Biography / Administrative History
Scope and Content of Collection
Other Finding Aids
Title: Jean Runyon papers
Bulk Dates: 1950-2009
Collection number: MS 0018
Runyon, Saltzman & Einhorn
8.84 linear feet
Center for Sacramento History
Sacramento, California 95811-0229
Abstract: The Jean Runyon Papers document the personal, business, and charitable activities of Jean Runyon, one of Sacramento’ prominent
business leaders. For nearly 60 years, Jean made Sacramento her home, working to improve the community through her involvement
in the arts through performances in community theater as well as story times and puppet shows for children on television,
and through promoting and contributing to the arts. It was through promoting the arts for the Sacramento Music Circus in the
1950’s that Jean found her career as a public relations and advertising professional. Jean’s giving and generous spirit was
clear from the many charities she was involved with as well as from those around her who were influenced by her encouragement
and innate ability to make people feel more confident and at ease. The birthday celebrations, awards, tribute dinners, and
honors that Jean received as a result of her generosity and spirit are reflected in the collection as well as the documentation
of personal interests, original business records, the practice of her PR and advertising work, and speeches.
Physical location: SP:2F4-2F5
Languages represented in the collection:
Collection is open for research use.
All requests to publish or quote from private collections held by the Center for Sacramento History (CSH) must be submitted
in writing to firstname.lastname@example.org. Permission for publication is given on behalf of CSH as the owner of the physical
items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the patron.
No permission is necessary to publish or quote from public records.
[Identifcation of item], Jean Runyon papers, MS 0018, Center for Sacramento History.
Received from Runyon, Saltzman & Einhorn in December 2013 and 2019 by the Center for Sacramento History (Accession # 2014/009,
Processed by John Fiedor, 2014-2016, and finding aid prepared by John Fiedor, 2016.
Biography / Administrative History
Jean Runyon was born on March 6, 1927 in Concordia, Kansas, the only child of Brutus Kerr Hamilton (1900-1970), a 1920 Olympic
Decathlon Silver Medalist and Olympic coach, and Rowena Thornburg Hamilton (1901-1976), an actress in the Chautauqua Theater
Circuit. Jean got her love of sport, literature and theater from her mother and father.
Brutus Hamilton was a track and field coach at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas where Jean spent the early part
of her childhood. In 1932, Brutus Hamilton became the track and field coach at the University of California at Berkeley, and
the family moved from Kansas. Jean grew up in Berkeley and while her father coached Jean dreamed of becoming an actress with
her mother giving her advice along the way. When World War II erupted, Brutus served in the U.S. Air Intelligence in England
for a time before returning to coach at Cal. Her father continued to coach and in 1952 he coached the U.S. Olympic team in
Helsinki, Finland. Eventually, he became the Athletic Director for a time at Cal, but retired in 1965 as a well-respected
coach. Brutus Hamilton loved literature and had a passion for writing and his biography, letters, and speeches were published
in 1975, in a book entitled, The Worlds of Brutus Hamilton by Brutus Hamilton and edited by Lawrence J Baack.
Jean acted in numerous school plays in high school with her mother’s encouragement along the way. She got noticed in a play
at Berkeley High School and entered the Drama Department at Cal in 1946. While at Cal, Jean decided to take a semester off
and attend the Geller Workshop in Los Angeles. She acted in several plays while she was there. Her dad’s condition for her
going to Los Angeles was that she find a job and a roommate. She did and her roommate was Anne Folger, the coffee heiress.
Jean came back to Cal, but then left before completing her degree to get married to a fellow student and aspiring actor Mercer
Runyon in 1948. Mercer’s family had pear orchards in Courtland, California, near Sacramento. The couple spent summers at the
pear ranch and the rest of the year in Sacramento. Jean had a son Stephen in 1949, and daughter Liz in 1954. Sadly, Jean’s
son Stephen passed away in 2013 as the result of a motorcycle accident. Jean and Mercer were involved with acting in community
theater at the Sacramento Civic Repertory Theater at the Eaglet Theater as well as at Bob Wyman’s Jay-Robb Theater, performing
in a variety of plays. Jean and Mercer also performed puppet shows around northern California after they entered a Panorama
Pacific puppet show contest. They went around to different state and county fairs, but their popularity faded over time. For
a time, Jean also performed as the “Storytime Senorita” for a live audience of children on KXTV speaking in a Spanish accent.
