On April 6, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson signed a Congressionally-approved declaration of war against Germany. Thus the United States formally entered World War I. Now on this 100th anniversary, I’m posting an especially interesting excerpt from Ruth Tenzer Feldman’s Chronicle of America’s Wars: World War I. This is the story of the Four-Minute Men.

Poster advertising the Four-Minute Men

In March, 1917 . . . more Americans seemed ready to enter the Great War. Donald Ryerson, a Chicago businessman, thought war was inevitable. Ryerson enlisted in the Navy. While waiting for his orders, he organized a group of speakers called the Four-Minute Men.

America in 1917 was filled with immigrants. Many of them, as well as many native English speakers, could not read English. Ryerson’s men found a clever way to inform and persuade these people. Each day, about 10 to 13 million people went to the movies. The movies were on film wound around two or more reels. […]

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