|Founder||E. W. Scripps|
|Norris Huse (General Manager, c. 1919–1928)|
Monte Bourjaily (General Manager, 1928–c. 1937)
|Services||editorial columns and comic strips|
|Owner||E. W. Scripps Company (1919–2011)|
Universal Uclick/Andrews McMeel Syndication (2011–present)
|Parent||E. W. Scripps Company (1919–1978)|
United Media (1978–2011)
Andrews McMeel Universal (2011–present)
|Divisions||North American Newspaper Alliance (1972–c. 1980)|
United Feature Syndicate is a large American editorial column and comic strip newspaper syndication service based in the United States and established in 1919. Originally part of E. W. Scripps Company, it was part of United Media (along with the Newspaper Enterprise Association) from 1978 to 2011, and is now a division of Andrews McMeel Syndication. United Features has syndicated many notable comic strips, including Peanuts, Garfield, Li'l Abner, Dilbert, Nancy, and Marmaduke.
United Feature Syndicate was formed in 1919. From 1922 to 1958, United Features was the column, feature (and comics) division of Scripps' United Press Association. Authors syndicated by United Features in its early years included Frank A. Vanderlip, Octavus Roy Cohen, David Lloyd George, Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, Herbert Hoover, Sinclair Lewis, Benito Mussolini, Édouard Herriot, and Heywood Broun.
It became a dominant player in the syndication market in the early 1930s. In March 1930, United Features acquired the Metropolitan Newspaper Service (ostensibly from the Bell Syndicate). And in late February 1931, Scripps acquired the New York World, which controlled the syndication arms of the Pulitzer company: World Feature Service and Press Publishing Co. (which unlike other syndicates were owned by the paper rather than being separate entities).
The Metropolitan Newspaper Service acquisition brought over the comic strips Tarzan and Ella Cinders. The World Feature Service acquisition brought over the comic strips The Captain and the Kids, Everyday Movies, Fritzi Ritz, Hawkshaw the Detective, Joe Jinks, and Little Mary Mixup. From this point, United Features became a successful distributor of newspaper comics, for the first time distributing color Sunday strips. An April 1933 article in Fortune described United Features as one of the "Big Four" American syndicates (along with King Features Syndicate, Chicago Tribune Syndicate, and the Bell Syndicate).
In 1934, United Features launched its first original strip, Al Capp's Li'l Abner. As Li'l Abner's popularity increased, creator Capp lampooned United Features in his strip-within-a-strip, Fearless Fosdick, which featured the abusive and corrupt "Squeezeblood Syndicate."
Robert M. Hall was a sales manager at United Features starting in 1935; he left in 1944 to start the Post Syndicate.
From 1936 to 1954, United Feature published their own line of comic books, using their comic strip features as characters. Lev Gleason, who in the 1940s and 1950s published a number of popular comics titles, was an editor at United Feature in the beginning, including the company's first title, Tip Top Comics. Three United Feature titles published more than 100 issues: Tip Top Comics (188 issues, Apr. 1936–Sept./Oct. 1954), Sparkler Comics (120 issues, July 1941–Nov./Dec. 1954), and Comics on Parade (104 issues, Apr. 1938–Feb. 1955). The company even created its own original superheroes: Iron Vic, Mirror Man, and Spark Man (none of whom caught on). After ending the United Feature comics line in 1954, a few of their titles would be continued by St. John Publications. The rest of their comic book properties were acquired by Dell Comics in 1958.
In 1968, United Features syndicated about 50 features to 1500 clients.
In 1972, United Features Syndicate acquired and absorbed the North American Newspaper Alliance and the Bell-McClure Syndicate into its operations.
In May 1978 Scripps merged United Feature Syndicate and the Newspaper Enterprise Association to form United Media Enterprises. United Media continued to syndicate strips under the United Feature Syndicate brand.
In 1994, Jim Davis's company, Paws, Inc., purchased the rights to Garfield (including the strips from 1978 to 1993) from United Features. The strip is currently distributed by Andrews McMeel Syndication, while rights for the strip remain with Paws.
On February 24, 2011, United Media struck a distribution deal with Universal Uclick (now known as Andrews McMeel Syndication) for syndication of the company'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. The United Feature Syndicate brand still continues to be used on many strips.