Historical Backdrop of “For Home and Country”

 In MOA Features

Guest Post by Nicole Moon, MOA Marketing Intern

The BYU Museum of Art’s most recent exhibition, For Home and Country: Posters and Propaganda from the Great War, commemorates 100 years since the World War I armistice. Relics from a period of epic propaganda were pulled from the museum’s impressive permanent collection and are showcased on the main floor of the MOA.

Sinking of the Lusitania, London Illustrated News

Norman Wilkinson [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons: Sinking of the Lusitania, London Illustrated News

Historical Backdrop
The RMS Lusitania was a British ocean liner and, for a short time, the world’s largest passenger ship, carrying 1,264 passengers and 693 crew members. In 1915 Germany declared unrestricted submarine warfare—an attempt to quarantine Great Britain, a critical trade partner. On the Lusitania’s 101st round-trip voyage across the Atlantic, it was sunk by a German U-boat. Over 1,900 people were killed in the incident including more than 120 Americans. It was later learned that the ship was covertly transporting an estimated 173 tons of British war supplies.

When World War I broke out in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson and a majority of US citizens held the stern position of neutrality. The sinking of the Lusitania and the loss of the American lives was the catalyst for America’s entrance into the war two years later.

Eugenie de Land, "Before Sunset Buy a U.S. Government Bond of the 2nd Liberty Loan of 1917," 1917.

Eugenie de Land, “Before Sunset Buy a U.S. Government Bond of the 2nd Liberty Loan of 1917,” 1917.

President Wilson had become very well known for and possibly re-elected on the grounds that he had “kept us out of the war.” Now, only five months later, he faced the challenge of rallying a neutral country into war and preparing them for the costs—both financially and personally—that entering the world war would entail.

Wilson’s solution to rally the American people was to establish the Committee on Public Information (CPI.) This army of influential Hollywood filmmakers and artists began rapidly cranking out mountains of posters and movies, all with the goal of garnering the public support necessary to enter the war. During this time, 21 million posters were produced in America, effectively firing up the United States to contribute to the war effort. These sacrifices came in the form of encouraging family members to register for the draft, scaling back on food consumption, donating money and buying war bonds, and using talents creatively to support the troops and make ends meet at home.

See a stunning collection of posters from this pivotal time and reflect on the context in which these posters were created—to rally a neutral world superpower into entering the deadliest war America would face to that point in history. For Home and Country: Posters and Propaganda from the Great War is on display at the BYU Museum of Art through January 12, 2019.

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css.phpAlfred Everett Orr, "For Home and Country—Victory Liberty Loan," 1918Iwo Jima, 1945, Joe Rosenthal/The Associated Press