The history of public relations is mostly confined to the early half of the twentieth century; however there is evidence of the practices scattered through history. One notable practitioner was Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire whose efforts on behalf of Charles James Fox in the 18th century included press relations, lobbying and, with her friends, celebrity campaigning.
A number of American precursors to public relations are found in the form of publicists who specialized in promoting circuses, theatrical performances, and other public spectacles. In the United States, where public relations has its origins, many early public relations practices were developed in support of railroads. In fact, many scholars believe that the first appearance of the term "public relations" appeared in the 1897 Year Book of Railway Literature.
Later, practitioners were — and are still often — recruited from the ranks of journalism. Some reporters concerned with ethics criticize former colleagues for using their inside understanding of news media to help clients receive favorable media coverage.
Some historians regard Ivy Lee as the first real practitioner of public relations, but Edward Bernays, a nephew and student of Sigmund Freud, is generally regarded today as the profession's founder. In the United Kingdom Sir Basil Clarke (1879–1947) was a pioneer of public relations.
The First World War helped stimulate the development of public relations as a profession. Many of the first PR professionals, including Ivy Lee, Edward Bernays,John W. Hill, and Carl Byoir, got their start with the Committee on Public Information (also known as the Creel Committee), which organized publicity on behalf of U.S. objectives during World War I.
In describing the origin of the term Public Relations, Bernays commented, "When I came back to the United States [from the war], I decided that if you could use propaganda for war, you could certainly use it for peace. And propaganda got... [continues]
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