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Committee on Public Information (CPI)

Woodrow Wilson

Committee on Public Information (CPI): Woodrow Wilson was the 28th American President who served in office from March 4, 1913 to March 4, 1921. One of the important events during his presidency was the creation of the Committee on Public Information during WW1.

Definition and Summary of the Committee on Public Information (CPI)
Summary and definition:
The Committee on Public Information (CPI), was established on April 13, 1917 and headed by George Creel. The CPI provided propaganda during WW1 to rally the support of American citizens for all aspects of the war effort. President Woodrow Wilson considered that public support was to the entire wartime effort.

Information in the form of propaganda was provided by the Committee on Public Information (CPI) and used in many different forms such as posters, pamphlets, magazines, billboards, movies, photographs, public speakers called the "Four Minute Men" and daily press releases to shape public opinion to build support for the war. The Committee on Public Information (CPI), aka the Creel Committee, was also tasked with censorship of potentially damaging material.

Committee on Public Information Facts: Fast Fact Sheet for kids
Fast, fun facts and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) about the Committee on Public Information aka the Creel Committee.

What was the Purpose of the Committee on Public Information?
The purpose of the Committee on Public Information was to provide members of the public with information about the war effort and the censorship of anti-war material. The CPI became the US government’s propaganda and publicity agency.

Who was the leader of the Committee on Public Information?
The leader of the Committee on Public Information was journalist George Creel used modern public relations techniques to promote the war effort, at home and abroad.

Why was the Committee on Public Information formed?
The Committee on Public Information was formed to create public unity, counter anti-war sentiments and to counter enemy propaganda. To promote a patriotic message and to stifle any opposing messages.

What was the role of the Committee on Public Information?
The role of the Committee on Public Information was to produce a variety of propaganda materials which would reach everyone in the nation and countries abroad by "selling America to the World"..

Facts about Committee on Public Information (CPI)
The following fact sheet contains interesting facts and information on Committee on Public Information (CPI).

During WW1, national governments employed propaganda on an unprecedented scale.

The arrival of the modern mass media, with its ability to reach millions of people rapidly, made propaganda an indispensable element of wartime mobilization - refer to WW1 Mobilization.

The absence of public unity was a major concern when America entered the war. Just one week after the United States entered the war on April 6, 1917, the CPI was created on April 13, 1917.

The journalist George Creel (1876-1953), a firm supporter of Woodrow Wilson during presidential election campaigns, was chosen to head the U.S. propaganda effort during World War One. George Creel believed in the power of the press and that its effectiveness should not be underestimated

The CPI blended modern advertising techniques with human psychology to produce propaganda on a large scale. The commission comprised of 19 subdivisions, each devoted to a specific type of propaganda

The Creel Commission organized the "Four Minute Men," volunteers who made patriotic speeches for four minutes in public locations, functions and schools. 75,000 speakers volunteered as  "Four Minute Men" delivered total of 755,190 speeches in thousands of American communities

The Creel Commission used propaganda techniques and communication vehicles to create anger and fear among American citizens to illustrate how terrible life would be if America and its allies lost the war to the Germans.

The Creel Commission used various mediums including leaflets, movies, photographs, cartoons, pamphlets, booklets, magazines, posters, press releases and billboards to promote its messages.

The Creel Commission bombarded foreign media outlets with news, official statements, and features on American life and the war effort. Several hundred volunteer translators helped the CPI with this task.

1,439 drawings were prepared by CPI volunteers for the production of posters, window cards and and signboards.

The free CPI daily newspaper, called the "Official Bulletin" consisted of at least 8 pages and had a 100,000 circulation to post offices, army bases and other newspapers

The CPI Division of films used newsreels and 'shorts' to promote the war

Movies were extremely popular in America and highly effective abroad. Hollywood played its part in propaganda.

  • The names of the most famous movies were "Pershing's Crusaders", “Our Colored Fighters” "America's Answer", "The Little American", "The Kaiser, Beast of Berlin" and "Under Four Flags."

  • CPI Movies were used to manipulate emotions to mobilize the people for a national cause

  • The Kineto Company of America edited, processed, and printed the CPI’s movies

  • Charlie Chaplin starred in "The Bond"

  • Other movie stars, such as Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks Jnr. joined Chaplin in massive rally's aimed at selling Liberty Bonds

Seventy-five million copies of pamphlets were circulated in America

The Creel Commission secured millions of dollars worth of free advertising space from the Press.

Propaganda Techniques were employed by the CPI including:

  • The use of prominent people to support the message with testimonials

  • One of the most effective and gruesome posters was 'Beat back the Hun with Liberty Bonds' by Fred Strothmann

  • Convincing the audience they were on the winning side

  • Use of 'common sense' propaganda techniques

  • The use of emotionally appealing words and images

  • The use of slogans, cartoons, drawings, photographs and stereotyping to attack the enemy

  • Also refer to Hollywood in the 1920s

On an average week, more than 20,000 newspapers carried information provided through CPI propaganda.

Songs and Music was a prominent feature at home fronts and on the battlefields and were used as a great medium for conveying messages

George Creel entitled his 1921 memoir of his CPI tenure as "How We Advertised America".

The Committee on Public Information was in operation for just over 28 months and was formally disestablished by an act of Congress on June 30, 1919

US American History
1913-1928: WW1 & Prohibition

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