GENERAL ARTICLE: The Official Bulletin, 1917-1919: A Proto-Federal Register * Skip over navigation
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Copyright (c) 2010 American Association of Law Libraries
Law Library Journal

GENERAL ARTICLE: The Official Bulletin, 1917-1919: A Proto-Federal Register *

* (c) Robert A. Emery, 2010.

Summer, 2010

Law Library Journal

102 Law Libr. J. 441


Robert A. Emery **


Introduction 1

Imagine a Federal Register crossed with the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents and a small-town newspaper, and you've imagined an approximation of the Official Bulletin (OB), published by the Committee on Public Information (CPI) from May 1917 until March 1919. 2 The OB served not only as an official gazette for the wartime federal government but also as a sort of newspaper reporting on and publicizing America's efforts to win World War I, and, indirectly, as an instrument of governmental censorship. In its first capacity, it was a forerunner of the modern Federal Register; in its others, it exemplified what the Federal Register was intentionally designed to avoid.

George Creel and the Committee on Public Information

The United States declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917. On April 13, the Secretaries of State, War, and the Navy jointly wrote President Wilson that:
[T]here is a steadily developing need for some authoritative agency to assure the publication of all the vital facts of national defense. . . .

. . . .

It is our opinion that the two functions--censorship and publicity--can be joined in honesty and with profit, and we recommend the creation of a Committee on Public Information. 3

The next day the President issued an executive order creating the Committee on Public Information (CPI), made up of the three Secretaries who had written him, and naming George Creel as its chairman. 4

The Secretaries' leadership of the CPI was purely ...
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