Who the **** is Edward Bernays?
By: Patrick Wilson
Edward Bernays was a resident of Cambridge until the end of his life in 1995. Active in local politics, at 100 he championed Massachusetts Senate Bill #374 in 1992. The bill was meant to give professional status to practitioners of Public Relations. Doris E. Fleischman, whom he married in 1922 was the first married woman to be issued a US passport without her husband’s last name. She was his partner throughout his career as well as being a member of the Lucy Stone League.
Edward Bernays is considered both the father of Public Relations and the father of Propaganda. He’s the reason that ‘bacon and eggs’ are a breakfast staple. During World War 1, Bernays worked for the Committee on Public Information, where he built support for the war both domestically and abroad. His success selling WW1 made him a trusted advisor to Woodrow Wilson.
He developed his own science from shaping the thoughts and opinions, the needs and wants of the masses. He called it Public Relations, but some call it Propaganda. Edward Bernays is considered the father of both and credits what he learned to his uncle Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis.
Bernays was born in Austria in 1891, but grew up in New York City. He studied agriculture at Cornell at the age of 16 and was a journalist until World War 1. During the war, he worked for the Committee on Public Information then was invited to accompany Woodrow Wilson to the Paris Peace Conference.
During World War 1 Propaganda was looked upon kindly, this changed in World War 2 when the Nazis used it. This is where Bernays put his uncle’s ideas to work for private industry, as well as non-profit and political clients. The list is very long.
In the twentieth century, as well as previous centuries it was thought inappropriate for women to smoke. The Dutch depicted women that smoked as fallen in their paintings as early as the 17th century. Lucky Strike executives felt they were missing out on half the business they could potentially have and hired Bernays. Cigarettes traditionally equated with men became ‘Torches of Freedom‘. In 1929 Bernays paid women to smoke their ‘Torches of Freedom’ in the ‘Easter Sunday Parade’ in New York City. Photographers were paid to distribute the best photo’s to the press. For women, smoking in public was an act of defiance and spread across the country with the photo’s from the Easter Sunday Parade.
“the campaign was being talked about everywhere, the women’s walk was seen as a protest for equality and sparked discussion throughout the nation and is still known today. The targeting of women in tobacco advertising led to higher rates of smoking among women. In 1923 women only purchased 5% of cigarettes sold, in 1929 that percentage increased to 12%, in 1935 to 18.1%, peaking in 1965 at 33.3%, and remaining at this level until 1977.“- wiki
Edward Bernays is important because he showed us what we can do. He knew that there were far more of us than them and that if we act together, we can accomplish our goals and live our dream of Liberty, Freedom and Justice. At the same time, he is part of our local history.