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propaganda posters black and white

The Colors of Propaganda

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Aerial propaganda leaflets dropped by both sides during World War II are a form of gray or black propaganda. There is no indication of the producer on these leaflets, with some specifically created to deceive the viewer about its origination.

World War II anti-communist French leaflet that translates to “French it is with your own blood we will redden your flag.” 1940, Nabb Research Center, SC2016.028

If you examine propaganda closely, you can typically identify the techniques used to appeal to emotion. What is not always evident is who produced the material. Communication experts classify propaganda as white, black, or gray depending on the transparency of the source. Determining the source of a message is an important tool in the analysis of propaganda.

White Propaganda

In white propaganda, the producer of the material is clearly marked and indicated.

Black Propaganda

One of the most deceptive forms of propaganda involves material created by one group but attributed to another. Black propaganda falsely claims a message or image was created by the opposition in order to discredit them.

  Gray Propaganda

Information and messages that have no clear producer are considered gray propaganda. Material of unknown origin leaves a viewer unable to determine the creator or motives behind the message.

propaganda posters black and white

Famous propaganda posters from the last 100 years

Propaganda is defined as thoughts, ideas, or facts that are disseminated in order to further a cause or movement—or hinder an opposing one. The history of propaganda is rich, dating all the way back to the 15th century. However, it didn't become mainstream, at least in the U.S., until 1914 at the start of World War I.

A couple of propaganda posters that have really stuck to the wall include the image of the woman commonly mistaken for Rosie the Riveter, which came out in the 40s but later took on a feminist connotation, and the iconic image of Che Guevara that has been associated with so many famous protests. These posters have stood the test of time and remain woven into our society, some of them more than 100 years after their initial creation.

Stacker highlighted 50 famous propaganda posters associated with major wars and political movements throughout history, including those from different countries and time periods. Read on to see the origins of Uncle Sam, and where the phrase "loose lips sink ships" came from.

You may also like: D efining historical moments from the year you were born

I Want You for US Army

This American poster is widely regarded as the most famous poster in the world , although it was inspired by a British poster bearing a similar slogan. It made its debut on the cover of the publication Leslie’s Weekly in 1916, depicting “Uncle Sam” urging Americans to enlist in the army as America entered World War I. 

Rosie the Riveter

On the heels of a cultural phenomenon (including a popular song of the same name ), Norman Rockwell created this image of “Rosie the Riveter” in 1943 to represent American women working in munitions factories during World War II.

This poster of former President Obama is largely associated with his 2008 election campaign, and also exists in different versions with words like “Change” and “Progress” beneath the same image. It has been the subject of legal controversy when it was revealed that its creator, Shepard Fairey, was accused of usurping the image of Obama from a former Associated Press photographer. Nonetheless, the poster is entwined with Obama’s campaign message at the time.

We Can Do It

This iconic poster from 1943—often confused with the original Rosie the Riveter—made quite a splash in the U.S., but not necessarily during World War II. Though widely associated with the feminist movement, its original intention was to improve morale for the female employees of Westinghouse Electric . It resurfaced in the early '80s, at which point it gained popularity and acquired its woman-power connotation.

Destroy this Mad Brute, Enlist

Printed in 1918, this WWI-era image depicts German militarism embodied by a ferocious gorilla standing on the ground (labeled “America”) carrying a bloodied club as well as a young woman. The poster served as another call for American men to fight in the war.

"Guerillero Heroico"

Alberto Korda took this iconic photo-turned poster of Argentine Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara in 1960. The image gained substantial cultural traction by the end of the '60s when Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick used it to create a poster. It first appeared in the U.S. in 1968 on New York City billboards and has come to symbolize rebellion on a large scale. The image title means “Heroic Guerilla Fighter.”

Handicapped

One of the most popular symbols of the British Suffragette Movement , this poster depicts a woman struggling to get by in a rowboat, while a man sails smoothly in his sailboat—symbolizing women’s struggle to achieve the right to vote.

Britons Wants You: Join Your Country's Army

This poster featuring British war minister Lord Kitchener —pointing for the sake of military recruitment—served as the inspiration for the American version, which reads “I want you for the U.S. Army.” It was first printed for the cover of the London Opinion magazine in 1914, but came out as a poster shortly after. However, there isn’t much photographic evidence of it having been hung up in public.

Daddy, What did You do in the Great War?

Britain’s army was relatively small at the start of WWI because there was no mandatory enlistment, so the Parliamentary Recruitment Committee was in charge of recruiting the general public to join the army. This was one of their more famous posters, created around 1914 to 1915. The obligation for men to earn money to support their families dissuaded many of them from volunteering, but the PRC used that angle to suggest that children would think that their father’s duty in the army was a more noble calling.

Kultur-Terror

It was not uncommon for Nazi propaganda posters to incorporate the likeness of the monster , which typically symbolized nationalities and philosophical beliefs that deviated from Nazi ideology. This particular poster depicts a monster that represents different aspects of American culture as a whole through its different body parts—one arm holds a money bag, symbolizing greed, and a KKK hood on its head represents nationalism and extremism.

