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.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

WW2 Posters

WW2 Posters

Ben Perry's Flickr photoset of almost 3,000 World War Two government posters. Hard to describe the breadth and dept… [read review or visit site]

USSR Posters

USSR Posters

Ben Perry's Flickr photoset showcasing almost 1500 Soviet propaganda, advertising, theatre and movie posters from 1… [read review or visit site]

myArmoury.com

myArmoury.com

This resource for historic arms and armour collectors provides exhaustive information on modern reproductions (cust… [read review or visit site]

London Transport Museum Posters

London Transport Museum Posters

A must-see collection of 5,000 vivid, colorful British posters from the early 1900s onward. Browse by artist (over … [read review or visit site]

The Civil War

The Civil War

Paul McWhorter’s amazing reference site tells the story of the Civil War through high resolution scans of Harpers… [read review or visit site]

Fillmore and Avalon Collection

Fillmore and Avalon Collection

Wish you'd visited San Francisco in the late 1960s? Get a quick hit with this comprehensive collection of psychedel… [read review or visit site]

Mikes Tanks

Mikes Tanks

Mike Seeber’s extensive collection of over 500 diecast tanks and military vehicles, dating back to WWII. Browse b… [read review or visit site]

New York Public Library

New York Public Library

The New York Public Library's impressive Digital Gallery offers free access to over 500,000 historical images inclu… [read review or visit site]

The American Memory Project

The American Memory Project

This amazing Library of Congress site includes about a hundred photo and document collections (see complete list) o… [read review or visit site]



Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Original Ca1862 Civil War Recruiting Broadside Poster For Artillery CompanyVintage Wwii 1943 American Home Front Poster Aircraft Carrier Anti Japanese RareVintage World War I Wwi Poster V Invest Graphic Patriotic Bold Victory Loan RareVintage Original Ww Ii "keep Your Trap Shut" Poster World War 2Vintage 1940s Wwii Poster Homefront Eagle Defense Bonds Buy A Share In AmericaOriginal Wwi "teamwork Wins" From 1917 By Hibbered V.b. Kling PosterOrig 1942 Wwii Home Front Poster-" Give It Your Best" W Us 48 Star Flag Design1943 World War Ii Poster Save Waste Fats For Explosives Food Conservation Bombs1943 Wwll Waac Poster, Silence Means Security Joseph Pennell "that Liberty Shall Not Perish" 1918 30"x41" Original Ww1 PosterVintage World War I Propaganda Poster "ring It Again" Second Liberty Loan 1917Vintage Wwii Home Front Incentive Container Shipping Poster Patriotic AmericanRare Ww2 Netherland Dutch/ Nsb Voting Poster/flier/leaflet,prov.noord-holland Original Wwi Liberty Loan Poster By Forsythe And They Thought We Couldn't Fight1918 Original Wwi "back Our Girls" Ywca Poster By Clarence F. UnderwoodVintage World War I Propaganda Liberty Bond Poster "the Hun - His Mark..." 1917Vintage World War I Propaganda Merchant Marine Poster 1917 United StatesJoseph Pennell That Liberty Shall Not Perish 1918 Ww1 30"x41"original War PosterCivil Defense PosterWwii Poster, More Production, War Production Board, Vintage Large 28"x40"Antique Original 1918 Wwi Era Print/poster Peace Soldier Is Finally Home W MomOriginal Liberty Bond Poster St. John The Hun His Mark World War I Ww1 1917Original Ww1 Poster "must Children Die And Mothers Plead In Vain?" By W.everettVintage American War Bond Poster "give 'em More FirepowVintage "fly And Fight With Rcaf" Poster Ww 2Vintage Coast Guard Recruitment Poster, 28x11 Inches, Dated 1955, Some Staining*rare Original French Poster-wwi World War 1~hand Colored-large-abel FaivreOriginal & Vintage World War I Propaganda Poster President Woodrow Wilson 1917Peace Corps Releases 50th Anniversary Poster By Shepard FaireysVintage Usmc Recruiting Poster " The Marines Want You"Civil Defense PosterOriginal Wwi Military Poster Ymca "four Years In The Fight" Women Workers Original 1917 Wwi Poster: To- Day Buy That Liberty Bond 1918 Original Ww1 Wwi Poster Us Navy Sailor "must It Be Goodbye?" 18x14"Ww11 Bond Poster- Missing In ActionO'er Ramparts We Watch Us Army Air Forces - Wwii PosterRussian Winter Sniper Girl Poster Print Mosin Nagant Wwii Ww2Civil Defense PosterWwii Us Army Air Force Japanese Type 0 Zero Fighter Identification Poster-1942Original 1943 Wwii Us Newsmap Poster Medium Tanks And Self Propelled Artillery 500+ World War 2 Allied And Axis Posters (on Cd) (50) Defend The Home Front Ww2 Era Community Fund Poster Stamps - CinderellasB-2 Stealth Bomber Spirit Of Missouri Naming Ceremony Poster Us Air Force RareB-2 Stealth Bomber Spirit Of Nebraska Naming Ceremony Poster Us Air Force Rare90,000 Tons Of Diplomacy Northrop Grumman Aircraft Carrier Poster Nimitz Bush1945 Original World War Ii "welcome Home" Victory Pennant/banner/posterWwii Navy Vintage Usn Recruiting Poster,sailor,american Usa Flag,uniform,lidOriginal 1917 Wwi Poster: War Train Exhibit Liberty Bond Vintage U.s. Marines Recruiting Poster Ww 2Vintage "marine Corps" Poster Ww 2I Want You For The United States Army - Wwii War PosterWwii Ernie Pyle Poster By Ean Cornwell Death Of Captain Waskow 10 3/4x16" PaperWw1 Recruiting Poster Forward Enlist Now New A4 PrintOriginal Daily Mail Fund Poster Stamp By Frank Brangwyn (c. 1915)World War I Recruitment Double Sided Poster Rally Round / An Appeal To YouWorld War I Recruitment Double Sided Poster Enlist Today / Women Win The War4great Britian, Her Natural And Industrial Resources Poster/mapThe Truth Spanish American War Magazine With Original War Poster July 1898Department Of The Army Poster-civil War Vicksburg 1863-u.s. Army In Action-1955Original 1943 Wwii Us Newsmap Poster Recognize Heavy Medium Light Armored Cars

