The Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA) is an editorial column and comic strip newspaper syndication service based in the United States and established in 1902. The oldest syndicate still in operation, the NEA was originally a secondary news service to the Scripps Howard News Service; it later evolved into a general syndicate best known for syndicating the comic strips Alley Oop, Our Boarding House, Freckles and His Friends, The Born Loser, Frank and Ernest, and Captain Easy / Wash Tubbs; in addition to an annual Christmas comic strip. Along with United Feature Syndicate, the NEA was part of United Media from 1978 to 2011, and is now a division of Andrews McMeel Syndication. The NEA once selected college All-America teams, and presented awards in professional football and professional [NBA] basketball.
|Founded||1902; began syndicating in 1907|
|Founder||E. W. Scripps|
|Charles N. Landon|
|Services||editorial columns and comic strips|
|Owner||E. W. Scripps Company (1902–2011)|
Andrews McMeel Universal (2011–present)
|Parent||E. W. Scripps Company (1902–1978)|
United Media (1978–2011)
Universal Uclick/Andrews McMeel Syndication (2011–present)
On June 2, 1902, the Newspaper Enterprise Association, based in Cleveland, Ohio, started as a news report service for different Scripps-owned newspapers. It started selling content to non-Scripps owned newspapers in 1907, and by 1909, it became a more general syndicate, offering comics, pictures and features as well.
NEA moved headquarters from Cleveland to Chicago in 1915, with an office in San Francisco. NEA rapidly grew and delivered content to 400 newspapers in 1920. At that time, it had some 100 features available.
From 1918 to 1928, Major League Baseball umpire Billy Evans served as NEA's sports editor and produced a syndicated sports column titled Billy Evans Says. His staff featured well-known sportswriters Jimmy Powers and Joe Williams.
Alfred O. Andersson was general manager of the NEA from 1919 to 1921.
By 1930, NEA had about 700 client newspapers.
Sports cartoonist and writer Murray Olderman had a long association with NEA. Firstly, his columns and cartoons were syndicated by the agency. He officially joined the company in 1952; becoming its sports editor in 1964; executive editor in 1968; and a contributing editor in 1971. He was the founder of the Jim Thorpe Trophy, for the National Football League's Most Valuable Player, and distributed by the NEA. He also founded the NEA All-Pro team in 1954, which ran through 1992. Although Olderman "retired" in 1987, he was active until the news service was overtaken by a larger corporation.
In 1968, the NEA was offering about 75 features to more than 750 client newspapers.
On February 24, 2011, the Scripps Company struck a distribution deal with Universal Uclick (now known as Andrews McMeel Syndication) for syndication of United Media's 150 comic strip and news features, which became effective on June 1 of that year. While United Media effectively ceased to exist, Scripps still maintains copyrights and intellectual property rights.
Early on, Charles N. Landon (1878–1937) joined NEA as art director. Founder of the Landon School of Illustration and Cartooning, a mail-order correspondence course that trained a generation of cartoonists, Landon personally hired some graduates to draw features at the syndicate. Counted among these successful students were Roy Crane, Merrill Blosser, V. T. Hamlin, Bill Holman, Chic Young, and Ethel Hays. (In the case of Hays, Landon taught her by mail and then brought her to NEA to draw syndicated features.)
Cartoonist Gene Ahern moved to Cleveland in 1914 to work on staff for the NEA as a sportswriter and artist, initially inking comic drawings for $18 a week. He worked on such strips as Dream Dope, Fathead Fritz, Sporty Sid and his Pals, Taking Her to the Ball Game, and Ain't Nature Wonderful. In 1915, he introduced Squirrel Food, later known as Otto Auto and then Balmy Benny before returning to its original title.
In May 1915, Landon hired Merrill Blosser to work at NEA. Blosser was 23 when he began in the NEA art department, initially doing cartoons based on news events and then drawing five daily panels. One of these, titled Freckles, began as a one-column daily gag panel on August 16, expanding into a full comic strip on September 20 when it was retitled Freckles and His Friends. One by one, each of the other panels were dropped. In July 1916, Blosser started another strip, Miniature Movies, which evolved into Chestnut Charlie, continuing until early in 1918 when Blosser concentrated exclusively on Freckles and His Friends.
Cartoonist Edgar Martin joined the NEA in 1921 as a cartoonist. While working in NEA's art department, Martin experimented with several strips: Efficiency Ed, Fables of 1921, Taken from Life, and Girls. In 1924, NEA was looking for a "girl strip," and several artists who had previously submitted strips were asked to resubmit them. Martin's sample was unsigned. When an editor examined Martin's strip and asked, "How soon can we get this artist?", the art director responded, "In one minute. He works here." Thus, Girls became Boots and Her Buddies on February 18, 1924, although some newspapers continued to use the first title.