Kep Calm and Carry On

This now-ubiquitous poster originated as a slogan printed by the British government in 1939 to increase morale among the British people at the onset of WWII. It was one of three similar posters with the same design scheme and different wording, all of which incorporated the Tudor Crown. Though it wasn’t necessarily popular in its time, it resurfaced about 15 years ago free of its previous connotation; its slogan was reproduced and parodied on posters, notebooks, and other commodities.

Stamp out the Axis

Dating to 1941, this image of a giant stamp hovering over a Nazi swastika quite literally conveys the U.S. military’s intention of wiping out the Germans in WWII.

Workers of the World Unite!

This Dimitri Moor poster from around 1920 calls for Russian workers to unite against imperialism, juxtaposing the enemy against the bold protagonist. Moor’s classic red and black palette pervades the poster.

Women of Britain Come into the Factories

The U.K. saw many posters encouraging women to take on factory jobs during both World Wars. This 1941 poster calls for women to join the workforce during World War II, in consideration of the men serving in the army who had left their jobs available.

Emancipation of Russian Women

Women appeared prominently on Soviet socialist posters in the early 20th century. Promoting women’s liberation through the lense of socialism, this 1926 poster reads “Emancipated woman—build up socialism.” These words imply that communism cannot thrive without equality among men and women—the woman’s masculinized appearance further symbolizes gender equality.

Become a Nurse: Your Country Needs You

The need for military nurses was high during wartime, so women were widely encouraged to take up the profession. This 1942 image of a young American woman receiving a nursing cap intended to beckon all American women to serve their country by helping wounded soldiers.

Loose Lips Might Sink Ships

The American War Advertising Council created this phrase during WWII, which took the form of a 1945 poster designed to discourage American citizens from talking about sensitive information that could be leaked to war enemies. The image of the sinking ship was the most common pictorial accompaniment to the phrase, which was initially produced for the Seagram Distillers Corporation as an aid to the war effort.

'Kick out the Americans the Unite the Fatherland'

This Korean War-era poster depicts a North Korean soldier literally punching away American soldiers, urging them to pull out of his country.

Help Keep Your School All-American

This Superman-centric poster was distributed in the ‘50s by a version of the Anti-Defamation League for the purpose of advocating for racial and religious tolerance. The poster is dated 1956, but a 2008 auction listing on the Hakes Americana & Collectibles website indicated the copyright is from 1949. It had a small resurgence in the American news a few years ago when Muslims and other minorities were experiencing fairly widespread racism among politicians, corporations and the general public.

It's Our Flag: Fight for it, Work for it

The British Parliamentary Recruiting Committee produced this poster in 1915. The message is pretty clear—it’s a call for men to join the British army at the start of WWI, using patriotic language in conjunction with the Union Jack.

Mao Zedong Cultural Revolution poster

This pro-Mao Zedong poster from the Chinese Cultural Revolution translates to “Long live! Long live Chairman Mao, the reddest and the reddest sun in our hearts!”

Let's Catch Him with his Panzers Down

Dating back to around 1942 , this WWII-era poster depicts a cartoonish version of Hitler in his swastika-print boxers, a literal interpretation of the poster’s slogan. Needless to say, it seeks to inform the American public that the U.S. intends to defeat Germany in the war.

'Did You Volunteer'

This 1920 poster from the Russian Revolution calls for Russian citizens to volunteer for the Red Army , as Lenin had not yet installed a formal military. It is based on the British poster calling for enlistment in the army during WWI. The artist, Dimitri Moor, incorporated a lot of black and red into his work, and typically used red to connote socialist images like flags.

He's Watching You

This 1942 American poster was created to let the public know that the Nazis were watching them. However, some of the public misinterpreted the poster , thinking that the soldier’s helmet symbolized the Liberty Bell. Some factory workers thought that the “he” of the poster represented to be “the boss.”

Step into Your Place

The British Parliamentary Recruiting Committee certainly generated a lot of propaganda posters during both world wars. This one from 1915 communicates a clear message—men are strongly encouraged to join the army to serve their country.

This poster came out in Ireland in 2004 in response to George W. Bush’s move to invade Iraq. It called for a protest attended by Mary Black, Christy Moore, and Damien Rice.

I Want You for the Navy

  Just like men, women were needed to serve in the military during the major wars. This WWI poster calls for women to enlist in the U.S. Navy .

Don't Let that Shadow Touch Them, Buy War Bonds

During World War II, war bonds and war savings stamps provided a source of income for the U.S. government, and Americans were encouraged to purchase them. Buying war bonds also boosted morale among the public. This 1942 poster was particularly emotionally powerful because it depicts children playing in the path of the Nazi swastika. One of the young boys holds a miniature American flag and the other holds an American fighter plane, further symbols of patriotism.  

Save the Wheat and Help the Fleet

During WWI, the British public was encouraged to seek out white bread substitutes so the wheat crop could be used to make bread for the soldiers. In America and Britain, much of the public resorted to bread with wheat substitutes, like corn or barley. This was taken so seriously that eating white flour was likened to helping the enemy.

