Option 5

Propaganda has had a major impact on media and communications in America. During times of war, it was very important to keep up public support for the war. Kristen Hoganson writes about this in her book Fighting for American Manhood. Many of the topics discussed in this book are represented well in propaganda pictures from the Spanish-American War.

One example of how Hoganson’s ideas are shown was in an edition of Puck that came out in June of 1896. In the picture, America was seen in the middle of a Shakespearean play protecting the “damsel in distress”, Cuba while Spain was shown as the ominous villain shrouded in black, creeping in the background. Hoganson mentions that one of the problems the media had faced in gaining support for this war was the racism that went along with non-white people. In her explanation of how this was turned around for the Spanish-American War, she emphasizes chivalry. In much of the propaganda pictures for the war, the Cuban revolutionaries were seen as being chivalrous in order to create a positive image. This idea of chivalry also comes up when America was depicted as protecting Cuba from Spain. America was doing the chivalrous thing by protecting the poor, defenseless, pure woman from the evils of the scary villain, Spain. In the words of Hoganson, this was done to portray ” the Cuban revolution as a heroic crusade that merited the fraternal assistance of American men”. [1] She then goes on to say sometimes Cuban men and women were portrayed as characters from famous adventure-filled romance novels in order to gain sympathy and support.[2]  Both of these examples are personified in the picture in Puck. For the first one, America was seen as protecting Cuba from Spain by assisting her in defeating him. For the second example, the whole picture was a representation of a Shakespearean play. The quotation at the bottom of the picture hints to this fact by stating, “Stand back, there, gold darn ye! If you force this thing to a fifth act, remember that’s where I git in my work! “[3] In many of Shakespeare’s plays, which are “adventure-filled romances”, the fifth act was where many of the characters died. All of these tactics showed how media and communications were important to building the war effort. Without these depictions of Cubans, many Americans would probably have wondered why it was so important to protect Cuba from a European country. This was because it was the “white man’s” burden to create civilization in those places that were not primarily white.

A different picture in the November 18, 1896, edition of Puck, shows this idea of white man’s burden. Instead of depicting Cuba and the Philippines as women who needed to be rescued or as chivalrous, this image depicts them as children who need to be watched over. While this does still show that protecting them would be the chivalrous thing to do, it does not show the revolutionaries themselves as being chivalrous. In this picture, Spain was shown as a fragile old woman who was having difficulty keeping Cuba and the Philippines in her grip.[4]The idea was to show that Americans had to step in and manage these children for Spain because Spain was no longer able to do it herself. Hoganson writes “By making Spanish power seem thoroughly corrupt, the paradigm suggested that humanitarian aid or limited political reforms were inadequate to settle the Cuban issue.”[5] Again this was shown in the picture because the old woman was not strong enough to hold back the two rowdy children. This again built American support for the war. It made Americans see that without the United States military intervention, there would be chaos in these countries and they would not become civilized like the European countries or America.

As shown through Hoganson and the propaganda pictures of the day, media was very important in building public support for war. Without this public support, there was no way the United States would have been able to go to war or would have been able to keep the war going until they eventually won.


[1] Hoganson, Kirsten L. Fighting for American Manhood: How Gender Politics Provoked the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars(New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1998), 44.

[2] Hoganson, Fighting for American Manhood, 45.

[3]C. Jay Taylor, The Cuban Melodrama, Puck, 3 June 1896

[4] She is getting too feeble to hold them, Puck, Nov 18, 1896

[5] Hoganson, Fighting for American Manhood, 55.



One thought on “Option 5

  1. Hi Vicky,
    I think you did a great job explaining two images and relating them to the field of media and communications history. You talk a lot about the idea of chivilary and the idea that it was dying out in America, which gave Americans the perfect oppourtunity to reboot their ways in Cuba. You also pointed out as well, how the picture depicted a Shakepsearean play which speaks to American Culture at the time. It is amazing to me that during the 1890s we wanted to help Cuba, but in 1960 they were one of our greatest enemies and threats. Good job!


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