(l-r) unknown, Jacqueline Kennedy, Senator John F. Kennedy, Lawrence Spivak, unknowns. Photo by NBCU Photo Bank
(l-r) Moderator Lawrence E. Spivak, Russian Novelist Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Photo by Gary Wagner
Cambridge, MA, United States
In 1921 Lawrence E. Spivak received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard University.
832 Marcy Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11216, United States
In 1917 Lawrence E. Spivak graduated from Boys High School in Brooklyn.
Activist Rev. Daniel J. Berrigan (L) appearing on the TV news program Meet the Press with moderator Lawrence E. Spivak. Photo by Lee Lockwood
Lawrence E. Spivak (L), Martha Rountree (C), and Walter P. Reuther (Far Right) having a discussion before radio. Photo by Martha Holmes
Martha Rountree (L) serving drinks to Robert E. Kerr (nonalcoholic) and his wife, and Lawrence Spivak and his wife, at her garden party. Photo by Mark Kauffman
Martha Rountree (C) whispering to Leslie Biffle (R), with partner Lawrence E. Spivak (L) aware of the topic. Photo by Mark Kauffman
Martha Rountree (R) listening to partner Lawrence E. Spivak. Photo by Mark Kauffman
Lawrence E. Spivak is shown here sniffing snuff as West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt laughs.
(A selection of articles, stories, and poems published in ...)
A selection of articles, stories, and poems published in The American Mercury during the past twenty years (at time of publishing). The American Mercury was an American magazine published from 1924 to 1981. It was founded as the brainchild of H. L. Mencken and drama critic George Jean Nathan. The magazine featured writing by some of the most important writers in the United States through the 1920s and 1930s. The magazine went out of print in 1981, having spent the last 25 years of its existence in decline and controversy.
In 1917 Lawrence E. Spivak graduated from Boys High School in Brooklyn. In 1921 he received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard University.
Lawrence E. Spivak began his career in journalism as a paper carrier for Brooklyn’s Eagle while a schoolboy at Boys High School in Brooklyn. At Harvard University he became a skillful boxer and excelled in his studies. He became the business manager for Antiques magazine and reported for the Boston American in the evenings. Exhausted, Spivak gave up the reporting position. After marriage, continued working for Antiques magazine until accepting the positions of circulation manager and assistant to the publisher at Hunting and Fishing and National Sportsman.
In 1933 Spivak became the American Mercury business manager. The Mercury’s circulation had plummeted more than fifty percent from 1927 to 1933; advertising had dropped as well. Spivak realized that the decline was due to the absence of the flamboyancy Mencken, now retired, had given the magazine. To revive it, he and journalist Paul Palmer went with a more conservative slant. In January 1935, they bought partial rights to the Mercury from Alfred Knopf, and almost immediately shifted the magazine’s emphasis to the political right. Under Spivak and Palmer, the magazine focused more on conservative politics than on the literary and scholarly pursuits it had under Mencken, but still managed to maintain a level of literary integrity. To reduce printing costs, Spivak and Palmer cut the trim from the large octavo to a pocket-size. And to encourage more sales, they reduced the charge for each issue in half from fifty cents, then considered exorbitant.
Though circulation increased, the Mercury' still could not attract advertisers. Spivak, unwilling to shift from the right politically, found an alternative to subsidizing the magazine as well as turning a profit: In 1937 he came up with American Mercury Books, digest-sized, softcover reprints of fiction and nonfiction popular titles that could be sold at newsstands. The series launched with The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934) by James M. Cain. Mercury Books was a quick success. In 1940 Spivak stopped publishing nonfiction titles and began specializing in mystery novels, renaming the series Mercury Mysteries. That year, he launched Bestseller Mysteries, and the next year Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. The fourth offshoot, Jonathan Press, also a mystery-oriented series, appeared in 1942, followed by Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1949 and Detective, the Magazine of True Crime cases in 1950. All of the series were profitable, and Spivak funneled the excess money into the Mercury, which by then was running up debts of up to $100,000 annually.
By 1939 Spivak had bought complete control of the Mercury and hired Eugene Lyons as editor. Lyons maintained the magazine’s conservative stance, publishing a steady stream of articles on Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia by authors such as Cordell Hull, Winston Churchill, Herbert Hoover, and Alexander Kerensky. Mercury’s circulation climbed steadily and in 1945 it peaked at 80,000. Despite the high circulation, the magazine continued to rely on its subsidiaries financially. One of them, The American Mercury Reader, an anthology of essays, fiction, drama, and poetry from the magazine’s first twenty years, featured writers such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edgar Lee Masters, and Robert Frost.
In the late 1940s, Spivak softened the Mercury a bit with more human-interest articles and essays on topics such as health issues and humor. In 1949 he commemorated the magazine’s twenty-fifth anniversary with an editorial retrospective that highlighted its achievements. The Mercury, however, continued to lose money. When Spivak raised the price in 1949 to thirty-five cents per copy, circulation fell to half of what it had been at its peak. Determined to keep the Mercury afloat, Spivak began a weekly radio and television show. Meet the Press, as a means to promote the magazine. Ironically, by 1949 the show consumed so much of his time that he decided to sell the Mercury.
The Mercury changed hands many times after Spivak sold it to Clendenin J. Ryan, a former adviser of New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, and as the McCarthy era set in. the magazine gradually became more politically right, falling under the ownership of staunch right-wing groups such as the Defenders of the Christian Faith in 1960, and the Legion for the Survival of Freedom in 1963. Publication ceased in 1980. Though disappointed with the fate of the Mercury, Spivak concentrated on developing Meet the Press, which NBC introduced to television audiences on November 6, 1947. By 1953 Spivak had complete ownership of Meet the Press and a year later he sold all of the paperback subsidiaries to concentrate exclusively on the program. Early guests included Senator Joseph McCarthy, John and Robert Kennedy, Fidel Castro, Richard Nixon, and Indira Gandhi.
After serving for twenty years as moderator and producer, Spivak retired from the program in 1975. His only return to public life was to moderate a symposium a year later on the regulation of American political campaigns.
(A selection of articles, stories, and poems published in ...)1944
Lawrence E. Spivak was a harsh critic of Communism.
In 1924 Lawrence Spivak married Charlotte Bier Ring. They had two children: Judith Spivak Frost, Jonathan Martin. In 1983 his wife died.