American World War I Posters: Pulling a Nation Together

When the guns of World War I sounded in August 1914, the United States was a nation divided about what, if any, role it should play in the conflict. Even after the Lusitania was sunk in 1915, killing more than a hundred Americans, she refrained from entering the fray. Finally, in 1917, the U.S. could remain neutral no longer.

The American war posters of World War I reflect the power of this tool to motivate and direct a nation of immigrants--many with ties in the lands they were now being asked to fight.

It is estimated that at least 2,500 poster designs were produced in the 20 months the United States participated in the war. Many of these were produced by major American illustrators who met weekly to divide orders from the government for posters they would create without pay.

The Blair-Murrah exhibit of World War I American posters is a vivid display of one of the most effective vehicles of government and political propaganda.