THE SEEDBED YEARS OF COUNSELING, 1900-1919
The fundamental force setting the stage for the emergence of the first public relations agencies in the early 1900s in the United States was the wild, frenzied, and bold development of industry, railroads, and utilities in America's post-Civil War era. In 25 breathtaking years from 1875 to 1900, America doubled its population and jammed its people into cities, developed mass production, enthroned the machine, spanned the nation with rail and wire communications, developed the mass media of newspaper and magazines, and replaced the plantation baron with the titans of finance and princes of industry and the versatile frontiersman with the factory hand. All of this laid the foundation for a mighty industrial machine and large concentrations of wealth. By 1900, one tenth of the population owned nine tenths of the wealth.
The rise of powerful monopolies, the concentration of wealth and power, and the rough-shod tactics of the robber barons in exploiting human labor and the nation's resources brought a wave of protest and reform in the early 1900s. Contemporary public relations emerged out of the melee of the opposing forces in this period of the nation's rapid growth and emergence from isolationism into an imperial power. Eric Goldman observed in Two-Way Street, "Shouldering aside agriculture, large-scale commerce and industry became dominant over the life of the nation. Big Business was committed to the doctrine that the less the public knew about its business, the more efficient and profitable -- even the more socially useful -- the operations would be"
Not prying into business affairs was accepted as part of the prevailing laissez-faire philosophy of the 19th century. Business historian N. S. B.