Spiller Newspaper Paperweight Collection
Mortimer Spiller was born in 1922 to Russian immigrants who settled in LeRoy, New York. Spiller’s college training in business and advertising was interrupted by service in World War II. After the war, he was eager to complete his education and put his degree into practice. In 1947, while conducting sidewalk surveys in the windy skyscraper canyons of New York City, he noticed the practical need for weights to hold down newspapers in the city’s newsstands.
Spiller saw a unique opportunity. In the confined space of a newsstand, every square inch counted as potential placement for products or advertising. While a simple rock could hold the papers down, a custom-made weight could enhance the marketing of any newspaper or magazine. Spiller was soon making and selling weights to major publishers for use at newsstands around the country. His first order was for 10,000 weights for Newsweek. The company went on to produce over 100,000 different weights into the 1980s from a foundry in Batavia, New York, for such companies as Newsweek, Look, and the New York Times.
In 2011, the Spiller family donated its collection of newspaper weights to the New York State Museum. The collection includes samples of Spiller products as well as products made by other manufacturers.
Early Cast Iron Newspaper Weights
These early newspaper weights made of cast iron were brightly painted to grab the attention of passersby.
- Radio News magazine was geared toward all things electronic.
- The Red Jacket Street Guide covered the Buffalo area of New York State and was produced for most of the first half of the 20th century.
- The New York Advance was a weekly newspaper published in the Yorkville section of Manhattan. The publisher claimed a circulation of around 20,500 when they closed, due to a labor dispute, in 1938.
Multilingual newspapers are also available at newsstands in New York. According to the donor, the Segye Times newspaper weight was acquired on “Sam Ship Ega” (32nd Street), the densely-Korean strip in midtown Manhattan between Broadway and Fifth Avenue.” The once-prevalent Spanish-language daily newspaper, "Hoy (Today)," was also acquired in New York City.