Public relations as a profession developed in the 20th century, mainly in the U.S. Until the beginning of the 20th century public relations was a refined form of propaganda employed almost exclusively to defend a movement, cause, or individual or institution, regardless of merit or social significance. Among the first Jews in the field were Moses Lindo of South Carolina, who made skillful use of publicity to promote the export of American indigo in the years before the Revolution, and Henry Castro, a French Jew who publicized Texas among European Jews in 1844 as an agent of the Republic of Texas. Henry Zeltner was a U.S. government press agent in New York City during and after the 1863 draft riots. Twenty years later his son, Louis, served as publicity man for Theodore Roosevelt when he was police commissioner of New York City. The country's first financial publicity agency was founded by Albert Frank in 1872 to obtain free newspaper space for stockbrokers. Rudolph Guenther set up a similar agency in 1892, and later the Albert Frank-Guenther law firm became the leading financial publicity organization. Gus J. Karger (1866–1924), a vice president of the firm, was the press chief of William Howard Taft's 1908 presidential campaign and director of the Republican Party's press bureau in the 1912 presidential election.
Modern public relations took shape during World War I with the formation of the U.S. Committee on Public Information. This first organized use of all the tools and techniques of publicity as an offensive measure for mobilizing the power of mass opinion demonstrated to business, industry, government, and private institutions the value of public relations. This committee was the training ground for two young men, Carl Byoir (1888–1957) and Edward L. *Bernays, who became major forces in raising public relations to a profession. Byoir helped distribute 40,000,000 of the famous red, white, and blue texts on war aims abroad, publicized the draft, interpreted American war objectives throughout the world, and was on Woodrow Wilson's press staff at the Versailles Peace Conference. He also served as public relations adviser to Thomas G. *Masaryk, first president of Czechoslovakia. He was the originator of the Franklin D. Roosevelt birthday balls that raised millions for polio victims and led to the establishment of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis.
It was Bernays who coined the term "public relations counselor" and gave the profession its first code and set of principles. He also wrote the first book on the subject, Crystallizing Public Opinion, in 1923, and taught the first college course in public relations at New York University in 1930. Before his retirement in the late 1950s, Bernays represented some of the nation's largest corporations and newspapers as well as government agencies and social and health organizations.
The Europe of World War I was also the training ground for Benjamin Sonnenberg (1901– ), who began his flamboyant career as a writer of publicity stories for the *American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. He launched his own firm in 1924 and became a highly successful adviser to corporations, entertainment and literary personalities, and big businessmen. George Weissman (1919–1978), who rose from public relations director to president of the Philip Morris Co., learned the art in the Sonnenberg office. Out of the Byoir firm came Kalman Druck, later head of his own firm, and Edward Gottlieb. Druck was one of the key figures in uniting the Public Relations Society of America and the American Public Relations Association (APRSA) into a single professional organization. He headed the committee that developed the system for accrediting practitioners. Gottlieb, famed for coining the permanent-wave slogan "Which twin has the Toni?" was responsible for popularizing French champagne in the U.S.
Public Relations in Entertainment and Sport
In the 1920s and 1930s, most Jews in public relations were not in industry but in the world of entertainment, in the film industry. One of the earliest motion picture press agents was Mike Newman, promotion director for Columbia Pictures, who made Mary Pickford an international celebrity. Howard Dietz was the publicity agent who in 1917 devised Leo the Lion as the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer trademark. He spread the malapropisms of Samuel *Goldwyn for many years before becoming press chief for *Loew's. Another film public relations pioneer was Charles Einfeld (1901–1974) of Warner Bros. Studios, who trained scores of people in motion picture promotion. He introduced the movie trailer and the premiere junket. Harry Reichenbach was an outstanding press agent from 1915 to 1930, as was Irving Strouse in the 1930s. Bernard Sobol was the man who made Flo *Ziegfeld's Follies a national institution before World War II. Sydney Eiges and Sid Garfield were publicity chiefs for the National Broadcasting Company and Columbia Broadcasting System respectively. Many of the leading stage and movie personalities were represented by Henry C. Rogers of Hollywood. The public relations resourcefulness of Henry Meyer converted Miami Beach from a winter playground for the rich to a year-round resort for people of modest means. The bathing beauty contests that became internationally famous were Meyer's brain children. Hal Cohen, Meyer's successor, built up the Florida resort even more.