'To Defend USSR'

Valentina Kulagina was one of few female propaganda artists of the 20th century. Translating to “ To defend USSR ,” this 1930 cubism-esque design depicts the larger-than-life Red Army leaving the factories to fight in the war. The white royalist airplanes flying around them seem not to deter them at all.

For Your Country's Sake Today, for Your Own Sake Tomorrow

Throughout WWII, American women were strongly encouraged to become involved in the war effort. This poster from the early to mid 1940s shows four women dressed in uniforms of the four armed forces units in which they were able to serve: the Women’s Army Corps, the Navy Women’s Reserve, the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, and the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve.

Women of Britain Say—Go

This 1914 poster advocated for British women to contribute to the overall war effort. Women’s traditional roles became blurred during wartime, as they started to work in munitions factories or in various roles at the front.

We the People are Greater Than Fear

Shepard Fairey, who created the iconic posters for Obama’s 2008 campaign, also created a set of three posters to coincide with Donald Trump’s 2017 presidential inauguration. This image of a Muslim-American woman wearing a hijab printed with the American flag, in conjunction with the text, represents a powerful message that “We the people” includes individuals of all races and religions. The other two posters in the set feature Latina and African American women with similarly inspiring phrases.

Together We Win

James Montgomery Flagg designed about 46 posters for the U.S. government during WWI. Here’s one from 1917 aimed at instilling patriotism and positivity in the American public. His posters encouraged men to enlist in the Army, women to join the Red Cross, and members of the general public to make sacrifices for the sake of the war effort.

All Power to the People

Douglas Emory, who helped with the layout of the Black Panther newspaper , created this 1970 poster. The party frequently used the slogan “All power to the people.” This phrase also famously accompanied images of the raised fist, which has mainly symbolized African American rights.

Women in the War: We Can't Win Without Them

Another poster geared toward American women during WWII , this piece dates back to 1942. It bears the image of a female worker riveting a weapon, and calls for women to take up jobs in munitions factories during the war.

Recycle Nixon

This anti-Nixon poster from the Vietnam War era was made as part of Berkeley’s Political Poster Workshop between 1968 and 1973.

Dig on for victory

Dating back to 1941, this poster was created by the British Ministry of Agriculture , whose “Dig on for Victory” campaign encouraged citizens to grow their own crops during wartime rationing. Many public spaces, like parks and public gardens, were allotted as vegetable patches during that time.

'Your Father Is in Danger: Register!'

This German poster from WWI translates to “Your father is in danger, register,” and came out shortly after the war ended. It calls for German citizens to join the Garde-Kavallerie-Schutzen-Division, or Horse Guards Rifle Division , one of the post-defeat units that offered military stability after soldiers returned from the war. 

Free Labor Will Win

Printed in 1942, this poster of a welder standing in front of an American flag promotes free labor in the U.S.—as opposed to the slave labor used by its fascist enemies.

Girls Say Yes to Boys Who Say No

Folk singer Joan Baez and her sisters Paulien and Mimi are at the heart of this anti-draft poster from 1968. Baez was very active politically in the '60s, and openly encouraged men to avoid the draft at her shows. Larry Gates created the poster to debunk the notion that resisting the draft was unmanly, and to raise money for the Draft Resistance Movement.

If the Cap Fits, Wear It

Like so many other World War propaganda posters, this one from WWII calls for citizens to join the  Canadian Army .

Of Course I Can! I'm patriotic as can be—and ration points don't worry me!

During WWII, the U.S. government initiated rationing of food to ensure soldiers had enough supplies (and that civilians had equal access to scant resources). This 1944 poster serves to remind Americans not to waste food during the war.

American Red Cross: Our boys need sox, knit your bit

This American Red Cross poster from around 1918 calls for citizens to donate knitted items to U.S. soldiers for when they entered France. Knitters eagerly responded to this call, though they had to adhere to knitting patterns that followed Army and Navy regulations.

Is This Tomorrow? America under Communism

This design serves as the cover of a 1947 comic book written to teach the public about communism’s inflammatory nature. The text on the opening page reads, “Is this Tomorrow is published for one purpose—to make you think! To make you more alert to the menace of Communism.”

Free All Political Prisoners

This famous image depicting the raised fist with a loose chain is another product of the Political Poster Workshop at Berkeley. It clearly opposes the unjust imprisonment of civil rights activists and other American political martyrs. 

Save Bones for Aircraft Production

Similar to posters urging citizens not to waste food, this WWII poster encourages the British public to save bones and scraps , which could be used in the production of military planes and ammunition.

Andre the Giant Has a Posse

Here’s another iconic design by Shepard Fairey, who created the Andre the Giant has a Posse sticker campaign somewhat haphazardly in 1989. It later transformed into simply “Obey the Giant.” While neither design has any inherent meaning, Shepard intended them to be a study in phenomenology, inspiring people to react and question the world around them. Both images have been widely disseminated throughout the world.

'Freedom for Angela Davis'

Angela Davis was a prominent voice in the late 1960s and early '70s protest movement in America, having actively participated in the Black Panther and Communist parties . This famous poster sprang up when Davis was wanted by the FBI for a crime she did not commit. After her arrest, grassroots organizations started popping up both in America and abroad to fight for her release.

