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From Liberation to Conquest

From Liberation to Conquest: The Visual and Popular Cultures of the SpanishAmerican War of 1898

Bonnie M. Miller
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 344
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  • Book Info
    From Liberation to Conquest
    Book Description:

    The American people overwhelmingly supported the nation’s entry into the SpanishAmerican War of 1898, which led to U.S. imperial expansion into the Caribbean and Pacific. In this book, Bonnie M. Miller explores the basis of that support, showing how the nation’s leading media makers—editorialists, cartoonists, filmmakers, photographers, and stage performers—captured the public’s interest in the Cuban crisis with heartrending depictions of Cuban civilians, particularly women, brutalized by bloodthirsty Spanish pirates. Although media campaigns initially advocated for the United States to step in to rescue Cuba from the horrors of colonial oppression, the war ended just months later with the U.S. acquisition of Spain’s remaining empire, including Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. President William McKinley heeded the call for war, with the American people behind him, and then proceeded to use the conflict to further his foreign policy agenda of expanding U.S. interests in the Caribbean and Far East. Miller examines the shifting media portrayals of U.S. actions for the duration of the conflict, from liberation to conquest. She shows how the media capitalized on the public’s thirst for drama, action, and spectacle and adapted to emerging imperial possibilities. Growing resistance to American imperialism by the war’s end unraveled the consensus in support of U.S policy abroad and produced a rich debate that found expression in American visual and popular culture.

    eISBN: 978-1-61376-011-6
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    In a cartoon titled “One Type of Patriot” published in October 1898, theChicago Inter Oceancommented on the effects of media during the Spanish-American War in mobilizing Americans into political action (figure 1.1). The first frame depicts a prototypical white male patriot caught up in the exhilaration over the battle of San Juan Hill. Such fervor befit a reader of theChicago Inter Ocean, a newspaper that prided itself on the motto “Republican in everything, independent in nothing.”¹ As he reads his popular magazine, the American patriot imagines himself sporting the Stars and Stripes, brandishing his sword, and charging...

  6. 1 The Spectacle of Endangered Bodies THE VISUAL ICONOGRAPHY OF WAR
    (pp. 19-54)

    Prior to the U.S. declaration of war against Spain, American editors, journalists, cartoonists, writers, and playwrights framed the Cuban crisis almost entirely from a Cuban nationalist perspective. This is not surprising given Spanish governor-general Weyler’s combative relationship with U.S. press correspondents in Cuba and the influence of the Cuban Junta in propagating stories of Spanish atrocities. But this outlook had deeper roots; America’s long-standing preoccupation with Cuba and desire to incorporate it into the United States meant that Spain’s exit was already deemed inevitable and in Cuba’s best interests. Between 1896 and April 1898, however, sympathies for Cuban independence largely...

  7. 2 The Spectacle of Disaster THE EXPLOSION OF THE U.S.S. MAINE
    (pp. 55-86)

    Press campaigns to raise awareness of Cuba’s humanitarian crisis had been growing steadily since 1895, but the single incident that irrevocably focused media attention on Cuba occurred at precisely 9:40 p.m. on the evening of February 15, 1898, when the U.S. battleshipMaineexploded in Havana harbor, killing 266 of the 354 American sailors on board. Pulitzer and Hearst immediately named Spain as the culprit, but many editors around the country urged their readers to withhold judgment before a thorough investigation could be made. It was not the jingoist calls of a few high-circulation “yellow” papers that unified the nation...

  8. 3 Socializing the Politics of Militarism THE SPANISH-AMERICAN WAR IN POPULAR CULTURE
    (pp. 87-120)

    After the declaration of war, President McKinley called for 125,000 volunteers to supplement regular army units. The response was staggering. TheMainedisaster and the humanitarian crisis in Cuba inspired thousands of young men across the nation to enlist. “This is one of the most popular wars we have ever had,” claimed a small midwestern paper. “Everybody wants to go to Cuba.”¹ This spirit led newspapers across the country to embed illustrations of flags, eagles, and the phrase “Remember theMaine” in their front-page banners.² Many young men conveyed their enthusiasm for the war by inscribing patriotic tattoos on their...

    (pp. 121-152)

    Upon the opening of hostilities, Blackton and Smith of Vitagraph produced America’s first war motion picture—“Tearing Down the Spanish Flag” (1898). When Blackton’s hand was seen tearing down the Spanish flag and hoisting the American flag in its place, he and his partner had hit upon a powerful visual image to electrify patriotic sentiment.¹ Dewey’s naval achievement at Manila Bay on May 1 inspired theNew York Journalto transform this image into a new national vision:notto haul down the American flag. TheNew York Journalcalled on its readers to support the full realization of U.S....

    (pp. 153-186)

    Probably the most illustrious reporter to cover the Cuban rebellion wasNew York Worldcorrespondent Sylvester Scovel. Richard Harding Davis wrote of him, “A more manly, daring and able young man I have seldom met.”¹ Scovel traveled with the Cuban army in 1897 and reported back to theWorldupdates of his adventures in the field, one of which landed him in a Cuban prison in February 1897. Press petitions circulated across the country to secure his release, which Spain conceded after the State Department intervened. Scovel went to Cuba seeking fame and fortune and was eager to seize the...

  11. 6 Building an Imperial Iconography RACE, PATERNALISM, AND THE SYMBOLS OF EMPIRE
    (pp. 187-230)

    In March 1899 a group of New York society women organized a “mid-Lent entertainment” that they called “Uncle Sam’s Annexation Party.” They asked guests to come to the party in costume as American colonial subjects. Those arriving as Filipinos wore rings in their noses and ears and “primitive-style” clothing, and theNew York Journalnoted that the party caused local costume shops to run out of chocolate-colored greasepaint.¹ “Blacking up” into colonial caricature enabled these society folks to perform the fantasy of dominating nonwhite peoples at home and abroad, revealing how deeply these imperialistic visions were ingraining themselves into the...

  12. 7 The Spectacular Wrap-Up in Three Postwar Moments
    (pp. 231-260)

    After Filipino nationalist leader Emilio Aguinaldo was captured in 1901, the U.S. military held him prisoner in Manila. In 1902 American photographer William Dinwiddie for theNew York Worldvisited him during his captivity and was struck by the “quiet dignity” and “calm, judicial air” of the man. Dinwiddie recalled Aguinaldo’s transformation in the eyes of Americans from “a man blazoned as a hero one day and ridiculed into the mire the next.” For Dinwiddie, the explanation for his descent lay not in his politics but in his face. He marveled at the strength of Aguinaldo’s facial features—his “high...

    (pp. 261-264)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 265-310)
  15. Index
    (pp. 311-324)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 325-325)