Many of the best-known professional sports enterprises had Jewish public relations directors. Haskell Cohen was the public relations chief of the National Basketball Association. Robert Fishel and Harold Weisman were the public relations directors of the New York Yankees and the New York Mets respectively. Joe Goldstein, who promoted Roosevelt Raceway, began as a publicity man at the old Madison Square Garden. Irving Rudd, who handled public relations at Yonkers Raceway, grew up in small-time boxing club publicity. Harry Markson was for years the public relations man for Mike Jacobs, the leading fight promoter of Madison Square Garden. Joe Reichler handled public relations for the Baseball Commissioner of America.
Public Relations in Politics and Public Affairs
Events flowing from the depression of the 1930s and the New Deal, and later from World War II, were responsible for the immense expansion of public and private public relations in which Jews came to play an increasingly significant role. Charles Michelson (1869–1947), brother of the scientist Albert A. *Michelson, who became press director of the Democratic National Committee in 1929, was the ablest political publicist of his time. Mike Straus, who went to Washington with the New Deal, was the highly effective public relations director of the Department of the Interior under Harold C. Ickes.
One of the founders of the American College Public Relations Association in 1917 was Bernard Sobel, information director of Purdue University. An early president of this oldest organized group of publicists was Louis Boochever, public relations director of Cornell University in the 1920s, and later national public relations director of the American Red Cross. George Hecht, publisher of Parents Magazine, was the founder in 1919 of Better Times, the first publication to publicize social work. Six years later he established the Social Legislation Information Service as a public relations lobby. Louis Resnick (1892–1941), for 15 years public relations director of the National Society for the Prevention of Blindness, set many of the standards used in social welfare publicity during his years as information director of the National Safety Council. In 1935 he became the first information director of the newly established U.S. Social Security Administration. Harold Levy, for many years on the staff of the Russell Sage Foundation, was one of the pioneers of social work publicity. Irving Rimer was the third executive director of the National Public Relations Council on Health and Welfare, and his successor was Harold Weiner. Rimer later became public relations director of the American Cancer Society. Sol Lifson was for a long time director of public information for the National Tuberculosis and Respiratory Diseases Association. Another pioneer in social work publicity was Viola Paradis, who headed public relations for the *National Council of Jewish Women. Bernard Roloff introduced the "crusade for mercy" theme as public relations director of the United Fund for Chicago, one of the largest community chests. Victor Weingarten made the Child Welfare League widely known. From 1923 to 1936 Herbert Seligman was public relations director of the National Association of Colored People, and Frances Adlerstein directed public relations for the Travelers Aid Association.
Anna *Rosenberg, who served as assistant secretary of defense under President Truman, later became a highly successful public relations expert for big business. When he retired from newspaper work, Herbert Bayard *Swope, the renowned managing editor of the New York World, was public relations adviser to Bernard M. *Baruch and to many government agencies and business firms. In the 1950s, Sydney S. Baron was the publicity director of Tammany Hall. The CIO Political Action Committee's public relations director was Allan Reitman, and David B. Charney had the same post with the International Teamsters' Union. Frank Mankiewicz was the press director for Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and held the same post in the unsuccessful effort of Senator George McGovern to win the 1968 Democratic presidential nomination.