United We Stand Divided We Fall

This famous phrase has roots with the ancient Greeks, but it appeared on this U.S. WWII propaganda poster in 1942. Fundamentally, the phrase denotes the idea that if members of a group with cohesive beliefs work individually instead of as a team, they are destined for failure. This concept certainly applies to the American army’s fight to defeat the Nazis during the war.

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25 Most Powerful Propaganda Posters That Made All The Difference

Photo of Ivana Belegisanin

These propaganda were an influential attitude change initiative. They were powerful reminders of reality and our responsibility towards society. From war to welfare to social issues and plain sanity…these posters made all the difference.

1. “Daddy, what did you do in the Great War?”, (1915).

propaganda posters black and white

In 1915 British illustrator Savile Lumley designed this famous guilt – inducing poster. Paul Gunn later explained the background to the poster: “One night my father came home very worried about the war situation and discussed with my mother whether he should volunteer. He happened to come in to where I was asleep and quite casually said to my mother, If I don’t join the forces whatever will I say to Paul if he turns round to me and says, What did you do in the Great War, Daddy? He suddenly turned round to my mother and said that would make a marvellous slogan for a recruiting poster. He shot off to see one of his pet artists, Savile Lumley, had a sketch drawn straight away, based on the theme projected about five years hence, although by the time it had taken shape the questioner had become one of my sisters.” This poster was produced before conscription was introduced in 1916 and aimed to encourage men to join the armed forces through emotional blackmail. Depending on your opinion of the “great war” itself, this could also be viewed as a positive use of the powers of propaganda.

2. “Barbarism vs. Civilization”, (1900).

propaganda posters black and white

This poster depicts of the The Boxer Rebellion or  Boxer Uprising which was a violent anti-foreign and anti-Christian movement which took place in China towards the end of the Qing dynasty between 1898 and 1900. It was initiated by the Militia United in Righteousness (Yihetuan), known in English as the “Boxers”, and was motivated by proto-nationalist sentiments and opposition to foreign imperialism and Christianity. The Great Powers intervened and defeated Chinese forces.

3. Anti – Smoking Propaganda.

propaganda posters black and white

A very simple, yet powerful anti-smoking poster. Sometimes dubbed as one of the most clever anti-smoking advertisement ever.

4. “You Can Be Someone’s Superhero!”, Hellenic Association Of Blood Donors, (2013).

propaganda posters black and white

A very creative and appealing ad to attract blood donors towards needs for donation. Advertising Agency: Spot JWT, Athens, Greece Creative Director / Illustrator: Alexandros Tsoutis Art Director: Alexis Alifragkis Copywriter: Anastasios Lessis Published: January 2013

5. “I Want You”, (1917).

propaganda posters black and white

Originally published as the cover for the July 6, 1916, issue of Leslie’s Weekly with the title “What Are You Doing for Preparedness?” this portrait of “Uncle Sam” went on to become–according to its creator, James Montgomery Flagg–”the most famous poster in the world.” Over four million copies were printed between 1917 and 1918, as the United States entered World War I and began sending troops and material into war zones.

6. Fate of Ukraine, (2014).

propaganda posters black and white

The unfair colonization of Ukraine by the Russian troops and the decision of Crimea being shifted under Russian control describes the fate of Ukraine and how it has just become a hanging nation in between Asia and Europe. This propaganda poster truly depicts of the Ukrainian pain and violence that has been going on a while now.

7. “Help Keep Your School All American”, (1940s – 50s).

propaganda posters black and white

This anti- racism, superhero oriented poster came around in a children’s comic series and proved to be very powerful in conveying its true social message. With racism being at its peak in America that time, there was a dire need of an attitude change and this poster was a great example of a powerful initiative by making it “Un-American” to be racist.

8. “We Can Do It”, (1942).

propaganda posters black and white

We Can Do It! is a WW II era American wartime propoganda poster produced by J. Howard Miller in 1943 for Westinghouse Electric as a tool to boost worker morale. Surprisingly, the poster did not enjoy wide popularity during World War II. It was rediscovered in the early 1980s and widely reproduced in many forms, often called “We Can Do It!” but also mistakenly called “Rosie the Riveter” after the iconic figure of a strong female war production worker. The “We Can Do It!” image was used to promote feminism and other political issues beginning in the 1980?s. After its rediscovery, people often assumed that the image was always meant to be a call to inspire women workers to join the war effort. However, during the war the image was strictly internal to Westinghouse, displayed only during February 1943, and was not for recruitment but to inspire already-hired women to work harder.

9. “Thief!”, (1920s-30s).

propaganda posters black and white

“The worst thief is he who steals the playtime of children” A very very powerful propaganda poster against then prevalent child labor. More and more children were forced to work in factories that were equipped with heavy, dangerous machinery and they were forced to work for hours at a stretch, thus stealing away their innocence and anytime they had for playing and other wonderful stuff that children do.

