Key People and Events

Public Relations History

1800 B.C. -- Earliest example of educational materials, a farm bulletin produced in ancient Sumeria telling farmers how to grow crops

lst Century B.C. -- Romans coined the phrase Vox populi; vox Dei, "the voice of the people is the voice of God."

15th century A.D. -- A variety of handbills and broadsides were used to promote various causes in the decades following the invention of printing (1446).

1623 -- Pope Gregory XV created the College for Propagating the Faith, the first large-scale use of public relations, created by the Roman Catholic Church. Origin of the modern term propaganda.

1840s -- P.T. Barnum pioneered press agentry in U.S. by promoting local appearances by his touring circus.

1850s -- American railroads used publicity, advertising and printed materrials to attract tourists and settlers to the American West.

1889 -- First corporate public relations department established by Westinghouse.

1896 -- The use of modern publicity in political campaigns began with the presidential election between William McKinley and William Jennings Bryan.

1900 -- The Publicity Bureau was organized in Boston as the nation's first publicity firm -- and forerunner of today's public relations agency.

1900s -- Corporations started to use a variety of techniques to promote positive relationships with customers. For example, Ford pioneered press product previews (1895) as well as auto racing (1903) as a means to promote its products. Chicago Edison was the first to use an external magazine (1903), films (1909), and stuffers inserted in customer bills (1912).

1906 -- Ivy Lee was hired to represent the industry in the anthracite coal strike. Lee issued his "Declaration of Principles," considered to be the birth of modern public relations counseling.

1916-18 -- The Committee on Public Information, headed by George Creel, promoted public support of American involvement in World War I.

1923 -- Edward L. Bernays published Crystalizing Public Opinion and popularized the term "public relations counsel." He also taught the first public relations course (at New York University).

1927 -- Arthur W. Page was named vice president-public relations at AT&T, accepting the job only if he were allowed to be involved in policy-making. Page would distinguish himself as the leading corporate practitioner of the century by emphasizing the importance of cooperation with the public and of disclosure about corporate activities.

1933 -- First political-campaign firm was established by Clem Whitaker and Leone Baxter, who pioneered modern electioneering with several famous campaigns in California.

1945 -- The Advertising Council (formerly the War Advertising Council) was reorganized to create information campaigns on behalf of various social causes.

Return to Public Relations History
Return to Public Relations Materials
Created August 1999