The Unseen Power: Public Relations, a History

By Scott M. Cutlip | Go to book overview

Chapter 1
The Nation's First Publicity Agency

The nation's first publicity agency, the Publicity Bureau, was organized on the eve of the 20th century that has brought the development and widespread utilization of public relations skills. The firm was founded in Boston, where Harvard University fund raisers and Revolutionary hell raisers had fashioned primitive but effective methods of influencing public opinion centuries before.

The Publicity Bureau lasted some 12 years before it disappeared into the sands of oblivion with the consequence that its history is little known among public relations practitioners. The popular impression in the craft is that the firm founded by George F. Parker, longtime publicity aide to Grover Cleveland, and Ivy L. Lee late in 1904 was the nation's first public relations (PR) firm. The Publicity Bureau left few records in its wake. This may explain its neglect by historians.

The Bureau was started sometime in mid- 1900 by George V. S. Michaelis, Herbert Small, and Thomas O. Marvin. Its founding went unrecorded in the Boston press, and no records giving a precise date of organization have been found. The Fourth Estate, from June 1900 to July 1901, makes no mention of this journalistic innovation. Nor is it listed in The New York Times Index from 1899 to 1905. The Boston City Directory does not list the firm in its 1900 edition but does for the year beginning July 1, 1901. A Publicity Bureau advertisement in the 1901 directory lists Michaelis as president, Marvin as treasurer, and Small as general secretary, and gives addresses for the Bureau in Boston, Paris, and Washington.

James Drummond Ellsworth, who subsequently joined the firm, re

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