This Friday, Sandra Castillo and twenty of her Miami Dade College students came to the Wolfsonian-FIU for a lecture presentation on the subject of World War I propaganda. Although the Wolfsonian has gained notoriety as a “must see” repository of materials documenting the Second World War, we also have a very strong collection of rare books, periodicals, and ephemera dating back to the earlier conflict.

When asked to consider how wars were won (or lost), most of the students immediately responded with lists of the obvious determinants: powerful armies, warships, airships, and tanks; the production and supply of war munitions; strategic battle plans and victories; manpower and the attrition of the enemy. The impact of propaganda on the morale of enemy and friendly soldiers at the front, and civilians on the home front, and the court of world opinion did not immediately register with the students as something of vital importance to the combatants. After looking over some of the propaganda materials laid out on the main reading room tables, however, many of the students began to understand that it wasn’t only material considerations that impacted a country’s ability to maintain the fighting spirit also necessary for prosecuting a long and bloody conflict over the course of several years.

The professor and her students were treated to a wide variety of propaganda materials produced by all of the protagonists participating in the Great War. Highlights included The great war victory album and The century edition de luxe of Raemaekers’ war cartoons; two recruiting posters aimed at an African American audience; postcards from Italy, France, and the United States aimed at lifting morale on the home front by lampooning the enemy; song books and sheet music covers designed to inspire patriotism and faith in final victory.

Among the items that proved most popular with the students were those books ostensibly written for children, but also designed to win over parental readers and an adult audience. Although our collection originally included a fair number of rare propaganda books designed for a juvenile audience, our holdings were dramatically augmented thanks to a generous donation by Pamela K. Harer in 2007 of more than one hundred children’s propaganda books from the First and Second World Wars. Several of the latter books have been included here, and others displayed in an earlier exhibition can be accessed by clicking on the title of the blog.

~ by "The Chief" on March 12, 2010.

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