10. “Sex is No Accident”, MTV.

propaganda posters black and white

An initiative from MTV to encourage the use of condoms for safe sex through these strips were a smart propaganda. With increase in the number of teen pregnancies in America, it has become evident to bring about awareness regarding protection measures during sex and the hazards of avoiding them. Another important factor was the spread of AIDS and other STD’s through unprotected sex which has infact become a widespread concern worldwide. This ad takes a strong attitude makeover initiative to encourage the use of condoms and prevent any sexually transmitted diseases and their after effects on population.

11. Che Guevara, (1968).

propaganda posters black and white

Jim Fitzpatrick was a well-known Irish Celtic artist of his time, but he is probably best known for his iconic 1968 Che Guevara poster. It is said that Fitzpatrick took the death of the revolutionary personally. He had once met Guevara when the revolutionary flew into Ireland in 1963 and checked into the Marine Hotel pub in Kilkee. Fitzpatrick was only a teenager at the time and had been working there over the summer.                                                                                                                            The poster became globally famous during the anti-Vietnam war protests and is now the symbol of F.A.R.C. in Columbia, a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary guerrilla organization, which is involved in the ongoing Colombian armed conflict. Zapatista Army of National Liberation (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, EZLN), a revolutionary group based in Chiapas, the southernmost state of Mexico, uses this symbol as well. The image was also used during the violent Paris student riots in 1968. Across the rest of the West, the Marxist Che Guevara image is overused by any kid suffering from teenage angst.

12. “The Guarantee of German Military Strength”, (1932).

propaganda posters black and white

In Germany in the 1930s, propaganda was in full swing and being used by Hitler’s advisers to call the German people to arms and spread lies about the Jews. One of the most famous artists behind Nazi propaganda was Hans Schweitzer, known as “Mjolnir.” This poster by Hans Schweitzer shows the typical pro-Nazi theme of the German army’s strength, depicting an S.A. man standing next to a solider. The text reads, “The guarantee of German military strength!”

13. Ning Hao: China, (1954).

propaganda posters black and white

Seemingly along the lines of Rosie the Riveter, this Ning Hao piece reflects women being asked to work in the factories alongside men, partially to support their emancipation, but mostly to increase the labor force in China.

14. “Workers of The World Unite!”, (1920?).

propaganda posters black and white

Dimitri Moor (or Dmitry Stakhievich Orlov) changed the face of graphic design in Soviet Russia back in 1918. His work dominated both the Bolshevik Era (1917–1921) and the New Economic Policy (1921–1927). The main theme of Moor’s work is the stark contrast between the oppressive evil and the heroic allies. A lot of pressure was put on Russian workers to rise up against imperialism.

15. Pyramid of Capitalist System, (1911).

propaganda posters black and white

The Pyramid of Capitalist System is a common name of a 1911 American cartoon caricature critical of capitalism. The graphic focus is on social stratification by social class and economic inequality. The picture shows a literal “social pyramid” or hierarchy, with the wealthy few on the top, and the impoverished masses at the bottom. Crowned with a money bag representing capitalism, the top layer, “we rule you”, is occupied by the royalty and state leaders. Underneath them are the clergy (“we fool you”), followed by the military (“we shoot you”), and the bourgeoisie (“we eat for you”). The bottom of the pyramid is held by the workers (“we work for all… we feed all”). The basic message of the image is the critique of the capitalist system, with its hierarchy of power and wealth. It also illustrates that the working class is supporting all others, and if it would withdraw their support from the system it could, literally, topple the existing social order. This type of criticism of capitalism is attributed to the French socialist Louis Blanc. The work has been described as “famous”, “well-known and widely reproduced”.

16. “Open Trap, Make Happy Jap”, (1940?).

propaganda posters black and white

Reflecting the ugly racism of the times, many US produced propaganda posters from World War II would typecast the Japanese as goofy and cartoonish stereotypes. Buck teeth, big ears and an exaggeration on the eyes were recurring features. This incredibly racist image reflects our powerful need to dehumanize the enemy before we slaughter them, making the carnage not seem so evil.

17. Xu Ling: China, (1950).

propaganda posters black and white

Details about Chinese artists are hard to come by, but we can focus on what they intended to convey with their artwork. This piece is a caricature of the American commander in Korea at that time, General Douglas MacArthur. It shows the US as an abhorrent evil, and MacArthur is shown stabbing a Korean mother and child. Bombs labeled US are being dropped on cities in China in the background as the US invades Korea.

18. “Beat Back The Hun”, (1918).

propaganda posters black and white

This intense, frightening presence featuring the head of a “Hun” with blood-stained fingers and bayonet, is the work of Frederick or F. Strothmann. The poster was meant to literally scare Americans into buying the war bonds known as “Liberty Bonds” during WW I as a patriotic duty. These bonds are debt securities issued by the American government for the purpose of financing military operations. The creation of this capital not only helped to control inflation during war time, it also gave the public who invested their money in the bonds a feeling of involvement in the war without having to serve in the military. They were available in a wide range of denominations, and thus affordable to most citizens.

