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Inventory of the Whitaker & Baxter Campaigns, Inc. Records
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Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Administrative History
  • Scope and Content
  • Related Material
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Whitaker & Baxter Campaigns, Inc. Records
    Dates: 1933-1974
    Collection number: C134
    Creator: Whitaker & Baxter Campaigns, Inc.
    Collection Size: 178 cubic feet
    Repository: California State Archives
    Sacramento, California
    Abstract: Whitaker & Baxter Campaigns, Inc. was the country's first political campaign management firm. The company's records document their state, local and national political campaigns as well as work for various public relations clients spanning the 1933 to 1974 time period. Also included are records of the company's wire service, the California Feature Service, 1944-1974.
    Physical location: California State Archives
    Languages: Languages represented in the collection: English

    Administrative Information


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    For permission to reproduce or publish, please contact the California State Archives. Permission for reproduction or publication is given on behalf of the California State Archives as the owner of the physical items. The researcher assumes all responsibility for possible infringement which may arise from reproduction or publication of materials from the California State Archives collections.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Whitaker & Baxter Campaigns, Inc. Records, C134.[series number], [box and folder number], California State Archives, Office of the Secretary of State, Sacramento, California.

    Acquisition and Custodial History

    The California State Archives acquired the Records of Whitaker & Baxter Campaigns, Inc. through a donation.

