Open main menu

The Bell Syndicate, launched in 1916 by editor-publisher John Neville Wheeler, was an American syndicate that distributed columns, fiction, feature articles and comic strips to newspapers for decades. It was located in New York City at 247 West 43rd Street and later at 229 West 43rd Street. It also reprinted comic strips in book form.[1]

Bell Syndicate
Bell Syndicate-North American Newspaper Alliance
Bell-McClure Syndicate
IndustryPrint syndication
Fateabsorbed into United Feature Syndicate
PredecessorWheeler Syndicate
Founded1916; 103 years ago (1916)
FounderJohn Neville Wheeler
Defunct1972; 47 years ago (1972)
Headquarters229 West 43rd Street, ,
Area served
United States
Key people
  • John Neville Wheeler (1916–1966)
  • Kathleen Caesar (editor)
  • Henry M. Snevily (president)
  • Joseph P. Agnelli (executive VP & GM)
  • Muriel Agnelli a.k.a. Muriel Nissen (columnist)
  • Louis Ruppel (President & Editor, 1952–c. 1958)
Productscolumns, fiction, feature articles, and comic strips
OwnersNorth American Newspaper Alliance (1930–1966)
Koster-Dana (1966–1972)
United Features Syndicate (1972)
SubsidiariesMetropolitan Newspaper Service (1920–1930)
Associated Newspapers (1930–c. 1966)
McClure Syndicate (1952–1972)



Antecedent: the Wheeler SyndicateEdit

In 1913, while working as a sportswriter for the New York Herald, Wheeler formed the Wheeler Syndicate to specialize in distribution of sports features to newspapers in the United States and Canada. That same year his Wheeler Syndicate contracted with pioneering comic strip artist Bud Fisher and cartoonist Fontaine Fox to begin distributing their work.[2] Journalist Richard Harding Davis was sent to Belgium as war correspondent and reported on early battlefield actions, as the Wheeler Syndicate became a comprehensive news collection and distribution operation. In 1916, the Wheeler Syndicate was purchased by S. S. McClure's McClure Syndicate, the oldest and largest news and feature syndicate in America. (Years later, Wheeler's company would in turn acquire the McClure Newspaper Syndicate.)

Foundation of the Bell SyndicateEdit

Immediately upon the sale of his Wheeler Syndicate, John Neville Wheeler founded the Bell Syndicate, which soon attracted Fisher, Fox, and other cartoonists.

Ring Lardner began writing a sports column for Bell in 1919.

Mergers and acquisitionsEdit

In the spring of 1920, the Bell Syndicate acquired the Metropolitan Newspaper Service (MNS), continuing to operate it as a separate division.[3] MNS launched such strips as William Conselman's Good Time Guy and Ella Cinders, and the Tarzan comic strip. In March 1930, United Feature Syndicate acquired MNS and its strips from the Bell Syndicate.[4][5]

In 1924, Wheeler became executive editor of Liberty magazine, and served in that capacity while continuing to run the Bell Syndicate.

In 1930, Wheeler became general manager of North American Newspaper Alliance (NANA), established in 1922 by 50 major newspapers in the United States and Canada which absorbed Bell, both continuing to operate individually under joint ownership as the Bell Syndicate-North American Newspaper Alliance. That same year, Bell acquired Associated Newspapers, founded by S. S. McClure's cousin Henry Herbert McClure. Keeping Associated Newspapers as a division, at that point the company became the Bell-McClure Syndicate.[6]

In 1933, just as the concept of "comic books" was getting off the ground, Eastern Color Printing published Funnies on Parade, which reprinted in color several comic strips licensed from the Bell-McClure Syndicate, the Ledger Syndicate, and the McNaught Syndicate,[7] including the Bell Syndicate & Associated Newspaper strips Mutt and Jeff, Cicero, S'Matter, Pop, Honeybunch's Hubby, Holly of Hollywood, and Keeping Up with the Joneses. Eastern Color neither sold this periodical nor made it available on newsstands, but rather sent it out free as a promotional item to consumers who mailed in coupons clipped from Procter & Gamble soap and toiletries products. The company printed 10,000 copies, and it was a great success.[8][9]

An April 1933 article in Fortune described the "Big Four" American syndicates as United Feature Syndicate, King Features Syndicate, the Chicago Tribune Syndicate, and the Bell-McClure Syndicate.[10]

The Bell Syndicate-North American Newspaper Alliance acquired the McClure Newspaper Syndicate in September 1952 — making it the second McClure-family-owned syndicate to be acquired by Bell — with Louis Ruppel installed as president and editor.[11]

The syndicate's greatest success with comic strips was in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. The company had some strips in syndication through the 1950s but the only ones to have success into the 1960s were Uncle Nugent's Funland, Hambone's Meditations and Joe and Asbestos.

In 1966, operations were sold to the publishing and media company Koster-Dana,[citation needed] and by 1970 the syndicate was no longer distributing comic strips.

Final yearsEdit

In 1972, United Features Syndicate acquired NANA / Bell-McClure and absorbed them into its syndication operations.[12]

Bell Syndicate / Bell-McClure Syndicate strips and panelsEdit

Key people, writers, and columnistsEdit

Henry M. Snevily was the firm's president. Kathleen Caesar was the Bell Syndicate's editor. Film critic Mordaunt Hall was a Bell copy editor, and he also contributed articles.

Late in life, after moving over from the Ledger Syndicate, Elizabeth Meriwether Gilmer wrote the Dorothy Dix advice column, which ran in 160 newspapers, until her 1951 death, when Muriel Agnelli took over the column. In 20 newspapers it appeared under the byline "Muriel Nissen," Agnelli's maiden name. Born in Manhattan, Muriel Agnelli attended Hunter College and also studied journalism and psychology at Columbia University. After marrying Joseph P. Agnelli in 1929, she began editing Bell's four-page children's tabloid, The Sunshine Club, and she later wrote a column about postage stamps and stamp collecting. Joseph Angelli was the Bell Syndicate's executive vice-president and general manager.

