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Iconic American Vintage Posters from the ‘Great War’ (1914-1918).
Vintage Posters helped tell the story of WWI.
WWI, also known as the ‘Great War’, and first known in North America as the ‘European War’, became a Global war that originated in Europe and lasted from July 1914-November 1918.
The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian crown, and his wife, on June 28th, 1914 sparked the hostilities. Fighting began and continued on multiple continents over the next four years.
The U.S. declared war on Germany on April 6th, 1917 citing Germany’s policy of unrestricted submarine warfare and its attempt to ally with Mexico.
Over thirty nations declared war between 1914 and 1918. The majority joined on the side of the Allies – Serbia, Russia, France, Britain and the U.S. They were opposed by Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire, who together formed the Central Powers.
Fighting occurred not only on the Western Front, but in Eastern/Southeast Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.
America’ by James Montgomery Flagg
We start with Wake Up America; one of the best and rarest of all WWI posters. The artist James Montgomery Flagg shows actress Mary Arthur (his model for ‘Colombia’) as the personification of America and Liberty.
Colombia is shown napping in Red, White & Blue stars and stripes and wearing a Phrygian cap (a symbol of freedom since Roman times) as if in false security on a rocking chair against a fluted column (another visual reference to Western classical antiquity and civilization) as sinister storm clouds gather in the background.
She’s soon to be roused to the war’s threat to free civilization in Europe. This powerful image is a visual history. It is all about the message. Our world changed from innocence to all-out war.
‘I Wish I Were a Man’
by Howard Chandler Christy
Next, we have ‘Gee, I Wish I Were a Man’. This poster was extremely effective in underscoring the masculinity of serving for the Navy during WWI.
The poster also appeared as a recruiting poster for the Coast Guard in different colors.
The model used was E. LeRoy Finch, and in the soldiers’ eyes, she was definitely a woman worth fighting for. Some would say she’s “beautifully patriotic”. She’s wearing a white navy hat, a sexy blue uniform, and all lettering in red, white & blue.
This poster appeared at 62 Cannon St. Bridgeport, CT. The name of the Officer is stamped at the bottom. This is an extremely rare version, because of the aforementioned stamp.
‘Learn to Ride’ by The New York Guard
This poster shows America’s readiness for WWI in 1914. The New York Guard was looking to recruit people to learn skills for a mishap in the near future (cue WWI). It shows the ‘old guard’ with his sword learning ‘Modern’ skills, listed out below the circle image. The 6 points below ‘Learn to Ride’ are as follows:
This was offered as an educational program that wouldn’t ‘interfere with your business’.
‘They Kept the Sea Lanes Open’
by L.A. Shafer
After the US entered the war, the newly invented German U-Boat was wreaking havoc in the Sea; sinking several allied merchant ships.
Pictured here is a United States Navy warship fighting to keep the shipping lanes open. The central message is to ‘Invest in Victory Liberty Loans’ and help win the war.
Notice it shows 3 different types of vessels protecting a civilian ship (far left).
‘Soldiers of the Sea’ by Various Artists
The U.S. Marines (aka soldiers of the sea) are represented in these two Vintage recruiting posters, showing the full lifestyle of a Marine.
They have identical background images and titles, but differ in the central image; the first by Leyendecker shows 2 Marines signaling Navy ships on the horizon, and the second by Bruce Moore shows a group of Marines landing on shore with their rifles.
The side tiles show 16 black and white photos that depict different parts of ‘The Life of a Marine’.
These include: The Marine Band, Marching, Training, Sports, Education, and more.