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“I’ve Come to Look for America”

It took me four days to hitch-hike from Saganaw.

– Paul Simon

47. The Fast Express. 1924.
38 x 71 1/4 in./96.5 x 196 cm
Est: $1,400-$1,700.

Drama hits with full force in this remarkable, and very tall, promotion for this silent film serial starring William Duncan. “Chapter 1: Facing the Crisis,” which situates you, the viewer, directly within the sights of a startlingly realistic onrushing locomotive, has an uncanny resonance for a resident of the 21st century.

170. Our Public School. 1894.
21 1/8 x 27 1/8 in./30.6 x 88.8 cm
Est: $1,000-$1,200.

“Our Public School – The Bulwark of this Country”: the title reflects the combined knowledge of America at the end of the 19th century, and serves as a poignant indictment of current U.S. conflicts over public education. By 1895, a graduate of the 8th grade in Kansas was expected to have known: nine rules for the use of capital letters; how to calculate 7% interest on $512.60 for 8 months, 18 days (without a calculator, of course); what phonetic orthography is; and the meaning of the term ‘climate.’ The top cameo is Congressman William S. Linton (R) of Michigan, who represented Michigan’s 8th Congressional District from 1893-1896, and to whom this presentation is dedicated. Other cameos include eight elected officials and four U.S. presidents at bottom. The only other known copy of this poster is owned by Diane Ravich, noted educational policy analyst at New York University.

92. I Am Telling You / WSS Enlistment. 1918.
James Montgomery Flagg
20 x 30 in./51 x 76.2 cm
Est: $700-$900.

James Montgomery Flagg is world-famous for his iconic image of Uncle Sam declaring “I Want You” for the U.S. Army, created in 1917 (available as lot 93). But a lot can happen in a year. By 1918, Uncle Sam is frustrated, exhausted, and in need of your spare change for the war effort. “I Am Telling You” is an exasperated plea to the American public, imploring them to buy War Savings Stamps for just 10 cents apiece. At such a low price, there’s no reason for even the least wealthy to kick in some coin for freedom.

382. Michigenda. 1911.
Walter S. Louderback
15 1/4 x 23 1/4 in./38.7 x 59 cm
Est: $1,400-$1,700.

In 1908, University of Michigan students were wracking their brains for a good fundraising shtick for the U-M Student Union. So they went cross-dress a-carolling, selling tickets to the first Michigan Union Opera production of “Michigenda.” It opened on February 26, 1908 at the Whitney Theater, and it inaugurated one of the longest-standing traditions on the Michigan campus. This poster dates from 1911, when the freshmen during the First Michigenda had become seniors.

56. Night Alarm. 1934.
27 1/4 x 40 7/8 in./69 x 104 cm
Est: $1,400-$1,700.

In this poster for the 1934 hit film, the terror in Helen’s (Judith Allen’s) eyes isn’t just the fear of fire – there is a far larger conflagration going on around her. She’s a cub reporter, assigned alongside hack reporter Hal Ashby (Bruce Cabot) to investigate a series of arson fires being set around the city. They begin to discover a conspiracy around the arsons: a corrupt alliance between the mayor, the police chief, and a prominent businessman, who just happens to be Helen’s father.

104. P.W.A. in Action. ca. 1935.
36 1/8 x 24 3/8 in./91.7 x 61.4 cm
Est: $1,700-$2,000.

The Public Works Administration, one of the linchpin components of Roosevelt’s New Deal, epitomized the idea of “priming the pump” of the economy with large-scale public construction works. This was “a Map showing how the Public Works program is Building a Greater Nation: Making jobs for Men and Factories; How it Conserves Resources and Harnesses Rivers; How Finer Transportation is being Created and Land Saved for Better use” – electrifying the Pennsylvania railroad; building a new museum for Wichita; new schools in Utah; crop irrigation in southern California; new levees on the Mississippi. In all, over 34,000 construction projects were funded by 1939.

108. Salvage Victory. ca. 1942.
27 3/8 x 41 5/8 in./69.5 x 105.7 cm
Est: $800-$1,000.

To recover victory from ruin: that’s been an American tradition ever since Washington crossed the Delaware. At the beginning of World War II, the Federal government launched the Salvage for Victory, to conserve industrial materials for the war effort. Multiple U.S. agencies were involved. For example, the U.S. Office of Production Management sent pledge cards to retail stores asking them to save scrap metal, rags and rubber. The Bureau of Industrial Conservation of the War Production Board asked all American mayors to save the same kinds of materials from municipal dumps and incinerators. In New York City, the Department of Sanitation began picking up materials in the same fashion as garbage collection – possibly representing the template for modern recycling efforts.

61. Superman / Superman Comes to Earth. 1948.
26 7/8 x 40 3/4 in./68.2 x 103.4 cm
Est: $1,700-$2,000.

Here’s an original poster for the very first installment of the very first live-action Superman movie, in serial form. “Superman Comes to Earth” begins with the familiar tale, of Kal-El sent from Krypton to live with foster parents under the name of Clark Kent. Arriving at the Daily Planet, however, he must tangle with a nefarious supervillain called the Spider Lady. Each chapter of the serial is 20 minutes long. This is one of the great all-time collector’s items.

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