Edward L. Bernays
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1929
LIGHT'S GOLDEN JUBILEE

Thomas A. Edison, seated, is visited by President Hoover, Henry Ford and Frances Jehl, his assistant from 1879, in his reconstructed Menlo Park laboratory in Greenfield Village, Dearborn, Michigan, October 21, 1929.

The late 1920s were an era marked by mayhem. Americans had lost sight of what was important in life and as Bernays would later say, they had no heroes. Public relations was coming under heavy scrutiny and attack as the public still looked upon it as sensationalism and a menace to the integrity of the press. Bernays was looking for an opportunity to prove to the public and his critics that public relations was indeed an honorable profession.

In May of 1929, General Electric and Westinghouse approached Bernays with the task of handling the 50th anniversary of the first incandescent light, a celebration which would honor both Thomas Edison and his invaluable invention.

The campaign, entitled Light's Golden Jubilee, began in May, with a massive publicity effort and ended on October 21 with the event of the year, President Hoover dedicating the Edison Institute of Technology in Dearborn, Michigan. The event was attended by such notables as President Hoover, Henry Ford, Orville Wright, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and Madame Curie. Press representatives included members of the wire services, weekly newsreels, and photographers. Members of 15 of the most important newspapers in the country were invited as well as a number of outstanding journalists.


The Postmaster General issued a commemorative stamp for the 50th anniversary of Thomas Edison's electric light.

Edward Bernays had organized an event that had shown the world the potential of positive public relations.

Six months before the dedication ceremony, stories about Edison and the history of the incandescent light were sent out to the managing editors of local and national newspapers. The letterhead included the names of such supporters as President Hoover and Henry Ford. America began to jump on the bandwagon as newspapers and magazines began to run their own stories on the event, and towns across America planned ceremonies in honor of Edison. After Bernays approached the postmaster general, a commemorative stamp for the anniversary was issued. Bernays planned several smaller events such as the Diamond Jubilee, a light extravaganza, which took place in Atlantic City. On the day of the dedication ceremony, utility companies from around the world shut off their power for one minute in honor of Thomas Alva Edison.

Edward Bernays had organized an event that had shown the world the potential of effective public relations. It was one of his greatest triumphs, becoming a landmark in public relations history, as well as in his own long and distinguished career. Bernays later said, "Public relations had passed a milestone on the road to public understanding and respect." For here was a coordinated, planned effort which demonstrated that the consent of the public to an idea could be engineered if the time for the idea had come.

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