Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
Selling the Great War

Selling the Great War

The Making of American Propaganda

Alan Axelrod

St. Martin's Press



The riveting, untold story of George Creel and the Committee on Public Information -- the first and only propaganda initiative sanctioned by the U.S. government.

When the people of the United States were reluctant to enter World War I, maverick journalist George Creel created a committee at President Woodrow Wilson's request to sway the tide of public opinion. The Committee on Public Information monopolized every medium and avenue of communication with the goal of creating a nation of enthusiastic warriors for democracy. Forging a path that would later be studied and retread by such characters as Adolf Hitler, the Committee revolutionized the techniques of governmental persuasion, changing the course of history.

Selling the War is the story of George Creel and the epoch-making agency he built and led. It will tell how he came to build the and how he ran it, using the emerging industries of mass advertising and public relations to convince isolationist Americans to go to war. It was a force whose effects were felt throughout the twentieth century and continue to be felt, perhaps even more strongly, today. In this compelling and original account, Alan Axelrod offers a fascinating portrait of America on the cusp of becoming a world power and how its first and most extensive propaganda machine attained unprecedented results.


Praise for Selling the Great War

“This is an important story involving a remarkable character.” —Publishers Weekly

“To understand how George W. Bush rallied Americans behind his ill-advised war in Iraq, we need to see how, nearly 90 years before, George Creel pioneered the enterprise of wartime propagandist. To understand Creel, we need to read Alan Axelrod's incisive new biography, Selling the Great War.” —Larry Tye, author of The Father of Spin: Edward L Bernays and the Birth of Public Relations and Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend

“When once again Americans have been 'sold' an inessential war, Alan Axelrod brilliantly reminds us of the 'vast enterprise in salesmanship,' nearly a century ago, that changed overnight our officially neutral, outright-pacifist public into an ""army"" of patriots fighting to make the world 'safe for democracy.' As Axelrod demonstrates in fascinating detail, the remarkable George Creel was responsible for this turnabout through his Committee on Public Information, which eschewed censorship but so thoroughly controlled war information that its work was to be admired by the likes of Hitler and Goebbels.” —Walton Rawls, author of Wake Up! America: World War I and the American Poster

“Axelrod offers a comprehensive study of George Creel and the Creel Committee. By so doing he provides new and valuable insight into the role of propaganda and opinion-shaping in American politics. This is a timely, important book.” —Christopher Sharrett, Professor of Communication, Seton Hall University

“Axelrod takes a nuanced view of a character easy to hate.” —Reason

“A useful exhumation of an almost forgotten piece of American history and a timely meditation on the conflict between free speech and security.” —Kirkus

“This engaging story provides lessons for the current U.S. experience in the War on Terror.” —Library Journal

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Alan Axelrod

Alan Axelrod is the author of numerous popular books on military history, general history, American history and historically rooted business and management books, including Bradley and Patton in The Great Generals Series, the BusinessWeek bestsellers Patton on Leadership and Elizabeth I, CEO, as well as a host of encyclopedias and other trade reference titles. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Alan Axelrod

Anit Arliss

Alan Axelrod


From the Publisher

St. Martin's Press

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