Prejudice and patriotism: Frederick Stock, Anti-Germanism, and American Music in World War I

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Prejudice and patriotism: Frederick Stock, Anti-Germanism, and American Music in World War I

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Title: Prejudice and patriotism: Frederick Stock, Anti-Germanism, and American Music in World War I
Author: Moir, Anna
Advisor: Gerstein, Linda
Department: Haverford College. Dept. of History
Type: Thesis (B.A.)
Issue Date: 2009
Abstract: In this thesis, I am examining the anti-German sentiment that swept through American society during World War I, with a focus on its impact on the classical music community. When the United States entered the fighting in 1917, the government had to create a sense of purpose, unity, and national identity among the public in order to organize an effective war effort and overcome the country’s lack of both preparation and compelling reasons to be involved in the conflict at all. To achieve this, the new Committee on Public Information organized a large-scale propaganda campaign to encourage a combination of unwavering nationalism and fear of the enemy, specifically the Germans. The propaganda was effective to the point where extreme paranoia took over the nation, and people began to stigmatize anything that was even remotely connected with Germany. In addition, the government and its propaganda created such a conformist environment that dissenters of any kind, German or otherwise, faced persecution and incarceration. Laws passed during that time took away many basic civil liberties such as freedom of speech and right to privacy, so it was even easier to identify and catch anybody who was even remotely critical of the war or the United States in general. At the same time, music had become intertwined with wartime politics and could not escape the irrational prejudice that had pervaded the nation. Germany had traditionally provided the greatest influence of any country on the development of a musical identity in the United States, but in the war, many Americans chose to link its artistic identity with its politics and militarism. It was part of a larger, ongoing debate about whether music should even be politicized at all, or simply valued for its trans-national, emotional, aesthetic qualities; in this case, however, American music was connected too closely with nationalism to be treated as separate from the war. As a result, some cities and communities banned music by German composers, and many enemy alien performers and conductors were suspected of working against the United States. I am specifically looking at Frederick Stock, conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, as a case study of these larger issues in the war. Because he was born in Germany, he faced attacks and accusations of disloyalty by the press and public, and eventually had to resign until he could attain American citizenship. In reality, however, he had lived in the United States for over twenty years and was considered patriotic and trustworthy by the people who knew and worked with him. It is his nationalist record that makes him a compelling case study of issues such as conformity, propaganda, civil liberties, prejudice, and the role of music in the war. On the one hand, the fact that he faced persecution at all demonstrates the irrational extremes that anti-Germanism had reached. Even an official investigation had concluded that he was innocent, but that verdict did not stop newspapers from continuing to question his loyalty. On the other hand, it is important to note that Stock was luckier than many of his German-born contemporaries, who were arrested and interned. In a time when people’s statements could be used against them easily and nationalism was more important than aesthetics, Stock’s supporters succeeded in defending him as a patriotic American, not just a talented conductor. As a result, his story demonstrates the many complexities of life on the World War I home front.
Subject: Propaganda, Anti-German -- History
Subject: Americans -- Attitudes -- History
Subject: National characteristics, American
Subject: Germany -- Foreign public opinion, American -- History
Subject: Stock, Frederick, 1872-1942
Subject: Music -- United States -- German influences
Subject: Patriotism -- United States
Terms of Use: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/us/
Permanent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10066/3598

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Moir, Anna. "Prejudice and patriotism: Frederick Stock, Anti-Germanism, and American Music in World War I". 2009. Available electronically from http://hdl.handle.net/10066/3598.

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