Mailing Address:
Special Collections
College of Charleston Library
66 George Street
Charleston, SC 29424

(843) 953-8016

Title: World War I and World War II poster collection

Collection #: Mss 0063

Size: 101 posters

Abstract: The World War I and II poster collection consists of 101 posters. The posters include war bond posters, posters from various civic groups, posters created by the United War Work Campaign, the Committee on Public Information, the United States Department of Labor, and the United States Food Administration. The collection also includes works created by such notables as: George Ade, Harry Anderson, Howard Chandler Christy, James Montgomery Flagg, John Tinney McCutcheon, Norman Rockwell, and Joe Rosenthal.

Biographical Note: For more information on the artists, click here: Artists in the World War I and World War II poster collection.

Scope and Content: The World War I and II Poster Collection consists of 101 poster, some of which are duplicates, and a few non-poster items which are an editorial page, a mounted photograph, and a leaflet.

The World War I posters include war bond posters, posters from various civic groups advertising the United War Work Campaign, and posters from the Committee on Public Information, the Department of Labor, and the United States Food Administration.  There are also a few British produced, American distributed posters.  The span of this portion of the collection is 1917-1919, however the bulk are 1918.

Some posters of note include Alfred Edward Orr's For Home and Country(1918), which markets both recruitment and war bonds.  The image of a young family, the soldier father carrying his young child, is typical of the optimism displayed in many of the war bond posters.  This contrasts with the Department of Labor Fight World Famine which shows a striking image of a young man fighting buzzards with pitchfork.

A major portion of the posters come from civic groups, with the YMCA being by far the most represented.  One YMCA poster depicts their role on the front lines.  However, the majority are more concerned with the war at home, advertising the United War Work Campaign and hostels for friends and family of home-bound soldiers.

These type of  home-front images are only a few of the unending variety of ways to motivate the public. One of the most crucial of which is to keep the civilian population constantly conscious that a war is going on and that it effects each individual.  Howard Christy Chandler's America's All includes a list of names chosen, no doubt, for their diversity; the names are stereotypically French, Polish, Greek, Jewish, Irish, etc.  And his Liberty is an ideal beauty, as opposed to the marble-faced ladies of silver coins and the harbor.  The appeal of sex in advertising gained impetus through war posters like this and another Christy poster, Fight or Buy Bonds, displaying another Lady Liberty wrapped in a flag and leading troops.  In 1918, the very idea of wrapping a beautiful woman in the American flag carried some rather sensational implications.

The World War II collection is slightly larger and the posters originate from a larger variety of sources, several more government offices became active in poster distribution in the Second World War and, in addition to civic groups, large businesses also distributed war posters.  The span covered in these posters is 1940-1945.

The images in the World War I posters emphasized home and family with, every so often, a beautiful woman thrown in to show the public why it was fighting.  If the theme for posters in the First War was home and security, the theme for the Second War was democracy and American strength.  The National Association of Manufacturers printed several series of posters illustrating just that.  This collection includes posters from three such series.  The first of these are images of women raising flags and children taking American creeds.  Another series, entitled Making America Strong, are posters obviously targeting school children which show the strength of America's war-time production.  The third of these are paintings by Ralph Iligan that juxtapose factory scenes and patriotic images.

F.W. Woolworth also made a series of posters, in cooperation with the U.S. Treasury, geared toward school children.  America at War included photographs of soldiers loading bombs, firing battleship munitions, etc. and a section on what other children were doing to help the war effort.

The collection also includes two examples of the famous image of the U.S. Marines raising the second flag on Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima.  The first is the Pulitzer Prize winning photograph by Joe Rosenthal.  The second is a print of a painting, presumably inspired by the photograph, by Clarence Switzer.

Also of note are Norman Rockwell's Four Freedom posters.  In his message to Congress on January 6, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said:

"We look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.
The first is freedom of speech and expression--everywhere in the world.
The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way--
 everywhere in the world.
The third is freedom from want--everywhere in the world.
The fourth is freedom from fear--anywhere in the world."

The speech so inspired illustrator Norman Rockwell that he created a series of paintings on the Four Freedoms theme.  In the series, he translated abstract concepts of freedom into four scenes of everyday American life.  Although the Government initially rejected Rockwell's offer to create paintings on the Four Freedoms theme, the images were publicly circulated when The Saturday Evening Post commissioned and reproduced the paintings.  After winning public approval, the paintings served as the centerpiece of a massive U.S. war bond drive and were put into service to help explain the war's aims.  This collection contains all four posters.

In the early 1940s, Charles Banks Wilson wrote an article for This Week magazine about the Indian participation in World War II.  Entitled "No War Whoops, But . . .," this article pointed out that the U.S. armed forces, since Pearl Harbor, included about twelve thousand Indians and that the 180th Infantry from Oklahoma and Kansas had so many Indians that its motto was in Choctaw.  "When the call for the first selective service registration went out, the bulk of the able-bodied men of the Navajo Indian tribe rode in to Gallup, NM, on their horses, completely equipped with food, packs, and rifles.  They were all ready to start fighting the man they call ‘the mustache smeller' that very morning" (Charles Banks Wilson quoted in the New York Herald Tribune, January 10, 1943).  The World War II Poster Collection also includes a War Bonds and Stamps poster created by a group of Native American students at a Federal school in New Mexico.  There is some text on the poster which explains who the children are and how they came about designing the poster.

The posters were given to the college by a collector who gathered them during the wars.