A look at one way America responded to the tragedy of December 7, 1941
Peter G Kreitler, Episcopalian priest, cultural historian, environmental educator, and television talk show host has dedicated more than a decade to assembling and sharing a 1942 magazine campaign that was aimed at giving America a boost when it needed it most. Says one observer, his efforts “are all part of a larger mission to promote patriotism as a vehicle for responsible community and national action to insure that the next generation has access to justice, liberty and freedom.”
In July of 1942, just seven months after the attack on Pearl harbor, more than 500 publishers throughout the United States joined together to “lift the nation’s spirits” by featuring the American flag on every magazine cover published in the USA.
Nothing about this outpouring of patriotism was accidental.
Paul MacNamara, a publicist for Hearst Magazines, thought that a “United We Stand” campaign by America’s magazines that caught the public’s eye could serve two purposes:
- Foster patriotism in a country involved in a vicious war
- Raise the public’s interest in magazines
The National Publisher’s Association (now the Magazine Publishers of America) eagerly joined the United We Stand campaign, as did the United States Flag Association-an organization dedicated to promoting the proper use and display of the flag. The U.S Government also got involved in the campaign as a way to increase American’s interest in buying war bonds; sales had plummeted after a brief surge brought on by the Pearl Harbor attack.
The effort was a huge success. More than 1,200 leading department stores set up displays across the country, while thousands of news stands made the magazines reach out to people on seemingly every street corner. The campaign greatly increased the sale of war bonds-providing the government with badly needed resources. The morale boosting endeavor also coincided with a positive summer for the United States: In June of 1942, America won the Battle of Midway against the Japanese, while the U.S and British air forces dropped their first bombs on Germany.
Until recently, these magazine covers were practically forgotten and would have been largely lost-if it had not been for Marguerite Storm and Peter Kreitler.
Kreitler and his wife, Katy, started collecting magazine issues with the American flag on them in the early 1990s as part of his interest in studying the cultural bonds that hold our country together. A chance meeting ultimately directed Kreitler to Storms’ daughter, Jacquette Theis, who lead him to her mother’s own collection of more than 80 of the magazine covers. Kreitler, who had performed the funeral service for Storm, later acquired her family’s treasure.
The collection of patriotic magazine covers has generated major acclaim, perhaps highlighted by the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of American History hosting part of an exhibit in 2002-about a year after Kreitler published a booklet on the United We Stand campaign.
“One of the collection’s most important messages is the power of image,” Insight magazine noted in a 1992 feature on Kreitler’s work. “They are a lot more than just a delight at which to look with pleasure. These covers and the messages they carried lifted a nation’s spirit. Scouts went out and collected needed materials such as rubber and scrap iron. Families looked proudly on sons and daughters who were in the armed forces. Americans learned about necessity of self-sacrifice and submission to national goals in time of war.”
Peter Kreitler has done more than collect magazine covers. He has reviewed the content and text of virtually all the magazines and has in-depth and timeless knowledge of patriotism and what it means to Americans. As Kreitler himself stated, “Patriotism should never be out of season. We should always be aware of the liberty and justice that the American flag represents.”
A Special Thanks to…
- Peter Kreitler for permitting this museum to produce a portion of his unique collection. The National Museum of Patriotism has established a partnership with Peter Kreitler to advance our common goal of love of country.
- Collins Digital Imaging for their contribution of printing the photos used in this exhibit.