War Posters From 102 Years Ago Today
August 1, 2016 is a great day to relax and spend away from the office to bask in the sun before the colder temperatures return. In contrast to this fine day of comfort, warmth, and leisure, on August 1, 1914, a different scenario was taking place -- hostile events culminated in starting the first day of World War I in Britain. Recruitment posters began appearing in distant locations around the world requesting young men to join in the fight. The poster of this August lion was publicized in New Zealand. More historical posters from that continent are available through the NZ History website.
On the American Front, James Montgomery Flagg created "the most famous wartime poster in the world." This recruitment poster was published in July 1916 and became a permanent fixture in American folklore. Also worth noting is the fact that the Uncle Sam character resembles James M. Flagg himself.
Similarly, on the British Front, another personality promoted military recruitment. This fictitious personality portrays a boisterous wealthy English farmer by the name of John Bull. The name of the artist for this poster is unknown but it was printed by Andrew Reid & Company Limited. The history of this character goes back to the 1700s and was created by a British mathematician and author, John Arbuthnot as noted in his original (1712) title, The History of John Bull.
With the Union Flag emblazoned across his full belly, the slogan asked, "Who's Absent? Is it You?" Behind him a line of soldiers reveals gaps where soldiers would be and burning buildings behind the gaps that need addressing. This poster shows a subtle approach to the dire need for men in comparison to Uncle Sam's big furrowing brows, no-nonsense frown, steely gaze, in-your-face pointing finger, and the directive, "I Want You for the US Army."
Canada has also offered assistance to the Great War through recruitment and by purchasing Victory Bonds to help fund the soldiers in the fight overseas.
More patriotic posters are available through our Toronto Public Library Archive.
Finally, what better way to support our soldiers than to entertain them and lift their spirits through a donation of books to your local library for the soldiers abroad:
The American Library Association through the University of Illinois has also put together a digital archive of historic posters worth glancing through.
Also, here are some titles on propaganda, art and how the fancy slogans are created to draw the men and women to join in the Great War.