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“The Eagle has Landed”: Posters of the Space Race

Fifty years ago today the race to the moon culminated with the landing of the Apollo spacecraft and man’s first walk on the moon the following day. Here are a few original  posters from our Space Race archives:

Apple Think Differently Moonwalk

Apple. Think different. 1997

This Apple poster was part of an advertising campaign that commemorated daring dreams that changed the world, from Einstein and Picasso to man’s first walk on the moon in 1969.

Anonymous, Let’s Conquer Space! , 1960

The Soviet Union set off the Space Race in 1957 with the successful launch into orbit of Sputnik, the first artificial earth satellite. The Soviet program took a major leap forward in April of 1961 when Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit the earth. This poster, which shows a cosmonaut at the controls of his space capsule in front of a moon-filled window, was designed before his successful mission.

The Soviet’s success also spurred the United States, which had experienced a number of failures in its early space ventures, into action. A month after Gagarin’s success, President Kennedy gave a speech at Rice University that called for the United States to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade.

Sokolov and Leonov, Glory to the Explorers of Space! 1971

This stunningly beautiful poster celebrates the launch of the first space station, Salyut 1, to orbit the earth by the Russians in 1971. It was launched a full two years before the United States’ Skylab and marked a triumph for the Soviet Union after its inability to beat the US to the moon.

The effort continues to bear fruit as a foundation of the international space station program.  The Outer Space Treaty was signed by the US, Soviet Union and Great Britain in 1967 to ensure the peaceful use of space and has now been signed by 109 nations. In the 21st century, a new space race is underway, with several nations taking part, the most ambitious being China and the United States.

“Buy War Bonds” by N.C. Wyeth

vintage poster, Buy War Bonds by N.C. WyethRaising money was a central challenge for all combatants in the World Wars, which were exhausting struggles of attrition. Bond drives became essential, and bond posters rapidly became the most common poster category of both wars.

This stirring image by famed illustrator N.C. Wyeth used loaded cultural symbols to stir emotions, from the billowing American flag to a determined Uncle Sam pointing the way to victory. Behind Uncle Sam is a never-ending phalanx of advancing B17s and infantrymen, formations that suggest a unity of purpose and collective strength. Author Jeffrey Schnapp coined this technique “The March” and it is seen in many of the best modern political posters.

This is the very rare and breathtaking large 40 x 60 inch format.

“Food Will Win the War” by Charles Chambers

vintage poster, Food Will Win the War by Charles ChambersThe American Dream is aptly evoked in this uplifting poster by Charles Chambers. Printed in several languages to appeal to recent immigrants, the poster shows newcomers on a ship deck in New York Harbor, with the Statue of Liberty beneath a red, white and blue rainbow. Framing the scene is the New York skyline, glowing in the morning sun.

The poster was prophetic in its appeal: food would be a decisive factor in winning the war for the Allies. America produced half of the world’s corn and a quarter of its wheat in 1917, and Herbert Hoover, the head of the U.S. Food Administration, recognized that only America could overcome the severe food shortages in Europe. Hoover, an ardent free marketer, refused to resort to centralized policing and rationing, which was the norm in every other country. With an army of 750,000 volunteers and only 8,000 paid staff, the Food Administration was totally successful in its mission to feed the Allies.

This poster asked Americans to conserve wheat, the most critical food item. Several posters were devoted to substituting corn, barley and vegetables.

“Das Kriegsanleihe” by Lucien Bernhard

Vintage poster, Das Kriegsanleihe by Lucien Bernhard
This design by famed German posterist Lucien Bernhard uses the power of Teutonic symbols to create one of the most visceral posters of World War I. The mailed fist of a German knight comprises the entire illustration – malevolent, depersonalized and full of anger. The rawness of the traditional Gothic text perfectly matches the emotional tenor of the fist above it.

Created towards the end of the war, this poster reflects not only the iron-willed resolve to fight to the finish but also conveys the national frustration with the endless deadlock of trench warfare — and a desire for peace.

View more World War I posters here.

“Gee!! I Wish I Were a Man” by Howard Chandler Christy

vintage poster, Gee!! I Wish I Were A Man, Christy
World War I was the first conflict in which the illustrated color lithographic poster was available, and combatants struggled to make this instrument of mass persuasion effective. Enlistment was one of the key early areas of experimentation, and recruiting yield was carefully monitored.

Howard Chandler Christy’s famous recruiting posters took the approach of appealing to male pride, as seen in this sexy poster classic. It was so effective it would be reused in WWII– although the role of women would generally be portrayed less stereotypically in the later war, focusing on women’s roles in factories, relief efforts, and the armed forces.

See a variety of recruiting posters in our current gallery exhibition:  Paper Wars.

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Beautiful, Rare & Meaningful Posters from around the Globe.