February 12, 2012

1954 Freedom Week, Balloons, and Freedom Scroll: Combining Patriotism with Commercialism at the Grass Roots Level

"Freedom Week" in the USA in 1954 began on the anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln's birthday, February 12th. One attempt to reach a nation-wide consensus in the fight against the threat of international Communism was the use of a "Freedom Scroll" to be signed by Americans in support of the Crusade for Freedom and Radio Free Europe. The text of the Freedom Scroll included:

In the belief that freedom is the most precious of human rights, I gladly sign my name to this Freedom Scroll as evidence of my participation as a free citizen In the Crusade for Freedom, supporting the National Committee for a Free Europe and its striking arm, Radio Free Europe. In so doing, I join hands with millions of other Americans in bringing truth and hope to the courageous freedom-hungry people behind the Iron Curtain.

Below is a quick look at some of the nation-wide events held in small-town America.

The Fraternal Order of the Eagles (FOE) sponsored a nation-wide balloon campaign called “Eagles Flight for Freedom” in cities and towns throughout the United States during Freedom Week, Over four hundred Eagle Aeries launched 4,164 Helium gas-filled balloons, similar to the ones launched by the Free Europe Press in Germany. The balloons contained messages from local Eagle leaders, with identification cards and envelopes asking for “Truth Dollar” contributions from the finder as well as the place and date of the finding. In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the person who brought in the identification of a balloon that had traveled farthest before February 22, 1954, would receive a $25 bond.  The February 1954 cover of the Eagles magazine showed balloons being launched with leaflets.

The largest launching took place in downtown Springfield, Illinois, home of Abraham Lincoln, when 2,000 balloons, with the stamped words “Crusade for Freedom” in large letters, were lofted with a message from Robert W Hansen, national president of the Eagles. The February 22, 1954 issue of Life Magazine carried a photo essay, “Fund Raising Takes to Air,” of the Springfield launching including one showing the balloons, inflated by Girl and Boy Scouts, being carried in a massive parade through the center of the city to the launching site in Lincoln Square. The second photograph showed the balloons being lifted into the air in a northeast direction.

In Sheldon, Iowa, three balloons were released at 12:30 o'clock at the intersection of Ninth Street and Fourth Avenue. The town's mayor, Mayor W. L. Ayres, issued the following proclamation before this launching.

WHEREAS it is recognized that one of the best ways to help preserve World Peace and prevent further Communist aggression is to send Truth to seventy million captive peoples of the Iron Curtain countries and thus encourage their hopes for freedom;

WHEREAS one of the most effective media now known for accomplishing this vital task and combating the communist lie technique is Radio Free Europe supported by the American people:

WHEREAS Crusade for Freedom is the campaign, which informs the American people of the great importance of this challenge to free men and Radio Free Europe's role in meeting it;

WHEREAS the Fraternal Order of Eagles will inaugurate Freedom Week with "Flight for Freedom" -- a display of the Crusade for Freedom activity in launching balloons which shower Truth Leaflets over the Iron Curtain countries;

I DO HEREBY PROCLAIM the period February Twelfth through Twenty-second nineteen hundred and fifty four as FREEDOM WEEK and do recommend to each citizen that he sign the Freedom Scroll, which is being distributed and contribute Truth Dollars within his means to the support of Crusade for Freedom.

In Lima, Ohio, Pangles,"Lima's Leading Food Market", combined sponsorship of a Crusade for Freedom advertisement with one for its grocery store in the February 19, 1954, local newspaper edition:

TRUTH vs. LIES

Freedom Scroll

Have every number of your family sign the Freedom Scroll.

Pin a "truth dollar" to it and mall to CRUSADE FOR FREEDOM, in care of your local Postmaster.

Your dollar will pay for 100 words of truth broadcast through the Iron Curtain

Low Prices Prevail Every Day

          Open 8:30 AM to 10:30PM, Daily, Sunday 8:30 AM to 1:30 PM  

A week later on February 26, 1954, the "Freedom Tank" arrived in Lima, Ohio. Pangles sponsored another advertisement with a copy of the Freedom Scroll, and these words:
 
it's at PANGLES - Tonight 6 p.m. Famous FREEDOM TANK. SIGN THIS SCROLL. See and hear the local persons who will participate in this big program and history making event!

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