8. Letter From the Chairman of the Committee on Public Information (Creel) to Paul Fuller of the War Trade Board1
I have just heard of an order issued by the Treasury Department at the request of Mr. Oliphant, to the effect that all motion pictures going out of the country should be censored by the Customs House Officers. As a result, the shipments of American propaganda film to Scandinavia and Russia were held up yesterday on the very eve of departure, and it has taken several hours of my time to straighten out this infernal tangle.
Practically every foot of film made in the United States is censored by this Department. Also, before leaving the United States, the consignees must receive a license from the War Trade Board. By our arrangement, these men have been referred to me, and with each of them I am making an arrangement that permits me to pass upon the matter they are taking, but which also gives me the right to make them take a certain amount of our propaganda film with them for incorporation in every program.
For the Customs Officers to try to censor film is as impossible as it is needless. Some of my shipments run from half a million feet to a million and a half. Not only would projection rooms have to be provided, but it would take a force of five men working day and night for a month to censor the material. When one considers that it has already been censored, it will be seen that the only result is confusion, expense and delay. Will you please be kind enough to take this matter up at once, and have the order withdrawn as far as New York is concerned at the present time.
Will you also give explicit orders that no motion picture license is to be issued until the man has been referred to this Committee. This will prevent the exportation of any film but that which has already been approved, and will enable us to force our educational matter upon every exporter.2
- Source: National Archives, RG 63, Entry 1, General Correspondence of George Creel, Box 10, Hart, Charles. No classification marking.↩
- For the changing regulations and requirements of film exportation, see Film and Propaganda in America: A Documentary History, vol. 1, World War I, Documents 119–138.↩
- Creel did not sign this copy of the letter.↩