THE POSTER

Visual Persuasion in World War I

National WWI Museum and Memorial

National WWI Museum and Memorial

Back Our Girls Over There - Poster (1918) by Clarence F. UnderwoodNational WWI Museum and Memorial

The Power of Images

In World War I, the poster, previously the successful medium of commercial advertising, was recognized as a means of spreading national propaganda with near unlimited possibilities. Its value was increasingly appreciated; the poster could impress an idea quickly, vividly and lastingly.

"I Want You For the U.S. Army" (1917/1917) by James Montgomery FlaggNational WWI Museum and Memorial

Duty

Some posters during the war relied on the viewers' sense of duty to convey a message, appealing to a person's desire to take direct action in the conflict. In 1917, James Montgomery Flagg created one of the most recognizable American poster from the war, a painting of Uncle Sam in his own likeness. Posters like this encouraged men and women on all sides of the war to serve their countries.

Join the Air Service and Serve in France, J. Paul Verrees, 1917, From the collection of: National WWI Museum and Memorial
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Back Our Girls Over There - Poster, Clarence F. Underwood, 1918, From the collection of: National WWI Museum and Memorial
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"Clear to Fire" - German WWI Poster, Ludwig Hohlwein, 1915, From the collection of: National WWI Museum and Memorial
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Which? Soldier or Mechanic, 1918, From the collection of: National WWI Museum and Memorial
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Military poster promoting work of stevedores, 1918, From the collection of: National WWI Museum and Memorial
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"I Want You for the Navy", 20th Century, From the collection of: National WWI Museum and Memorial
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Vaterlandspende - German WWI Poster (1918) by Louis OppenheimNational WWI Museum and Memorial

Sentimentality

Other posters appealed to the viewers' emotions: their national pride, honor or sentimentality, speaking to their desire to help their fellow citizens and families. 

If Ye Break Faith - Canadian WWI Poster, 1914/1919, From the collection of: National WWI Museum and Memorial
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Lest They Perish, Poster, W.B. King, 1918, From the collection of: National WWI Museum and Memorial
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Kriegsanleihe Austrian War Loan - Poster, Oswald Hengst, 1917, From the collection of: National WWI Museum and Memorial
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If Ye Break Faith With Them Who Die, N.P. Nikolocki, 1919, From the collection of: National WWI Museum and Memorial
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Don't Worry, He is Alright - Poster, L. Foshko, Jewish Welfare Board, 1918-11-11, From the collection of: National WWI Museum and Memorial
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"On Behalf of the National Charity and Food Committee" WWI Poster, 1916, From the collection of: National WWI Museum and Memorial
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Algerian Company, French WWI Poster, 1914/1918, From the collection of: National WWI Museum and Memorial
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"Our Soldiers in Siberia!" Poster, War Savings Stamps, Petrty, 1918, From the collection of: National WWI Museum and Memorial
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The Fatherless Children of France, 1914/1918, From the collection of: National WWI Museum and Memorial
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Enlist - Poster (1915-06) by Fred Spear, Boston Public Safety Committee, and Sackett and Wilhelms Corp., NYNational WWI Museum and Memorial

Fear

Other posters capitalized on more violent emotions, especially fear and anger at the enemy. In
the United States, posters began to make their appeals to the “American sense
of right and wrong” long before the country officially entered the war in April
1917. Posters urged the country to prepare and, after the sinking of the Lusitania
in 1915, to enlist.

Keep These off the U.S.A., John Norton, 1918, From the collection of: National WWI Museum and Memorial
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? [Question Mark] Australian WWI Poster, Norman Lindsay, 1918, From the collection of: National WWI Museum and Memorial
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"Tuberculosis must be defeated like the most vile reptile" - French WWI Poster, Dorival, 1918, From the collection of: National WWI Museum and Memorial
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"5 1/2% Military Loan" Russian WWI Poster (1916)National WWI Museum and Memorial

“Posters literally deluged the country,” said one American observer. 

“On every city street, along the rural highways, the posters were to be found repeating their insistent messages day and night.” British historian Martin Hardie also wrote in 1920 that “it was inevitable that posters should be among the first munitions of war.” 

U-Boot Spende [Submarine Appeal] - Poster, P. Dienst, 1914/1918, From the collection of: National WWI Museum and Memorial
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"5 1/2% Military Loan" Russian WWI Poster, 1916, From the collection of: National WWI Museum and Memorial
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The Unprotected Hour - Poster, Henri Montassier, 1917, From the collection of: National WWI Museum and Memorial
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Per La Liberta e la Civilta' del Mondo - Italian War Loan Poster, Dudovich Marcello, 1918, From the collection of: National WWI Museum and Memorial
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Credits: Story

All Content: National WWI Museum and Memorial

Curator of Education: Lora Vogt
Digital Content Manager: Liesl Christman
Senior Curator: Doran Cart
Registrar: Stacie Petersen
Director, Archives and Edward Jones Research Center: Jonathan Casey

Made possible in part by the generous support of the William T. Kemper Foundation, the Regnier Family Foundation and the David T. Beals, III Charitable Trust.

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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