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French, German and American Posters

French Posters | German Posters | American Posters

French Posters

During the war, the French Press Commission, National Bank and various non-governmental organizations employed academically trained artists and established printing houses for the production of their posters. All content was reviewed by the Press Commission, the government's propaganda bureau. Local governments controlled outdoor posting and distribution at official events, as well as in schools.

Schoolchildren were not only expected to bring home the message of patriotic sacrifice to their parents but also to participate in the propaganda effort directly. The Comité National de Préyovance et d'Économies held a poster contest among schoolchildren in which the prize was the publication and distribution of their work. The Collection includes examples from one such contest (M-030 through M-44), including the winning entry, 16-year-old Marthe Picard's poster Mangez Moins de Viande pour ménager notre Cheptel (Eat less meat in order to conserve our livestock)(M-030).

The Collection also includes several French war loan advertisements, such as Georges Scott's Souscrivez à l'Emprunt National (Subscribe to the National Loan) (M-146) for the Banque Nationale de Crédit. This poster portrays a disheveled Marianne figure holding aloft a tattered French flag and urging on an enumerable host. The French authorities gauged popular opinion of the war relative to the success of the war loan campaigns represented by posters such as this.

Several French counter-propaganda posters are also included in the Collection. Maurice Neumont's On Ne Passe Pas! (They shall not pass!) (M-183) depicts a worn French soldier standing against a war-torn background. He warns civilians against lies spread by German propaganda with these words: Par deux foi j'ai tenu et vaincu sur la Marne. Civil, mon frère, la sournoise offensive de la "paix blanche" va t'assaillir à ton tour, comme moi, tu dois tenir et vaincre, sois fort et malin. Méfie-toi de l'hypocrise boche ("Twice I have stood and conquered on the Marne. Brother civilian, the cunning "white peace" offensive will assault you in time; like me, you must stand and conquer. Be strong; be shrewd. Do not trust German hypocrisy.")

German Posters

At the start of the war, German poster artists shunned the advertising popular in Allied propaganda. Outdoor advertising was also closely monitored by the government, in an effort to keep commercialism and artistic culture separate. Consequently, posters produced in Germany tended to display good modernist design rather than a more commercial realism. This tendency toward abstraction provoked a distrust of similar art in France, where signs of modernist influence were often referred to as Boche. In 1916, the conservative establishment turned the propaganda effort over to experienced advertisers, who began to produce posters more akin to the commercial work of British, American and French designers.

The Collection includes E. Weber's Der Feind Hört Mit (The enemy overhears) (S-005), a small-scale example of a public information poster that warns Germans against spies with a boldfaced message and caricature of a sinister 'enemy' listening in on telephone calls.

In addition to posters intended for German citizens, Germany also produced propaganda to be sent over Allied lines to sow distrust and confusion among its enemies. L'image au Service de la Verité (The Image in the Service of Truth) (M-020) was dropped by balloon into Allied territory and depicts several Allied propaganda pictures exposed as lies. The Allies had retouched images of a 1905 Russian pogrom and published them as examples of German atrocities. L'image shows before-and-after images of the photographs and reveals the originals. This particular example has punctured corners from being attached to a balloon that carried it. Along the bottom is the written inscription "German propaganda sent over our lines by balloon and picked up by Lieut. R. N. Williams 2nd F.A., Belleu Wood, June 1918." The Collection includes a second example of German propaganda sent into Allied territory with a similar message (L-012).

American Posters

Though it only entered the war in 1917, the United States of America was more prolific in its poster production than any other nation involved in the conflict. George Creel's Committee on Public Information headed the American propaganda campaign, reaching a huge volume of production by urging art students and design and advertising communities to contribute. Poster production in the United States had many of the same goals as the European campaigns, but ability to sell an idea took precedence over artistic design, and war posters were as widely circulated as contemporary advertisements. According to James Aulich's war poster survey, over 700 designs had been produced in the United States by the end of the war.

An example of a typically strident American slogan can be found on the Collection's Red Cross poster If you can't go across with a gun, come across with your part of the Red Cross War Fund (M-022). The poster shows a woman and child imploring a soldier who points them toward a Red Cross emblem hovering in the sky. New York Harbor can be seen on a distant shoreline.

U.S. Marines (M-023) is one example of an American recruitment poster in the Collection. The brightly colored image shows a Marine marching along a dock with a smile on his face. The text reads "Enlist at 1409 Arch St. Philadelphia."

Like the other nations involved in this expensive war, the United States was not without its own war loan campaign, and several posters from the American drive for finances are included in the Collection. One Liberty Bond poster (XL-081) shows an accusing Statue of Liberty pointing at the viewer and reads "You buy a Liberty Bond lest I perish."

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