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PHOTOGRAPHY and CORPORATE PUBLIC RELATIONS

THE CASE of U.S. STEEL | 1930–1960

From 1930 to 1960, the United States Steel Corporation commissioned photographers around the country to document the inner workings of the company and its subsidiaries as part of a national public relations campaign. These efforts occurred at a time when the steel industry, like today’s technology behemoths, reigned central in the world economy. From the Great Depression to the war years to the post-war boom, photography served as a persuasive tool in PR campaigns focused on promoting goodwill and a favorable attitude about policies concerning the corporation’s size, labor practices, and profit margins. Striking pictures of steel workers, blast furnaces, and company plants appeared in national magazines, company publications, and exhibitions that reached large audiences.

This stunning body of images included the work of noted artists, photographers from the corporation’s engineering corps, and local studios near company plants. In the current age of converging public relations, marketing, and social media, the United States Steel Corporation Photographs collection at Baker Library provides a window into the corporation’s innovative use of photography and the emerging field of PR to galvanize public opinion.

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