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Acquisition from the Hans Sachs Poster Collection: Rare and Important WWI Aviation Poster

AZ Aero Poster

Imre Spiegel, AZ Aero: Follow All Aviation Events. 1917. Lithograph backed on linen.

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.

100 Years Ago Today: The Sinking of the Lusitania

100 years ago today, the sinking of Cunard’s luxurious Lusitania off the coast of Ireland by a U-Boat took 1,198 lives (including 123 Americans) and evoked a visceral anti-German reaction in England and the US. The deadly submarine cordon around Britain was one of the most visible signs that WWI would be the most destructive war ever — an all-out struggle involving civilians and soldiers alike. Ultimately the atrocity would be a chief reason for US entry in the war two years later against Germany and its allies.

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This powerful 5 foot tall  “Remember the Lusitania – Enlist To-Day” broadside was printed immediately following the sinking to appeal to the public sentiment surrounding the tragic loss of lives. Consisting of text only, it quotes from the jury’s verdict, which matched the intensity of feelings surrounding the atrocity: the great ship sank in 18 minutes, taking with it many leading figures of the era.

The creation of the Lusitania represented the optimism and technological sophistication of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. This recently sold poster by Odin Rosenvinge from around 1907 shows the majestic ship slicing through rough seas, seen under a moonlit sky and traversed by the beacon of a nearby lighthouse. Moody and romantic, it is one of the rarest and most beautiful of all ocean liner posters.

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The Lusitania and its sister, the Mauretania, were the largest and fastest on the sea, utilizing steam turbines for the first time. Moreover, the ships displayed unrivaled luxury and comfort prompting its rival White Star to build the Titanic a few years later. The sinking of the Lusitania cut British pride to the core.

Erik Larson’s recently released narrative non-fiction novel, Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, is a #1 New York Times Bestseller and tells the compelling tale of the sinking of the Lusitania. Larson consulted archival materials, including code books, intercepted telegrams, photographs, U-boat logs, and even love letters from Woodrow Wilson. A great summer read!

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