It was Jean’s acting in local Sacramento Theater that got her started in publicity, and then advertising. Jean stayed home
with the children at times, but needed to help support the family. Jean met Eleanor McClatchy, who was passionate about theater
and owner of the Sacramento Bee newspaper. Eleanor supported bringing the Music Circus to Sacramento and encouraged the owners,
Russell Lewis and Howard Young, to hire Jean to sell theater tickets through promotional parties. Jean was successful at selling
tickets and the owners of the Music Circus encouraged Jean to open her own business about five years later because they could
no longer afford to pay her the percentage they agreed to for her selling tickets. The timing was good for Jean and in about
1957 Jean started her own publicity business with one of her first accounts being the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment
Agency. One of her first offices was in Old Sacramento, known before being redeveloped as the city’s skid row. Jean’s kind
spirit helped her out over the years and she didn’t feel out of place or better than the homeless who lived there. In fact,
she helped wherever she could.
During the 1960’s and early 1970’s Jean had several business partners as she expanded the agency from public relations into
advertising and other areas. In an award that always gave Jean a smile, the Sacramento Public Relations Roundtable named her
“PR Man of the Year” in 1961. Someone once asked Jean how she survived in a “man’s world”. Characteristically, Jean replied
that no one ever told her that it was a man’s world and that she never really let that stand in her way. Business grew rapidly,
but Jean always found time to give back to the community. One of the things she became famous for doing in Sacramento for
over 40 years was dressing up as a witch on Halloween and getting up on her roof and throwing candy to the costumed children
below. In giving back to the community, Jean was active with numerous charities throughout Sacramento including the Make-A-Wish
Foundation, the United Way, United Cerebral Palsy, the Salvation Army, and the Sacramento Regional Foundation. Jean was a
given a Presidential Citation for Community Service work. There are many more, too numerous to list here. Jean was also a
great contributor to the arts in Sacramento whether it was supporting the Crocker Art Museum or supporting local artists through
purchases. Over the years, many of the charities she was involved with honored her for her service and fundraising efforts.
Character to get through difficulty and tragedy was also a part of Jean’s life and she did it with grace by all accounts.
In 1970, within a month, she lost her husband Mercer who was only 46, her father Brutus, and was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Jean had a family to support and a mother to take care of. She persevered. It was in 1976, that Jean formed the Runyon Agency
and went out on her own and started a new agency. For a time it was an all woman agency until the first man was hired, who
ended up doing reception work. Eventually, Jean found the perfect business partner in Estelle Saltzman. They complemented
each other wonderfully, and eventually the firm was known as Runyon Saltzman. Saltzman was a newspaper reporter by trade and
started doing some work for Jean on the California State Fair account. After Jean and Estelle became business partners they
also became good friends and worked for charitable causes and promoting the arts. Along the way, they found another talent
in Jane Einhorn and became Runyon Saltzman & Einhorn subsequently and as it is known today. Many more partners and talents
have joined the firm and continue to carry on the creative work that Jean nurtured. The business that Jean started as a publicity
firm continues to flourish and grow despite her passing in October 2009.
Jean was a powerful, dynamic, and giving woman and knew all of the powerful people in Sacramento. They came to her in business
and in social settings. She was widowed by four husbands and was quoted saying, “I love being in love.” Jean had a wonderful
group of friends and family to support her through the ups and down of life. There were numerous events where they honored
Jean such as birthday parties at the Eagle Theater (1979), a birthday party at McGeorge Law School (1987) hosted by her good
friend Dean Gordon Schaber, the United Cerebral Palsy Tribute Dinner (1993), and her 70th birthday party at the Little Theater
in the Memorial Auditorium. Her 1987 birthday party culminated with a personal letter from Carol Channing (arranged by friends),
because Jean resembled and had a voice like Carol Channing’s. Carol said in the letter, “kiss dear Jean Runyon on her 60th
birthday and give her my fondest felicitations. Any girl who ‘bears an uncanny resemblance’ to me and who has survived 60
years deserves all the kisses she can get.” Jean’s 70th Birthday bash was a kickoff of a campaign to raise $300,000 to refurbish
the Little Theater for the City of Sacramento and rename the theater in her honor. The dedication took place on May 24, 2000
and was renamed the Jean Runyon Little Theater. Her friends did this in her honor.
Jean passed on October 24, 2009 at age 82; a memorial was held for her on Halloween.
Scope and Content of Collection
The collection primarily documents the personal life and public relations and advertising career of Jean Hamilton Runyon from
the 1950’s to the early 2000’s. The collection contains items of a personal nature related to Jean’s family and friends. There
is biographical information about Jean, information about her father, mother and children, birthday celebrations and honors
given to Jean for her charitable work and community involvement, programs and documents highlighting Jean’s talents and interest
in acting and theater, awards, and some material on Jean’s love of Halloween. There is a small amount of personal correspondence
in the collection. Personal memorabilia includes a hat that Jean wore on Halloween to play her role as a witch. There are
audiovisual materials related to Jean’s witch performance on Halloween and tributes to Jean for honors that were given to
her. There are also newspaper and magazine articles about Jean.
