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The U.S. Attempts to Combat Communism in Post-World War II China and Taiwan. From the Collection of Marjorie Severyns, an OSS Intelligence Analyst.

A remarkable collection of posters, prepared by the Sino-American Joint Commission on Rural Reconstruction (JCRR).

This charming pictographic poster campaign is composed of 64 posters in a variety of formats, underscoring the importance of hygiene and modern farming practices. Moreover, themes within the broader scheme of the campaign can be seen as reflections of trends in the contemporary political climate. For instance, the Chinese Communist Party's success in harnessing the support of the Chinese peasant in gaining control of the mainland was recognized as a potential threat to the sovereignty of Taiwan. Taiwan was then in a vulnerable state, recovering from 50 years of Japanese colonialism.

To diminish the psychological warfare by which Mao Tse-tung might win-over the Taiwanese peasant, the JCRR introduced a sweeping land reform program ensuring farm rent reduction. Several posters in the series apprise the rent-farmer of the beneficial program. The campaign was initiated by the JCRR and overseen by Marjorie Severyns Ravenholt.

Background: Sino-American Joint Commission on Rural Reconstruction (中國農林復興聯合委員會)

The Sino-American Joint Commission on Rural Reconstruction (JCRR) was created by the US 1948 China Aid Act, designed to help war-ravaged China rebuild a robust, efficient economy. In part, the impetus behind the JCRR was a response to the Chinese Communist Party’s success in garnering the support of China’s peasant class. According to T. S. Shen, a former chairman of the JCRR, “… as Communism was capitalizing on the poverty and miseries of the Chinese peasantry, it was felt that the most effective way to steal the Communist thunder would be to solve the agrarian problem through peaceful reforms carried out with the technical and financial assistance of China’s wartime ally and traditional friend, the United States.” On mainland China, the JCRR carried out agricultural programs through 1949, when the impending establishment of the People’s Republic of China forced its move to Taiwan.

Provenance

This collection comes from the estate of Marjorie Severyns, a native of Washington State, who worked as an Intelligence Analyst and operative for the Office of Strategic Service, the predecessor of the CIA.

Marjorie Severyns grew up on a farm in Sunnyside, Washington, near Yakima. Upon graduation from Sunnyside High School, 1937, Severyns studied political science and international law at the University of Washington, spending 1940 in Japan, Korea and China as an exchange student. While at the University of Washington Severyns was guided by professors Charles Martin and George E. Taylor, who later directed the US Army’s psychological warfare effort in China, in the OWI.

Upon graduation, Severyns pursued a fellowship at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, where she earned a master’s degree in international law and diplomacy. While in Washington, DC, she was recruited by the nascent Office of Strategic Services – perhaps brought in by OSS Col. Herbert Little, who had been practicing law in Seattle and was acquainted with Severyns's former professor, George Taylor; it was on Little’s Morale Operations team that Severyns would eventually serve.

During full WWII functionality, the Office of Strategic Services employed 26,000 personnel. Of them, most were engaged in bureaucratic administration. According to Major General William J. Donovan, who founded the OSS, “only a small percentage of the women ever went overseas, and a still smaller percentage was assigned to actual operational jobs behind enemy lines.” Among them, Marjorie Severyns, who was initially stationed in an OSS office in Washington, DC, 26th & E Streets, before being deployed to  establish a Morale Operations rear-echelon base in New Delhi.

In New Delhi (and, later, Calcutta), and during her subsequent posting behind enemy lines in Chungking, Severyns developed black propaganda by conducting sub rosa disinformation campaigns through forged documents, rumor-mongering, false proclamations, and related clandestine activity in the service of psychological warfare. In contrast to white propaganda, which, through overt efforts, were meant to sway enemy opinion by, say, dropping leaflets by airplane over enemy territory, black propaganda was initiated through top-secret programs organizing, supervising and directing guerrilla activities aimed toward lowering morale of the enemy, puppet leaders, troops and civilians.

