The Conning of America

The Great War and American Popular Literature


The Conning of America examines for the first time from a literary perspective the propaganda writings produced in the United States during the period of World War I. This American propaganda literature was written in two distinct stages: the first stage was written by the pro-War establishment based on the East Coast of the United States before American entry into the conflict. It attempted to vilify Germany and her Allies while at the same time showing England, France, and Russia as the victims of a well-planned organized German plan for world domination—beginning with the invasion of neutral Belgium. The literature urged the United States to prepare for a German invasion of America and to be wary of German-Americans, who most likely were spies in the employ of the Imperial German government. The second stage of propaganda literature occurred when America declared war on the Central Powers in April 1917.
While still using the blood thirsty militaristic Hun as a symbol of German inherent evil, the propaganda literature began to portray the Americans as the saviors of European culture. American boys were being sent to Europe on a spiritual mission to purify decadent European culture, while at the same time their sacrifice would rejuvenate and sanctify American values in the fire of the conflict in order for America to take her proper place in the new post-war order.
Introduction: Background
Chapter One: The Invasion of Belgium
Chapter Two: The Belgian Atrocities
Chapter Three: The Sinking of the Lusitania and the Execution of Nurse Edith Cavell
Chapter Four: The German Invasion of America Novels
Chapter Five: The Enemy Within
Chapter Six: Saving the Heart of Civilization: The Road to War
Chapter Seven: The Yanks Are Coming
Conclusion: All for Nothing?
Works Cited:
Bibliography: General Reference Works
Bibliography: British and Allied Literature
Bibliography: American Novels and Personal Narratives
Bibliography: Selected American Short Stories