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Newstands

Photoplay, Seventeen, McCall’s, and a cheap detective magazine: This newsstand tried to hook everyone in 1948. Apparently, the rack on the left provided newspapers, while other offerings included cigars, candy, and pain relievers like BC Powder.

This vendor served visitors to the Duval County Courthouse, which was located on the northwest corner of Newnan and Forsyth streets, where the eastern end of the Yates Building (the Property Appraisers Office) sits today. The newsstand was run by the Florida Council for the Blind, a state agency. In back is a blackboard that gives office hours for the courthouse’s occupants.

The little kiosk may’ve been placed in several different locations. The other newsstands on this page were also maintained at the Courthouse by the Council for the Blind. The middle photo dates from 1949, and the bottom one, from 1948. As shown in the middle image, the vendor once offered Cokes, along with some sort of frozen treat. (Today, a nonprofit group for the sight impaired still maintains food services in some of the local government buildings in downtown Jax.)

Newsstands provided much of America’s reading material during the early to mid 1900s.  As the pictures show, these vendors sometimes sold other little items too.  Newsstands were usually small kiosks, often owned by a mom & pop.  They dotted urban landscapes across the United States. Jacksonville proved no exception. In fact, a physically-challenged man with only an elementary school education used to supply much of downtown’s reading material.

Jake’s News Stand was a familiar sight for about sixty years. Connecticut native Jake Rachleff ran the stand at 116 Julia Street, just north of today’s BellSouth Tower. He served the public there from 1950 to 1979, after operating at other downtown locations since about 1920. Mr. Rachleff suffered from palsy, wearing a hole in the carpet under his chair from scuffling his foot. In spite of this affliction, however, he started work well before daybreak, picking up the Florida Times-Union for morning sales. Later in his long day, Mr. Rachleff would obtain the now-defunct Jacksonville Journal for evening customers.

The focus of Jake’s Stand didn’t end at the city limits, however. The little business carried 105 different newspapers, with Mr. Rachleff saying that the only places not covered were Mississippi, Oregon, Washington, and the Dakotas. Jake’s also offered a plethora of magazines, as well as paperback books. Many of the publications were snatched up by tourists waiting on trains or staying at downtown hotels, which used to be common. Some of the more famous patrons at Jake’s included pop-eyed comedian Eddy Cantor and carrot-topped, freckle-faced actor Van Johnson (“The Caine Mutiny,” “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo”). When in town for exhibition games, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig would even drop by for their hometown papers.

Later in his career, Mr. Rachleff saw that sex does indeed sale. Some publications leapt off the stand when they grew more titillating. According to Mr. Rachleff, Cosmopolitan was a solid example. When the magazine added articles about sex, sales jumped from 20 copies an issue to 150!

Jake Rachleff remained a River City institution until 1979, when he retired. Three years later, he passed away in his Normandy neighborhood home at the age of 83.

YESTERDAY’S HEADLINES: The sexual content of America’s print material has become more steamy over the years, but this hasn’t saved many newsstands. After once proving popular, these operations have dwindled in number. They are common today only in such places as New York City, where foot traffic is high.

Why have newsstands become old news? The reasons include the following:

  • After World War II ended in 1945, many new suburbs sprang up, and the number of cars increased. Americans often drove rather than walked. And suburban houses were not built so close together, compared to the houses & apartments located in or near downtown areas. All of this greatly impacted newsstands, which are highly dependent on visitation by pedestrians.
  • The number of TV sets multiplied many times over during the Fifties. Fewer folks went to vendors to pick up a paper, opting instead to watch the news.
  • Newsstands were ravaged by competition from supermarkets, convenience stores, and coffee shops. During the late Sixties, for example, tabloids relocated from America’s rapidly disappearing newsstands to its thriving supermarkets. Together with neighborhood groceries and mom & pop candy shops, newsstands emerged as losers against the mushrooming supermarkets.
  • Newsstands also suffered from another successful rival, book superstores. Immense periodical sections are provided by such giants as B. Dalton, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million. Commonly seen at the superstores are people reading magazines at the racks or in the in-house coffee shops.
  • Numerous newspapers are now available online, except for their classified sections. Many offices and homes are wired to the Internet. A lot of people don’t need to patronize newsstands in order to scan papers from across the country.
  • An increasing number of magazines have also offered online editions, beginning in 1993 with Time. This was first periodical to provide Net editions before sending out print editions.
  • Newsstands have had to contend with a steadily declining newspaper readership throughout the nation. The number of people who say they’ve read a paper yesterday has dropped from 58 percent in 1993 to 23 percent reading a print newspaper  in 2012.
  • Many readers have shifted to digital platforms to read papers and other news of the day. Substantial percentages of the regular readers of leading newspapers now read them digitally. Currently, 55% of regular New York Times readers say they read the paper mostly on a computer or mobile device, as do 48% of regular USA Today and 44% of Wall Street Journal readers.

~written by Glenn Emery

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