American Identity

Being 100% American. When the United States entered the “World War,” the country had a population of 100 million, many of whom were recent immigrants.  German-Americans, who were among the largest ethnic groups in the Hudson Valley, became the target of widespread hysteria. “Real Americans” responded by refusing to drink German beer, by burning German-language books, by changing the names of German sounding food on menus, and by removing the works of Mozart, Bach and Beethoven from orchestra programs.

The Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918 prohibited many forms of speech perceived of as disloyal. While American propaganda, infused with patriotism was stifling freedom of speech, our men and women were overseas fighting for democracy. One of the posters Van Vlack chose to photograph asked, “Are you 100% American?”

Although difficult to read due to movement, Van Vlack captured parade signs reflecting diverse groups staking out their absolute Americanness, patriotism, and loyalty.

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