While most advertising posters implore action from their viewers, propaganda posters must incite a response with a sense of urgency and avoidable consequences. Whether designed for recruitment, conservation, patriotism, or women’s contributions, these images harness the power of emotion as well as the impetus of political action.
15 1/2 x 23 in./39.3 x 58.4 cm
A very young Zouave soldier flies the Union flag amidst a violent battlefield scene. The French/North African light infantry regiments inspired American Zouave regiments on both sides of the Civil War; the Union army had more than seventy volunteer Zouave regiments, and the Confederates fielded about twenty-five Zouave companies. The text at bottom here reads: “The flag of our Union forever.” The Sarony, Major & Knapp firm, located at 449 Broadway, were “key New York lithographers during their half century of operation. They began to produce color lithography in the 1840s and were probably the largest American producer of colored sheet music covers from the 1840s to the early 1870s” (Color Explosion, p. 133). Rare!
30 x 41 1/4 in./76.2 x 104.8 cm
“Women may not have fought on the front lines in World War I, but as more and more men joined up, they were needed in the defense industries and military support jobs. [This poster] depicts a female munitions worker with the symmetrical poise and beauty of a classical statue; she bears a miniature war-plane in one hand and a bomb-shell in the other. In reality the work she advertised was dirty, dangerous, physically demanding, and attended by frequent explosions and instances of chemical poisoning. Such injuries and fatalities did not come with medals and war pensions. The poster emphasizes the need to ‘Care for Her Through the YWCA,’ but ultimately the concern seems to be as much about her moral as physical welfare. The classical beauty of the figure helped to reassure women that their femininity would not be compromised by such work” (Gallery label from Designing Modern Women 1890-1990, Museum of Modern Art, New York).
28 1/4 x 40 7/8 in./72 x 103.8 cm
Because film was the most effective way of reaching and eliciting a response from the American public during the War, “the Committee on Public Information became the official distributor for movies taken by military cameramen… When films began to arrive from France (censored of hardship, mutilation, and atrocity), the Committee would make duplicate prints of those thought most useful to the war effort and distribute them to the news media, to libraries, and to historical societies. The bulk of the motion picture footage shot at the front was made available, for a fee, to the weekly film-news syndicates. Experienced film editors did what they could to put the remaining footage into stirring movies to distribute free among state councils of defense and various patriotic societies” (Rawls, p. 141 and 143).
Provenance: Hans Sachs collection.
28 x 40 3/8 in./71.2 x 102.5 cm
During World War I, film footage of war was a novel development; the technology was not primed for shooting action from the air, and the footage that was available from France was censored of “hardship, mutilation, and atrocity” (Rawls, p. 141). Stoner’s poster accomplishes two goals: it announces the endeavors of the American War Films Division while offering a sense of the true devastation of war. Rare!
30 x 41 1/4 in./76.2 x 104.6 cm
This is a shocking and apocalyptic portrayal of what the Great War would look like if it came to American shores: Lady Liberty headless, destroyers foundering upon the rocks of Liberty Island, bombers streaming unchallenged overhead, and Manhattan a wall of flame. This image was created on behalf of the 4th Liberty Loan drive to fund the U.S. war effort. This is the larger format.
47 x 35 3/4 in./119.3 x 90.8 cm
This harrowing image was published by the Kroger Company, based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Apparently, the grocery store chain decided that blood and gore were unsuitable for their propaganda purposes, so this anonymous artist found another terrifying method of spurring passersby into action. After all, if the battle field feels too distant, then Americans could at least relate to the urgent message of keeping their children safe, and hopefully buy war bonds to support the effort. Private companies produced a number of propaganda posters during World War II, but since they were printed in much smaller numbers than posters issued by the U.S. government, few copies remain. Rare!!
40 1/4 x 30 in./102.4 x 76.2 cm
Arguably America’s most substantive role in World War II was supplying the sheer material preponderance that eventually overwhelmed the much more aggressive and better trained German and Japanese forces. This is one of the first posters that mobilized Americans and made them aware of the way they could help to end the bloodshed. Carlu worked in the United States from 1939 to 1952. When he first submitted this design, in the pre-Pearl Harbor summer of 1941, it was a mobilization poster; it became a war poster when it was reissued in 1942.
Fifty years ago, a small student anti-capitalist movement in Paris quickly escalated into mass protests, a general strike across France, and street battles against police and university administrators. To this day, it’s considered a cultural, social, and moral turning point in the history of France. The best and most important documents that survive from that time, by far, are posters like these: simple silkscreens that speak volumes through bold graphics and brutal slogans. Most were created by the student-run Atelier Populaire in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. All posters are linen-backed; several have the stamp of the Atelier Populaire. (21)