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St. Louis Regional history comes alive in this joint production by KDHX and the Missouri Historical Society. Stories of our past are connected with the present in these well researched and entertaining short presentations about the people, places, and events that have shaped who we are and who we are becoming. 

Jul 10, 2023

James Hannerty’s early experience began with him being robbed of his bottom dollar. But, you can’t keep a good man down. Mr. Hannerty had charm, charisma, and drive, and soon found himself dominating the theater scene. Just press play to hear the whole story. -----

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Podcast Transcript: I’m Amanda Clark, manager of the See STL Tours program at the Missouri Historical Society, and Here’s History, on eighty-eight one, KDHX. ———

James Hannerty came to St. Louis in the mid-19th century and made his first headlines in 1861, with a brief story about being robbed of his entire $10 fortune but quickly recouping his loss thanks to his natural charisma. The report ends with a prediction that Hannerty will someday be richer than the newspaper’s editor. Over the next few decades it seemed that prediction had merit as he built a successful career managing just about every theater and entertainment venue in the city. Multiple articles attest to his reputation for saving struggling productions and heading the newest attractions. And this is where I found him – while researching the Globe Cyclorama, a short-lived but novel theater experience that placed viewers in the center of a massive circular space, surrounded by a mix of panoramic painted scenery, live actors, and special effects. While many cities boasted cycloramas, featuring different historic events, the Globe immersed audiences in the 1870 Siege of Paris. When ticket sales lagged, Hannerty personally walked the streets, distributing over 2,000 free passes to encourage visitors. ———

By the turn of the 20th century, the enterprising promoter found himself in demand not just for entertainment ventures, but began consulting on product and event advertisements. Hannerty is credited with designing the iconic logo and marketing materials for the 1904 World’s Fair. ———

In 1905, he made front page news by leaving the entertainment industry behind and opening the Hannerty Idea Company - a company whose only products were his ideas. In the early 20th century, the concept of not just owning ones ideas but selling them was unheard of. A newspaper profile calls him a “Doctor of Photography Who Prescribes Poses,” detailing how he gave photographers and designers artistic direction on images accompaning stories – radically changing the look and use of pictures in the newspaper. When published, these photos would be accompanied by a branding tagline that they were a “Hannerty Idea.” ———

A few years later, Hannerty left St. Louis for Manhattan, a pioneer of the modern advertising industry. ———

Here’s history is a joint production of the Missouri History Museum and KDHX.  I’m Amanda Clark and this is 88.1 KDHX St. Louis. ———