Dan Rattiner's Stories

Naming Issue: How ‘Dan’s Papers’ Got its Name in the 1960s

Learn how the Montauk Pioneer became what we have today.

It’s an odd name for a newspaper. At various times over the years, we have dealt with people calling to ask if Dan’s Papers sold art supplies or wallpaper.

It’s an interesting story how we got our name.

The first edition of what was to become Dan’s Papers was published in Montauk on July 1, 1960. I was 20 years old, between my sophomore and junior year of college, and thought that the town of Montauk ought to have a newspaper for the tourists in the summertime. I named it The Montauk Pioneer.

After finishing college and three years of grad school, each year publishing the newspaper in the summer, I spoke to my father, who owned White’s Pharmacy in Montauk, and told him I couldn’t make enough money with just this little newspaper in the summertime, and so had an idea about what I could do for the rest of the year.

“This past December, as you know, I went down to St. Thomas for a few weeks,” I told him. “I met a guy there who runs a launch business. He ferries tourists in an out from the ocean liners anchored offshore. He wants to sell the business. I would get his two launches with no money down. Just give him something from the profit every year for five years.”

“What the devil do you want to do that for?” my father said.

“Well, I have to work at something.”

“Do what me and your mother do. We hire somebody to run the store, then take off for Mazatlan, Mexico for the winter.”

“I can’t. I don’t make enough money to live on all year around with just the Pioneer in the summertime. And out of season, nobody is here.”

“So start a summer newspaper in East Hampton. Run them both at the same time, then come down to Mexico in the winter.”

The first Dan's Papers van
The first Dan’s Papers van

It was September. I thought it a great idea. But meanwhile, I had to face a winter without college and without much money. So I rented an apartment in New York City, got a job as a clerk in the city room of The New York Times, and from my apartment sent off cartoons to magazines that would buy them for $50 each. I also co-founded an alternative newspaper to cover the Lower East Side of Manhattan, which we called The East Village Other.

Then, with the winter over, I moved back, not to Montauk, but to East Hampton.

On July 1, 1966, the first edition of the East Hampton Summer Sun appeared from Amagansett to Bridgehampton. I felt I could no longer run it just from my parents’ house as I had done in Montauk. If I was going to publish in East Hampton, I should move there and get an office.

I rented a big barn, a former horse carriage house behind the Amaden Gay Agency on Gay Lane next to the post office. I rented a small cottage on the highway, and bought a van that had windows all around to deliver the papers. And I put a small wooden sign reading “East Hampton Summer Sun” on a post at the street where the driveway led back to the carriage house.

This gave me an idea. At the lumberyard I bought two wooden panels that I cut to exactly fit the inside of the two rear-side windows of the van. I installed them so they could be easily removed. On one side of each I painted the words “Montauk Pioneer.”   On the other side I painted “East Hampton Summer Sun.” When I was delivering in Montauk, the Montauk Pioneer side faced out to be visible in the windows. When I was delivering East Hampton, I’d turn the panels around.

This was effective, but I think you can begin to see that something awkward was taking place that needed to be attended to. For example, in my new office, how would we answer the phone? Montauk Pioneer? East Hampton Summer Sun?

A secretary would be answering the phone. I asked the staff if they thought the secretary should answer the phone “Summer Paper Publications, May I Help You?”

They looked at me funny.

“I just like the way it sounds. Like Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers,” I said.

They all groaned.

I tried another idea. We’d incorporate.

“Answer the phone Ink, Inc.” I said.   “Like in the pig.”

Another non-starter.

Ron Ziel, who worked for me at that time as a reporter and salesman, said he had another idea.

“Call it Dan’s Papers,” he said. “That’s what they are. If you were selling hot dogs, you might say Joe’s Hots. It’s sort of a variation on that.”

And that’s how Dan’s Papers got its name.

Within three years, I was publishing The Montauk Pioneer, The East Hampton Summer Sun, The Southampton Summer Day, The Sag Harbor Pilot, The Hampton Beach and The North Fork Free Enterprise, each weekly and each summer-only, entirely from that carriage house at first, and then later in a larger office on Main Street in Bridgehampton.

“It’s like Nabisco,” I would tell people. “The product might be Cheerios or Mallomars or glazed donuts, but they’re all under the umbrella of Nabisco.”

For the next seven years, I published the newspapers only in the summertime. I’d gotten married. I decided to do one better than my father and mother did as far as winter went. Instead of just going to one place, we could see the world.   Pick a spot on the Earth in the fall, fly there and rent a house or apartment for four months from November to April. During those seven years, we set up four-month headquarters in an Indian village in Guatemala called Panajachel; Aix-en-Provence; St. Croix; Mazatlan (near my parents,); a Canary Island called Tenerife; Puerto Rico; and Maui.

During this time, I noticed something strange. No matter what the newspaper said on the top of the front page, people referred to it as Dan’s Papers.

One day, I did an experiment. I got a copy of The East Hampton Summer Sun and held it up to somebody. That name, East Hampton Summer Sun, was emblazoned in very large letters that took up almost the entire top half of the front page of the paper. Directly under the name, in tiny print, it said “One of Dan’s Papers.”

“What is the name of this paper?” I asked.

My friend looked right at this newspaper. Stared right at East Hampton Summer Sun.

First Dan's Papers cover
First Dan’s Papers cover

“That’s Dan’s Papers,” he said.

So the next year, they were all Dan’s Papers. And here we are today, 58 years later, an enormous empire with a website, newsletters, social media, a glossy magazine and a division that produces events to which thousands come. We are still Dan’s Papers, but our corporate name is Dan’s Hamptons Media, to cover everything.

Last Monday, the first 20 years of the publication, digitized, were placed on the website nyshistoricnewspapers.org. For the moment, you find them by their original names. Go to that site and read everything in every issue from 1960 to 1980. All searchable by keyword. Try “Great White Shark” or “Montauk Manor” or “Steven Spielberg.”

So that’s how Dan’s Papers got its name.

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