There was always fame. As long as there have been human beings, there has always been fame. It’s a human weakness. No other kind of living creature knows anything about fame, not even the peacock, who certainly craves attention but lacks the brain to know why. In every human group of any size, someone becomes famous, and it’s a fair bet this has always been true. When prehistory turned to history, famous people became, almost by definition, the first kind of people posterity got to hear about. Indeed it wasn’t until recent times that the writing of history began to concern itself with anyone except famous people and the things they did. Far into the nineteenth century, the famous were remembered and everybody else was forgotten. That was what fame was. It was a classification rather than a force in itself.
It needed more news than there was. The popular press really started in Britain. It was the invention of Lord Northcliffe, who realized that mass education had created a mass demand for daily stories. They didn’t have to be strictly true, but they did have to be sensational. Soon he had the whole country organized into a single market. The continental countries got the same idea. Soon they all had the beginnings of a national press that could speak to the people about anything, including nationalism. In America, a countrywide press was harder to organize because the country was much bigger. But if it could be organized, the rewards would be bigger too.