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Life Magazine – February 10 1916 – Vol 67, No.1767- Get Ready Number – “My Country, ‘tis of Thee”

  • Publisher: The Life Magazine Publishing Company, New York (Publishers)
  • Date: 1916
  • Dimensions: 23.1 x 28.1 cms


Feb 1916 issue of Life Magazine, its satirical map cover depicting the USA as a colonial outpost of Germany & the Central Powers

About this piece:

Life Magazine – February 10 1916 – “My Country, ‘tis of Thee”

Complete magazine with pictorial map cover. Some slight staining, creasing and wear, especially to spine. Traces of unobtrusive old library ink stamp at top right, just touching edge of image, barely visible. Covers becoming loose & partially detached from inside magazine pages.

In early 1916 Americans looked back with concern to the loss of over 100 American lives following the German submarine U-20’s sinking of the R.M.S. Lusitania in May 1915. They could look forward to the prospect of a November 1916 Presidential election and a potential second term for the incumbent President Wilson, who continued to maintain a policy of studied neutrality, whilst happily supplying munitions to the Allied forces fighting in Europe.  Within the US, following the expulsion of the German military attaché in Washington, Franz von Papen, at the end of 1915, hard evidence emerged of a secret German spy ring & plans for a nationwide sabotage campaign targeting bridges, tunnels & arms depots as well as the bombing & sinking of US shipping departing from Pacific coast ports. These threats to US internal security were sharply highlighted only a few months later, in July 1916, when German saboteurs targeted the New Jersey Black Tom Island Arms depot, causing the explosion of over 1 million pounds of munitions and TNT destined for shipment to Europe.

Since the outbreak of war, the influential US Magazine Life had taken an increasingly anti-neutral stance, which reached its high-point here, in this “Get Ready Number” of  February 10, 1916. This issue sought to highlight the potential internal & external threats from Germany as well as the US Military’s parlous lack of resources, training & preparedness should the country be finally drawn into the War.  In its editorial, Life praises the President’s increasing readiness to address the strengthening of the country’s naval & military forces. It further suggests the urgent need to wake up to the internal threats posed by so-called “hyphenated Americans”. It considers equally dangerous the potential threat of German invasion.

The map on the Magazine’s cover makes the point starkly, with the “sweet land of liberty” shown as a subjugated colonial outpost of the Central Powers, most of its lands now forming part of an American “New Prussia”. Most of the principal place names and state capitals are renamed along German lines, in satirical & punning manner. Florida is Turkish, Baja California is Austrian & a Japanese enclave flourishes along the Pacific West coast. In mock insult & irony, America itself is reduced to a tiny rump “Reservation” located on the Arizona-New Mexico borders.