    Administrative History

    Whitaker & Baxter Campaigns Inc., the country's first political campaign management firm, was founded in 1933 by business partners (later husband and wife) Clem Whitaker, Sr. and Leone Baxter. Although operating under the name Campaigns Inc., the company was not actually incorporated until 1950. Corporate filings at that time show Clem Whitaker, Sr., Leone Baxter and Howard Hassard (the firm's attorney) as Directors of the company. The company's principal office was located in San Francisco but temporary offices were opened in other cities as required including Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C.
    While the company's primary activity was managing campaigns for candidates and ballot measures, they also handled public relations for various corporate clients such as Pacific Gas and Electric Co., Western Pacific Railroad, and Utah Construction Co. among others. Whitaker & Baxter Campaigns Inc. also included under its umbrella the California Feature Service and the Whitaker & Baxter Advertising Agency. The Feature Service was a newspaper wire service and public relations vehicle providing articles, editorials and cartoons to about 300 California newspapers.
    With Clem Whitaker, Sr. in failing health, he and Leone Baxter sold the firm to son Clem Whitaker, Jr. and partners James Dorais and Newton Stearns in 1958. The elder Whitaker and his wife then founded Whitaker & Baxter International, a public relations consulting firm headquartered in the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. Leone Baxter continued to run this company after her husband's death in 1961.
    Whitaker & Baxter Campaigns Inc. was most closely associated with Republican candidates and conservative political issues. A few measures like their very first campaign against P.G.& E. (Prop. 1, 1933), a ballot measure to establish the civil service system (Prop. 1, 1936), and a measure to increase teacher salaries (Prop. 3, 1946) are among the few exceptions.
    The firm handled many ballot measure campaigns (most of them initiatives) including the well-known Ham and Eggs pension plans from the 1930s through the 1950s, efforts to redraw State Senate district boundaries on the basis of population, anti-labor union measures such as those prohibiting picketing and "featherbedding", and several propositions favoring large oil companies.
    Among the candidates whose political campaigns were managed by Whitaker & Baxter, Earl Warren, Goodwin Knight and Richard Nixon are probably the most significant. The firm helped elect Earl Warren to his first term as Governor but had a falling out with him late in the campaign and never worked with him again. They ran Goodwin Knight's successful campaigns for Lieutenant Governor and Governor, and were involved in his failed run for the U.S. Senate. Whitaker & Baxter were also in charge of Richard Nixon's presidential campaign in his home state of California where he prevailed despite losing the overall election to Kennedy.
    Whitaker & Baxter were well established and successful at the state level when they were tapped in 1949 for their first national campaign representing the American Medical Association in their fight against President Harry Truman's national health insurance plan. Later in 1965, the firm again became involved in a campaign at the national level, this one in support of efforts to pass an amendment to the U.S. Constitution in response to a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision requiring that state legislative districts be based on population ("one man, one vote").
    Throughout all this, the firm was continuously involved with local politics in San Francisco - both candidates and ballot measures. Mayoral campaigns included those of Roger Lapham, Elmer Robinson, and Harold Dobbs. Their ballot measure work included an anti-picketing ordinance (for), efforts by the city to create a public power system (against), a bond measure to fund expansion of the de Young Museum (for), and numerous measures relating to city garbage collection (for). They also represented the interests of local developers - in particular, the Utah Construction Company in their campaigns to develop tideland areas of the San Francisco Bay.
    Clem Whitaker, Sr.
    Born in Tempe, Arizona on May 1, 1899, Clement Sherman Whitaker was the son of a Baptist minister. His uncle, Robert Whitaker, was also a Baptist minister as well as a well-known socialist who was active in the American Civil Liberties Union and a friend of Upton Sinclair.
    Clem Whitaker's career as a journalist began with a brief stint at the Willits News at age 13. Later he moved to Sacramento and began writing for the Sacramento Union before he reached 18. He spent a short period serving in the Army during World War I and returned to journalism at the Sacramento Union where at 19 he became city editor. By age 21 he was a political writer for the San Francisco Examiner. In 1921, he founded the Capitol News Bureau providing political news to about 80 newspapers statewide. By 1930, he had sold this business to United Press.
    His experience as a political reporter led to his involvement in lobbying activities; he lobbied successfully for legislation to establish the State Board of Barber Examiners and unsuccessfully to pass legislation banning capital punishment. His lobbying efforts brought him to the attention of lawyer Sheridan Downey (later U.S. Senator from California) who was organizing a campaign to defeat a referendum concerning the Central Valley Project. Downey invited both Whitaker and Leone Baxter to take part, which led to the creation of their campaign management firm in 1933.
    Clem Whitaker was married twice - first to Harriet Reynolds in Sacramento with whom he had three children, Clem, Jr., Milton and Patricia. He was separated from his first wife in 1935 and married his second wife, Leone Baxter, in 1938. In 1961, he died in San Francisco of a respiratory ailment at age 62.
    Leone Baxter
    Much less is known about Leone Baxter. She was born November 20, 1906, in Kelso, Washington according to her Social Security application. She wrote for the Portland Oregonian and was married and widowed before the age of 28. At some point, she moved to Redding, California, where she got a job promoting a water carnival for the Chamber of Commerce. She became manager of the Chamber in 1929, and it was in this capacity that she became involved in the Central Valley Project referendum campaign. Because of its proximity and potential economic impact, the CVP (including the Shasta Dam) was of particular interest to the City of Redding and its Chamber of Commerce. Baxter was co-founder of Whitaker & Baxter Campaigns Inc. in 1933; she and Clem Whitaker were married in 1938. She died near San Francisco in 2001 at the age of 95.
    Clem Whitaker, Jr.
    Clem Whitaker, Jr. was born Aug. 30, 1922, in Sacramento. He was Clem Whitaker, Sr.'s oldest son by his first wife, Harriet Reynolds Whitaker and grew up in Sacramento attending local public schools. His parents separated when he was 13. While still in high school, he worked for both the Sacramento Union and Sacramento Bee.
    He attended the University of California, Berkeley majoring in Economics but did not graduate. In 1943, his education was interrupted by service in the U.S. Army Air Corp as a fighter pilot. He joined his father's firm in 1946 after he was discharged becoming a partner in the business by 1950. He purchased the company from his father in 1958.
    Later he was chairman of the board of the Wye Energy Group, president of the San Francisco Opera Foundation, a wine connoisseur, and active in many charitable causes. He was married twice and had a daughter and stepdaughter. He died at age 77 in 1999.

