Skip to main content Accessibility help

Protestant Press Relations in the United States, 1900–1930

  • John P. Ferré (a1)


Protestant churches in the early twentieth century were vexed by dwindling attendance, a clear sign of their declining social authority. The Reverend William C. Skeath complained about “the masses of the passively religious who have closed their ears to the sermon subject and their doors to pastoral visitation.” Likewise, in How to Fill the Pews, Ernest Eugene Elliott said that because no more than two-fifths of church members went to church on any given Sunday, the church had ceased to be the chief forum in American public life.



Hide All

The Louisville Institute for the Study of Protestantism and American Culture supported this research with a summer stipend (92–0006).

1. Skeath, William C., Building the Congregation: A Study of Appeals (New York, 1919), p. 22.

2. Elliott, Ernest Eugene, How to Fill the Pews (Cincinnati, 1917), pp. 18, 167.

3. Voskuil, Dennis N., “Reaching Out: Mainline Protestantism and the Media,” in Hutchison, William R., ed., Between the Times: The Travail of the Protestant Establishment in America, 1900–1960 (Cambridge, 1989), pp. 7274.

4. Hart, Hornell, “Changing Social Attitudes and Interests,” in Recent Social Trends in the United States: Report of the President's Research Committee on Social Trends (New York, 1933), p. 398.

5. Smith, Herbert Heebner, Publicity and Progress: Twentieth Century Methods in Religious, Educational and Social Activities (New York, 1915), pp. 1718.

6. Buddenbaum, Judith M., “‘Judge…What Their Acts Will Justify’: The Religion Journalism of James Gordon Bennett,” Journalism History, 14 (Summer/Autumn 1987): 5467.

7. Beecher, Henry Ward, “By-the-Bye,” The Journalist, 19 12 1885, p. 13.

8. Crafts, Wilbur F., The Sabbath for Man, 6th ed. (New York, 1892), pp. 332333.

9. Farewell Reception to Mr. Varley,” New York Times, 13 04 1875, p. 12.

10. Reisner, Christian F., Church Publicity: The Modern Way to Compel Them to Come In (Boston, 1913), p. 102.

11. Crawford, Nelson A., The Ethics of Journalism (New York, 1924), p. 75.For reminiscences about church reporting early this century see Bingay, Malcolm W., Of Me I Sing (Indianapolis, Ind., 1949), pp. 7282.

12. Smith, , Publicity and Progress, pp. 52–53.

13. Donald, Robert, “Sunday Newspapers in the United States,” The Universal Review, 8 09 1890, p. 89.

14. Burrell, David James, “For Christ's Crown” and Other Sermons (New York, 1896), pp. 298299.

15. Niese, Richard B., The Newspaper and Religious Publicity (Nashville, Tenn., 1925), p. 115.

16. Gilbert, Ralph V., The Church and Printer's Ink (New York, 1925), p. 31.

17. MacDonald, J. A., The Secular Press and Foreign Missions (Sewanee, Tenn., 1906), pp. 1516.

18. Men and Religion Forward Movement, The Church and the Press (New York, 1912), pp. 129, 133.

19. Ross, Ishbell, Ladies of the Press: The Story of Women in Journalism by an Insider (New York, 1936), pp. 152161.

20. Niese, , Newspaper and Religious Publicity, p. 17.

21. Smith, Herbert Heebner, Church and Sunday School Publicity: Practical Suggestions for Using the Printed Word to Extend the Influence of the Gospel (Philadelphia, 1922), pp. 6970.

22. Scarborough, L. R., Publicity Handbook for Southern Baptists (Nashville, Tenn., 1921), p. 3.

23. Barton, Bruce, The Man Nobody Knows: A Discovery of the Real Jesus (Indianapolis, Ind., 1925), pp. 138139.

24. Pritchett, Thomas K. and Pritchett, Betty M., “The Marketing of Religion: 1900–1930,” Essays in Economic and Business History 8 (1990): 147157.

