Communication to the public in WWI (2010)


I went to the National WWI Museum in Kansas City yesterday as part of a class I’m in on multi-national military operations. If you have never been there, I would highly recommend it. It is a top-notch facility that really brings to life the history of the events that led up to WWI, the war and the aftermath.

What I zoned in on was the communication methods of the time.

They have several hundred posters from that era including the ‘Uncle Sam’ 1917 poster by James Montgomery Flagg. Flagg had to create a person to symbolize America and created ‘Uncle Sam’.

He could not find anyone whose face fit what he was looking for so somebody suggested that he use himself as a model which is what he did.

So the famous ‘Uncle Sam’ poster is also a semi-self portrait of the artist who painted it.

Besides the posters, there were the songs played on the radio at the time like the popular ‘Over There‘, the movies (not so much from the WWI are but more from the WWII era), the newspapers, the photos, the propaganda-type documents on both sides of the war, and all the rhetoric.

This was the early days of Strategic Communication and it has sparked an interest as to the history of our government’s public communications.

I’ve started to search for relevant books on communicating with the American public during times of peace and war, about the history and evolution of the U.S. government’s methods, and will share anything of interest in the future.

Mike Nicholson

I've spent my career working in a variety of Strategic Communications, Public Relations, Public Affairs, Information Operations, and Executive Outreach positions. With a history of planning, preparing, executing, and assessing communication strategies in the U.S. and abroad, I use this site to write, think and share lessons learned on organizational communications.

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