George Teeple Eggleston and the America First Movement

Before the United States entered World War II, there was a popular movement to keep the U.S. out of the fray. The controversial America First Committee (AFC), founded in September 1940, was the foremost U.S. non-intervention pressure group against American entry into World War II. George T. Eggleston (1906-1990), a cartoonist, author, yachtsman, editor and isolationist, became embroiled in the America First controversy during the 1940’s.

Sketch of Eggleston

Portrait of George T. Eggleston by Karl Godwin, 1950. Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco.

From the late 1930s until the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Eggleston was very active in the America First movement with Charles Lindbergh. Eggleston edited Scribner’s Commentator, an ultraconservative magazine that helped lead the opposition to the United States’ entrance into the war in 1940 and 1941. The magazine’s format was about twenty digest-type articles, about half of which were devoted to nature stories and human-interest features.

ob_87e726_histoire-1287b-scribner-s-jan-1941

ob_09e401_histoire-1287-scribner-s-jan-1941

 George Teeple Eggleston papers, Acc. #10216, Box 3, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

There was no mistaking, however, the fundamental focus of Scribner’s Commentator, which was to present the case against involvement in World War II in as many ways as possible. The cover featured a prominent foe of intervention – often Charles Lindbergh – with a laudatory biographical sketch or an article written by the individual frequently found inside. The magazine’s sister publication was The Herald, a weekly newspaper with the masthead: “The National Newspaper for an Independent American Destiny.”

Subscription coupon

Subscription coupon for Scribner’s Commentator and The Herald from October 24, 1941, issue of The Herald. George Teeple Eggleston papers, Acc. #10216, Box 1, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Roosevelt and Lindbergh

An inside page of The Herald was always filled with photographs of prominent people involved in the debate over U.S. entry into World War II. This photograph compares America First’s main foe President Franklin D. Roosevelt (left) with America First’s main protagonist Charles Lindbergh (right). The photo is from the September 19, 1941, issue of The Herald. George Teeple Eggleston papers, Acc. #10216, Box 1, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the America First Committee canceled a rally with Lindbergh at Boston Garden “in view of recent critical developments,” and the organization’s leaders announced their support of the war effort. Scribner’s Commentator folded as well. The last issue, dated January 1942, featured General MacArthur on the cover and called for “the complete victory of our armed forces over those of our enemies all over the world.” Eggleston joined the naval reserve in 1943 but federal prosecutors took him before a grand jury and relieved him of his military commission.
Eggleston recounted some of the harassment against him in his book, Roosevelt, Churchill, and the World War II Opposition: A Revisionist Autobiography, published in 1979. He wrote about leaving the Navy after Walter Winchell, the syndicated columnist and radio commentator, urged Americans to start a letter-writing campaign demanding his removal from the service. It wasn’t until after World War II, when the passions of the period had cooled, that Eggleston was able to get an honorable discharge.
Walter Winchell

Walter Winchell column about Eggleston that appeared in the December 20, 1943 issue of the New York Daily Mirror. George Teeple Eggleston papers, Acc. #10216, Box 1, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

After World War II, Eggleston went on to become editor at Reader’s Digest. He left Reader’s Digest in 1957 and he and his wife moved to St. Lucia in the West Indies. He authored a number of books, mostly about travel, after just before and after leaving the Digest

Eggleston’s papers include files of correspondence, clippings, and comments on Charles Lindbergh and his role in the America First movement. There is a xerox copy of a 1972 letter from Lindbergh and many clippings concerning America First activities.

Portions of this post were excerpted from “Scribner’s Commentator, 1939-1942” by Justus D. Doenecke in The Conservative Press in Twentieth-Century America (1999), edited by Ronald Lora and William Henry Longton.

This entry was posted in Artists, Authors and literature, cartoons, commercial art, found in the archive, Journalism, Politics, Uncategorized, World War II and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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