Barbara Van Reed
Several months ago, during the height of the Cranston Print Works demolition work, Nancy French came into our office with a stack of old newspaper pages. She had been cleaning out her basement, getting ready for a yard sale. Nancy and her husband Bob bought the building at 3 Lake Street, across from the library, 46 years ago and renovated it to become Nancy’s House of Beauty. But they had never gone through the entire basement.
The newspaper pages she found had been put down by the previous owner to store things on. One of them, the one that had stopped her, was a full page ad by Cranston Print Works, dated June 21, 1945. The ad showed a shoeshine man bemoaning what his life might have been like if he’d kept his war bonds and bought more of them.
Our first thought was, why would Cranston Print Works run an ad like that? The small print at the bottom of the ad reads “This is an official U. S. Treasury advertisement – prepared under the auspices of the Treasury Department and the War Advertising Council.” A little research revealed that this ad was just one in the most successful advertising campaign in the country’s history, the campaign to sell Series E War Bonds, or Victory Bonds as they were called.
I’m sure the older readers of this newspaper are familiar with war bonds, and very likely bought some. More than 85 million Americans, half the country’s population at war’s end, did, raising $185.7 billion.
Defense bonds were issued by the US government during World War II to raise money for the war effort. The name was changed to War Bonds after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. President Franklin D. Roosevelt bought the first Series E Savings Bond from Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau. The bonds sold for $18.75, 75% of their face value of $25, and matured in 10 years. Denominations up to $10,000 were available.
The War Finance Committee was in charge of supervising the sale of all bonds, and the War Advertising Council promoted it, producing the greatest volume of advertising in U.S. history.
An emotional appeal went out to citizens, assuring them that participation represented a moral and financial stake in the war effort, even though the rate of return was below the market. The advertisements started with radio and newspapers, and later magazines. The bond campaign was unique in that both the government and private companies created the advertisements.
The government recruited New York’s best advertising agencies, famous entertainers, and even used familiar comic strip characters to promote the bonds. Rallies were held throughout the country, free movie days were held in theaters nationwide with a bond purchase as the admission price. Norman Rockwell created a series of illustrations that became a centerpiece of war bond advertising. Irving Berlin wrote a song entitled “Any Bonds Today?” which became the theme song for the campaign.
The sports world participated as well, holding special football and baseball games with a war bond as the price of admission. An unusual game took place in New York City with the New York Yankees, the New York Giants, and the Brooklyn Dodgers. Each of the teams came to bat six times in the same nine-inning game. Their final score was the Dodgers 5, Yankees 1, and the Giants 0, and the U.S Government was $56,000.000 richer in war bond sales.
The Series E bonds were finally withdrawn from the market in 1980 when they were replaced with the Series EE bonds, and War Bonds became history.
A look at some of the other pages which Nancy brought in have ads underwritten by other companies. The June 21, 1943, edition of The Christian Science Monitor, for example, ran an ad for International Business Machines Corporation urging readers to BUY MORE WAR BONDS . The ad invited readers to attend an exhibition of Norman Rockwell's Four Freedoms paintings which were on display at Filene's department store in Boston.
Thank you, Nancy, for bringing in a little bit of history that shows how Cranston Print Works and its communities in Webster, Dudley, and Oxford supported the war effort in the 1940’s.
(Source for war bond facts: www.u-s-history.com)
- Wednesday, 04 July 2012
- Posted in Categories: : Letter From the Editor