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.
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
London Transport Museum Posters
Fillmore and Avalon Collection
The Civil War
New York Public Library
The American Memory Project
Other Great Reference Sites
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: Propaganda War Posters
Source: Google News
England expects: Seven striking First World War posters which urged men to enlistCulture24, February 5th
Within months of World War One breaking out, it became clear that recruiting enough volunteers to win the war was a huge task. The Parliamentary Recruiting Committee was put in charge of boosting numbers of volunteers, commissioning posters by leading ...Read more
The Left's Manufactured Muslim CrisisFamily Security Matters, February 1st
Men and women, some whose clothes were still marked with gray ash, walked dazedly toward Union Square. Many did not know what to do or where to go. So they kept on walking. They knew the country was under attack, but they did not know how bad it ...Read more
Poster power: 1970s anti-Vietnam war art by California studentsThe Guardian, January 30th
The anti-war sentiment at the University of California, Berkeley, took on a new intensity: encouraged by the faculty, the university's art students designed hundreds of anti-war posters, creating an estimated 50,000 silkscreen prints. They plastered...Read more
Chic Ski Posters and Masterful Art Nouveau at Swann Galleries' Poster SaleFine Books & Collections Magazine, January 21st
New York— On Thursday, February 11, Swann Auction Galleries will offer Vintage Posters, with nearly 600 lots in a wide range of collecting sub-categories, including ski, travel, ocean liner, propaganda and war posters, early American theatrical, Art...Read more
WWII posters on display in BohinjSTA - Slovenska Tiskovna Agencija (subscription), January 14th
The Jesenice museum boasts a collection of over 300 posters, while the 70 war posters are considered "the best of the best", according to Poga?nik. The posters were first put on display in Jesenice last year. The exhibited posters were mostly to...Read more
Erie-made posters are valuableGoErie.com, January 8th
You've seen the poster of Uncle Sam calling young men into action during World War I. The "I Want You for the U.S. Army" recruiting poster is probably the most iconic of all recruiting posters. Designed by James Montgomery Flagg, it would become his...Read more
New 'Captain America: Civil War' Posters Make the Fight PersonalCollider.com, November 25th
Last night, Marvel Studios decided to offer a little pre-Thanksgiving treat by way of the first trailer for one of its most highly anticipated films ever, Captain America: Civil War. It was an explosive teaser, and one that actually showed quite a bit...Read more
The Huntsman: Winter's War posters released online: Fans note 'tragic ...The Independent, November 17th
The Huntsman: Winter's War, the sequel to the Kristen Stewart-starring Snow White and The Huntsmen, finished filming earlier this year, with the official posters finally being released this week. Unfortunately, they're not all that impressive, looking...Read more