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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Events on Long IslandNew York Times, December 5th
Daily, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Through Feb. 2. Hofstra University Museum, Hofstra University. (516) 463-5672; hofstra.edu/museum. HEWLETT “Salute to the Patriots!” War Posters and Selections from the Hewlett-Woodmere Public Library Collection. Through Jan. 5...Read more
The many faces of FHK HenrionCreative Review (blog), November 29th
He was held in internment camps on the Isle of Man and in Shropshire and released in 1940 in order to work for the Ministry of Information on war posters (he was 22). His first job was a poster for the Post Office Savings Bank. In London, Henrion also...Read more
Comic Artist Al Plastino Dies At 91Hollywood Reporter, November 26th
It was only after World War II -- during which Plastino worked for the Adjunct General's office, creating war posters and illustrations for field manuals -- that he arrived at DC and started work on the character who would make his name. STORY: Where's ...Read more
Visions of utopia: Soviet posters of the 1920s and 1930sRed Pepper, November 18th
The posters displayed form a fractional part of a far larger collection of Soviet, Comintern and Cold War posters which belong to the Marx Library in Clerkenwell. Many were spirited out of the Soviet Union in the 1930s and 1940s by political...Read more
Retro war postersMontreal Gazette, November 11th
Retro war posters. November 11, 2013. Tweet. Story; Photos ( 5 ). Retro war posters. Left: French-language recruiting poster for WWII. Right: "Rosie the Riveter" was introduced as a symbol of patriotic American womanhood in the 1940's. Rose Will Monroe ...Read more
They fought for your right to partyWinnipeg Free Press, November 9th
You can play shuffleboard and have a few cheap beers here, but the real gem is the secret museum upstairs, which has rows of uniforms, local military photos, vintage war posters and medals. It also has the comforting smell of your great aunt's basement...Read more
War posters comprise new WSU Libraries digital collectionWSU News, November 8th
Do_With_Less_So_Theyll_Have_Enough-110 PULLMAN, Wash. – A new digital collection at Washington State University Libraries shows how propaganda posters – or “weapons on the wall” – helped governments influence citizens' public and private ...Read more