Harold Matson and His Authors
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EFORE Harold Matson became a literary agent he man-
several newspaper syndicates, and prior to that he
been an editor of daily newspapers on the West
Coast. He began work, as did many reporters and writers of the
time, without benefit of formal college education. He made his
way east to New York City in the 1920s, and eventually became
manager of McClure's Syndicate where he handled the sale of the
rights to the memoirs of General Pershing, short stories by Eanny
Hurst, weekly editorials by Bruce Barton, and others.
At McClure's, he also helped former President Calvin Coolidge
launch a newspaper column which appeared five days a week.
After writing the column for seven months, Coolidge told Matson
he had nothing else to say and wanted to give up the column even
though it was earning him seven or eight times his annual presi¬
dential salary. Matson proposed that as soon as he arose each morn¬
ing, he read the papers and comment on the news. He did so, and
finished out his year.
At the beginning of the 1930s, Matson left McClure's to open
up his own syndicate to feed news and features to radio stations,
but in the depression years collections of fees were few and far
between. He then joined Ann Watkin's literary agency in 1932,
acting as agent for writers such as Sinclair Lewis and Thorne
Smith. When A^'atkins did not make him a partner, he left in 1937
to open his own agency. Almost immediately he attracted such
writers as Phil Stong, H. Allen Smith, James Street, James Ram¬
say Ullman, Wilbur Daniel Steele and William Saroyan.
It was tough going at first because of the nature of a service
business. Not only does it take time to assemble a list of clients, but
the agent is paid a ten percent commission only when a sale is
made. He does not charge for his time as do lawyers and doctors.