The power of pictures.
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The power of pictures.

A week after his April, 1917, declaration of war on Germany, President Woodrow Wilson established the Committee on Public Information (CPI), a propaganda agency that used sophisticated mass-marketing techniques to sell the war and the sacrifices it would entail to a wary American public. The CPI distributed 75 million pamphlets, placed magazine ads, produced films, and sent out 75,000 speakers to give short, pro-war speeches. As part of this war mobilization effort, the government also relied on the power of effective, if often fantastic, imagery to shape public opinion. Even though most illustrators and editorial cartoonists eagerly produced pro-war work, the government instituted a Bureau of Cartoons, which issued a weekly Bulletin for Cartoonists. The bulletin included suggestions about appropriately patriotic themes and, in some cases, instructions for specific pictures. This dramatically illustrated poster from 1918 urged Americans to purchase “Liberty Bonds,” which provided money for the government to pay for the war effort.

Source: Joseph Pennell, chromolithograph, c. 1918—Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.