Raising 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.
The 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.
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.
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.
International Poster Gallery proudly presents Paper Wars, an evocative exhibition of original propaganda posters of the First and Second World Wars. On display in the gallery through June 15, the exhibition features some of the most persuasive and galvanizing posters from two of the most significant military conflicts in world history. From enticing recruitment posters to pleas for the civilian purchase of war bonds, these posters were a driving force of patriotism and propaganda in their respective homelands.
Read more about the exhibit on our Paper Wars exhibition page, and stay tuned for exhibition highlights.