Book Anticipation: “King of the Lobby: The Life and Times of Sam Ward, Man-About-Washington in the Gilded Age.”


Writing about lobbying and influence has a sort of staring into the abyss quality to it. Sometimes you just admire the absurd levels of corruption that people sink to to accomplish their goals. None is more entertaining in this way than Sam Ward, the real, true King of the Lobby. Kathryn Allamong Jacob has a book out now about Ward that Roll Call reviews. Here’s some nice tidbits:

In one encounter with a lawmaker, Ward recalled in a letter that “I met with him yesterday at the Capitol and had a long intelligent talk. I then perceived that he has a tantalizing way of unbuttoning and buttoning up again the right side pocket of his trousers. Several times I fancied that, like other pilgrims in peril, he hoped open sesame would produce a check or a pungent greenback.”

Jacob also produces page-turning tales of ethically challenged reporters — “so scantily paid by the journals,” an observer stated, “that they are forced to prostitute their pens.” Another observer cited by Jacob chronicles a new breed of lobbyist in Reconstruction-era Washington: the “lobbyess.”

“New in the Gilded Age were the women who came to Washington with the intent to lobby, pure and simple, and not for lofty goals like justice, civil rights, equal rights or any of the other abstract principles like those that had brought women abolitionists and would continue to bring advocates for women’s suffrage to Washington,” Jacob writes.

“These new women were after pensions, contracts, compensation, land, subsidies and patents. Some were advocating for their own claims, but some push the claims of others for money — a commission, a salary, living expenses.”

Should make for a fun read.