Scholars have written histories of public relations. Scholars have written histories of labor. Scholars had yet to bring the two histories into conversation with one another, that is until Patricia Curtin, professor at the University of Oregon, started her latest book project. Dr. Curtin’s research illustrates the many connections between public relations and American labor in the early twentieth century. Whereas capital had its public relations gurus, such as Ivy Lee, so too did the labor movement, with Mother Jones and the IWW leading the way. The struggle for control over firms, economic resources, and business management pivoted, at least in part, on public opinion. Neither capital nor labor could afford to lose the opportunity to cultivate public support, and both sides went at it with gusto. Over the long term, capital had the upper hand. But successful and popular unionization efforts in the twenty-first century, such as that organized by Starbucks workers, may indicate a turning tide in the story.
In support of her work, Professor Curtin received funding from the Center for the History of Business, Technology, & Society at the Hagley Museum & Library.
The audio only version of this program is available on our podcast. The link to this Hagley History Hangout is https://www.hagley.org/research/history-hangout-8.
Recorded on Zoom and available anywhere once they are released, our History Hangouts include interviews with authors of books and other researchers who have use of our collections, and members of Hagley staff with their special knowledge of what we have in our stacks. We began the History Hangouts earlier this summer and now are releasing programs every two weeks on alternate Mondays. Our series is part of the Hagley from Home initiative by the Hagley Museum and Library. The schedule for upcoming episodes, as well as those already released, is available at https://www.hagley.org/hagley-history-hangout.
Carol Ressler Lockman