By Elisabeth Fondren
As soon as I entered the Stanford University campus, got off the free Marguerite shuttle bus, and walked towards the iconic Hoover Tower, which is the home of the Hoover Archives, I felt energized. And a sense of relief that my trip from New York City to Palo Alto had been so smooth.
With a bit of delay (the archives closed during the pandemic), I was fortunate to use the 2020 AJHA Joseph McKerns Grant in August 2022 to spend a week at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution Archives and Library to collect primary sources for my ongoing research on propaganda-press history during World War I and II.
I had not been back to Stanford since 2017, when I had had the opportunity to work at the Hoover Archives for my dissertation on World War I international propaganda. These archives are famous for their large collections on international propaganda, counterpropaganda, war, and conflict.
Researching Propaganda, Fascist Publicity and Psychological Warfare
Specifically, I worked with the collections on propaganda posters 1914-1945, the Paris Peace Conference delegation propaganda, American fascist and Nazi groups in the interwar period, and World War II propaganda and psychological warfare in the European Theatre.
One study that I am currently writing explores how propaganda ideas and techniques from the Great War—the first modern mass propaganda war—informed states’ campaigns during the ParisPeace Conference, as well as the press’ growing skepticism and discourse around the expectations (and limitations) of what propaganda and mass publicity could do. I am interested to investigate the tepid interactions between post-World War I propagandists and journalists.
At Stanford I also studied the German American Bund records to see how press covered the U.S. home-grown Nazi movement leading up to World War II. By accessing these records, specifically, the minutes of the Executive Committee, translations of Führer commands, financial records, propaganda, and photographs, relating to activities of the Bund, I was able to read about the fascist roots and ideas of this organization, which tried to rally support for its pro-Nazi, antisemitic, and U.S. isolationist agenda during 1936-1941. I am immensely grateful to AJHA for funding this research trip.
On a personal note, that trip also was the first time for me to leave my 1.5-year-old toddler at home with my husband and embark on a solo research trip. The prospect of studying wartimepropaganda, and to spend a full week reading primary documents 3,000 miles from home, was exciting for all of us. The Stanford University campus was quiet since I visited during the summer break, but most cafés and eateries, and the large bookstore were open. Face-time video calls on the campus lawn, and seeing my little one eat strawberry smoothies, while saying ‘da, da, da” is a very happy memory.
Planning your research: The Hoover Archives reading room is located in the Herbert Hoover Memorial Building and open Monday-Friday. The archives are internationally renowned, and reservation is required, at least several weeks in advance. As with most archives, materials need to be requested in advance. In my experience, the excellent staff is happy to add to requests on site and is very thorough in working with researchers on site.
Reading Room Reservations:
The Hoover Archives are open Monday through Friday, 8:30 am - 4:30 pm and by reservation only. Reservations can be made via the online portal: https://www.hoover.org/library-archives/research-services/plan-a-research-visit
How to get to Stanford University: Fly to San Francisco or San Jose airport, take BART subway and CalTrain to Palo Alto, or use Taxi/Uber. There are many accommodation options (hotels, AirBnB) close by in Palo Alto or Menlo Park. The Marguerite shuttle is free and open to the public.
Elisabeth Fondren is an assistant professor of journalism at St. John’s University in New York.