The Misunderstood Nineteenth Century Press Agent

Abstract: Analysis of press coverage of nineteenth century American press agents indicates that, although press agents worked in a variety of sectors, their primary motivation was profit, their main strategy was media relations, and their tactics often relied on hype or outright lying. These characteristics would appear to support previous descriptions of press agentry, yet the research also shows that the press was more ambivalent toward press agents than previously assumed and that press agents’ strategies and tactics may have been more sophisticated than previously understood. A number of early practitioners of press agentry are identified for further study.