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"America First" License Plate Attachment

America First License Plate
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
View this Equipment

tags: belongings propaganda visual art

type: Equipment

Intense public debate surrounded the question of America's entry into World War II. Leading the campaign against American intervention was the America First Committee, whose popular slogan "America First" is printed on this license plate attachment.

Founded in 1940 at Yale University, the America First Committee gained support across the political spectrum for its isolationist platform.1 Many of those who were sympathetic to the group saw the war as a European conflict that did not concern Americans. Groups that sympathized with Nazi Germany—such as the Silver Legion, the German American Bund, and other antisemitic and pro-Nazi organizations—also did not want to see the United States intervene in the war.

Antisemitism was also present in the America First Committee, and it eventually discredited the organization. Charles Lindbergh—famous aviator and the committee's most prominent spokesperson—closely linked America First's isolationism to antisemitism during a speech in Des Moines, Iowa, on September 11, 1941.3 He claimed Jews were one of the "major groups" drawing America into the war through "their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio, and our government." Lindbergh's speech drew national outrage for its anti-Jewish rhetoric and its parallels to Nazi propaganda. To the press and the public, the speech confirmed previously held suspicions that antisemitism was a major part of the group's beliefs. The America First Committee disbanded immediately after America's entry into World War II. Its ideals and slogans continued to live on in everyday objects. Pins, buttons, and license plate attachments like this one were popular ways of showing political opinions and support. 

This license plate attachment demonstrates one of the ways supporters could engage with the message of the America First Committee. In addition to the clear "America First" lettering, it uses patriotic American imagery—the slogans of "Liberty" and "Justice" and an illustration of the Liberty Bell. Labeled "Patriotic Plate no. 14," it is likely that the manufacturer produced other such license plate attachments.

See Barry Trachtenberg, The United States and the Nazi Holocaust: Race, Refuge, and Remembrance (New York: Bloomsbury, 2018), 61–63. 

See Bradley Hart, Hitler's American Friends (New York: Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin’s Press, 2018), 160–163. For more on the Silver Legion and the Bund, see "Ebba Anderson to Pastor M.E.N. Lindsay."

For more on American responses to Lindbergh's speech, see the related item "Now We Think ----", as well as the US Holocaust Memorial Museum's citizen history project, History Unfolded. For more on Lindbergh and the politics of America First, see Lynne Olson, Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America's Fight over World War II, 1939-1941 (New York: Random House, 2014).

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Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Accession Number 2015.514.24
Date Created
Unknown
Language(s)
English
Location
Newton, Iowa
Object Type Equipment
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