An Obituary Leads to Discovery

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

A while back I read an obituary about a Chicago man who had quite an accomplished career, one similar to mine, at least in terms of the path he followed.

The gentleman, who’s name I’ll keep confidential, started in the news business in the mid-1940s making $35 per week.  For comparison, my first job out of college at the City News Bureau paid $100 per week to start; but that was in early 1977.

What's in a name? In a different era it defined a business.

What’s in a name? In a different era it defined a business.

The man later made the switch to public relations because it paid more money, which he needed to support his growing family.  I left journalism because I couldn’t get hired by a Chicago daily, and I was tired of covering school board and town council meetings for a suburban weekly.

One PR/advertising shop he worked at during his distinguished career was the New York-headquartered Albert Frank-Guenther Law, acknowledged as one of the first firms to specialize in financial communications.  The agency was founded in 1872, a few years after titans of advertising James Walter Thompson and Francis Wayland Ayer opened their shops.

Fittingly for this conversation, Albert Frank also was my first agency experience.  My boss, John Graham, and I served banks and bond houses by producing redemption notices called “tombstones.”  I was thrilled to get the opportunity to draft a news release and do some media relations.

Could not find the Albert Frank-Guenther Law logo, so this one will have to do.

Could not find the Albert Frank-Guenther Law logo, so this one will have to do.

In researching this post, I learned that Albert Frank now only exists in the memories of those who worked there and in news archives.  As noted in this New York Times article, a company called Citigate Group, Ltd. bought the firm and a sister agency in 1996 from what apparently what Albert Frank had become — a holding company.

Citigate, or rather Citigate Dewe Rogerson, still exists and apparently is thriving, with offices on three continents.

But the Albert Frank-Guenther Law name is gone.

Many service companies — like public relations and advertising agencies, accounting and law firms, and others — were named after the men and women who founded them.  When the business is sold, the name and in many cases, the history of the company is tossed aside, surfacing now and then in innocuous places like obituaries.

Albert Frank-Guenther Law was in business for 124 years, a remarkable history for any company.  I’m proud to say I played a small role in that history, just like the fellow newsman/PR guy whose obit inspired these thoughts.