by Oana Godeanu-Kenworthy
Part 3 - Extolling capitalism’s virtues
The campaigns started as a public-private partnership. At the end of World War II, the government worried about the spread of communism at home. Business interests worried about government regulations and about the rising popularity of unions. The Cold War provided both parties with a shared enemy.
In 1947, President Truman asked the Ad Council to organize the Freedom Train Campaign, focusing on the history of America’s political freedoms. Paramount Pictures, U.S. Steel, DuPont, General Electric and Standard Oil provided financial support. For two years the train crisscrossed the nation, carrying original documents that included the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.
The following year, the Ad Council launched a business-led campaign, called “The Miracle of America,” intended to foster support for the American model of capitalism, as distinct from its Western European version, which was more friendly to government intervention. It urged increased productivity by U.S. workers, linked economic and political freedom and, paradoxically, asserted capitalism’s collaborative nature.
“Sure, America is going ahead if we all pull together,” read a brochure. Another flyer, “Comes the Revolution!,” cast its support of American capitalism in the language of global struggle: “If we continue to make that system work…then other nations will follow us. If we don’t, then they’ll probably go communist or fascist.”
In its first two years, the Miracle of America message reached American audiences via 250 radio and television stations and 7,000 outdoor billboards. Newspapers printed 13 million lines of free advertising. The Ad Council boasted that the campaign made over 1 billion “radio listener impressions.”
American factory workers received about half of the 1.84 million copies of the free pamphlet “The Miracle of America.” One-quarter were distributed free of charge to schools, and 76 universities ordered the booklet.
This pro-business propaganda, expressed in the language of Cold War patriotism, had reached roughly 70% of the American population by the end of the campaign.