The First Washington Agencies
As the waves of the Progressive revolt rose around Capitol Hill in the early months of Roosevelt's presidency, it became apparent to shrewd men that conventional lobbying and legislative fixing would not prove adequate in a time when, in Roosevelt's words, there was "a condition of excitement and irritation in the public mind" The discerning interest groups began to see the need to go beyond the legislator to his constituents to build support for or foment opposition to proposed legislation. Inside government, Roosevelt and his Forester, Gifford Pinchot, were showing the power of publicity in making the nation conservation minded. Outside government, the Anti- Saloon League with its program of political agitation directed toward the defeat of wet and election of dry candidates was showing the way to pressure groups. This new kind of lobbying required communication with a congressman's constituents as well as contacts with him in the Capitol.
Among the first, if not the first, Washington newspaperman to see a profitable calling in this emerging situation was William Wolff Smith, who opened a "publicity business" in the capital in 1902. This agency, too, lasted little more than a decade. Apparently at the outset, the agency was a partnership, Smith and a man named Walmer, but no evidence has been found as to who Walmer was, how long he was associated with Smith, or what his role was. In testifying before the House committee investigating government press bureaus in 1912, Charles W. Thompson, The New York Times Washington reporter, recalled, "10 years ago a firm -- Smith & Walmer -- started a press bureau up here in the capitol, and up to that time I do not think such a thing had been much thought about. They used to solicit press agent employment from anybody who had business before