19. “Liberators”, (1944).

propaganda posters black and white

The Nazi’s had a very imaginative approach when it came to producing posters during the Second World War. Designed by Norwegian cartoonist Harald Damsleth, this particularly famous image depicts the Americans as a domineering force and characterizes many of their supposedly negative aspects, such as being money grabbing, racist, over-sexualized and all-empowering.

20. “American Invaders Will Be Defeated!”, (1951).

propaganda posters black and white

Completed at the height of the Cold War, this poster depicts two People’s Liberation Army soldiers holding two books. The left book read “Soviet Army Defeated 1,200,000 German Nazi, Italian, Japanese and other countries’ soldiers during World War Two” and the right reads “Chinese People’s Liberation Army defeated 8 million soldiers from American Imperialist sponsored Chiang Kai-Chek’s army. At the bottom, defeated Americans hold dollar sign flags, and in writing it says “Next year we can accumulate 3 million soldiers”.

21. Rosie The Riveter, (1943).

propaganda posters black and white

Based on a familiar song of the time, this is Norman Rockwell’s famous Rosie the Riveter poster. Unlike the “we can do it” poster this image actually represents the American women who worked in the munitions and war supplies factories during World War II.This was a call to arms for the women of America to become strong capable females and support the war effort. Rockwell often found himself at odds with the more conservative the politics of the Saturday Evening Post, so in his later years, he took up the controversial subject of racism in America. He became respected as a painter for these hard-hitting pieces of American culture, much more so than for his work for the Saturday Evening Post.

22. Huey P. Newton, Minister of Defense, (1968).

propaganda posters black and white

Huey P. Newton, Minister of Defence, done by an unidentified artist, 1968. When organizers of the Black Panther Party set up this scene for a photographer in 1967—enthroning the young “minister of defence” Huey Newton in a wicker chair and arming him a rifle and spear, they showed their determination to follow Malcolm X creed, “by any means necessary”. And the poster of course, transforms Newton into a larger than life, king-like figure.

23. “To Defend USSR”, (1930).

propaganda posters black and white

Valentina Kulagina was one of the few female poster artists to emerge from the 20th century. This poster, called “To Defend USSR” was created by Kulagina in 1930. It takes a cubist perspective in its multi-dimensional shapes, and it shows the Red army as huge almost robotic figures, marching from the factories to fight the war. They are surrounded by the tiny white airplanes of the royalists, which appear to have no effect on them at all and in fact seem to be flying through the figures. Chilling!

24. “Lest We Forget” : UK, (2010).

propaganda posters black and white

The artist behind this one could not be identified, but this had to be included for its clever use of old Tory values and the play on the Scooby-Doo gang’s unveiling of the monster. This poster shows the lack of faith in Prime Minister David Cameron’s promise to be a force for change and not just another Margaret Thatcher clone.

25. Unusual, rare anti-Nazi propaganda postcard from 1934

propaganda posters black and white

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The Unwritten Record

The Unwritten Record

We Can Do It!: World War II Posters at the Still Picture Branch

"We Can Do It!"

Many recognize Rosie the Riveter’s “We Can Do It!” or Uncle Sam’s “I Want You” posters from World War II. Just as the posters created a rousing call to the public at the time of their creation, they also serve as hallmarks of the Second World War. The Still Picture Branch at the National Archives and Records Administration houses a multitude of posters used during World War II by the United States Government. The messages range from the promotion of Victory Gardens to recruitment for the various branches of the military.

While not an exhaustive list, included within this blog post are highlights of the largest series of posters from World War II within the holdings of the Still Picture Branch. Also listed below are series of art created during the process of designing the posters, as well as posters from foreign countries.

Fully Digitized Series of Posters

"I Want You For The U.S. Army Enlist Now"

44-PA: World War II Posters, 1942 – 1945

This series consists of posters created by various Federal Agencies and assembled by the Division of Public Inquiries, Office of War Information to promote the war effort. Posters in this series range from the famous Uncle Sam’s “I Want You” to promotions for War Bonds to advocating for healthy practices. The series is entirely digitized and available through our online catalog . Please note that there are a few posters in this series that may have copyright restrictions.  Refer to our copyright and publication statement below.

"Give It Your Best!"

179-WP: War Production Board, 1942 – 1943

This series consists of posters used in various production drives instituted by the War Production Board, which was an United States government agency created to manage production of war materials during World War II. Included in this series are posters such as Rosie the Riveter’s “We Can Do It!,” posters recruiting for the military, and promotion of the war effort on the homefront. This series is entirely digitized and available through our online catalog .

"Every Canadian Must Fight"

44-PF: World War II Foreign Posters, 1942 – 1945

This series consists of posters produced by foreign information offices and war relief associations. The posters are from a variety of countries including Great Britain, Canada, France, Russia, and more. The subject matter includes promotions for military recruitment, education, safety and more. This series is entirely digitized and available through our online catalog .

