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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Today's best bets around SiouxlandSioux City Journal, May 23rd
"The American Soldier's Musical Arsenal": See rare instruments and artifacts from battleground instruments to uniforms, photos and war posters. Exhibit opens today and runs through Sept. 1 at National Music Museum, 414 E. Clark St., Vermillion, S.D...Read more
Here's what's going on around LexingtonWicked Local Lexington, May 22nd
Public invited to DPW Day. To mark National Public Works Week, DPW is hosting its annual DPW Day on Thursday, May 21, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Samuel Hadley Public Services Building, 201 Bedford St. Equipment will be displayed. Activities geared to ...Read more
Memorial Day weekend offers chances to remember (and to relax)Atlanta Journal Constitution, May 19th
Kids experience hands-on history by making their own ration book, patriotic war posters and other crafts. Live music comes courtesy of the Freedom Belles, who put the boogie in “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and other WWII-era songs. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. May 23...Read more
Vintage posters: Let these glam WWII nurses inspire you!Fusion, May 7th
Isha Aran is a staff reporter for Fusion's Sex & Life section and is worth her weight in salt. Really, she is. She's salty as all hell. Twitter · Facebook; Email. ×. Share the Wealth. Friend's Email Your Email. Hiya. You should drop everything you're...Read more
Simi talk recalls life on the homefrontVentura County Star, May 3rd
JOE LUMAYA/SPECIAL TO THE STAR Veteran Wayne Ferber looks at the different war posters that will be used in a new presentation called “Simi Valley Goes to War — The Home Front WWI & World War II.” The event will take place on Friday at the Museum ...Read more
Vietnam War: The line between past and presentDeutsche Welle, April 30th
The fall of Saigon 40 years ago marked the end of the US' decade-long war in Vietnam, with the North Vietnamese army capturing the South's capital, Saigon. The Southeast Asian country has come a long way since then. Bildergalerie Vietnam Evakuierung ...Read more
Graphic Art in Support of the War EffortStrategy Page, April 24th
Drawing on the collections of the Historial de la Grande Guerre, a Great War museum in Peronne, historians Hadley (La grande guerre de Léon Moulènes, etc.) and Pegler (Soldiers' Songs and Sland of the Great War, etc.I), present a selection and analysis...Read more
Treasure of World War II posters comes to light at Grove City CollegeTribune-Review, March 14th
The popularity of war posters has never faded, said William L. Bird, curator of the Division of Political history at the Smithsonian Institution and co-author of “Design for Victory: World War II Poster on the American Home Front.” “The Office of War...Read more