The Press: Clipping Business

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In 1916 those persons who paid The Original Henry Romeike Press Clipping Bureau for the service of seeing their names in print, began to observe a new slogan on the little colored slips to which each clipping is pasted. It read: "Be Sure It's Henry. Other Romeikes May Disappoint." Contrary to the implication, there was not a long list of Romeikes to confuse the unwary clipping client. The bitter warning was raised solely against the late Henry's brother Albert who had gone into business for himself two years earlier following sharp disagreements with Henry's son Georges. Time softened the slogan in 1926 to "No Connection with any other ROMEIKE." Last week it could have been dropped completely. Brother Albert, 73, had closed out his business, which had never been highly profitable. About 20 of his best accounts were bought by Public Service Clipping Bureau, an affiliate of the Henry Romeike company. For the first time since 1881 when Henry established the world's first clipping service in London, there is no Romeike connected with the business anywhere. Henry's son Georges died at 31 seven years ago.

Regional clipping bureaus are numerous but about 80% of the business in the U. S. is shared by the Henry Romeike company and its next largest competitor, Luce's Press Clipping Bureau, of New York, owned by Congressman Robert Luce of Massachusetts. As everyone knows, the function of a clipping bureau is to supply customers with clippings from newspapers everywhere mentioning either their names, manufactured products or any designated subject. How the Original Henry, a native of Russia and a drygoods clerk in Germany, got the idea for the business is a subject of doubtful legend.

Popularly accepted is the story that in Paris he saw an artist pay high prices for back numbers of a newspaper mentioning an exhibition of his works. In London Brother Henry sought out one Curtice, a large newsdealer, convinced him that he could reap profits from the back numbers of publications which were left on his hands every day. Together they formed Romeike & Curtice, a clipping service which continues in the hands of Curtice's heirs. In 1884 Brother Henry opened shop in the old Judge Building in lower Manhattan. Practically from the start the business prospered on the personal vanity of socialites, nouveaux riches, politicians, tycoons and stage folk. For a time "romeiked" was a common word meaning "compiled in scrapbooks." If Brother Henry was not rich when he died in 1903, it was due to his lavish scale of living.

Personal vanity now accounts for only about one-fourth of a clipping bureau's revenue. Big Business supplies the rest. Constantly shifting, the current order of leading consumers is 1) broadcasting, 2) aviation, 3) theatre and cinema, 4) automobiles, 5) public utilities & trade associations.

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