Upon Japanese surrender, Severyns remained in China where she was hired as a reporter, working for both Time and Life magazines. With knowledge of the subtle intricacies feeding post-WWII turmoil within China, she was ideally suited for interpreting the chaos of China’s unresolved domestic whirl. During her tenure as a journalist, she was married in Shanghai, January 1946, to UP War Correspondent Albert Ravenholt, with Lt. Gen. Wedemeyer presiding. Through the 1948 US China Aid Act, the Sino-American Joint Commission on Rural Reconstruction (JCRR) was created to help war-ravaged China rebuild a robust, efficient economy. In addition, another impetus behind the JCRR was in response to the Chinese Communist Party’s success in garnering support of China’s peasant class; if Chiang’s KMT could win the hearts of the peasants, then the Chinese Communist Party would be enervated. (As an example, one JCRR initiative put a 37.5% limit on the percentage of harvest that a landlord could charge as rent.) The JCRR’s status as a co-national effort meant the agency was not beholden to US or KMT government pay scales; as such, lucrative salaries beckoned top talent. Severyns was succumbed to that lure, leaving the Luce organization for a role producing marketing collateral designed to improve the lot of Chinese subsistence farmers.

Full-Color Posters:
(Prod. # | Date | Title | Size | Supplements)
FPO-2-9 Fertilizer Arrives Again! 140,000 tons. 20” x 26” translation
PH-7 Must Vaccinate Against Smallpox 31” x 21.5” glossy facs.
HPO-3-15 Bugs Transmit Disease, Children 20.5” x 27” no collateral
FPO-5-29 2/52 Use Calcium Cyanamide “Black Fertilizer” 19.5” x 25.75” translation
FOPO-IO-107 Success of Farmers’ Ass. Rests w/Farmers 30.75” x 21.25”translation
HPO-10-87 Spraying DDT Team Visits Homes Malaria 20.25” x 15” translation
FOPO-4-96 Line of People w/Papers: Money, Farming 20.5” x 30” no collateral
IPO-2-21 Farmer’s Choices: Success or Failure 20.5” x 26” no collateral
AHPO-1-7 Hog Inoculation 21.5” x 31” no collateral
HPO-8-26 Tuberculin Test for Tuberculosis 19.5” x 26.5” translation
HPO-17-114 6/54 Unborn Child Can Inherit Syphilis 15.5” x 21” translation
FOPO-5-97 Education-Learning-Voting-Democracy 21” x 29.75” no collateral
APO-36-104 How to Harvest Oranges (Mandarin?) 20.5” x 30.75” no collateral
S4-1 Add Granosan to Fertilizer for Big Yields 25.5” x 18” no collateral
APO-9-22 Use of Lime Increases Crop Production 20.5” x 27” translation
APO-17-49 Pineapple! 20” x 26.5” no collateral
APO-12-25 Cultivating and Harvesting Crops 20.25” x 27.75” no collateral
APO-3-4 Pineapple, Again! 30,75” x 21.25” no collateral
APO-25-60 Tobacco! (loss of 2” x 2” oval) 15” x 21.25” no collateral
FPO-8-101 10/53 Sweet Potato! 20.75” x 30” translation
APO-4-5 Insect = Disease 21.25” x 31” no collateral
HPO-5-17 Protect Your Eyes to Prevent Trachoma 19.75” x 26.5” translation
HPO-4-16 Malaria – Prevent Spread, Bury Puke 20.25” x 26.5” no collateral
RR-2 Tenant Farmers: Know About Rent Decrease 21.5” x 30.75” glossy facs.
RR-1 Land Owners: Know About Rent Decrease 21.25” x 30.5” glossy facs.
FPO-7-57 Elaborate Chart: How to Conduct Business 15” x 21” no collateral
HPO-16-113 6/54 What is Syphilis? 15.25” x 21” translation
FPO-1-8 Rice Harvest Decreases w/Lack Potash 20.5” x 26” translation
LDO-15-53 Democratic Process [glossy stock] 20” x 25.5”

Full Color, Smaller Format Posters:
RP-8 Eradicate Rice Blast 10” x 13.75” glossy facs.
RP-13 Use Pure Seeds to Improve Harvest! 9.75” x 14” glossy facs.
AP-9 Aphid – The Farmer’s Enemy! 10.25” x 14” glossy facs.

