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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World War I, 100 Years LaterU.S. News & World Report, July 25th
World War I, originally known as the Great War, was triggered by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria on June 28, 1914, by a 19-year-old Serbian. On July 28, the first shots to mark the global standoff were fired. The United States...Read more
Manhattan is complicated and captivatingA.V. Club Denver/Boulder, July 24th
As such, many of the visual and dramatic tropes of the series are incredibly familiar—radio broadcasts listing the numbers of the dead; sugar rationing; creased, tan garrison caps; oddly cheery war posters. America has been in a love affair with World...Read more
Penis Propaganda: The Amazing Anti-Venereal Disease Posters Of World World IICo.Design, July 22nd
“The latter was being spearheaded by art directors from Madison Avenue, which explains why by the end of the war, posters began to look more and more like magazine advertisements,” Mungia says. Compare these vintage posters to their contemporary ...Read more
Is this where God of War 4 is being developed?Load The Game, July 20th
When asked if the God of War posters have anything to do with their next game, the studio gave a rather cryptic answer . “The posters celebrate our legacy, what is our future you'll see…in the future.” Another user noticed all the cardboard laying...Read more
OXM presents: Propaganda posters for the console warTotal Xbox (blog), July 4th
Following a long period of relative stability, last year saw the console war blossom anew. People have pledged fealty to Xbox or That Other One and engaged in long, acrimonious battles in comment threads and YouTube videos, insistent that their choice...Read more
Keep Calm and Stop Making Those PostersMinneapolis Star Tribune (blog), June 27th
They're the Gummo and Zeppo of war posters. SHANEISMS Stop doing that, Shane. - The Management. (Provided in case the idea breaks out into the mainstream and you have to explain it to someone. ART Uh huh. Right. Yep. Art. Atlantic: On the third floor ...Read more
DeKalb gallery exhibits classic war posters and propagandaDekalb Daily Chronicle, June 26th
Wright has been collecting war posters since 1970, and his collection numbers more than 1,000. He holds a bachelor's degree in history from Northern Illinois University. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I; some...Read more
Brangwyn's War: Posters of the First World WarThe Press, York, June 24th
Frank Brangwyn was an outstanding poster artist of the First World War. A restored set of his powerful large-scale war posters is on show at the Mercer Art Gallery in Harrogate until January 2015. These images offer both a unique social insight into...Read more