Most privacy lawsuits were brought against the media, and most did not involve publications that were especially "private." A number of privacy suits involved pictures of a person taken on the street and published without consent. In these cases, the law of privacy had little to do with "privacy." No exposure of private life had occurred. "Privacy" was about shielding people from publicity they found unfavorable, misrepresentative, or annoying -- that clashed with how they wanted to be known to others.
In Jones v. Herald Post (1929), Lillian Jones witnessed her husband assaulted and stabbed to death on the street, and she tried to fight back against the attackers. She sued for invasion of privacy when the Louisville Herald Post published her picture with a truthful account of her heroic efforts. She said that the publication was offensive to her.
As I argue in Laws of Image: Privacy and Publicity in America, it's only in a culture where people feel possessive and protective of their images that such representations, even if objectively benign, will be experienced as significant harms. Only in a culture that has invested great importance in images, that has freighted personal images with emotional and psychological weight, will the law recognize these kinds of harms and take them seriously. The law tracked American culture's focus on images; in recognizing these privacy claims as worthy of judicial attention, and monetary judgments in some cases, courts validated the "image-conscious sensibility" and the modern image-conscious self.