Sunday, October 26, 2014

Creel and Lippmann Face to Face

This entry is a work in progress; updated/reviewed 5/22/2016; suggestions welcome -- please email

Note: the reference to "Steel" in the below text refers
to the majestic volume by Ronald Steel,
 Walter Lippmann and the American Century (second printing, 1980)
 a meticulous model of thoughtful, wisely documented 
 historical scholarship at its best that does not glorify its subject.

Creel and Lippmann did not look the same.

Pointing this out may be unimportant when considering serious historical matters (as if history were, after all, really serious). But Creel and Lippmann were both public men, in an era when the photographic and film presentation of self, thanks to the new technology, was becoming as important, if not more important, than the written word. I would go so far that it was not words that won the war for public opinion, but images.

image from

Creel himself, with the intended actor out with an upset stomach, acted as a cowboy in a 1910s film shot in Colorado, Heart of a Cowboy, "My love scenes with the girl," Creel notes in his autobiography, were a bit too strenuous . ... The damned camera, whirring away, had me keyed to top pitch."

image from

Creel’s contemporary, journalist Peter Clark Macfarlane [sic], describes the has-quite-a-presence Creel thus:
I turned and studied the man’s face. Undoubtedly something of Creel’s rare capacity to kindle devotions and excite antagonisms is written there. We see at a glance the broadish round-cornered brow of the intuitional type of mind which sees widely and thinks clearly but emotionally.
Creel’s nose made a special impression on Macfarlane:
The nose is strong and full – feeling again! But not the sloppy sort of feeling --rather a tense and refined emotionalism, as indicated by the sharp intern of the nostrils at the base and the manner in which they quiver in excitement.
So did the lips:
And now look at the long lower lip, full and red from end to end. If this lip started wrong, everything his enemies say of George Creel might be true.
Not to speak of the hair:
Then glance at his hair, carried straight back as if by the headlong speed with which the man dives into whatever enterprise commands his allegiance. But do not think he dives recklessly.
And now the eyes:
Consider his eyes. They are brown and recessed, but gather light. They are woman’s eyes, for sympathy and softness, but when wrong has roused them they are warrior’s eyes and flash with battle light. For this young George Creel s a fighter, a champion in the lists for the lowly. He has an instinct for humanity; the smell of morality is all over his acts. … [Collier’s, July 19, 1913, p. 5; located in Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Box OV 19]

Creel image (center) from

As for Lippmann, Ronald Steele provides a shorter physical description, citing “his solid build kept in good shape by regular workouts at the gym, abundant dark hair, violet-flecked hazel eyes, and prominent cheekbones.”  

Lippmann image from

One gender-freed person, Mabel Dodge, an openly bisexual arts patron whose Greenwich Village salon Walter frequented in his younger days, is cited by Steel as saying that “Buddha-like curves of Walter’s face had the heightened lights they took on when he was exhilarated and amused. His exophthalmic eyes bulged and shone” [Steel; 83].

Lippmann, despite his calm demeanor, himself was uncomfortably conscious of how he looked. Of German/Jewish origin, he wrote that “The Jews are fairly distinct in their physical appearance and in the spelling of their names from the run of the American people. They are, therefore, conspicuous.” (Steel: 191). Some of Walter’s friends, however, Steel points out, (Steel: p.196) “did not even know that he was Jewish until they hear it from others.” Photographs suggest that he had the same eyes as his mother, whom he intensely disliked; forcing him to take piano lessons that led him to avoid concerts all his life.

It would be interesting to compare the accents and speech patterns of Creel and Lippmann; I strongly suspect they were not the same, given Lippmann’s East Coast upbringing and Creel’s Southern/Western roots. I tried to find samples of their vocal chords' legacy on the internet, but failed. Any leads on this matter would be greatly appreciated.

In his later years, Lippmann, ever the wordsmith, initially shied away from presenting himself to the world via his image of television (“While television,” he wrote, “is supposed to be ‘free,’ it has in fact become the creature, the servant, and indeed the prostitute of merchandising”) [Steel: 517]. 

But he did agree to be interviewed by CBS in 1960. His fee was $2,000. The show was a hit and was followed by others (with larger checks for the hypnotic-eyes Walter).

Update (10/29/2014):

Here is a description of Creel from "Tattler," "National Miniatures, George Creel," The Nation, Volume 15, No. 2734 (November 22, 1917): 573.

Study Creel's countenance ... and as you read it ... [t]he first feature that strikes you is his mouth which is wide, full, rather protruding. It would be easy to imagine him, though such a vehicle, making cart-tail appeals to street-gatherings in a "whirlwind campaign." The next thing to claim attention is the depth of his dark eyes, which seem to be drinking in whatever passes before them that is capable of absorption. His nose is large enough to suggest force, and his chin would play a good second to it if his lower lip did not overhang so far as to throw everything below into more or less shadow. His round temples are fringed by abundant hair, brushed as straight back as if his hatless head had been shot out of a big gun, face foremost, with a violence that bore a hole through the atmosphere. The face tells a story in itself, which its wearer's temperamental manner bears out, and to which his conversation and conduct append a suitable epilogue. You no loner wonder at learning that he was born in a Missouri village ...

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