One of the great joys of being a poster collector is finding a rarity that brings you right back to your earliest interests and passions. As a boy, I was fascinated with WWI aviation and dove headlong into model-making, visits to the Old Rhinebeck aerodrome and reading about all the aces and battles. I remember going to the library and finding a musty copy of Eddie Rickenbacker’s Fighting the Flying Circus and marveling at his guts as he figured out by trial and error how far he could push a dive before losing the top wing of his airplane.
So imagine my joy finding this remarkable and extremely rare Hungarian poster for an aviation magazine during World War I. It dates from 1917, when the war’s outcome was very uncertain, and a period when the role of the airplane in combat was evolving quickly. To me, it is the most unusual and evocative aviation poster of the war.
The poster shows a squadron of Albatros bi-planes, the first German plane with twin machine guns. The plane was the scourge of the British air force in the Battle of Arras in April 1917, known as “Bloody April,” where the British lost a staggering 245 aircraft to 66 for the Axis.
The poster, with the headline “Follow All Aviation Events,” interestingly shows a Fokker Triplane in the distance. It was the counter to the British Sopwith Camel and other advanced machines which arrived in mid-1917 to duel the less maneuverable Albatros.
This poster probably dates from May to September of 1917, as deliveries of improved Albatros planes began to be produced for the first time in Austro-Hungary. It also corresponds to the arrival of the development and production quantities of the Fokker triplane.
The provenance of this poster is equally noteworthy. It belonged to Hans Sachs, the founder of The Poster Society in Germany and the largest and most important collector of his time with more than 10,000 posters. Sachs’ collection was later confiscated by the Nazis and only came to light in the basement of an East German museum in 1966. Sadly, after a successful multi-decade battle between the Sachs family and the German courts, the collection had to be sold to pay for the hefty lawyer bills.