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Public Diplomacy

George Creel

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Although not everyone changed their minds about World War I due to his efforts, George Creel succeeded in reaching the people through his innovative style of spreading word about the War. As head of the United States Committee on Public Information, a propaganda organization created by President Woodrow Wilson during World War I, Creel gathered the nation's artists and created thousands of paintings, posters, cartoons, and sculptures promoting the War. He also gathered support from choirs, social clubs, and religious institutions to join what has been described as "The World’s Greatest Adventure In Advertising."

By far his most creative image making effort was recruiting about 75,000 men, who spoke about the War at social events for an ideal length of four minutes. It was thought, at the time, that average human attention span was about four minutes. The “Four Minute Men,�? as they were known, spoke on the draft, rationing, bond drives, victory gardens and why we are fighting. These men, through their speeches, helped to maintain the nation's morale. It was estimated that by the end of the war, they had made more than 7.5 million speeches to 314 million people. Creel described his innovation as “an organization that will live in history by reason of its originality and effectiveness, commanded the volunteer services of 75,000 speakers, operating in 5,200 communities, and making a total of 755,190 speeches, every one having the carry of shrapnel.�?

Creel also wrote books as well as speeches. How the War Came to America, which was translated into many languages, sold almost seven million copies and included Wilson's war message. He created pamphlets that were handed out with help from the Boy Scouts. Almost 60 million pamphlets, booklets, and leaflets were distributed.

Born on December 1, 1876, in Lafayette County, George Creel was an investigative journalist and a politician. He began his career as a reporter for the Kansas City World in 1894 before starting his own newspaper, the Kansas City Independent, in 1899. By the time the United States went into WWI in April 1917, Creel had begun to establish his reputation as an investigative journalist or 'muckraker.' He also worked for The Denver Post (1909–1910) and the Rocky Mountain News (1911–1917). It was from there that President Wilson picked him to head his war propaganda machinery.

Creel remained in public life after the war. He served on the San Francisco Regional Labor Board in 1933 and became chairman of the National Advisory Board of the Works Progress Administration in 1935.

He was an active member of the Democratic Party, and ran, unsuccesfully, against the novelist, Upton Sinclair for the post of Governor of California in 1934. He thereafter devoted his life to writing, churning out about a dozen books. He wrote his memoirs, How We Advertised America in 1920.

He died on 2 October 1953 in San Francisco at the age of 76.


Resources Used


Suggested ReadingEdit

  • Literary Biography – American Newspaper Journalists, 1901-1925

George Creel’s Books:

  • Quatrains of Christ (1908, poetry)
  • Wilson and the Issues (1916)
  • How The War Came to America (1917)
  • Ireland's Fight For Freedom: Setting Forth the High Lights of Irish History (1919, history)
  • War, The World, and Wilson (1920)
  • How We Advertised America (1920, memoir)
  • The People Next Door (1926)
  • Sons of the Eagle (1927)
  • Sam Houston: Colossus in Buckskin (1928, biography)
  • War Criminals And Punishment (1944)
  • Rebel At Large: Recollections Of Fifty Crowded Years (1947, history)
  • Russia's Race For Asia (1949)

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