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War Propaganda

During World War I, posters were the primary form of public communication, but by 1940 posters had been supplanted by radio, movies, and billboards. Why then did government and private industry turn to posters to rally the public in World War II?

First, people would encounter posters in places that other media couldn't reach--schools, factories, offices, store windows, and other places outside the scope of paid advertising. Second, posters had democratic appeal--they could be made by anyone; they could be seen by all. Both medium and message spoke of democracy, which made posters ideal for expressing American war aims: why we fight, what we fight for.

World War II posters helped mobilize a nation. Inexpensive, accessible, and ever-present, the poster was an ideal agent for making war aims the personal mission of every citizen. Government agencies, businesses, and private organizations issued an array of poster images linking the military front with the home front-calling upon every American to boost production at work and at home. Deriving their appearance from the fine and commercial arts, posters conveyed more than simple slogans. Posters expressed the needs and goals of the people who created them.

Addressing every citizen as a combatant in a war of production, wartime posters united the power of art with the power of advertising to sell the idea that the factory and the home were also arenas of war. For manufacturers, the war was an opportunity to gain greater control of their work force. In the push for increased productivity, factory managers called for employees to suspend union rules, abandon traditional work patterns, and make sacrifices in the name of patriotism.



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