American Art History | ART3010 P01
Aug. 26, 2014
Propaganda and its Use During Wartime in America
Propaganda is a major factor of all parts of war. It is the way for the country to get its message across to the people, a way to enlist fighters to the military, and a way to gain support. “Propaganda, at its core is simply a mode of mass communication aimed at influencing the attitude of a state, community, or even an entire society toward some desired position or cause.” (Michaeloart.com) As technology progressed and changes in artistic styles evolved, the methods and messages used in wartime propaganda changed as well. This paper will compare the different types of propaganda used through the three major wars in the United States. It will compare their methods of delivery and the other emotions besides patriotism that were specifically targeted during each war.
During the American Civil War, illustrated journalism and cartoons in print media became available to the American public for the first time. “Many factors contributed to this sudden flowering: the growth of the population and the news market, the solving of many technological problems by men trained in English and American picture publishing, and an aroused popular attention to news events of national concern.” (Ideologicalart.com) Illustrated publications also became popular during this time and “three enterprising publishers established weekly illustrated newspapers: Harper’s Weekly, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, and the New York Illustrated News” . Illustrations about events going on in the world around them captivated American audiences, and they energetically embraced this new form of information. “ (Ideologicalart.com) It was sent out to the masses and generally in a way that appealed to the patriotism in everyone, but was not only limited to Americans. “Most posters were intended for a broad-based audience but some targeted specific segments of the population, such as posters written in German or French or decorated with harps and shamrocks to appeal to Irish-Americans” . (Ideologicalart.com) Both the Union and the Confederates used the development of print media to further their causes. The recruitment of soldiers was a major job for both sides, and it became a major effort, with focused efforts in every state to gather men. The posters often included images of patriotic symbols, such as the American flag and a bald eagle, to appeal to the men’s allegiance to the Union. “Civil War recruiting posters frequently employed patriotic appeals (flag waving), slogans, and virtue words (patriotism, courage, honor, etc.). Patriotic imagery contributed to the plea, and might feature eagles with wings spread, cavalry officers with raised swords, battle scenes, or pictures of George Washington and other national figures.” (Ideologicalart.com)
The poster above is an example of a Union recruiting poster. The poster includes the eagle and the flag, as well as a small image of President Lincoln. These images are specifically used to inspire patriotism in the men and encourage them to enlist. Although the Civil War was fought mostly within the Southern states, there was a large call for men from the North to join in the fight.
Because this was a situation where the enemy was one that was within our own boundaries, patriotism was not the only emotion used to encourage support of the war. Northern states relied heavily on an anti-slavery and fairness of treatment campaign and produced propaganda that was meant to play on the emotional connections people had with their own families.
The above is a clipping from Anti-Slavery Almanac. “Through relying on emotional sympathy from Northerners, the artist attempts to win the audiences’ denouncement of slavery and support for the Union as it demonizes the South and its practices of slavery.”