World War I Posters in America
We are all familiar with the sight of a poster tacked to a bulletin board or taped to a storefront window, but we may be surprised by the way posters papered the country during World War I. In 1917, right as America entered World War I, President Wilson established the Committee on Public Information —America’s first office of propaganda. One historian has estimated that the Committee on Public Information printed twenty million posters, and this massive flood of colorful prints provided a constant stream of pro-war imagery in the public sphere.
Though a latecomer to the war, America printed more posters more posters than all the belligerent nations combined, and For Home and Country: Posters and Propaganda from the Great War features many of the most iconic, most compelling, and most colorful examples of government propaganda ever produced.
During the war, propaganda papered the nation, and images like these were pasted in store windows, subway stations, factories, and even on church billboards and schoolroom walls. As such, this exhibition highlights the immense effort undertaken to encourage the American public to participate in the war effort in every way possible. As products of the most sophisticated and prolific propaganda campaign the world had yet seen, these posters also remind us of the sometimes uneasy relationship between a political agenda and the truth. In an age when we are constantly inundated by pictures, they encourage us to be thoughtful and critical in interpreting the stream of images and information that surrounds us.
For Home and Country: Posters and Propaganda from the Great War is on display at the BYU Museum of Art through January 12, 2019.