Recent News: Propaganda War Posters

Source: Google News

Classic Posters of Britain's Powerful Women of WW2
Forces TV, September 19th

The National Archives have published a series of Second World War posters. Here are some featuring women & the important role they played during World War Two. The image depicts workers, in an oversized basket, collecting the potato harvest, with the ...Read more

Vintage posters add pop of color, sliver of history to a room
LA Daily News, September 18th

And although the war posters pack powerful messages, many sport humorous and to-the-point messages that Shapiro and those who venture into his office appreciate. “I am attracted to the patriotic and industrial themes and imagery, appreciating them in...Read more

Posters of the First World War on display at Huntington Library
Glendale News Press, September 15th

The era's war posters appeared on public transportation, store windows, magazines and walls. The artifacts in the show are linked to the Huntington's history. Charles Leonard Heartwell (1869-1941) was a financial and civic leader in Long Beach, and he ...Read more

Designing the 20th Century: Life and Work of Abram Games, Jewish Museum ...
Evening Standard, September 15th

Similar short, sharp shocks dominate his best war posters. One, warning of the dangers of too much talk in combat, features a shadowy soldier's head, whose mouth emits soundwaves in a vortex which ends as a bayonet impaling his fellow soldiers...Read more

Jelly bean art returns to Reading museum
Allentown Morning Call, September 12th

Other exhibits at the museum are "Call to Duty: World War Posters," which includes more than 70 original World War I and World War II posters, originally displayed in public locations such as post offices, train stations, city halls, schools, and...Read more

WW I Posters Shine at Davison Art Center Exhibit
Wesleyan Connection (blog), September 10th

of the rival powers adopted extensive advertising campaigns to recruit for the military, encourage domestic war work (including encouraging women to be factory workers) and raise money essential for this new “total” war. Posters soon covered train...Read more

Much to See at Reading Public Museum in September
bctv.org, August 29th

Five exhibits will be on display at the museum this fall including Marilyn: Celebrating an American Icon, Call to Duty: World War Posters, The American President: Photographs from the Archives of the Associated Press, Deadly Medicine: Creating the...Read more

Anti-war posters on display at 'Voice of Peace' exhibition
Kyiv Post, August 22nd

Anti-war posters on display at 'Voice of Peace' exhibition. Print version. Aug. 22, 2014, 7:55 p.m. | About Kyiv — by Iryna Savchuk. A poster showing Russian President Vladimir Putin as Mickey Mouse is one of 100 anti-war posters exhibited at the...Read more