Editor Long announced that the leading article of the April Cosmopolitan was "On Entering and Leaving the Presidency," by Calvin Coolidge. Thus were the Coolidge record for silence, and the Coolidge respect for the dignity of office, kept unblemished. Thus did Editor Long cash the publicity of his surprise at practically face value. Contrary to early reports, the first instalment of the Coolidge article was not written on a train between Washington and the Bok bird sanctuary in Florida which the President pilgrimaged to dedicate (TIME, Feb. 11). The train saw the birth of instalments three and four. The first instalments were written earlier, in Washington. When Editor Long received the manuscript from the hands of President Coolidge at the White House and went into the Cabinet room to read it, he was clutching at something for which he had asked and begged and bid ever since Calvin Coolidge said "I do not choose. . . ."

Short, stocky, chesty Editor Long, radiating success and brisk efficiency, had reason to be pleased; and more, perhaps, than Mr. Coolidge realized. Had not the President said to persistent Editor Long: "Yes, when you pay 35 cents for a magazine, that magazine takes on in your eyes the nature of a book and you treat it accordingly."? Editor Long reproduced this incomparable "blurb" in full page newspaper advertisements.

The Air Press

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