Section One

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Pershing’s Crusaders
John J. Pershing
H. C. Miner Lithography Company, 1918

Up until World War I, the United States government had made little use of moving pictures, but by war’s end the Committee on Public Information (CPI), headed by George Creel, considered its Division of Films crucial for wartime propaganda. This 1918 poster advertises the division’s first feature-length film based on military footage, Pershing’s Crusaders, which was screened in twenty-four cities, in theaters decorated with flags and bunting.

Inspirational posters like this one, equating General John J. Pershing and his troops with crusaders on a religious mission, helped to publicize the screenings and elicit the support of civic groups. The distribution of American popular movies abroad was linked to these CPI films. “Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford led Pershing’s Crusaders and America’s Answer into the enemy’s territory,” Creel once bragged, “and smashed another Hindenburg line.”