Poster History

New Acquisition: Rare Election Posters by Ben Shahn

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For Full Employment After the War – Register to Vote – CIO Political Action Committee by Ben Shahn, 1944

The Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) was created in 1938 after its split from the American Federation of Labor (AFL). The main difference was a focus on industry-wide organizing rather than by craft.

In 1943, the CIO formed its Political Action Committee, the very first PAC. Its agenda: the reelection of Franklin Roosevelt, and they wisely hired leading social activist Ben Shahn as its head artist. This famous poster powerfully captured that effort, with two welders seemingly looking into the uncertain future. The poster also addressed the Administration’s efforts to eliminate racial discrimination in war industries, in contrast to the more segregated approach of the AFL.

Shahn’s CIO posters are quite rare; this is a particularly fine specimen.

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Warning! Inflation means Depression – Register, Vote by Ben Shahn, 1946

Shahn’s 1946 poster of a Depression era farmer served as a reminder that rampant post-war inflation could plunge the country into a new era of hard times. ¬†Once again, his posters promoted voter registration as a key to making sure that a Democratic victory would yield the vigorous program to overcome this danger. ¬†Shahn made several strong designs for the CIO in 1946, his last year for his work there.

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A good man is hard to find / Progressive Party by Ben Shahn, 1948

Two years later, Shahn’s growing disenchantment with the major parties ripened into his full-fledged support of the Progressive Party. Here, Shahn’s frustration results in a bitingly sarcastic view of Truman and Dewey, the major party candidates, playing on the piano and singing along to “A Good Man is Hard to Find”.

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