Teaching With Documents:
Sow the Seeds of Victory!
Posters from the Food Administration During World War I
This lesson correlates to the National History Standards.
- Era 7 -The Emergence of Modern America (1890-1930).
- Standard 2C -Demonstrate understanding of the impact at home and abroad of the U. S. involvement in World War I.
This lesson correlates to the National Standards for Civics and Government.
- Standard I.A.3 -Evaluate, take and defend positions on competing ideas regarding the purposes of politics and government and their implications for the individual and society.
- Standard II.B.2. -Evaluate, take, and defend positions on the importance of volunteerism in American society.
This lesson relates to Article II, Section 2.1, of the U.S. Constitution, which establishes the president as commander in chief, and Section 2.2, which gives him the power to appoint government officers.
Please share this exercise with your colleagues who teach history, government, marketing, and art.
- Inform students that in August 1917 President Wilson issued an executive
order that created the U.S. Food Administration. Using the Historical Background
information, explain the goals, purposes, and organization of the agency.
Divide students into three groups and ask them to imagine that they work for the Food Administration. Instruct the first group to create a list of measures that they would take to ensure the supply, distribution, and conservation of food during the war. Instruct the second group to create a list of measures that they would take to facilitate transportation of food and prevent monopolies and hoarding. Finally, instruct the third group to create a list of measures that they would take to maintain governmental power over foods by using voluntary agreements and a licensing system. Direct a spokesperson from each group to report back to the class with the group's ideas.
- Explain to students that one approach taken by the Food Administration to meet its objectives was the development of an extensive advertising campaign. Distribute copies of the featured documents to each student and make a transparency of the Poster Analysis Worksheet. Lead a class analysis of the posters, encouraging students to respond to each of the worksheet questions. Ask students to identify the similarities and differences between the posters.
- Inform students that the posters they analyzed in Activity 2 are available online in the Online Catalog (OPA), and that there are many more. Introduce students to research using the online catalog located at www.archives.gov/research/search/. Require pairs of students to access the site and to locate five other posters that the U. S. Food Administration created. Ask students to list and identify all symbols of patriotism that appear in the posters. Lead a class discussion about the posters.
Design a Poster
- Assign students to design a poster for the U.S. Food Administration that conveys the emotions they believe most likely to result in an American's responding by saving food. Display these around the classroom.
- Require each student to locate an article in a professional historical journal
that deals with the subject of propaganda. Ask each student to write a
formal annotated bibliographical entry for the article and a definition of propaganda based on the information in the article. Lead the class in a discussion
about propaganda and ask students to determine which posters developed by both the Food Administration and by the students in Activity 4 meet the
definition and which do not.
- Inform students that by 1918 the United States was exporting three times
as much breadstuffs, meat and sugar as it had prior to the war. Ask each
student to write an essay of 2-3 pages explaining the extent to which the advertising campaign of the U.S. Food Administration contributed to this fact.
The documents included in this project are from Record Group 4, Records of
the United States Food Administration. They are available online through the Online Catalog (OPA) National Archives Identifiers:
The Online Catalog (OPA) replaces its prototypes, the Archival Research Catalog (ARC) and NARA Archival Information Locator (NAIL). You can still perform a keyword, digitized image and location search. The online catalog's advanced functionalities also allow you to search by organization, person, or topic.
The online catalog is a searchable database that contains information about a wide variety of NARA holdings across the country. You can use the online catalog to search record descriptions by keywords or topics and retrieve digital copies of selected textual documents, photographs, maps, and sound recordings related to thousands of topics.
Currently, about 80% of NARA's vast holdings have been described in the online catalog. Thousands of digital images can be searched in the online catalog. In keeping with NARA's Strategic Plan, the percentage of holdings described in the online catalog will grow continually.
This article was written by Linda Simmons, an associate professor at Northern Virginia Community College in Manassas, VA.