Two- or Three-Color, Larger Format Posters:
[No data] Public Health/Taiwan black/red, w/’53 info 13.5” x 20” no collateral
IOPO-8-79 Mutual Security Imports Commodities 20” x 29.5” translation
[No data] 9/53 Ed. Improvement in Taiwan brown/black 13.75” x 30” translation
IOPO-13-88 Taiwan Land Reform @ FA Mtngs brn/blk 20.75” x 30” translation
IOPO-9-80 [1954] Industrial Output: Cotton, Paper, Aluminum 20.5” x 29.5” translation
FOPO-3-84 ND 4-H Club: New Club for Rural Youth 15” x 20” translation
FOPO-7-99 ND Paternal Figure, War –Money – Book 20.75” x 30” no collateral
FOPO-6-98 ND School – Education 21” x 30” no collateral
LH4-1 Egg Farmer is Happy, Smokes green/blk 18” x 25.75” no collateral
IOPO-7-18 [1954] Power/Utilities Increased Ind. Output 20” x 29.75” translation
IOPO-10-81 Taiwan Rural Livelihood Prosperous! 20.5” x 29.5” translation
EP F4-1 Use Calcium Super-Phosphate red/blk 18” x 25.5” glossy facs.
S4-1 How to Produce Good Rice Seed red/blk 20” x 26.25” translation
IOPO-11-82 Income Greater/Agri Prod. Boosted red/blk 21” x 29.25” translation
IOPO-15-106 Taiwan Progress: Pineapple, Concrete, Sugar 15.5” x 21” translation

Two- or Three-Color, Smaller Format Posters:
RP-1 Dangerous Rinderpest Wipe it Out! 9.75” x 14” trans. & facs.
RP-10 ABC of Epizootic Prevention 9.75” x 14” trans. & facs.

B&W Wall Newspapers with Cartoons/B&W Photos:
WN9 Issue 1 8/49 Kwangsi Ed.: What Does the JCRR Do? 21.5” x 15.5” translation
WN14 Issue 6 6/50 Taiwan Ed.: US Aid Beancakes for Sale 21.5” x 15.25” translation
WN6 Issue 2 8/49 Szechuan Ed.: Rural Devel. in 3 rd Prefecture 21” x 15” translation
WN5 Issue 1 8/49 Szechuan Ed.: What Does JCRR Do? 21” x 15.75” translation
WN13 Issue 5 3/50 Taiwan Ed.: Anti-Hog Cholera Campaign 21.5” x 16” translation
WN15 Issue 7 6/50 Taiwan Ed.: 135K Tons Fertilizer for Rice 21.5” x 15.5” translation
WN12 Issue 4 3/50 Taiwan Ed.: Reorg. of Farmers’ Asscns. 21.5” x 15.5” translation
WN16 Issue8 7/50 Taiwan Ed.: Fertilizer Allocation for 1950 21.25” x 16.25” translation
WN11 Issue 3 12/49 Taiwan Ed.: What 37.5% Land Reduce Rent? 21.5” x 15” translation
Issue 1 6/49 Taiwan Ed.: A Look at/How is Taiwan 21.5” x 15” translation
First Ed. 6/49 Tung Ting Wall Newspaper: Flood Prep. 15.5” x 21.5” translation
Second Ed. 6/49 Tung Ting Wall Newspaper Flood Terror 22.5” x 15” translation
WN17 Issue 9 9/50 Swine Feeding 21.5” x 15.25” translation
WN4 Issue 1 8/49 Northwest Edition: World Famous Wool 14.5” x 21” translation

Miscellaneous:
5/50 Joint Commission on Rural Reconstruction 30.5” x 21” Personnel roster
(Chart showing the structure of org., with a supplemental breakdown of personnel within the Office of Public Information and Education.)

Condition Description
The condition of the posters is uniformly VG+ to Fine, with folds and, in some posters, staple holes where collateral material (translations; B&W mimeograph copies of mock-ups in English, which have been retained with original Chinese posters) had been attached. One poster, featuring pineapples, is missing a 3” x 3” section. Colors bright and vibrant.
Reference
For reference to Ravenholt, and her role in psychological warfare within China, please see Sisterhood of Spies: Women of the OSS by Elizabeth P. McIntosh (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press (1998)). For an overview of the JCRR, please see The Sino-American Joint Commission on Rural Reconstruction – Twenty Years of Cooperation for Agricultural Development by T. H. Shen (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, (1970)).