February 3, 2010 Influential Lobbyist of the Gilded Age Is Subject of Book Discussion
“King of the Lobby” Showcases the Life and Times of Sam Ward
Press Contact: Guy Lamolinara (202) 707-9217
Public Contact: Center for the Book (202) 707-5221
In her new book, Kathryn Allamong Jacob tells the story “of how one man harnessed delicious food, fine wine and good conversation to the task of becoming the most influential lobbyist of the Gilded Age.”
Jacob will discuss and sign her new book, “King of the Lobby: The Life and Times of Sam Ward, Man-About-Washington in the Gilded Age” (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009) on Tuesday, Feb. 23, at noon in the Mumford Room, sixth floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E. The event is sponsored by the Center for the Book and is part of the center’s Books & Beyond author series. The program is free and open to the public; no tickets are required.
According to a speech by Sen. Robert C. Byrd, “By far the most famous lobbyist of the era was Sam Ward, popularly known as the ‘King of the Lobby.’ Ward was originally hired by Treasury Secretary Hugh McCulloch, who was trying to restore order and stability to the nation’s finances after the Civil War. The treasury secretary wanted to retire the $450 million in greenback currency issued during the war, but Congress feared the political consequences of such a deflationary action. In order to educate legislators on the need to improve the nation's credit, Sam Ward gave dinners … Washington was not at that time a city of first-class restaurants. Many congressmen still lived and ate in boardinghouses, tellingly named messes,’ and even official dinners were often dismal affairs. Ward, however, provided the finest foods and wines, and the most sparkling conversation and entertainment, at a rumored cost to the Treasury Department of $12,000!”
Ward died at the age of 71 in 1884. He was a colorful character, the scion of an old and honorable family, best friend of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and charming man-about-Washington. Ward held his own in an era crowded with larger-than-life personalities. Living by the motto that the shortest route between a pending bill and a congressman’s “aye” was through his stomach, he elegantly entertained political elites in return for their votes.
At a time when waves of scandal washed over Washington, the popular press railed against the wickedness of the lobby and self-righteous politicians predicted that special interests would cause the downfall of democratic government, Ward still reigned supreme. By the early 1870s, he had earned the title “King of the Lobby” and jokingly referred to himself as “Rex Vestiari.” Ward cultivated a style of lobbying that survives today.
Jacob’s book is also the subject of a discussion on Facebook. The new Books & Beyond Book Club is available at www.facebook.com/booksandbeyond/. The site offers discussions of books by authors who have appeared, or will appear, in this series. The site also offers links to webcasts of these events and asks readers to talk about what they have seen and heard.
The Center for the Book (www.loc.gov/cfbook/) was established by Congress in 1977 “to use the resources and prestige of the Library of Congress to promote books, reading, literacy and libraries.” With its many educational programs that reach readers of all ages, through its support of the National Book Festival and through its dynamic state centers in the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Center for the Book has developed a nationwide network of organizational partners dedicated to promoting the wonders and benefits of reading. The center also oversees the new Read.gov website, with its exclusive “Exquisite Corpse Adventure” serialized story.