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Biography of an Idea: The Founding Principles of Public Relations

Book Description

The father of public relations looks back on a landmark life spent shaping trends, preferences, and general opinion

A twentieth-century marketing visionary, Edward L. Bernays brilliantly combined mastery of the social sciences with a keen understanding of human psychology to become one of his generation’s most influential social architects. In Biography of an Idea, Bernays traces the formative moments of his career, from his time in the Woodrow Wilson administration as one of the nation’s key wartime propagandists to his consultancy for such corporate giants as Procter & Gamble, General Electric, and Dodge Motors. While working with the American Tobacco Company, Bernays launched his now-infamous Lucky Strike campaign, which effectively ended the long-standing taboo against women smoking in public.

With his vast knowledge of the psychology of the masses, Bernays was in great demand, advising high-profile officials and counseling the tastemakers of his generation. His masterful and at times manipulative techniques had longstanding influences on social and political beliefs as well as on cultural trends. Biography of an Idea is a fascinating look at the birth of public relations—an industry that continues to hold sway over American society.

“Mr. Bernays was one of the first people to expand what had been a narrow concept of press agentry, or working to influence government policy, into a far more ambitious—and controversial—realm of seeking to influence and change public opinion and behavior.” —The New York Times
Edward L. Bernays (1891–1995) is commonly referred to as the father of public relations. Born in Vienna, Austria, and a nephew of Sigmund Freud, Bernays moved to the United States as a young child. His belief that popular opinion could and should be manipulated led him to create psychological and sociological techniques that allowed businesses, industries, and even governments to influence the public. Lucky Strike, the Waldorf Astoria, General Motors, General Electric, and Ivory soap numbered among his illustrious clients. Woodrow Wilson even hired Bernays to promote the American efforts in World War I. Famous for popularizing the use of the press release and developing memorable campaigns, Bernays is responsible for creating the field of public relations as we know it. 

Table of Contents

  1. Cover Page
  2. Title Page
  3. Dedication
  4. Contents
  5. Epigraph
  6. Part I Beginnings [1891–1916]
    1. 1 Childhood at Century’s Turn
    2. 2 Barren Years at Cornell Agricultural College
    3. 3 Looking for Life
    4. 4 Sex O’Clock in America
    5. 5 On Park Row
    6. 6 On Broadway
    7. 7 Metropolitan Musical Bureau
    8. 8 Nijinsky and Diaghileff’s Ballet Russe
    9. 9 On Tour with Caruso
    10. 10 Movies and Rallies for Democracy
  7. Part II Adjustment [1917–1922]
    1. 11 Words Win the War and Lose the Peace
    2. 12 Interval in Paris
    3. 13 Publicity Direction
    4. 14 Fighting Jim Crow in the South
    5. 15 Marriage and Life in Greenwich Village
    6. 16 Great Hotels
    7. 17 Two Magazines and the Sell Mania
    8. 18 Correspondence with Freud
    9. 19 Horace Liveright, Pioneer in Publishing
    10. 20 Counsel on Public Relations
  8. Part III Fulfillment [1923–1929]
    1. 21 Art Comes to Industry
    2. 22 The Worlds of Fashion
    3. 23 Pierre Cartier: Diplomat in Trade
    4. 24 Jacques Seligmann and Company
    5. 25 Breakfast with Coolidge
    6. 26 Procter & Gamble: 99 44/100% Pure
    7. 27 Notes on the 1920s
    8. 28 George Washington Hill: Industrial Tornado
    9. 29 Ramifications in Oil
    10. 30 Keeping the Auto Industry Rolling
    11. 31 Bread on the Assembly Line
    12. 32 Broadcasting: CBS and NBC
    13. 33 E. A. Filene: The Unsuccessful Millionaire
    14. 34 Light’s Golden Jubilee
  9. Part IV Depression, New Deal and Challenges to Democracy [1930–1941]
    1. 35 President Hoover Attempts to Exorcise Unemployment
    2. 36 The Committee on the Cost of Medical Care
    3. 37 Book Business
    4. 38 Power Struggles for Proxies
    5. 39 Construction in the Depression
    6. 40 The Ladies’ Home Journal
    7. 41 International Mountains Out of National Molehills
    8. 42 Fighting for Credit Expansion
    9. 43 Giant Motors Purr
    10. 44 Sphinx of Wall Street
    11. 45 America Self-Contained
    12. 46 Philco: The Rise of Radio
    13. 47 Nash-Kelvinator
    14. 48 Oriental Pearls
    15. 49 Beer: The Beverage of Moderation
    16. 50 Speak Up for Democracy
    17. 51 Fore for Democracy
    18. 52 The Pullman Company
    19. 53 A. P. Giannini: America’s Number-One Banker
    20. 54 World’s Fair, 1939
    21. 55 Personalities of the Twenties and Thirties
    22. 56 Depression Miscellany
    23. 57 The Whirling Wheel of Change
    24. 58 Underwriting Fire Insurance with the Public
  10. Part V World War II and the Postwar World [1942 to the present]
    1. 59 In Time of War Prepare for Peace
    2. 60 Publications Woo Their Publics
    3. 61 Postwar Competition Spurs Corporate Public Relations
    4. 62 Personalities of the Forties and Fifties
    5. 63 Gaining Good Will for India
    6. 64 The Theater
    7. 65 Georges Wildenstein’s Gallery
    8. 66 The United Fruit Company
    9. 67 Public Acceptance of Public Relations
    10. 68 Turning Point
    11. 69 Leisure and Pleasure
  11. Image Gallery
  12. Among Our Clients
  13. Index
  14. Acknowledgments
  15. About the Author
  16. Copyright Page