Wednesday, October 22, 2014

When exactly was the Committee on Public Information (CPI) established?

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

Woodrow Wilson: "Executive Order 2594 - Creating Committee on Public Information," April 13, 1917. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project:
Executive Order 2594 - Creating Committee on Public InformationApril 13, 1917
I hereby create a Committee on Public Information, to be composed of the Secretary of State, the Secretary of War, the Secretary of the Navy, and a civilian who shall be charged with the executive direction of the Committee.
As Civilian Chairman of this Committee, I appoint Mr. George Creel. The Secretary of State, the Secretary of War, and the Secretary of the Navy are authorized each to detail an officer or officers to the work of the Committee.
April 13, 1917.
The Complete report of the chairman of the Committee on public information 1917:1918:1919 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1920), p. 1, in a section dated June 4, 1919, addressed "To the President," it is stated that the the CPI, was "Created under your Executive Order date April 14, 1917, the first hours of the war..." Same date, April 14, 1917 is cited in Wilson's Executive Order reproduced in The Activities of the Committee on Public Information (The Committee on Public Information:  January 27, 1918). 
Bruce Pinkerton, “The Campaign of the Committee on Public Information: Its Contributions to the the History of Evolution of Public Relations,” Journal of Public Relations Research, 6 (4): 230:
Creel ... reported the creation date of the CPI as April 14, 1917. The Sundry Civil Appropriations Bill for 1919 contains a reading of the executive order creating the CPI, also dated April 1914. Mock and Larson [see] and [Stephen] Vaughn [see] reported the creation to be April 13, 1917. April 14 is reported as the creation date in this article due to the corroboration of Creel and information contained in Sundry Appropriation Bill.
George G. Bruntz, Allied propaganda and the collapse of the German Empire in 1918, 31, citing Woodrow Wilson's State Papers and Addresses (New York, 1918): 273 ff.:
From the outset President Wilson recognized the necessity for a central propaganda agency in this country. On April 14, 1917, just eight days after war was declared, he created by, executive order, the Committee on Public Information.
Stewart Halsey Ross, Propaganda for War: How the United States Was Conditioned to Fight the Great War of 1914-1918 (Joshua Tree, Calif.: Progressive Press, 2009): 218:
On April 13 [1917], three members of the cabinet -- Secretary of State Robert Lansing, Secretary of War Newton D. Baker, and Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels -- addressed a letter to the president, on Lansing's stationery, calling for him to create, "without waiting for further legislation," what they called a Committee on Public Information . ...
Wilson responded to the letter the next day by meeting with George Creel to offer him the chairmanship, which Creel enthusiastically accepted. The president then signed Executive Order 2594, which established the Committee on Public Information (CPI) precisely as recommended (10). Wilson predated his order April 13, for the supposedly modern-thinking president was a deeply superstitious man, and considered 13 (the number of letters in his name) his lucky number.
(10) [p. 314] In his printed handout, "Preliminary Statement to the Press of the United States," on May 28, 1917, Creel included these comments on the name of the committee: "The Committee on Public Information was given its name in no spirit of subterfuge, but as an honest announcement of purpose. There is the conviction that its negative functions -- censorship -- will be increasingly subordinated  to the positive function -- information," 20. The name was subsequently registered as a U.S. trademark.

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