    Scope and Content

    The Whitaker & Baxter Campaigns, Inc. records span the years 1933 to 1974 and contain approximately 165 cubic feet of textual records, as well as 13 cubic feet of audiovisual materials, such as audiotapes, motion picture film, and videotapes. Boxes 1-36 are fully processed while boxes 51-198 are partially processed. The collection is organized into six series, the largest and most significant of which is Series 1 Campaign Files containing project files for both political campaigns and public relations work.
    Whitaker & Baxter are often described as the inventors of modern political campaign management or "government by public relations" as Carey McWilliams wrote (1). A California State Federation of Labor leaflet from 1956 aptly described Whitaker & Baxter's specialty as "piloting a politician or an idea into the snug harbor of public acceptance" (2). The firm's extensive records trace the development and evolution of political campaign management and provide a window into the inner workings of the firm. The records also span a time period during which the role of the media in political campaigns greatly expanded, and tools such as polling and mass mailing came into broader use.
    By far the most voluminous files belong to the costly campaign against government health insurance funded by the American Medical Association from 1949-1952, and at the state level by the California Medical Association. Some of these files are included in the Campaign Files series, but the bulk are financial records and are part of the Accounting Files series. Another significant part of the firm's records document the Whitaker & Baxter's involvement in a campaign at the national level to amend the U.S. Constitution in response to a U.S. Supreme Court decision requiring the reapportionment of state legislatures on the basis of population.
    Of particular interest are the campaign files relating to various ballot measures including the Central Valley Project referendum (Prop. 1, 1933), numerous Ham and Eggs government pension measures (Prop. 1, 1939, Prop. 2, 1949, Prop. 10-11, 1952, Prop. 4, 1954), a measure to prohibit "featherbedding" (railroad staffing levels, Prop. 3, 1948), State Senate reapportionment (Prop. 13, 1948, Prop. 15, 1960, Prop. 23, 1962), an oil conservation measure proposed by oil companies (Prop. 4, 1956), and a constitutional revision resulting in a full-time legislature (Prop. 1A, 1966).
    The firm's largest and most significant campaigns for political candidates are well documented and include several for Goodwin Knight (Lt. Governor, 1946; Governor, 1954; Governor and U.S. Senate 1958), Earl Warren's first gubernatorial campaign in 1942, and the California portion of Richard Nixon's 1960 presidential campaign.
    On the local level, records of the San Francisco mayoral campaigns of Roger Lapham (1946 recall attempt), Elmer Robinson (1947, 1951), and Harold Dobbs (1963) can be found. Also, the records of numerous local ballot measure campaigns in San Francisco (and a few other Bay Area communities) are spread throughout the collection and include such issues as garbage collection, electric utilities, museum expansion, and an early attempt to establish regional government. Their work on behalf of local developers - particularly, the Utah Construction Co. and its development of Bay Farm Island in the 1950's - is well represented.
    Also included are records of Whitaker & Baxter's public relations work for such corporate clients as Pacific Gas & Electric, various railroads, local developers, the 1956 Republican National Convention in San Francisco, Trojan Powder Co., San Francisco Bar Pilots, Westborough Homes, and others.
    Notes: (1) Carey McWilliams, "Government by Whitaker & Baxter", The Nation (April 14 and 21, 1951). (2) Oil Conservation Measure, Yes on Proposition 4, 1956. Records of Whitaker & Baxter Campaigns, Inc., C134.1.66.

    Related Material

    Clement Sherman Whitaker, Jr., Oral History Interview, conducted 1988-1989 by Gabrielle Morris, Regional Oral History Office, University of California, Berkeley. State Government Oral History Program, California State Archives, OH 90-9.
    Whitaker & Baxter International Records, c.1958-1992, BANC MSS 93/103, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    Whitaker, Clem, Sr.
    Baxter, Leone
    Whitaker, Clem, Jr.
    Whitaker, Clement Sherman, 1922-1999
    Knight, Goodwin, 1896-1970
    Campaign management