25. McGarrah, Albert F., Practical Inter-Church Methods (New York, 1919), p. 260.

26. Ibid.

27. Cochrane, Joseph Wilson, “The Law of Publicity,” The Homiletic Review 50 (10 1905): 299.

28. Smith, , Publicity and Progress, pp. 92–93.

29. McGarrah, , Practical Inter-Church Methods, p. 258.

30. Stidger, William L., Standing Room Only (New York: George H. Doran, 1921), p. 149.

31. Niese, , Newspaper and Religious Publicity, p. 116.

32. Gruenstein, Bernard, “A Journalistic Pastor,” The Homiletic Review 63 (04 1912): 330.

33. Smith, Charles Opie, “Publicity Values of a New Church,” Church Management, 04 1926, pp. 339340.

34. Emery, Michael and Emery, Edwin, The Press and America: An Interpretive History of the Mass Media, 7th ed. (Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1992), pp. 289290.

35. Marty, Martin E., “Foreword,” in Hubbard, Benjamin J., ed., Reporting Religion: Facts & Faith (Sonoma, Calif. 1990), pp. ix–x.

36. Pendray, G. Edward, “Publicists of the Ghostly Faculty,” The American Mercury, 11 1929, p. 359.

37. Pendray, , “Publicists of the Ghostly Faculty,” p. 364.

38. Stidger, , Standing Room Only, pp. 116, 125.

39. Pendray, , “Publicists of the Ghostly Faculty,” p. 363.

40. The Campaign for Church Advertizing and Publicity,” Current Opinion, 09 1916, p. 184.

41. Stone, H. W., Association Advertising (Portland, Oreg., 1912), pp. 3738.

42. Reisner, , Church Publicity, p. 103.

43. Stone, , Association Advertising, pp. 47–48.

44. Hiebert, Ray Eldon, Courtier to the Crowd: The Story of Ivy Lee and the Development of Public Relations (Ames, Iowa, 1966), p. 225.

45. Ibid., pp. 226–228.

46. oMethodism's Great Missionary Centennial at Columbus,” Current Opinion, 09 1919, p. 179.

47. Stelzle, Charles, A Son of the Bowery: The Life Story of an East Side American (New York, 1926), pp. 156157.

48. Bercovici, H. Le B., “Putting Jehovah Across,” The American Mercury, 12 1928, p. 470.

49. Murphy, Mabel Ansley, “A Preacher who Advertises,” American Magazine, 03 1919, p. 53.

50. Ibid., p. 52.

51. ‘The Lord's Press Agent” and his Church Advertising,” The Literary Digest, 17 04 1920, pp. 7374.

52. Reisner, , Church Publicity, p. 166.

53. Dugan, George, Nannes, Caspar H., and Stross, R. Marshall, RPRC: A 50-Year Reflection (New York, 1979), p. 5.

54. Henry, Carl F. H., Successful Church Publicity: A Guidebook for Christian Publicists, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich., 1943), p. 98.

55. Norton, William Bernard, Church and Newspaper (New York, 1930), p. 46.

56. Ibid., p. 119.

57. Smith, , Publicity and Progress, p. 17.

58. Bercovici, , Putting Jehovah Across, p. 470. Although Bercovici reported that Reisner taught at Drew as well, Barent Johnson, Drew University Archivist, could find no evidence that he did (letter to author, 7 August 1992). Likewise, Edward Skipworth of Rutgers University Library's Special Collections and Archives disputes Bercovici's claim that Stelzle taught at Rutgers (letter to author, 24 July 1992) and William Kostlevy, Special Collections Librarian at Asbury Theological Seminary, says that although Stelzle was not a regular faculty member at Biblical Seminary, he may have delivered guest lectures there (letter to author, 6 August 1992).

59. Dugan, et al. , RPRC, pp. 1–2, 63–64.

60. Neville, Robert G. M., “Prima Donnas of the Pulpit,” The Forum, 06 1931, p. 352.

61. Skeath, , Building the Congregation, p. 28.

62. Neville, , “Prima Donnas of the Pulpit,” p. 352.

63. Skeath, , Building the Congregation, pp. 43–51.

64. Elliott, , How to Fill the Pews, p. 273.

65. Hart, , “Changing Social Attitudes and Interests,” pp. 398–403;Fry, C. Luther and Jessup, Mary Frost, “Changes in Religious Organizations” in Recent Social Trends in the United States: Report of the President's Research Committee on Social Trends (New York, 1933), p. 1018.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Church History
  • ISSN: 0009-6407
  • EISSN: 1755-2613
  • URL: /core/journals/church-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed