HS – World War I Propaganda

by Jenifer Smolnik
Ellington High School, Ellington


TEACHER'S SNAPSHOT
Topic
Immigration, World War I
Theme
The Role of Connecticut in U.S. History
Town
Bridgeport, Norwich, Statewide
Related Search Terms
The Great War, WW I, World War I, Enemy Aliens, Propaganda, Immigrants, How Connecticut Fought the War
Social Studies Frameworks
High School – United States History

Historical Background
Like many wartime leaders, President Woodrow Wilson used propaganda to encourage nationalism and patriotism among Americans. The portrayal of America as the potential savior of the Allied powers in Europe influenced American attitudes about the sacrifices required to win the war. The American government delivered many of these messages through the effective use of mass media.

D1: POTENTIAL COMPELLING QUESTION

What role does propaganda play in a time of war?

D1: POTENTIAL SUPPORTING QUESTIONS
  • What type of messages are being portrayed in words and/or pictures?
  • How do you think each segment of the population (e.g. immigrants, German-American citizens, other foreign-born American citizens, labor leaders, pacifists, and Socialists) might have received and interpreted these advertisements and appeals?
  • What do all of these propaganda materials have in common?
D2: TOOL KIT

Things you will need to teach this lesson.

 

Beware of Spies and Enemy Eavesdroppers!, Connecticut State Council of Defense, ca. 1914-1918 - Connecticut State Library
Beware of Spies and Enemy Eavesdroppers!, Connecticut State Council of Defense, ca. 1914-1918 – Connecticut State Library

 

Second United States Official War Film, "America's Answer", Presented by the Division of Films Committee on Public Information, George Creel, Chairman from The Bridgeport Times and Evening Farmer, September, 7, 1918 - Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
Second United States Official War Film, “America’s Answer,” Presented by the Division of Films Committee on Public Information, George Creel, Chairman. A full page advertisement in the Bridgeport Times and Evening Farmer, September, 7, 1918 – Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
page Download a pdf of the advertisement, “America’s Answer,” Bridgeport Times and Evening Farmer, September 7, 1918, or click on the image above to link to the article.

 

Our Three Lines of National Defense
R. Peckner, Our Three Lines of National Defense, poster by the National Industrial Conservation Movement, 1917 – Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

 

We closed the road to Paris
We closed the road to Paris – we’re on our way to Berlin. Every bond you buy of the 4th Liberty Loan is a bayonet thrust at the Kaiser, poster by AdPress, 1917 – Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

 

To Arms! Enlistment Week!
“To Arms! Enlistment Week! Connecticut’s Call to Her Sons! Native Born or Adopted!” A full page advertisement in the Norwich Bulletin, June 27, 1917 – Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
page Download a pdf of the advertisement, “To Arms! Enlistment Week!,” Norwich Bulletin, June 27, 1917, or click on the image above to link to the article.
D3: INQUIRY ACTIVITY

Students will read and reflect on the propaganda materials and discuss the supporting questions in pairs or groups. Students will use a KWL chart or Library of Congress Primary Source Analysis Tool to organize their work. Groups will share their materials and findings with the rest of the class, discuss the supporting and compelling questions, and then develop additional questions of their own.

D4: COMMUNICATING CONCLUSIONS

Writing from the point of view of one segment of the population in the United States at that time, students will compose a brief (two-paragraph) letter to President Woodrow Wilson expressing their thoughts, feelings, and ideas about American entry into the war. Students may choose to write from the perspective of:

  • German-Americans (including Hutterites and Mennonites)
  • Other Foreign-Born American Citizens
  • Socialists
  • Pacifists
  • Labor Leaders
  • Women
  • Draft-Age American Citizens
  • Older American Citizens
  • Another group that they have identified (with approval)

This letter may express concern or support, based on the students’ interpretation of the propaganda images. Students may include evidence from readings and reference other sources they have investigated.

Students will then select a different group that might have had a different view on American entry into the war and write a second letter to President Woodrow Wilson from this perspective.

Working in pairs or groups, students will present their letters for discussion and reflection.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Places to GO
Things to DO
Websites to VISIT
Articles & Books to READ

This TeachITCT.org activity is sponsored in part by the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Eastern Region Program, coordinated by Waynesburg University.