Vital Help Given by the Newspapers and Periodicals of America
by Charles Lathrop Pack

The following excerpted chapter comes from a book entitled The War Garden Victorious by Charles Lathrop Pack (1919) which tells the story of the successful campaign of World War I’s efforts to galvanize the country to grow food throughout the country as a war effort. We published a chapter (Chapter One viewed here awhile back in the pages of HopeDance detailing this effort. The War Gardens, as they were called, were the precursor to the Victory Gardens of World War II. It would behoove us to see and understand how the government and media COULD work together for the betterment of mankind rather than for war. If we did it back then, why couldn’t we do it now? As you read, imagine the world (governments and media) doing the same thing but for our communities, our survival, our joy, our taste buds, our health, and to “foster sustainable behavior” rather than murdering our “enemies.” For the entire book online please visit www.earthlypursuits.com/WarGarV/WarGard1.htm

seeds_of_victory.jpg The printed word, the most powerful force known to civilization, made war gardens possible. In no other way could they have been made to multiply so rapidly in all parts of the land. From printer’s ink to parsnips and parsley is a long jump; but the newspapers and magazines made that jump along with the others which they made for Liberty Loans, the Red Cross, and various other war-work campaigns. When the shadow of war fell across America, and before the actual declaration of war, the National War Garden Commission sent out the first rallying call to the home food producers. The newspapers and magazines spread the call freely. General Pershing later said, “Keep the Food Coming” and the publications heard that call, too, and relayed it to their readers.

The “Soldiers of the Soil” wanted instruction and they wanted it quickly. Prompt action was necessary that their service in the “garden trenches” might be effective. There was only one way in which the message of the war garden and the necessary instructions could be carried to all the people with the speed demanded. This was through the press of the country and the printed page. Any other plan of distributing the appeal and the instructions would have been far too slow to be effective and furthermore would have involved prohibitive expense, if it could have been done at all.

How much of a debt of gratitude the nation owes to its patriotic editors it probably will never be able to realize fully, but it does know that without their wholehearted support and their loyal assistance it would never have been able to arouse the people of the United States as a whole to the strenuous efforts which they exerted to back up the government and the fighting forces. No note of appreciation to the editors of the country could be over-generous in its praise or too liberal in its expression of heartfelt thanks for their substantial aid.

THE KNIGHTS OF PRINTERS INK HEARD THE CALL FOR FOOD

Throughout the land every sort of publication cooperated with the National War Garden Commission in the drive for home food production. Here are but a few of the headlines that show how the press patriotically responded to the call.

When the Commission began its campaign it realized that it must depend largely upon the support of the newspapers and the magazines. Well-planned and well-directed publicity was necessary to get its message to the people of the United States, and the promptness of the editors in recognizing the vital importance of home food production and their patriotic readiness in conveying the appeal to their millions of readers should be recorded in letters of gold among the nation’s permanent records. The Commission has expressed its appreciation to many of them individually and it takes this further and more lasting means of acknowledging its thanks, and the thanks of the nation, for their enthusiastic service.

While space became more and more at a premium as the war progressed, the newspapers and magazines continued to contribute as liberally as they could of their columns to the cause of food production “F.O.B. the Kitchen Door.” They stimulated and encouraged the “city farmer” to plant for freedom and they furnished him with the necessary data and instruction, provided by the Commission. The great majority of those who were eager to raise food and help feed the army were amateurs at the business. They had to be shown how. They were willing but they needed guidance. The number of competent instructors was limited, and it became necessary for the war gardener to look to the daily press for information telling him what to do. In this the press did not fail him. Almost unanimously, from one end of the country to the other, the newspapers daily published material furnished by the Commission. If this could be totaled it would run into tens of thousands of columns.

After calling the attention of the country to the vital need of war gardening, the Commission prepared a series of short garden lessons telling the home food growers what, when, and how to plant. These lessons were brief and shorn of technicalities but authentic, and gave the gardener all he needed to know. They were sent to the newspapers on news-clip sheets, a dozen or more lessons on each sheet, while a few short general stories on war gardening were also included on the sheet. This method of sending out the material was economical from every standpoint and effected a great saving of paper. It was highly approved by the War Industries Board as a valuable conservation scheme in paper economy.

… One of the most helpful features of the newspapers was the coupon box which hundreds of them ran during the entire garden and canning season, in which the readers were informed that by filling out the coupons and mailing them to the Commission they would receive free copies of the war vegetable gardening or the canning and drying books. Hundreds of thousands of newspaper readers took advantage of this opportunity and were sent copies of the instruction books.

