Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Committee on Public Information's War Exhibitions

Note for a Planned Article
"Creel, Lippmann, and the Origins of American Public Diplomacy"
(comments welcome; draft, not for citation)

The Committee on Public Information's War Exhibitions

From James R. Mock and Cedric Larson, Words that Won the War (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1939), p. 68:

BUREAU OF WAR EXPOSITIONS. Twenty cities saw exhibits of the machinery of war and trophies captured from the Germans. Admission receipts exceeded by more than $400,000 the $1,006,142.80 of expenses. The showing of the exposition on the Chicago Lake Front, under the direction of Samuel Insull, was the greatest of all, bringing in receipts of $583,731.24 and having a total attendance of more than two million (224, 871 in one day). Parades and other special events helped stir enthusiasm, and there was a daily sham battle on land and in the air, employing the services of 3,000 soldiers, sailors, and marines and a British-American squadron of fourteen warplanes. The fascination of the War Expositions is revealed by a front-page story of part two from the Chicago Herald and Examiner of September 1, 1918:

"Go and see the 'German 77 [mm]...,' the favorite field piece of the Hun army, captured in battle, battered and made useless by allied shells.

77 mm image from

"See the big torpedo, captured by the British navy, and known to be a mate to the one with which the Germans sank the Lusitania.

"Look on the 6,000-pound anti-aircraft gun captured by American troops, and notice how they perforated and riddled it with steel before they took it.

"See official French photographs of Hun atrocities. See the official photographs, which cannot be denied.

"Walk through the trenches, and look at the dugouts in which our boys live, the helmets and gas masks they must wear, the weight of the packs they must carry, and try to imagine the hum of bullets, the roar of exploding shells, and the smash
of showers of shrapnel aimed at them. . . .

"Go down to the War Exposition and picture to yourself that hail of shell, that smudge of poison gas, that shower of machine-gun bullets, all the atmosphere of treachery and hate and unfair fighting our boys had to face.

"When you get that realization you will be readier to do your full share here at home. And THAT is the sole reason for the exposition [.]"

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