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"America First" License Plate Attachment

America First License Plate
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
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tags: propaganda reading

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 sympathetic to the group saw the war as a European conflict that need not concern Americans. This anti-interventionist stance, however, also appealed to the Silver Legion, the German-American Bund, and other antisemitic and pro-Nazi organizations.2

Antisemitism ultimately hindered the aims of the America First Committee. 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 identified Jews as 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. To the press and the public, the speech confirmed previously held suspicions that antisemitism pervaded the entire organization. The America First Committee disbanded immediately after America's entry into World War II. Its ideals and slogans, however, lived on in everyday objects. Pins, buttons, and license plate attachments like this one were popular ways of exhibiting political opinions and support. 

This license plate attachment demonstrates one of the ways supporters could engage with the message of the America First Committee. Beyond the clear "America First" lettering, the image communicates a central message: the slogans of "Liberty" and "Justice" that are in the same color as the illustration of the Liberty Bell, a symbol of American independence. Labeled "Patriotic Plate no. 14," the manufacturer likely 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 public responses to Lindbergh's speech, see the related item "Now We Think ----", as well as the United States 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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