On July 4, 1776, leaders from nine of the original thirteen colonies signed the Declaration of Independence, a document declaring the colonies’ separation and independence from Great Britain. It was through this majority vote that the United States of America would come into formation; now, every July 4, also known as Independence Day, Americans celebrate this historic event through salutes and flag ceremonies, parades, covers of the national anthem, and, of course, picnics and barbecues.
During the mid-1700s, the slogan “No Taxation Without Representation” was used by the American colonies to protest taxation laws that did not give “Americans” a say in British government. The unsettling disagreement set the stage for rebellion and the fight for freedom from British colonial rule, resulting in the American Revolution (1775-1783). The colonists eventually succeeded due to their greater knowledge of the terrain, their support from France and some Native Americans, and their sheer determination under the leadership of George Washington. Lesser known, however, is that public relations played a great role in the revolutionary war’s efforts. This week, the Museum of Public Relations will be highlighting and honoring the PR strategies and tactics set forward by brave colonial men and women. Today, we’ll be taking a look at the chief officers of the war’s communication systems.
A founding father and the grandmaster of the American Revolution’s PR, Adams worked to the bone to put out some of American history’s most memorable phrases and moments. For instance, it was Adams who, with the Sons of Liberty (a secret rebellion organization), coined and spread the phrase “No [British] taxation without representation” to increase protesting of the Stamp Act of 1765. Adams also organized the Boston Tea Party (1773) and the infamous Boston Massacre (1770), a riot that he branded as a “massacre” in order to shift the views of moderate colonists to radical.
Franklin is famous not only for being on the $100 bill, but also for playing one of the most important wars in the construction of the United States of America. He drafted many plans for American government (such as the Albany Plan) and even played a role in writing the Declaration of Independence. Franklin’s biggest PR war efforts came from his ownership of his own publishing/print company and the Pennsylvania Gazette, which he used to spread propaganda like the Join-or-Die Snake.
The image, show above, features a snake cut into segments, symbolizing that the colonies must come together in order to form a bigger being capable of taking on the British.
In modern media, Paul Revere is often portrayed as the horseback riding loon who shouted “The British are coming!” in the dead of night. This isn’t wholly inaccurate, but it also doesn’t properly paint the contributions of Revere to the war. In April 1775, Revere rode to Lexington and Concord to warn the colonists, Patriots, and minutemen of the approaching British armies. Revere never finished his famous ride because he was caught by British soldiers on his way to Concord; nonetheless, Revere’s ride acted as an early crisis communication system in a time where letters would take too long and phones/telegrams weren’t yet in existence.
Stay tuned for another blog post featuring other important colonists who pounded out the groundwork for the existence and framework of the United States of America.