The syndicate also distributed James J. Montague's column More Truth than Poetry, as well as many other articles and light fiction pieces, from about 1924 until his death in 1941. The liberal Washington columnist Doris Fleeson wrote a daily Bell political column from 1945 to 1954.[31] Drew Pearson's Washington-Merry-Go-Round column (moving over from United Features Syndicate in 1944) was carried in 600 newspapers until Pearson's death in 1969.[32]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Ben Webster's Career or Bound to Win, 1927, in a four-panel horizontal format.
  2. ^ Drawgerpedia: Bud Fisher
  3. ^ "Feature Services Merged: Bell Syndicate Takes Over Metropolitan Newspaper Service," Editor and Publisher (April 3, 1920).
  4. ^ "United Feature Syndicate Buys Metropolitan Service From Elser: Both Firms Will Retain Separate Identities, With Elser Remaining as Vice-President — Monte Bourjaily to Direct Both Organizations," Editor & Publisher (March 15, 1930). Archived at "News of Yore 1930: Another Syndicate Gobbled," Stripper's Guide (May 4, 2010).
  5. ^ Booker, M. Keith. "United Feature Syndicate," in Comics through Time: A History of Icons, Idols, and Ideas (ABC-CLIO, 2014), p. 399.
  6. ^ Saunders, David. "SAMUEL S. McCLURE (1857-1949)," Field Guide to Wild American Pulp Artists. Accessed Nov. 1, 2018.
  7. ^ "Funnies on Parade," Grand Comics Database. Accessed Oct. 29, 2018.
  8. ^ Brown, Mitchell."The 100 Greatest Comic Books of the 20th Century: Funnies on Parade". Archived from the original on 2003-02-24. Retrieved 2003-02-24.
  9. ^ Goulart, Ron (2004). Comic Book Encyclopedia. New York: Harper Entertainment. ISBN 978-0060538163.
  10. ^ Jeet Heer, "Crane's Great Gamble", in Roy Crane, Buz Sawyer: 1, The War in the Pacific. Seattle, Wash.: Fantagraphics Books, 2011. ISBN 9781606993620
  11. ^ Knoll, Erwin. "McClure Syndicate Sold to Bell-NANA". Editor & Publisher (September 6, 1952).
  12. ^ Astor, Dave. "Goldberg To Retire From United Media," Editor & Publisher (December 17, 2001): "The executive joined United in 1972 when it bought Bell McClure Syndicate and North American Newspaper Alliance, where Goldberg was president."
  13. ^ "Original Beauregard! strip by Jack Davis, 1963," The Bristol Board (Dec. 30, 2016).
  14. ^ Maurice Horn, Women in the Comics, New York : Chelsea House, 1977. (p. 48, 70)
  15. ^ Ben Webster's Career at Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived 2015-03-20 at WebCite from the original on March 20, 2015.
  16. ^ Holtz, Allan. "Ink-Slinger Profiles: C.A. Voight," Stripper's Guide (October 22, 2013).
  17. ^ "1962 Timeline: July 23. A Bullwinkle newspaper strip by Al Kilgore, based on the animated series, makes its debut." American Comic Book Chronicles: 1960–64 by John Wells. TwoMorrows Publishing, 2012, Page 77.
  18. ^ Ron Goulart, The Encyclopedia of American Comics. New York : Facts on File,1990 (p.124)
  19. ^ Bell Syndicate, Sunday color supplement, The San Bernardino Daily Sun, San Bernardino, California, Sunday 17 June 1945, Volume 51, page 22.
  20. ^ a b c d Ron Goulart,The Funnies: 100 Years of American Comic Strips (Holbrook, Mass.: Adams Publishing, 1995). ISBN 094473524X, pp. 87-88, 104, 106, 124, 200.
  21. ^ "Stripper's Guide Obscurity of the Day:Gentlemen Prefer Blondes". Retrieved Aug 29, 2015.
  22. ^ Holtz, Allan. "Obscurity of the Day: Honeybunch's Hubby," Stripper's Guide (September 16, 2013).
  23. ^ Stephen D. Becker, Comic Art in America. New York : Simon and Schuster, 1959 (p. 235).
  24. ^ Kling entry, Lambiek's Comiclopedia. Accessed Nov. 4, 2018.
  25. ^ Robert C. Harvey,The Art of the Funnies. Jackson : University Press of Mississippi, 1994. (p. 69, 103). ISBN 0585214212
  26. ^ Phil Hardy at Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on April 16, 2012.
  27. ^ Tack Knight entry, Who's Who of American Comic Books 1928–1999. Accessed Nov. 1, 2018.
  28. ^ Hubert H. Crawford, Crawford's Encyclopedia of Comic Books. Jonathan David Publishers, 1978 (p. 408).
  29. ^ Maurice Horn, The World Encyclopedia of Comics. New York : Chelsea House, 1976. (p. 638)
  30. ^ "Nueva" to "Nukunuku," Michigan State University Libraries Special Collections Division: Reading Room Index to the Comic Art Collection. Accessed Jan. 1, 2019.
  31. ^ Riley, Sam G. Biographical Dictionary of American Newspaper Columnists, Greenwood, 1995.
  32. ^ "Drew Pearson's Washington Merry-Go-Round," American University Digital Research Archive. Accessed Nov. 1, 2018.

External linksEdit

Further readingEdit

  • Wheeler, John Neville. I've Got News for You, 1961.