Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Department of History
The Committee on Public Information (CPI) was the official propaganda agency of the United States during the First World War, seeking to homogenize American public opinion and spread American ideals across the globe. Through a case study of Edwin Björkman’s work among Swedish Americans, this thesis illuminates how the CPI approached its work among immigrants, engaging questions of Americanization and transnationalism. Through an analysis of the John Ericsson League of Patriotic Service and the Scandinavian Bureau—both its domestic and foreign operations—this thesis argues that Edwin Björkman and the CPI promoted cultural pluralism rather than assimilation to a dominant Anglo-American culture. Central to this was a distinction between nationality and ethnicity. Though Björkman wanted Swedish Americans to cement their political loyalty to the United States, this did not imply the abandonment of their Swedish cultural identity. Furthermore, this study reveals the complexity of Swedish Americans’ transnational ties to Sweden, as they were both influenced by and influenced public and political opinion abroad. Björkman coopted the circulatory transnational relationship between homeland Swedes and Swedish Americans for the American war effort. Serving as agents, objects, and subjects of propaganda, Swedish Americans used their “natural ties for patriotic purposes,” organizing themselves along ethnic lines to affirm their loyalty, support the war, and sway the public opinion of their countrymen abroad in favor of the United States, its war aims, and its postwar vision of a peaceful and democratic world.
Fisher, Race L., "“Natural Ties for Patriotic Purposes": the Committee on Public Information, Americanization, and Swedish-American Transnationalism" (2021). Theses and Dissertations. 1367.