Piece of Long Island History Lives on at Stony Brook University Libraries

Dan Rattiner created his first East End paper, the Montauk Pioneer, in 1960.

When Dan Rattiner created his first East End newspaper, he never could have imagined he’d be writing for the next 63 years. But that’s just what he did — and now all of Long Island’s East End stories on which he and other notable writers collaborated will be available for researchers and the public at Stony Brook University Libraries.

The cover of the Dan's Papers issue from June 10, 2022.
The cover of the Dan’s Papers issue from June 10, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Dan’s Papers)

Rattiner grew up in New Jersey, moving to Montauk when his father bought a pharmacy. “I worked for him and ran the soda fountain for a few summers. But I knew I didn’t want to do it forever.” As a student at the University of Rochester, he worked for the college newspaper, and during a summer break, he decided to make a free newspaper available in Montauk. He says the East Hampton Star was the only other local paper out there. “Many of the stories in the Star were about how people were upset about the motels being built in Montauk,” Rattiner explained. “So I created a summer paper called the Montauk Pioneer to give Montauk a voice.”

He continued to publish the Montauk Pioneer every summer until he graduated. After a two-year stint at Harvard to study architecture, he moved back home and started a second paper, called the East Hampton Summer Sun, at his father’s suggestion. He rented a bungalow in East Hampton and hired a small staff. “Since we had two papers, my secretary asked how to answer the phone,” Rattiner recalled. “That’s how we came up with the name Dan’s Papers. Eventually, merging both versions into a single edition was how Dan’s Papers was started.” It is currently one of the only weekly publications covering the entire East End.

Over the years, Rattiner became known as the Hoaxer of the Hamptons, thanks to stories about the Hamptons Subway (which is fictional) up to his most popular tale — how they were going to thin the deer population (by letting lions free on a Monday, of course). “I created the hoaxes as a way to explain to people that they shouldn’t always believe what they read in the paper.”

Rattiner has written tens of thousands of articles, with the last half of them, since the launch of the internet, stored on a thumb drive on a leather cord around his neck. Now, the actual papers containing those stories will have a home at Stony Brook University Libraries.

The collection chronicles the history of the Hamptons. Some stories examine how the farming and fishing community grew into the beautiful resort town it is today. “I thought it would be difficult to hand everything over,” said Rattiner. “But knowing they’d be somewhere safe made me feel good.”

The papers, which are in binders, span 1960 to 2023. The archive will be part of Stony Brook’s Special Collections, the library division that stewards and curates the university’s collections of rare books, archival collections, manuscripts and historical maps.

Founder and owner of Dan's Papers, Dan Rattiner.
Founder and owner of Dan’s Papers, Dan Rattiner, with the collection of archives behind him. (Photo courtesy of Dan’s Papers)

“We are very excited to have Dan’s Papers as part of Stony Brook University Libraries’ collections,” said Associate Librarian and Interim Associate Dean of Collection Strategy and Management Jamie Saragossi. “The newspaper is an important chronicler and recorder of Long Island history.”

“The collection is the most complete print run of Dan’s Papers held by a research library,” said Associate Librarian and Director of Special Collections and University Archives Kristen Nyitray. “Esteemed contributors to the paper have already inquired about the collection and are excited by the prospect of their writings reaching an even broader audience.”

The full collection is currently undergoing a preservation assessment before it can be digitized, which would allow the publications to be freely available online. “The digital archive will allow users to easily search for keywords or specific dates, rather than having to access the physical copy to browse the pages,” said Saragossi.

The cover of the Dan's Papers issue from August 2, 2019 - the 60th Celebration Issue.
The cover of the Dan’s Papers issue from August 2, 2019 – the 60th Celebration Issue. (Photo courtesy of Dan’s Papers)

“As the papers become available online, we anticipate more interest from featured writers and artists, as well as increased usage by researchers,” Nyitray added.

In addition to his collection, Rattiner has donated to support the digitization process. Click here to learn more about the process and perhaps help a piece of East End history live on through the Dan’s Papers archive.

“As part of the project plan, we will complete a portion of the digitization with Dan’s generous support. Through fundraising efforts, we are hoping to secure enough funds to complete the digitization of Dan’s Papers, as well as acquire proper archival enclosures and shelving for the collection,” said Saragossi. “Once the digitization is complete, the physical collection will be available to researchers upon request.”

Rattiner has come a long way from writing in his bedroom at his parents’ home. “It feels great to have started something that people feel has benefited the area,” he said. “And now it’s important and interesting enough that people want to save it. It’s very exciting.”

-Christine McGrath

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