Propaganda: Selling A War

Explore the imagery and music that inspired a generation of Americans to take up arms in Europe during the first World War–The War to End All Wars.

Open January 15, 2020 – Spring 2021.
Currently CLOSED for Home for the Holidays. Back up January 2021.

Propaganda: Selling A War takes visitors back to a time when neutrality–staying out of war was the cultural mindset. After all, America was built on the foundation of neutrality. It was a value engineered by first President George Washington as a means of survival. Newly-founded America could not support the financial burden of wars. But as America’s financial systems became stable, the mindset of neutrality endured.

So when Europe went to war in 1914, Americans breathed a heavy sigh of relief when President Wilson said the nation would not get involved. This idea of neutrality was further underscored by the top song in the spring of 1915: “I Didn’t Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier.” However, following Lusitania, explosions in New Jersey munitions factories, and other acts of aggression, President Wilson declared war.

This exhibit explores how American minds would be transformed through media and how propaganda would “sell” Americans on going to war.

Experience the rise of “duty to country” through media of pressure, empathy, and patriotism. And see how public opinion was changed and war gained acceptance through this media.

Support provided by the general operations support grants from the United Cultural Fund, a program of the Broome County Arts Council; the Conrad and Virginia Klee Foundation; the Zoos, Botanical Gardens and Aquariums Program, administered by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreational, and Historical Preservation; and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.