"Together we WIN"

208-AOP: Original Artwork for World War II Posters, 1942 – 1945 

This series consists of original artwork and a few photographs for World War II-era posters. Many posters were created by the Office of War Information (OWI) for the War Department’s campaigns. The art covers a variety of topics such as civilian agencies’ campaigns, labor issues, promoting unity among the Allies, and many more. A number of works of art were created by renowned artists, or those who later grew in popularity. The series is entirely digitized and available through our online catalog . Please note that there are a few records in this series that may have copyright restrictions. Refer to our copyright and publication statement below.

"Help Prevent Forest Fires"

Additional Series that are Not Currently Digitized

287-p: illustrative material published by the government printing office and other government agencies, 1871 – 1970.

This series consists of primarily posters printed by the Government Printing Office (GPO) between 1917 and 1945, with additional materials dated up until 1970. Since the Government Printing Office (GPO) produces and distributes materials for all three branches of the United States Federal Government, the materials within this series were created by nearly 150 Federal Agencies. The posters related to World War II cover subject matter such as military recruitment, war efforts at home and abroad, Civil Defense, and more. This series is not currently digitized.

24-PO: Recruitment Posters, ca. 1942 – ca. 2001

This series consists of posters produced for recruiting for the United States Navy. Most of the posters are from World War II, however, a few posters from World War I are also included. The posters were used to recruit for a variety of naval positions such as the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), the Seabees, and more. This series is not currently digitized.

44-PS: Records Relating to Poster Production and Procurement, 1942 – 1945

This series consists of records that illustrate the effort undertaken by the U.S. Government to produce and disseminate posters during World War II. While there are no full-size posters within this series, there are poster catalogs, lists of contacts for posters within various U.S. Government agencies, bulletins, and a “Poster Handbook” outlining the steps in procuring and displaying posters. This series is not currently digitized.

208-MSC: Posters from the World War II-Era, ca. 1942 – ca. 1945

This series consists primarily of posters used during World War II. The posters focus on production and other labor-related issues, as well as the need to conserve and recycle materials for the war effort. Poster titles include: “For God and Country Plant a Victory Garden,” “Effort for Victory. Safety. A Good Production Soldier Doesn’t Expose Himself to the Sniping of Danger,” and “Kid Salvage.” Please note that there are a few posters in this series that may have copyright restrictions. This series is not currently digitized.

208-PMP: World War II Posters, 1941 – 1944

This series consists of color and black and white posters that were distributed and predominately produced by the Office of War Information’s Art Section of the Graphics Division of the Domestic Operations Branch. The posters address recruitment, national security, conservation of resources, fund raising, and propaganda. This series is not currently digitized.

208-PMO: Office of War Information Posters, ca. 1941 – ca. 1945

This series consists of posters from the Office of War Information (OWI) during World War II. The posters cover a variety of subject matter related to the war effort such as wartime production, health and safety issues, war bonds, military recruitment, and more. The posters were created by federal agencies, commissions, and councils, as well as non-federal organizations. Please note that there are a few posters in this series that may have copyright restrictions.   This series is not currently digitized.

See our additional blog posts related to World War II posters:

Images of the Week: World War II Posters Food and the War Effort Spotlight: Propaganda Double Take: Making Visual Connections in the National Archives Catalog

If you have questions about any of the posters included in this blog post or still photographs, you may contact the Still Picture Branch at [email protected] .

PUBLICATION OF PHOTOGRAPHS FURNISHED BY THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES STILL PICTURE BRANCH-RRSS

Generally, copies of photographic records held by the National Archives may be published without special permission or additional fees. The National Archives does not grant exclusive or non-exclusive publication privileges. Copies of Federal records, as part of the public domain, are equally available to all. A small percentage of photographs in our holdings are or may be subject to copyright restrictions. The National Archives does not confirm the copyright status of photographs but will provide any information known about said status. It is the user’s responsibility to obtain all necessary clearances. Any use of these items is made at the researcher’s or purchaser’s own risk.

Proper credit lines are encouraged in the interest of good documentation. They also help inform the public about government photographic resources that are available.

*Because so many of our requests for information cite credits and captions that appear in published works, the inclusion of a photo number in hard copy  and  electronic publications is of great assistance to both us and the public.

Examples of preferred credit lines are as follows:

  • National Archives photo no. 210-G-C241
  • Credit National Archives (photo no. 83-G-41368)
  • Courtesy National Archives, photo no.  83-G-41430
  • National Archives (210-G-A14)

If using a large number of our images, the National Archives will appreciate receiving copies of publications that contain our photographs. Such copies can be sent to the Still Picture Branch or the Library, National Archives and Records Administration.

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These World War II Propaganda Posters Rallied the Home Front

By: Madison Horne

Updated: August 10, 2023 | Original: October 12, 2018

Rosie the RIveter

When Britain and France went to war with Germany in 1939, Americans were divided over whether to join the war effort. It wouldn't be until the surprise attacks on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 that the United States would be thrust into  World War II . Once U.S. troops were sent to the front lines, hundreds of artists were put to work to create posters that would rally support on the home front .

Citizens were invited to purchase war bonds and take on factory jobs to support production needs for the military. As men were sent to battlefields, women were asked to branch out and take on jobs as riveters, welders and electricians.

