Pioneers of Promotion: How Press Agents for Buffalo Bill, P.T. Barnum, and the World’s Columbian Exposition Created Modern Marketing

Joe Dobrow. Univ. of Oklahoma, $32.95 (400p) ISBN 978-0-8061-6010-8
In this exuberant account, marketing executive Dobrow (Natural Prophets) returns Buffalo Bill, the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and other names from late-19th-century popular culture to their rightful place in advertising history. Before there was a formal profession devoted to public relations, he writes, the field was dominated by three innovative men: Tody Hamilton, Moses Handy, and John M. Burke. At the time, the primary means of reaching a mass audience in a still largely rural America were newspapers, handbills, and word of mouth. Hamilton travelled in advance of Barnum & Bailey’s circus, placing ads and articles. Partial to alliteration (“Fabulous Fat Fanny Feeding Ferociously on Farinaceous Foods”), Hamilton charmed reporters and the public alike. Burke promoted Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show, in the process helping to create the myth of the Wild West. Meanwhile, Handy, a reporter who made his name by publishing diaries from his adventurous career as a Confederate officer, wrangled a plum position as head of the department of publicity and promotion for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Dobrow is a rollickingly entertaining writer with a gift for making history vivid, and he breathes life into the Gilded Age on every page. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/11/2018
Release date: 06/01/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
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