Presidential Propaganda in World War I

  • Stephen Ponder


World War I was the first of the twentieth-century wars in which the federal government deployed recognizably modern techniques of mass persuasion to rally public support for the war effort. When the United States entered the war in April 1917, President Woodrow Wilson created the nation’s first ministry of information, the Committee on Public Information (CPI), to appeal to citizens in their newspapers, magazines, theaters, libraries, schools, and homes. Under its assertive director, George Creel, the CPI launched an extraordinary promotional campaign, the legacy of which has been debated ever since.1 At the same time, the Wilson administration vigorously wielded its wartime emergency powers to try to stifle the flow of sensitive information and to suppress dissenting views thought likely to undermine the war effort at home or on the battlefield.2


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  1. 1.
    For an overview, see James D. Startt, “The Media and National Crises, 1917–1945,” in William David Sloan and James D. Startt, eds., The Media in America: A History, 3rd ed. (Northport, Ala.: Vision Press, 1996), 386–97. The definitive account of the Committee on Public Information is Vaughn, Holding Fast the Inner Lines. Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See Harry N. Scheiber, The Wilson Administration and Civil Liberties, 1917–1921 (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1960),Google Scholar
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  5. 3.
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  27. 56.
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  34. 83.
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  36. 84.
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  38. 92.
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© Stephen Ponder 1998

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  • Stephen Ponder

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