Public Relations in the Jewish Community
The rise of the public relations man in Jewish communal life was a post-World War I phenomenon directly attributable to major events and developments in Jewish history. The relief campaigns on behalf of war-stricken European Jewry, the struggles against the antisemitism of Henry Ford and the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s, the growth of national membership organizations and Jewish federations, the building-fund campaigns for synagogues, Jewish community centers, old folks homes and institutions of Jewish higher learning, the fight against Nazism, and the dramatic efforts to establish the State of Israel, all called between 1917 and 1948 for the unprecedented mobilization of Jewish public opinion as well as the winning of support from the general population.
The first public relations bureau serving the Jewish community was formed in 1919 by Louis Popkin (1894–1943) and his wife Zelda (née Feinberg). A reporter on the American Hebrew, Popkin had been drafted in 1914 to handle publicity for the newly-organized American Joint Distribution Committee. In 1917 he took on the same job for the wartime National Jewish Welfare Board. After the war the Popkin established Planned Publicity Service, which did public relations for a number of Jewish organizations. Their first assignment was the drafting of the cable to Woodrow Wilson at the Versailles Peace Conference asking for the protection of Jewish rights. For the New York Federation of Jewish Philanthropies they set up the first organized permanent public relations department in any Jewish agency. In 1922 Abraham H. Fromenson (1874–1935), editor of the English page of the Yiddish-language daily, the Tageblatt, who had been publicity head of the Zionist Organization of America when Louis D. *Brandeis controlled it, joined the Popkin firm, which trained many of the people who later became the first public relations directors of major Jewish organizations. David A. Brown, the Detroit business executive who turned into the leading Jewish fund-raiser of the 1920s and 1930s, pioneered many of the public relations techniques on which later public relations experts built.
As public relations chief of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies from 1934 to 1945, Elliott Cohen, founder of *Commentary, introduced to the field of public relations people of professional competence and familiarity with Jewish life and traditions, who were able to interpret health and welfare with intelligence, style, and clarity. He established the high standards of production and art that set the pattern of fund-raising literature for the whole Jewish community. One of Cohen's predecessors was Isidore Sobeloff (1899– ), who went on to become a Federation executive in Detroit and Los Angeles.
Henry *Montor (1905–1982) became publicity director of the United Palestine Appeal in 1931, and was a genius in persuading American Jewish communities to provide unprecedented sums for Palestine by the use for the first time of all the tools and techniques of modern public relations. In 1939, when the JDC and UPA joined forces in the United Jewish Appeal, Montor was elevated to national campaign director. He and his successor, Meyer Steinglass, broke new ground by running full-page advertisements in the daily press and using radio for campaign publicity. When Montor left UJA to assume direction of the Bonds for Israel campaign, Steinglass went with him as public relations director. Raphael Levy and Ben Hanft (d. 1985), Steinglass' successors at UJA extended their methods to television and films.
The public relations techniques first tested by UJA and Bonds for Israel were adapted with some modifications but equal success by the American offices of Israel organizations as well by virtually every other national Jewish agency. The American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, and the American Jewish Congress varied in approach and emphasis, but they all saw public relations as a significant element of their overall educational role in bringing to public attention the nature of prejudice, the evils of antisemitism and bigotry, and the importance of understanding among men of all races and ethnic groups.
A unique public relations instrument created by the Jews of America was the Jewish Welfare Board Public Relations Committee, formed during World War II by the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Congress, the Jewish War Veterans, and the Jewish Labor Committee. This combined operation developed within the Jewish community an understanding of the war issues, and built up support for a program of religious and morale services to Jewish military personnel.
Through public relations of the most dignified character, the Jewish Theological Seminary of America helped establish Judaism as one of the major religious traditions in America. The Seminary's radio and TV program, "The Eternal Light," was a highly effective public relations instrument. Skilled public relations played significant roles in the expansion of Yeshiva University, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Brandeis University, the growth of mass Jewish membership organizations such as Hadassah and B'nai B'rith, and the raising of hundreds of millions of dollars for new synagogues, community centers, hospitals, and other communal institutions.
By 1940 there were enough people professionally employed as public relations specialists by Jewish organizations
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.