Her career is also highlighted in the collection and includes agency awards, the original legal and business documents that
created her agencies with Articles, By-Laws, Minutes, Journals, and Ledgers that include Stock Certificates. Her career materials
also contain case histories of some clients, organizational charts, agency profiles, and newspaper and magazine articles written
by the agency, and scrapbooks that the agency kept. In addition, there are plaques that were given to Jean. There are also
speeches by Jean and her business partner Estelle Saltzman.
The following series scope and content notes only offers selected highlights, please see the container list for a full listing
of the series contents.
Series 1 – Personal & Family comprises biographical information about Jean. There is the guest book and a book of speeches
from her Memorial. There are newspaper and magazine articles about Jean. Some are full size and separated from the collection
in an oversize box with folders. There are also Halloween Posters and invitations to advertise Jean’s witch role on Halloween
at her house where she threw candy to children. Jean’s witch hat and a set of plaques are in another oversize box. There is
a folder about Jean’s father Brutus Hamilton, an Olympic track and field athlete and coach as well as coach at UC Berkeley.
There are documents and programs related to birthday parties and honors given to Jean and the planning that went into them.
There are also audiovisual materials that were converted into digital files that show Jean as a witch and tributes by friends
made in her honor. In addition, there are programs of plays that Jean acted in located in a separate Ephemera file.
Series 2 – Public Relations and Advertising Career comprises Jean’s material about her work and the company she created. The
materials in this series give a real sense of the fun, creative environment that Jean nurtured at her workplace as well as
the excellent professional work that was done while she was involved and continues today. There are awards, an alumni newsletter
and original legal and business documents that created her agencies with Articles, By-Laws, Minutes, Journals, and Ledgers
that include Stock Certificates. There is documentation of the professional work that was done through client case histories,
newspaper and magazine articles in regular and oversized file folders, two agency scrapbooks that contain newspaper articles
and other agency happening in original binders. There are also articles that were written by the agency on different topics
about the work being done by them. There are also materials that show the structure of the agency at different time periods
as well as agency profiles from different time periods. In addition, there are audiovisual materials about the agency that
have been migrated to digital formats.
Series 3 – Speeches comprise speeches and seminars given by Jean and Estelle jointly and separately that were given about
PR and advertising work given as education about the field as well as to attract those interested in the industry. There are
speeches to various community and business groups about PR and advertising as well as to attract new business. There are some
humorous speeches given about people who were well-known community leaders and friends and clients of the firm.
Series 4 – Photographs comprise personal and family photographs of Jean as well as public relations and advertising materials.
There are numerous photos from birthday parties and events held in Jean’s honor. There are also photos that document the work
that was done to restore the Little Theater in Jean’s honor. There are 625 photos in the collection that span the years 1927-2009.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in
the library's online public access catalog.
Public Relations--Sacramento (Calif.)
Jean Runyon Papers, Center for Sacramento History
Chance, Dean. “About Jean Runyon”, RSE, Runyon, Saltzman & Einhorn, December, 2013. Print.
Davila, Robert, “He was Delta pear rancher, runner”, Sacramento Bee, 30 Oct. 2013. Print.
Kerry, Lee. “The Witch of Sacramento”, Adweek 18 Aug. 1986: 18. Print.
Korber, Dorothy. “Image-maker inspires very real reverence”, Sacramento Bee Online, Web. 5 Aug. 2007.
Kreiss, Margaret. “On the Run With Jeannie Runyon”, Sacramento Bee, 31 May, 1977. Print.
Mandelberg, Nancy. “Jean Runyon: A Passion for Living”, Discover Mature Choices, Sacramento Bee, 29 July 2004. Print.
Saltzman, Estelle. “Jean Runyon”, The Runyon Agency, Inc., 15 April 1977. Print.
Saltzman, Estelle. “About Jean Runyon”, Runyon, Saltzman & Einhorn, December, 2013. Print.
Saltzman, Estelle. “Welcome to Runyon Saltzman Einhorn, Inc.’s New Digs”, RSE, Runyon, Saltzman & Einhorn, July, 2014. Print.
Other Finding Aids
Materials related to those in the Jean Runyon Papers may be found in the KCRA TV Film Collection (1978/084) at Center for
Materials related to Jean’s father, Brutus K. Hamilton can be found at the UC Berkeley Bancroft Library in a collection titled,
“Student athletics and the voluntary discipline: oral history transcript / and related material, 1966-1967. The collection
number is: BANC MSS 68/11 c; Phonotape 250 A