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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Playing West: Performances of War and Empire in Pacific Northwest Pageantry

  • Author(s): Vaughn, Chelsea
  • Advisor(s): McGarry, Molly
  • et al.

In April 1917 the United States officially entered a war that it had hoped to avoid. To sway popular sentiment, the U.S. government launched a propaganda campaign that rivaled their armed mobilization. Though many came to support the war effort, isolationist tendencies and the ready embrace of social distractions that followed the Armistice suggest a more complicated reaction to the United States’ participation in the First World War. As we approach the centennial anniversary of the nation’s entrance into WWI, it is essential that we reexamine that war’s legacy and question our understanding of the United States’ domestic responses. My dissertation, “Playing West: Performances of War and Empire in Pacific Northwest Pageantry,” does this through a close examination of the historical pageants staged in the Pacific Northwest during the five-year period immediately following the war. These large-scale civic spectacles found widespread appeal during the Progressive Era in the eastern United States and Midwest only to wane in popularity in the war’s aftermath, yet in Oregon and Washington, pageantry enjoyed its greatest successes between 1919 and 1924 with shows that overwhelmingly employed themes of violence, sacrifice, and empire building, and that occasionally recreated the war itself.

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