During World War I, the U.S. government, contractors, and advertisers alike printed large quantities of posters in order to deliver a variety of propaganda messages to the general public. Because they were printed in large numbers, vintage war posters can be more affordable than you might expect.
Even though the United States would not enter World War I until 1917, the sinking of the RMS Lusitania in 1915 prompted artist Fred Spear to create one of the most famous posters of that era. Titled "Enlist," the color lithograph features a mother cradling her child as both sink into the briny deeps—the call to action, ENLIST, is rendered on the poster in large, blocky letters.
Two years later, with the nation fully engaged in the European conflict, artist James Montgomery Flagg riffed on a famous British war-recruitment poster of the day to create his "I Want You For U.S. Army" poster. More than four million copies of the iconic image were reproduced during World War I alone, ensuring Flagg’s place in history as the creator of, and model for, the most famous likeness of Uncle Sam.
Another type of vintage World War I recruiting poster featured appeals to women, such as Edward Penfield’s "Yes sir, I am here!" which shows an earnest young woman standing at attention, saluting, and reporting for duty in the Motor Corps of America. The Christy Girl posters, named for their illustrator, Howard Chandler Christy, used smiling, mildly provocative women clad in men’s uniforms to encourage men to enlist in the Navy and Marines.
The vintage war posters of World War II expanded the appeals of patriotism and service to country. Posters encouraged Americans to plant Victory Gardens, to conserve fuel by walking to the store, and to buy war bonds ("Give War Bonds for Christmas" instructs a simple green-and-red, holly-leaf-decorated poster from the U.S. Government Printing Office).
J. Howard Miller’s "We Can Do It!" is perhaps the most famous vintage poster from that period. Published by Westinghouse, it features an illustration of a young female factory worker wearing a red-and-white polka dot headscarf and rolling up the sleeve of her blue work shirt. The woman in the poster is often referred as Rosie the Riveter, but the image was actually taken from a wire-service photograph of a 17-year-old named Geraldine Hoff.
Another category of World War II poster was unabashedly ideological and unapologetically tough in its depiction of the enemy. Karl Koehler and Victor Ancona won an award for thei...
If the Germans were depicted as evil madmen, the Japanese were portrayed as bucktoothed and inhuman drones. Flagg updated his World War I recruitment poster to create a hatless, muscular Uncle Sam, wrench in hand, with the words "JAP… You’re Next!" above his head. And Douglas Aircraft Company produced numerous unflattering caricatures of the Japanese to encourage its employees to conserve materials, lest they play into the hands of the enemy.
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Military exhibit a showstopper at Bridgeville History CenterTribune-Review, April 16th
The exhibit consists of informative posters commemorating specific individuals or events, and a large display table covered with artifacts and folders containing supplementary information. The posters are arranged chronologically. One of the Civil War...Read more
Tour de Force: International Poster Gallery's 20th Anniversary ExhibitionPR Web (press release), April 10th
International Poster Gallery celebrates its 20th anniversary with Tour de Force, a landmark exhibition and sale of 40 rare and important poster classics, many culled from long-hidden poster archives. Selections include top posters that echo the Gallery...Read more
Pensions ploysScotsman, March 28th
Promises of home rule by Liberals and Labourites became as meaningless as Lord Haig's First World War posters. There were no posters welcoming those who survived Flanders with home rule pledges or even a morsel of prosperity. Instead, austerity all ...Read more
Rush County Museum newsThe Rushville Republican, March 27th
In all, the local museum has nearly 8,000 items in inventory - original WWII war posters from the 1940's, a Columbia disc player that plays phonograph cylinders as well as 5-inch disc and old tools to name just a few. According to historical president...Read more
In The Stacks: Rockwell Kent at the Smithsonian Archives of American Artseattlepi.com (blog), March 26th
Though he created a series of war posters he would eventually become a peace monger and ardent anti-nuke supporter. rockwell kent wwii posters Kent at the opening of an exhibition of his war posters, 1942. Kent's left-leaning views would eventually...Read more
'She rolled up her sleeves' … and got things doneThe Abington Journal, March 21st
A photograph from a parade shows the employees of a lace-manufacturing company all decked out, apparently in some of the finery their factory produced. War posters, meanwhile, explain how women working in predominantly male factory jobs freed men to ...Read more
A treasure hunt at the Boston Public LibraryBoston Globe, March 19th
The war posters were displayed in schools, libraries, town halls, factories, places of worship, bus and train stations, and commercial establishments. Common themes were the need for secrecy, conservation, and looking for the support of women while the ...Read more