How We Advertised America

George Creel

George Creel, from How We Advertised America

The Prelinger Archive continues to publish public domain texts on the Internet Archive, on all kinds of subjects. Among the latest batch is George Creel’s How We Advertised America, published in 1920. George Creel was a journalist and campaigner on social issues who was put in charge of the Committee on Public Information in 1917. The CPI was America’s official propaganda outfit during the First World War, tasked with ‘selling the war’ to Americans. As such it was responsible for American official films such as Pershing’s Crusaders, America’s Answer, Under Four Flags, and the newsreel Official War Review. The Creel Committee, as the CPI was also known, recognised the importance of film as a medium to persuade the public, but it was mistrustful of the film industry, and the film industry was reluctant to be exhibiting propaganda. It had huge troubles getting its films onto American screens. Nevertheless, it produced a stream of footage from its team of Signal Corps cameramen which was issued in the form of persuasive documentaries and the regular newsreel.

After the war, Creel published the controversial How We Advertised America, which called for the use of the methods in commercial advertising to be used for official promotion of America. It’s an important source for understanding the context in which propaganda films were produced during the First World War, the first time the medium had been used extensively by national governments as a tool of mass persuasion. The book is available as a free download in PDF (65MB), DjVu (21MB), b/w PDF (20MB) and TXT (906KB) formats. See also Kevin Brownlow’s book The War The West and the Wilderness for a good acount of the work of Creel and the CPI.