Music and Movies

“Pershing’s Crusaders--Auspices of the United States government.” Pritzker Military Museum, 1917.

“America’s Answer." Pritzker Military Museum, 1918.

“Under Four Flags - Third United States Official War Picture.” Library of Congress, 1918.

The CPI commissioned pro-war newsreels and carefully crafted propaganda films to immerse audiences in its patriotic vision. "A big problem is to incorporate in these pictures some telling propaganda which at the same time would not be obvious propaganda but will have the effect we desire to create." - Charles Hart, Director of the CPI Film Division [1] Americans began seeing movies not just for entertainment, but to get audiovisual war news in a pre-television, pre-commercial radio era.

“U.S. Official War Pictures.” Hegeman Print, National War Museum and Memorial, 1917.

Pershing’s Crusaders. Division of Films, U.S. Signal Corps and Committee on Public Information, 1918.

Cohan, George M. "Over There." YouTube, 1917.

This plan was effective: "Not a man and not a woman in the crowd that filled the seats failed to feel the pull of the war, the urging of its influence, the sense of participation in it." - "The Motion Picture Goes to War," The New York Times (30 July 1918) [2]

The CPI also stirred patriotism with music. Four Minute Men led crowds in song: "Let us get it going with a swing…this new activity will be found wonderfully effective in securing the sympathy of our audiences and enhancing the cooperation of our theater members."

- "Four Minute Singing," Bulletin No. 38. Committee on Public Information [3]

"Four Minute Men Chorus." Library of Congress, 1918.

Over There by George M. Cohan (excerpt) (1917) [4]

Johnnie, get your gun
Get your gun, get your gun
Take it on the run
On the run, on the run

Hear them calling, you and me
Every son of liberty
Hurry right away
No delay, go today

Make your daddy glad
To have had such a lad
Tell your sweetheart not to pine
To be proud her boy's in line

Over there, over there
Send the word, send the word over there
That the Yanks are coming
The Yanks are coming
The drums rum tumming everywhere

“Over There.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections, 1917.

"Any great war must necessarily be a popular movement. It is a kind of crusade; and like all crusades, it sweeps along on a powerful stream of romanticism."

~ William Gibbs McAdoo, Head of US Treasury and

Federal Reserve during WWI (1931) [5]

Header image: "Schade / Ohio Theater (Showing Pershing’s Crusaders ca. 1918)." Sandusky Library Archives Research Center, 1918.
[1] Maxwell, John Hamilton. Manipulating the Masses. Louisiana State University Press, 2020.
[2] Ward, Larry Wayne. “The Motion Picture Goes to War." The New York Times, 30 July 1918.
[3] Four Minute Men, Division of the Committee on Public Information. “Four Minute Singing,” Four Minute Men Bulletin No. 38.
[4] Cohan, George M. Over There. Leo Feist Inc., Library of Congress, 1917.
[5] McAdoo, William Gibbs. Crowded Years: The Reminiscences of William G. McAdoo. 1931.