July 1942: United We Stand
In the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, many Americans embraced the United States flag and the catch phrase “United We Stand” to reaffirm their confidence in the strength and spirit of our country. This fusion of symbol and slogan had its precedent 50 years earlier, following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Then, as now, the flag proved itself to be a successful rallying point for the public.
In March 1942, the National Publishers Association (now the Magazine Publishers of America) called upon its members to feature the flag and patriotic themes on the covers of issues available on July 4, 1942. The “United We Stand in July 1942” effort was the brainchild of Paul MacNamara, a Hearst Corporation publicist and managing editor at Cosmopolitan, who presented to the Association his vision of newsstands festooned with the stars and stripes.
July 1942: United We Stand , developed by and originally on view at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, celebrates this patriotic endeavor. The exhibition provides a rare glimpse of a campaign designed to boost morale on the home front and demonstrate the power of magazines to inform the public. Featuring 88 original magazine covers spanning a variety of themes, the exhibition offers visitors an opportunity to explore the history, artistry, and patriotic symbolism of the “United We Stand” campaign.
Cover artists illustrated American military and industrial power, patriotism on the home front, the beauty of the American landscape, and the simple elegance of the flag and other national symbols. Participating magazines represented nearly every subject and class of publication, from Ladies’ Home Journal to Walt Disney’s Comics. Time, Reader’s Digest, and National Geographic were among the publications that broke from their traditional cover designs to incorporate the flag. Industry and association magazines also showed their allegiance. For example, The DuPont Magazine featured an American flag unfurled in front of four industrial smokestacks. Most of the covers are from the collection of Katy and Peter Gwillim Kreitler, who have amassed more than 300 of the original July 1942 covers.
By focusing attention on the ideals that made war worth fighting, the “United We Stand” campaign demonstrated the power of national icons to rally public support and encourage a sense of national pride during difficult times. From July 1942 to September 2001 to today, the covers and the values they portray continue to resonate.