On the Homefront: World War I Posters from the Collection

February 10–July 1, 2018

Organized to commemorate the centennial of World War I, this installation focuses on the power of the poster to galvanize public opinion and support the country’s war efforts.

Posters were the foremost method of marketing in the early 20th century. Improvements in the printing process and the art of chromolithography allowed mass-production in various sizes and increased visual appeal. The U.S. government’s public information committee formed a Division of Pictorial Publicity in 1917 to merge this popular form of advertising with key messages about the war. The chairman asked Charles Dana Gibson, President of the Society of Illustrators, to recruit the country’s best artists to volunteer their creativity to the war effort. American painters, designers, illustrators, and cartoonists donated their time and expertise to create 700 poster designs for 58 separate government departments and committees without any payment for their work.

The resulting dramatic posters, distributed at libraries and mounted on storefronts, became commonplace in every American city and appealed to the heightened sentiments of the population. As evident in this selection, citizens supported the war not only by enlisting in the armed forces but also by buying war bonds, conserving food, contributing to the Red Cross, and working in war-related production. In effect, artists and all Americans were called to duty and contributed their talents to influence the outcome of the war to end all wars.

Charles Edward Chambers (American, 1883–1941). Food Will Win the War (detail), ca. 1918. Chromolithograph. Gift of Ernest Weidhaas, 1975 (75.24.19).

Selected Press

Posters resurrect World War I sentiments The Riverdale Press (November 10, 2017)