The Unseen Power: Public Relations, a History

By Scott M. Cutlip | Go to book overview

Part III
The Depression And The Years Beyond

The catastrophic Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the ensuing Depression threw Americans and their values into a tailspin as clouds of doom and gloom settled across the land. No aspect of American society was left untouched, unchanged -- including the newly enlarged public relations vocation.

President Herbert Hoover, who learned the value of public relations in his World War I assignments, had used this weapon to the hilt to propel himself into the Presidency in 1929. The power of publicity was demonstrated anew when Democratic Party Publicist Charles Michelson hung the Depression around Hoover's political neck and made him easy to defeat by Franklin D. Roosevelt, a consummate practitioner of the art under the tutelage of Louis McHenry Howe, who had served FDR since 1912. Michelson, who had headed the Washington bureau of the New York World for 12 years, was hired by Democratic Party Chairman John J. Raskob to blast President Hoover and revive the Democratic Party spirits that had been devastated in the 1928 Presidential election. In his Crisis of the Old Order Arthur Schlesinger Jr., wrote of Michelson:

A hard-bitten cynic with a wintry, satanic smile and a dry humor, who had seen everything and lost all illusions, he brought a new professionalism to political publicity. While [Jouett] Shouse toured the country making speeches, Michelson turned out an uninterrupted stream of interviews, statements, and speeches in Washington. These releases -- over 500 in the first two years -- signed indifferently by leading Democrats in the House and Senate -- poured ridicule on the Hoover administration.

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