A centennial exhibition illustrating how posters were used as propaganda weapons has opened at the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri.
The 'unlimited possibilities' of this previously successful commercial advertising medium were rapidly appreciated soon after the outbreak of the Great War, the museum notes.
'The poster could impress an idea quickly, vividly and lastingly'.
This year-long exhibition aims to showcase the breadth and depth of the museum's collection, featuring classic examples produced by the great powers and other countries during the First World War.
"Through Posters as Munitions, 1917, we’re able to convey how posters during World War I from different cultures and countries were depicted through art," said National World War I Museum Senior Curator Doran Cart.
(Photo: National World War I Museum & Memorial)
'Posters flew off the production lines like cartridges, helmets, and uniforms,' the museum explains.
The Central Powers urged 'caution in conversation' and appealed to their peoples for aid in men and money. Posters stimulated love of country and urged German women to sell their hair for the good of the nation, and trade in their 'gold for Iron'.
Britain's Parliamentary Recruiting Committee initially gave commissions for more than 100 posters, with 2.5 million copies distributed throughout the country to encourage men to volunteer for the army.
'British posters, while not generally flashy or well executed, were always right to the point', the museum comments.
'French war posters had the stamp of genuine understanding of the purpose in view. They exhibit hard-edged gaiety, nationalism and imperialism, humour and sex appeal, tragedy and victory.'
An online ballot was held to choose a specially featured poster for the exhibition. The winner was a British appeal for wounded horses, produced by the Blue Cross Fund charity. A US Navy recruiting poster was the runner-up.
In the United States, posters quickly began to make their appeals to the 'American sense of right and wrong' after war was declared against Germany on 6 April 1917.
In all, more than seven million posters were displayed throughout the US for the Second Liberty Loan drive. One observer noted: 'Posters literally deluged the country. On every city street, along the rural highways, the posters were to be found repeating their insistent messages day and night.'
Posters as Munitions,1917 runs until 18 February 2018 at the National World War I Museum & Memorial, Kansas City Missouri.
America's national centennial ceremony, marking the 100th anniversary of the declaration of war in 1917, will take place at the museum on 6 April 2017.
Images & information: National World War I Museum & Memorial
Posted by: CN Editorial Team