During World War I, the United States fought a war of ideas with unprecedented ingenuity and organization. President Woodrow Wilson established the Committee on Public Information (CPI) to manage news and solicit widespread support for the war at home and abroad. Under the energetic direction of Mississippi newspaper editor George Creel, the CPI churned out national propaganda through diverse media including films, cartoons, and speeches. The CPI’s home-front propaganda cartoons were no laughing matter. The Bureau of Cartoons, headed by George Hecht, exhorted cartoonists to use their popular medium to support the war effort. Like other CPI pamphlets that urged Americans to integrate the war effort into their home and work lives, this excerpt from the CPI’s Bulletin for Cartoonists provided a mixture of suggestions, practical advice, and inspirational prose.
Committee on Public Information
Bureau of Cartoons
George Creel Chairman
The Secretary of State
The Secretary of War
The Secretary of the Navy
September 28, 1918.
Bulletin for Cartoonists.
To the cartoonists of America:
The floating of Liberty Loans is largely a problem of education. It is a question of bringing home to the mass of people the fact that it is their patriotic duty to invest all the money they can in Liberty Bonds.
There are few means of publicity that can equal cartoons in effectiveness in bringing home to every American his obligation to buy Liberty Bonds.
I appreciate deeply the splendid service that you, cartoonists of America, have rendered during the past three loan campaigns and I feel confident that you may be counted on in this present drive to do even more.
Make Each Liberty Loan Cartoon Count.
Frank B. Wilson, Director of Publicity.
When you sit down to draw a Liberty Loan cartoon your problem is just this: What can I draw that will most effectively make my readers buy bonds?
A pretty picture that appeals to the eye or a side-splitting humorous cartoon may catch the public fancy for the moment but you will decide after thinking it over that the really worthwhile thing from the standpoint of bond selling is not the appeal to the eye or to the sense of humor but the appeal to the brain and the heart.
If your cartoons leave your audience with something to think about or with some strongemotion they will accomplish their end. If you can make your readers think or feel strongly they will act.
Consider yourself a Liberty Bond salesman actually talking to your readers. Think of the arguments you would use in persuading them to buy. And then draw those arguments.
A general cartoon about the Liberty Loan crushing the Kaiser will sell few bonds, whereas a very specific and personal cartoon will sell many. The closer home you bring the problem to each individual the more bonds you will inspire him to buy. . . .
Study out the psychology of every cartoon carefully and try to make each sell the maximum number of bonds. Remember that the success of the Fourth Liberty Loan depends in a measure upon the effectiveness of your cartoons. Make every cartoon count.
Nothing is more important to-day than the winning of the war. The criterion of each act is therefore whether or not it is helping to hasten victory. The worth of each cartoon depends upon how much it aids in the national cause.
Every time you draw a cartoon you have the opportunity of helping to win the war.
Grasp every one. During the coming weeks your cartoons can be especially useful and we trust that you will draw as often as possible on the fourth Liberty Loan.
How Your Liberty Bond Will Fight.
The cartoonist has here an opportunity to show graphically just what the bond quota of his local community will purchase.
A $50 bond will buy:
14 rifle grenades.
160 first-aid packages to dress wounds.
Truck knives for an entire rifle company.
A $100 bond will:
Clothe a soldier.
Buy 5 rifles.
Feed a soldier for 8 months.
A $1,000 bond will buy:
An X-ray apparatus outfit.
Pistols for an entire company.
$5,000 worth of bonds will buy:
1 Liberty truck.
7 Lewis machine guns.
$50,000 worth of bonds will:
Maintain a submarine for over a year.
Construct a base hospital with 500 beds.
$100,000 Will buy 5 fighting airplanes.
$1,000,000 worth of bonds will maintain a battleship for a year.
$1,800,000 worth of bonds will build one destroyer.
$28,000,000 worth of bonds will build one new battleship complete.
If We Don’t Go Over the Top This Time.
England, with her record of 26 billions raised by loans, is watching us with anxious eyes. We have made good three times. We must do it a fourth time. Sad-eyed France, with her 17 billions of loans raised by an exhausted people, is looking to us. We must keep faith.
Our boys in the trenches are waiting eagerly for the new assurance that the folks at home are really backing them.
And the Kaiser with his record of 28 billions raised by war loans is eyeing us hopefully. We managed to do it three times, he thinks, but this time we will fall flat. We’ve got to show him.
If we don’t go over the top this time and show that our pocketbooks as well as our hearts are in this fight England will lose her respect for “Indomitable America”! France will sink under her burden of discouragement. Our boys in the trenches will feel that they haven’t the backing of the folks at home and will lose heart. And the Kaiser, with an exultant “I told you so,” will cheer his doubting hordes on to new efforts.
The war will be prolonged immeasurably if this loan is not a success.
Source: Committee on Public Information, Bureau of Cartoons, Bulletin No. 16, September 28, 1919, 1–2.