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 Wwii Propaganda Poster/sign Mussolini Hitler Tojo Schenley Royal BrandyOriginal Wwii Pearl Harbor Propaganda Poster: Remember Dec 7th, Not Died In VainVintage 1940s Wwii Poster Rare Telegraph Lend A Hand Buddy Do Your Job AmericanWwi Tank Bank Week Flyer / Poster - Northampton9 Original Ww1, Ww2 Victory Liberty Loan And War Saving Stamps Posters DamagedVintage 1940s Wwii Poster Rare Telegraph Lines Of Battle Don't Let Them DownOriginal Us Marines Ww1 Recruiting PosterVintage World War I Propaganda Campaign Poster 1918 War Savings Stamps Us GovOriginal World War Ii American Flag Propaganda Poster: Give It Your BestWwi Poster This Device On Hat Or Helmet Means U.s. MarinesWwi Poster Light Consumes Coal €Original American's All! - Victory Liberty Loan World War I Poster By Christy Original Wwii Us 1942 Fdr Roosevelt War Bonds & Stamps Poster Historical Battle Of Iwo Jima Poster Autographed 230 U.s. Marine Navy VeteransWwi Poster For Home And CountryOriginal Ww2 Wwii 1945 Bond Poster - Care Is Costly Buy And Hold War BondsWwi Poster E-e-e-yah-yip Go Over With U.s. MarinesVintage World War I Propaganda Campaign Poster 1918 Soldiers Us GovernmentVintage 1943 Silence Means Security Wwii Poster Whitney Darrow Jr Loose Lips NrWwi Poster Help Him Win By Saving And Serving Buy War Savings StampsWwi Poster Save The Products Of The Land €Wwi Poster Help Them €Original Wwii Poster 1943 Pearl Harbor Bataan Guadalcanal Usmc Vintage MilitaryN C Wyeth - Marines Landing On The Beach-original Ww Ii Poster/propaganda Panel Judaica Wwii German Poster With Signs Of Concentration CampWwi Poster This Is What God Gives Us What Are You Giving?Ww1 Recruiting Poster Royal Flying Corps Raf New A4 Print Royal Air ForceWw1 Recruiting Poster Army Remount Dept Horses New A4 Print War HorsesWwi Poster I Am Telling You On June 28th I Expect You To Enlist In The Army Wwii 1940s Poster Stamps (4) Tramp, Step On It!, Set 'em On Their Axis MlhOriginal World War One Recruiting Poster With Andy Griffith Show Tie-inOriginal Vintage Ww2 Poster- Victory Clothing Collection-for Oversea's Relief1917 Wwi Poster Never Used The Soldier's RecordBattleship Bismarck Photo PosterUnited States Marine Corps Recruiting Poster From The Civil WarSpanish Civil War--poster-coupons F.ranco And Adolf Hitler In Hendaye 1940Wwi Poster Oh Boy! That’s The Girl! The Salvation Army Lassie Keep Her Uss Maine Battleship Saw 1898 Havana Harbor Cuba Card Stock Real Photo Poster Wwii Era Germany Poster Showing Zeppelin, Measures 9 1/2" X 12 1/2".Wwii Poster - Giclee Art Print - "become A Paratrooper - Jump Into The Fight"Wwii Era Germany Poster Showing Lufthansa Plane & Zeppelin, MeerwaldVintage Military Navy Recruiting Poster 1974 "assurance" Genuine AuthenticWw1 Recruiting Poster The Tank Corps New A4 Print Royal Tank Regiment Ww1 Recruiting Poster Edith Cavell Murdered Enlist In 99th New A4 Print EssexWw1 Poster Grand Carnival For War Horses Glasgow Scotland New A4 PrintNew A4 Print Of Original Poster Ulster Loyalist Craigavon Northern IrelandWwi Poster June 28th Is National War Savings Day Pledge Yourself To SaveWwi Poster We Have Tried It Now Let’s Adopt It Buy Wss War Savings Stamps World War I Double Sided Poster Women Of Britain Say Go! / God Save The KingOriginal 1943 Ww-2, Philco Radar Poster, "philco Secertly Developed Radar"Rare Ww2 Us Army Wac Propaganda Poster 3rd Annivesary 3 'x4' Chaplain Estate Korean War Poster 50th AnniversaryCruiser Scharnhorst Photo PosterWw1 Recruiting Poster British Army Kitchener New A4 PrintWw1 Recruiting Poster Seaforth Highlanders Scotland New A4 PrintWw1 Recruiting Poster 5th Royal Highlanders Of Canada Montreal New A4 Print Soviet Air Defense Weapons Training Poster April 1977 Scale 1" = 3.33'Vintage 1974 Pin Up Navy Recruiting Poster Gee I Wish I Were A Man Nancy Christy

Recent News: Propaganda War Posters

Source: Google News

Final Off-Road Antiques Road Show Sunday
Ottumwacourier, July 28th

Alexander appraises penny arcade machines, advertising, war posters, furniture and antiques in general. Burggraff specializes in stoneware, advertising signs, breweriana, liquor-related collectables, target and trade tokens and antique bottles. For...Read more

Memorial stay: For the First World War's centenary, a trip that retraces its ...
National Post, July 28th

The Musée de la Grande Guerre is remarkable for having been built from a single man's collection of World War I memorabilia, comprising everything from the uniforms of every Allied army, to war posters to personal items retrieved from the trenches and...Read more

St Patrick's Cathedral memorial tree evokes trenches of first World War
Irish Times, July 28th

Brangwyn, who designed first World War posters, used faces from one, showing civilians fleeing the war, in the windows designed for St Patrick's. In the centre of all this is the new tree of remembrance. “The idea with our tree was to create an...Read more

WWI propaganda posters at the Huntington reflect an era
Los Angeles Times, July 26th

Russia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire are on display in the exhibit "Your Country Calls! Posters of the First World War," opening Aug. 2 at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino. lRelated Huntington War Posters...Read more

World War I, 100 Years Later
U.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 captivating
A.V. Club Milwaukee, 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 II
Co.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