Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Propaganda Posters of WWI

When President Wilson ran for his second term, his campaign slogan was “He Kept Us Out of War.” He shared the same sentiment as most Americans at that time, which was one of American neutrality. But with the Germans continued use of unrestricted submarine warfare and the sinking of the American liner Housatonic in February 1917, public outcry against Germany convinced Wilson to ask for a declaration of war on April 2, 1917.

Uncle Sam was a key figure used throughout the
war campaign.
Once in the war, Wilson led a war-mobilization effort across the nation. The Selective Service Act was enacted in May 1917, requiring men between the ages of 21 and 35 to register for the draft. The government also gained control over the railroad industry to prevent strikes and work stoppages. In an effort to increase morale for the war, Wilson created the Committee on Public Information and appointed George Creel, an outspoken supporter of Wilson during both his elections in 1912 and 1916, as its leader. The committee’s strategy was to utilize all aspects of media, including film, art and posters, to address all parts of society to help ensure the full backing of the US war effort. 

The army was a place for men to learn skills
and to better themselves.
For young men, the committee called upon their patriotic spirit to enlist in the army. The use of American icons, such as Uncle Sam, gave them the message that joining the army was a duty to the country. Posters also showed the military as a place to better educate and prepare men with trade skills. Men would not only be doing a service to their country but also a service to themselves. Propaganda techniques like these can still be seen in military recruitment advertisements today.

The government borrowed money from Americans
through the sale of liberty bonds.
An American Red Cross nurse was also
called "our greatest mother."



















On the homefront, the Committee of Public Information used posters to persuade women and other members of the public to help out in any way possible. War bonds were cleverly nicknamed liberty bonds in hopes of raising sentiments of freedom and hope. Representatives from the committee, called four-minute men, traveled cross country to give public speeches urging Americans at home to help fund the war. While the men were overseas, women were recruited to join the American Red Cross and become nurses. Nursing offered women the opportunity to work outside of the home and directly with the war.

President Wilson had said that
gardening was "just as real and patriotic
an effort as the building of ships
or the firing of cannon."

Diets were also a part of life that changed.
Certain foods, such as wheat, were conserved
to be sent overseas. 

In an effort to include all Americans, efforts were also used to call upon the services of young children. They were encouraged to join the United States School Garden Army as they were seen as the “soldiers of the soil”. Gardening efforts also helped increase the food supply available for both the homefront and overseas. Posters even appealed to the littlest of Americans by asking them to change their diets to include corn cereals instead of wheat. By presenting simple tasks like these, the committee made it seem that joining the war effort was easy.

President Wilson and the Committee on Public Information were tasked with the job of uniting a country made primarily of immigrants with differing opinions of the war. Through government legislation and the use of propaganda, Wilson and the committee were able to muster enough support to turn the war in favor of the Allies. A year after the US entered the war, Germany surrendered in November 1918.   


All posters images are from the online site: UNC School of Education

-Catherine Yuan

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