While I was exploring Te Papa’s WWI collection in preparation for sharing objects on All That Remains, I was particularly struck by the persuasive posters which encouraged young men to enlist in the army, and their families to support the war effort from home.
Many people will be familiar with the poster below:
This poster features what is probably one of the best known WWI propaganda images. Uncle Sam is a personification of the USA, whose fierce scowl and foreshortened finger aims directly out at young men and urges them to enlist. This image, designed in 1917 by JM Flagg, was based on an earlier British version which featured Lord Kitchener in a similar pose.
Poster, United Kingdom. Public domain.
Assertive, patriotic images like these were one way of urging young men to war. Other posters used different approaches, like this British poster which persuades by taking a swipe at men’s bravery:
I can’t imagine many people looking at that poster and wanting to be one of ‘The Others’.
Another British poster attempts to persuade by directing the behaviour of both potential soldiers and those they left behind. Men, women want you to go and fight for your country! Women, be supportive when they do!
On the home front, rationing was introduced in some countries during WWI. German U-boats began to target British ships in an attempt to starve Britain into submission, leading the government to first suggest voluntary rationing, then introduce ration books in 1918. The message here is simple:
This small selection of posters barely scratches the surface of what was produced during WWI. There is a selection of WWI posters on All That Remains. You can also explore Te Papa’s poster collection on Collections Online.
I would love to uncover some of the WWI propaganda held in other New Zealand museums. Does your museum have WWI posters in its collection? Or are you an expert in the area of WWI propaganda who could provide more information about these collection items?
Tamara Patten, Communications Officer, National Services Te Paerangi