Indeed. There were celebs, self-promoters and their agents all over the map. Look at the careers of Col Custer, Mark Twain, Clarence King, John Muir, Buffalo Bill Cody, even Geronimo. Politicians needed publicity. They had their stars of stage, literature, and music, just like today. The great robber barons were immortalized in film by those great photographers whom they subsidized just this specific purpose, one way or the other. Nothing has really changed except the details of the technology itself. Matthew Brady wasn't as much a photographer and an industry,
and he made a lot of money at it.