In addition to printing the short garden and canning lessons and numerous items of news value, the papers published Sunday feature stories. The Commission furnished pictures and data for these articles, with photographs showing types of gardens and how the war gardeners were getting to work in various parts of the country. Soon after the Commission was organized it began to receive requests from feature and magazine writers and editors throughout the United States for illustrations and material which could be used in stimulating the home food-growing enterprise throughout the territory in which their publications circulated. These requests were promptly met. The Commission was able to do this because it gathered in a short time and had on file in the Washington office a large collection of interesting photographs as well as much data about war gardens, showing what they could do and were doing. Many of the magazine writers called personally at the headquarters and were delighted and surprised at the readiness with which their needs were filled. They went away with envelopes filled with pictures and materials for their stories.

The news-service organizations and illustrated-feature syndicates used many stories on war-garden work. In this way thousands of papers were served by the Associated Press, the United Press, and International News Service, the Western Newspaper Union, the Newspaper Enterprise Association, the News Feature Service, the International Syndicate, and other important agencies. The Washington correspondents of the leading dailies of the country sent to their home papers, by wire and mail, items of national or local interest telling of the activities of the war gardeners. The value of this patriotic service in furthering home food production cannot be over-estimated. Some of the largest and most influential newspapers in the country gave most prominent place on many occasions to the Commission’s call to the home food producers and conservers of America. The Philadelphia North American, for instance, reproduced the “Can the Kaiser” poster on the front page in a  space covering nearly one-quarter of the entire page. The Boston Post used both this and the “Sow the Seeds of Victory” poster on one page, devoting a large part of the space to these striking designs. The Garden Magazine used reproductions of the posters as cover illustrations on two of its monthly issues. The Forecast also made use of the Verrees poster as a cover design. The Diario de la Marina, of Havana, Cuba, one of the foreign papers to which copies of the posters and several articles on war gardening in the United States had been sent, published a “smash” layout of the Flagg Victory Garden poster covering almost the entire front page. Zig-Zag, of Santiago, Chile, also used it as a cover design.

During the campaigns of both 1917 and 1918 the newspapers of this country gave the Commission loyal backing. They knew the need of food and they saw what an asset the “city farmer” could be in this direction.

…In the United States a large number of the foreign-language newspapers, Italian, French and others, told their readers of the service they could perform through war-gardening and the conservation of the surplus products thus grown. Several summaries of the war-garden movement in the United States were translated into French, Spanish, Italian, and Portugese and sent by the Commission to leading publications throughout Latin America, Canada, Australia, Europe, and the Orient. They appeared, for instance, in such widely separated papers as the Alexandria (Egypt) Gazette, and Le Messager de São Paulo, Brazil; and were published from Calcutta, India, and Tokyo, Japan, to Montreal, Canada. The Asahi News, a Japanese newspaper of Seattle, gave hearty support to the Commission and published much of its advice and instructions to gardeners and home canners.

Magazines of general interest and many house-organs coöperated in the campaign and published articles dealing with various phases of war gardening. This applied to conservation as well as to the productive phase of the work. As an illustration, the Ladies’ Home Journal published an entire page of pictures of women who had been blue-ribbon winners and had received the Commission’s National Capitol Prize Certificates for excellence in canning garden products. The Outlook printed from time to time a number of appreciations of the value of home food growing. The Garden Magazine, of Garden City, Long Island, use a number of stories on the subject and printed a monthly page summarizing important and inspiring war-garden activities throughout the United States.

The manufacturer of plows or soda fountains, as well as the editor of a general-interest magazine, realized the value of home food production to his employés; and through their house-organs the heads of many industrial and business concerns spread the gospel of “Food F.O.B. the Kitchen Door.” Trade publications of all kinds throughout the country carried garden lessons and inspirational articles urging their workers to produce food and thus help themselves and their country at the same time. Some of them reproduced the Commission’s posters in their magazines and used other material furnished them.

The work of coöperation with newspapers and periodicals was conducted by Russell T. Edwards, under the direction of Secretary Ridsdale.

Thus the magazines and the newspapers of the United States coöperated in making a success of the war-garden movement. Without their help this could not have been accomplished. What was brought about with their aid shows the power of the printed page. It spread the message of the war garden to the millions. It made possible the enlistment of a vast army of war gardeners and of home canners and dryers. It brought into action the patriotic will of the American people to do full share in the battle for international freedom and world-wide democracy. In short it was through the printed page that the war garden and home conservation were given their proper place among war-time activities.