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From Liberation to Conquest

The Visual and Popular Cultures of the Spanish-American War of 1898

Bonnie Miller

Publication Year: 2011

The American people overwhelmingly supported the nation’s entry into the Spanish-American War of 1898, which led to U.S. imperial expansion into the Caribbean and Pacific. In this book, Bonnie M. Miller explores the basis of that support, showing how the nation’s leading media makers—editorialists, cartoonists, filmmakers, photographers, and stage performers—captured the public’s interest in the Cuban crisis with heart-rending depictions of Cuban civilians, particularly women, brutalized by bloodthirsty Spanish pirates. Although media campaigns initially advocated for the United States to step in to rescue Cuba from the horrors of colonial oppression, the war ended just months later with the U.S. acquisition of Spain’s remaining empire, including Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. President William McKinley heeded the call for war, with the American people behind him, and then proceeded to use the conflict to further his foreign policy agenda of expanding U.S. interests in the Caribbean and Far East. Miller examines the shifting media portrayals of U.S. actions for the duration of the conflict, from liberation to conquest. She shows how the media capitalized on the public’s thirst for drama, action, and spectacle and adapted to emerging imperial possibilities. Growing resistance to American imperialism by the war’s end unraveled the consensus in support of U.S policy abroad and produced a rich debate that found expression in American visual and popular culture.

Published by: University of Massachusetts Press


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Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-xii

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pp. xiii-xv

It is with great pleasure that I express my gratitude to those who have helped make this undertaking possible. My interest in the Spanish- American War dates back to my undergraduate studies at the University of Delaware, where I was privileged to work with Jesus Cruz...

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pp. 1-18

In a cartoon titled “One Type of Patriot” published in October 1898, the Chicago Inter Ocean commented on the effects of media during the Spanish-American War in mobilizing Americans into political action (figure i.1). The first frame depicts a prototypical white male...

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1: The Spectacle of Endangered Bodies: The Visual Iconography of War

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pp. 19-54

Prior to the U.S. declaration of war against Spain, American editors, journalists, cartoonists, writers, and playwrights framed the Cuban crisis almost entirely from a Cuban nationalist perspective. This is not surprising given Spanish governor-general Weyler’s combative...

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2: The Spectacle of Disaster: The Explosion of the U.S.S. Maine

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pp. 55-86

Press campaigns to raise awareness of Cuba’s humanitarian crisis had been growing steadily since 1895, but the single incident that irrevocably focused media attention on Cuba occurred at precisely 9:40 p.m. on the evening of February 15, 1898, when the...

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3: Socializing the Politics of Militarism: The Spanish-American War in Popular Culture

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pp. 87-120

After the declaration of war, President McKinley called for 125,000 volunteers to supplement regular army units. The response was staggering. The Maine disaster and the humanitarian crisis in Cuba inspired thousands of young men across the nation to enlist...

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4: The Visual Script Changes: The Annexation of Hawaii and the Lure of Empire

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pp. 121-152

Upon the opening of hostilities, Blackton and Smith of Vitagraph produced America’s first war motion picture—“Tearing Down the Spanish Flag” (1898). When Blackton’s hand was seen tearing down the Spanish flag and hoisting the American flag in its place...

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5: The War’s Final Phase: The Shadow of Military Scandal on Glorified Victory

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pp. 153-186

Probably the most illustrious reporter to cover the Cuban rebellion was New York World correspondent Sylvester Scovel. Richard Harding Davis wrote of him, “A more manly, daring and able young man I have seldom...

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6: Building an Imperial Iconography: Race, Paternalism, and the Symbols of Empire

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pp. 187-230

In March 1899 a group of New York society women organized a “mid-Lent entertainment” that they called “Uncle Sam’s Annexation Party.” They asked guests to come to the party in costume as American colonial subjects. Those arriving as Filipinos wore rings in their noses...

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7: The Spectacular Wrap-Up in Three Postwar Moments

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pp. 231-259

After Filipino nationalist leader Emilio Aguinaldo was captured in 1901, the U.S. military held him prisoner in Manila. In 1902 American photographer William Dinwiddie for the New York World visited him during his captivity and was struck by the...


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pp. 261-263


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pp. 265-310


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pp. 311-324

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781613760116
E-ISBN-10: 1613760116
Print-ISBN-13: 9781558499058
Print-ISBN-10: 1558499059

Page Count: 344
Illustrations: 88 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 794700812
MUSE Marc Record: Download for From Liberation to Conquest

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Press and politics -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Popular culture -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Spanish-American War, 1898 -- Public opinion.
  • United States -- Territorial expansion -- Public opinion.
  • Spanish-American War, 1898 -- Causes.
  • Spanish-American War, 1898 -- Press coverage -- United States.
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