NEA became a successful distributor of newspaper comics in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1921 Gene Ahern introduced the Nut Brothers, Ches and Wal, in the new strip Crazy Quilt. That same year, NEA General Manager Frank Rostock suggested to Ahern that he use a boarding house for a setting. Our Boarding House began September 16, 1921, scoring a huge success with readers after the January 1922 arrival of the fustian Major Hoople. The Nut Bros: Ches and Wal ran as a topper strip above Our Boarding House. Other long-running NEA strips that launched during the 1920s included Martin's Boots and Her Buddies, Roy Crane's Wash Tubbs, Ethel Hays' Flapper Fanny Says, and J. R. Williams' Out Our Way.
Bela Zaboly started at NEA as an office boy and eventually was a staff cartoonist. During the early 1930s he created the Sunday strip Otto Honk about moon-faced, dim-bulb Otto, who was variously employed as a private eye, movie stunt man and football player. Otto Honk lasted until 1936. Zaboly was an assistant to Roy Crane on Wash Tubbs.
Cartoonist Herb Block ("Herblock") moved to Cleveland in 1933 to become a staff cartoonist for the NEA, which distributed his cartoons nationally. While there, he won his first Pulitzer Prize in 1942 for "British Plane".
By 1936 Gene Ahern was making an annual $35,000 at NEA, and King Features Syndicate offered to double that figure. Ahern left NEA in March 1936 for King Features, where he created Room and Board. Similarly, in 1943 Roy Crane exited the NEA (abandoning his strips Captain Easy and Wash Tubbs) for King Features to begin Buz Sawyer, a strip he would own outright.
Three strips that debuted in the 1960s and 1970s are still in syndication via the NEA: The Born Loser (launched 1965), Frank and Ernest (launched 1972), and Kevin Fagan's Drabble, which debuted in 1979.
The Newspaper Enterprise Association brand has persisted both under the United Media umbrella and now Universal Uclick/Andrews McMeel Syndication.
From 1924 to 1996, the NEA was the selector of college football All-America teams. It was a granting institution in the selection of the NCAA Men's Basketball All-Americans teams in 1938 and from 1953 to 1963.
Beginning in 1955, the Newspaper Enterprise Association, under the guidance of Murray Olderman, poll NFL players annually for an All-Pro team. In addition, the NEA awarded a Rookie of the Year, a Most Valuable Player (1955–2008), and a Defensive Player of the Year (George Halas Trophy; 1966–1998). All were accepted as official and were published in the NFL Record and Fact Book alongside the Associated Press, United Press International, and the Pro Football Writers Association All-Pro teams and awards. The NEA last announced an All-Pro team in 1992, ending a 38-year tradition of the "player's All-Pro Team". (The NEA list's successor, the Sporting News All-Pro team, currently polls players along with coaches and managers for its teams.) From the early 1980s the NEA All-Pro team was released in the World Almanac which was an NEA publication.
The NFL MVP award was called the Jim Thorpe Trophy and began in 1955. The Defensive Player of the Year was named after Chicago Bears founder George S. Halas and its inception was 1966, the Rookie of the Year award was named after NFL commissioner Bert Bell and began in 1964. In the early 1960s the NEA began awarding the Third Down Trophy that symbolized each team's MVP. That began in the American Football League and included the NFL after the 1970 AFL-NFL merger and ran through 1979. The Jim Thorpe Trophy was discontinued following Kurt Warner's win in 2008.
Olderman, the driving force behind the Players' All-Pro teams and awards, was also a fine artist and cartoonist. When the NEA news service released its stories on the annual NFL awards they were accompanied by artwork provided by Olderman to illustrate the stories.
From 1936 to 2010, NEA produced an annual Christmas-themed daily comic strip for its subscribing newspapers as a holiday bonus. They typically ran for three to four weeks before Christmas, with the concluding installment on December 25 or a nearby date. Strip historian Allan Holtz notes that over the years these strips featured regular NEA characters, adapted classic Christmas stories, and original stories with single-appearance characters.
Cartoonist Walt Scott was responsible for the Christmas strip for many years, starting in 1937, and then from 1950 to 1962. He illustrated the strip in 1937, 1949, 1960, and 1961; and wrote & drew it from 1950 to 1959 (with 1954 being a reprint) and in 1962. Hal Cochran wrote the strip from 1937 to 1943.
The 1942 strip, "Santa's Victory Christmas," had a World War II-era theme of conserving raw materials to further the war effort, and was drawn by Superman ghost artist Leo Nowak. The 1967 entry, Bucky's Christmas Caper, was written and drawn by famed comic book creator Wally Wood.
The following strips were inherited from Universal Uclick in 2011 and added to the NEA lineup: