Printing annual reports and other publications is a long-standing tradition for American corporations. Providing the basic financial information of an annual report is typically mandated, but all of the extras – the year in review, the exciting updates, personnel announcements, and plans for the future – these all present opportunities for corporations to define and disseminate their company message.
This is particularly important during a time of war and we see this evident in the materials in the Lippincott Library collection of World War II corporate wartime publications. For the most part, these wartime publications are not annual reports. Many of them are special publications produced for employees and the general public with the goal of publicizing the work the company was doing for the war effort. These publications worked as a sort of advertisement or testimonial to the company’s craftsmanship and also highlighted the need for everyone to do their patriotic duty.
Companies took a variety of approaches in these publications, but it always came back to patriotic duty and the company’s contributions to the war effort. For example, the Gulf Oil Corporation’s publication, Power to Win, gave details on what the company was making and how the products were being used in the war. There is also a fascinating page where they tried to put rationing into perspective for people on the home front by explaining how much oil all of their military equipment used.
Another great example comes from the GMC Truck & Coach Division of General Motors. This publication, entitled A Report from the Front, is entirely about the amphibious vehicles (also known as Ducks) and how their use aided forces in campaigns.
It intersperses information about the machinery and manufacturing with details from the war and even excerpts of news reports about their use. This piece is unusual in the collection in that it is about a single kind of machinery, while most of the others gave updates on a range of products and events.
The Delco-Remy Division of General Motors includes descriptions of work it was doing on the home front in its publication, Our War Job. This included volunteer efforts, blood drives, holding victory revues, and campaigns for war bonds.
In World War II, the United States’ superior manufacturing capabilities helped to tip the odds in the Allies’ favor. These publications praised American production and almost made it synonymous with patriotism during the war. In them, companies expounded on the virtues of their newest products and how they would help in the fight for victory. They celebrated when plants were awarded the Army-Navy “E” for “Excellence in Production” and congratulated employees on reaching participation milestones in war bond programs.
These publications buoyed employee morale, boosted the corporate image, and served as a kind of continued advertisement of the company’s work in a time when they weren’t producing for the public. They are a fascinating example of the blending of patriotic messaging with corporate public relations.