Born to Jewish immigrant parents from Kinishin, Poland, and raised in Des Moines, Iowa, Carl Byoir started out like most of the PR greats between 1900-1950--as a newspaperman. At the age of 17, Byoir became the managing editor of theWaterloo (Iowa) Times-Tribune when his predecessor suddenly died of a heart attack. Before that time, Byoir had worked his way up from the newspaper's morgue to city editor. He stayed with the paper as managing editor until early 1906 when he received a call from his long-time friend, Walter Stewart, asking him to matriculate at the University of Iowa.
Byoir's creativity for making money while in college followed him throughout his life. Numerous contests and competitions existed in writing and debating where the prize was money. He became so successful at this approach, his fellow students routinely claimed "Byoir always wins the cash." During this time, Byoir's techniques, motivations and understanding of public opinion were crystallizing to prepare him for his later career in World War I propoganda work. But first, he needed a little practice. (continued)
In 1911, while returning to school, Byoir picked up a copy of McClures magazine on the train. This was his first introduction to Dr. Maria Montessori and her training methods for kindergarten. What Byoir saw was the vast appeal these schools would have to American mothers and teachers, because of the system's dual emphasis on physical and mental activities.
After buying the American franchise for the Montessori system, Byoir created the "House of Childhood." Byoir temporarily left law school for several weeks to visit Maria Montessori in Italy. There he learned, under her tutelage, how the system works so that he would become the U.S. expert.