December 16, 2010

A Cold War Secret Weapon: America's Newspaperboy

One of the most effective methods to rally Americans at the grassroots level to back Radio Free Europe was in the 1950s and 1960s, when newspaper carriers were used to collect money for the Crusade for Freedom.  

In April 1955, President Eisenhower, who was himself a former newspaperboy, told a gathering of newspaper journalists at the White House: “Certainly, I am inspired by the knowledge that boys of this nation will freely give of their time and energy—and their hearts—to help bring information of today’s world to those whose masters provide propaganda.”

For the 1956 Crusade Campaign, seventy-five daily newspapers the 1956 Newspaperboy Crusade — this was an increase from the 1955 campaign, when twenty-five newspapers raised $90,000 in contributions through the efforts of 20,000 newspaper carriers. The 1956 estimation was 100,000 newspaperboys represented newspapers with 13,000,000 readers.

One 1956 newspaper advertisement of the Advertising Council showed a smiling newspaperboy carrying a "Freedom Bell" card with the words “GIVE" and "Crusade for Freedom” that would be used for identification by the newspaperboy. The advertisement, which gave details of Radio Free Europe and the Free Europe Press, carried this message:

He’s collecting for the newspapers that go behind the Iron Curtain. That is not part of his job. But today your newspaperboy is giving freely of his time and enthusiasm to help millions of people he’ll probably never even see. The funds which he and 100,000 other newspaperboys have volunteered to collect will go to the support of Free Europe Press—the important sister service of Radio Free Europe. 

Free Europe Press prints the truth ... and delivers it regularly to the Iron Curtain countries by long-range Freedom Balloons. Truth is a rare commodity there. Radio Free Europe’s “Crusade for Freedom”

Even Communist fighter planes and anti-aircraft have been fired in a vain attempt to stop the balloons.

A letter over the signature of National Crusade for Freedom chairman Eugene Holman was sent to newspapers around the country with an “Award for Exceptional Service” in recognition of the efforts of both the newspapers and carriers. Newspapers accordingly printed the text of the letter.

To salute those citizens and organizations whose efforts in behalf of the Crusade for Freedom have achieved outstanding results, the Board of Directors has established an Award for Exceptional Service. Recipients of the Award are elected by the Board and receive a certificate of recognition and appreciation.

It is my pleasure to inform you that your newspaperboys have been elected to receive the Crusade’s Award for Exceptional Service. We hope this certificate may always serve as a reminder that they have helped hold high the torch of liberty. We do know that captive millions have felts its rays, sometimes fleetingly, sometimes boldly, but always hopefully.

Please accept our gratitude and our congratulations.

Another example of positive feedback from the National Crusade headquarters was the letter David Agnew, assistant to the president of the Crusade, sent to the editor of The Daily Inter Lake newspaper in Kalispell, Montana:

We are all delighted to learn that your newspaperboys have collected a total of $100.12. This certainly is a very important contribution to the Crusade for Freedom not only in money collected, but also in the impact it will produce when news of it is sent behind the Iron Curtain. Your newspaperboys can be very proud of their fine effort.

So far we have reports in from over 100 newspapers, indicating that the overall campaign will be very successful this year. As soon as we have a summary of the Newspaperboy Crusade in other parts of the country, I will send it to you.

Thanks again for the fine support the Inter Lake has given Crusade for Freedom.

Envelope for Contributions
A total of $147,000 was collected nationally. The following are but three examples of the widespread activity of the newspaperboy campaign at the local level:
  • The highest per capita collection was in Ames, Iowa, where $600 was collected. The Ames per-capita contribution was 13.4 cents against the national figure of 3.4 cents. The carrier who collected the most money in Ames, Iowa, was Andy Williams, who was selected to fly to New York, where he visited the Crusade for Freedom headquarters, resulting in favorable publicity in his home town.
  • The Morning Herald, Hagerstown, Maryland, carried a photograph of two newspaperboys receiving a Crusade award with a note from Crusade President, William A. Greene: “I think the Herald and the Mail newspaperboys did a splendid job in collecting $129.19 for the Crusade for Freedom.”
  • Newspaperboys in Waco, Texas collected $1,000 and received the Crusade’s “Award for Excellence.” Featured in a newspaper photographs and story were two boys who collected the most money: 14-year-old Tommy Kittlitz and 13-year-old Bobby McCauley, who collected $46.00 and $27.00 respectively.

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