To preserve resources for the war effort, posters championed carpooling to save on gas, warned against wasting food and urged people to collect scrap metal to recycle into military materials. In the spring of 1942, rationing programs were implemented that set limits on everyday purchases.

While many posters touted positive patriotic messages, some tapped fear to rally support for the Allied side and caution against leaking information to spies. "Loose lips sink ships" became a famous saying. Meanwhile, graphic images depicted a blood-thirsty Adolph Hitler and racist imagery of Japanese people with sinister, exaggerated features.

Today, the posters a offer a glimpse into the nation's climate during World War II and how propaganda was used to link the home front to the front lines.

propaganda posters black and white

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Archives West Finding Aid

Table of contents, overview of the collection.

  • Historical Note
  • Content Description

Alternative Forms Available

Restrictions on use, preferred citation, arrangement, acquisition information, processing note, location of collection.

  • Series 1: Propaganda Posters (Russia, South America, Europe, Canada),1914-1996
  • Series 2: Propaganda Posters (United States),World War I, circa 1914-1920
  • Series 3: Propaganda Posters (United States),World War II, 1939-1949
  • Series 4: International Relations Propaganda Posters (United States and International),World War II, 1939-1945
  • Series 5: French Posters

Series 6: Miscellaneous, 1914-1990

  • Names and Subjects

Propaganda Poster Collection, 1914-1996

This collection is open and available for research use.

Historical Note Return to Top

Prior to the advent of broadcast radio and television, governments looked to other media to communicate information to their citizens. One of the most eye-catching formats is the propaganda poster, the use of which peaked during World War I and remained pervasive through World War II. The U.S. government alone produced an estimated 20,000,000 copies of more than 2,500 distinct posters during the First World War. Through these "weapons on the wall," governments persuaded their citizens to participate in a variety of patriotic functions, from purchasing war bonds to conserving scarce resources. These posters also strengthened public support for the wars by providing "message control" about the government's allies and enemies.

Many terms historically used to describe individuals and communities with disabilities are offensive and were used to dismiss, discount and dehumanize these individuals and communities. Terms often focused on a perceived impairment and not the person. MASC recognizes the harm caused by these terms. We retain the language in this finding aid to document history and preserve context.

Content Description Return to Top

This collection contains 517 posters, most issued by governments to influence behavior and public morale. Most items are from the period beginning with the start of World War I and concluding with the end of World War II.

The posters found here were collected by the Washington State University Libraries, dating back into the 1910s. They became part of the College's War Library, a collection established in 1937-1938, consisting of rare books, pamphlets, posters, and other ephemera. The collection continued to grow through donations from various sources. In 2009, approximately 300 posters were assembled into this collection. In 2013, approximately 200 more posters were added to the collection. Dating largely from World War II and post-World War II, most of the added posters are in French and are directed toward Parisians, announcing war updates and requesting public action. The additions also include United States World War I and World War II posters, and Russian post-World War I posters.

Poster titles were transcribed from the item, where no title was available, one was created by the collection processors, Amy Sabourin and Morgan Clendenning, and is shown in brackets.

English translations were supplied by collection processor, Amy Sabourin.

Series 1: Propaganda Posters (Russia, South America, Europe, Canada), 1914-1996

Subseries 1.1: Russian Language Posters, 1917-1996

Subseries 1.2: South American Posters, World War I, 1914-1918

Subseries 1.3: European Posters, World War I, 1914-1918

Subseries 1.4: Canadian Posters, World War I, circa 1914-1918

Series 2: Propaganda Posters (United States), World War I, circa 1914-1920

Subseries 2.1: Food Conservation and Material Donations, 1914-1919

Subseries 2.2: Financial Aid: War Savings Stamps, 1914-1918

Subseries 2.3: Financial Aid: Red Cross, 1914-1918

Subseries 2.4: Financial Aid: War Bonds, 1914-1919

Subseries 2.5: Financial Aid: United War Work Campaign, Y.M.C.A, Y.W.C.A; 1914-1919

Series 3: Propaganda Posters (United States), World War II, 1939-1949

Subseries 3.1: Food and Resource Conservation, 1939-1945

Subseries 3.2: Financial Aid: War Bonds, 1939-1945

Subseries 3.3: Public Morale, 1942-1945

Subseries 3.4: Military Recruitment and Training Aids, 1939-1949

Subseries 3.5: Public Information and Safety, 1942-1944

Series 4: International Relations Propaganda Posters (United States and International), World War II, 1939-1945

Series 5: Propaganda Posters (France), World War II and Post World War II, 1939-1960

Subseries 5.1: French World War II, 1939-1945

Subseries 5.2: French Post-World War II, 1943-1955

Use of the Collection Return to Top

A digital collection containing all items, except number 94 (which was too large to scan), was created in January of 2013. This can be viewed as the Propaganda Poster Digital Collection .

Copyright restrictions may apply.

[Item Description]

Propaganda Poster Collection, 1914-1996 (SC 005)

Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.

Administrative Information Return to Top

The collection is arranged in six series; three of these are further divided into subseries.

The Washington State University Libraries acquired these posters from various sources during the 20th century. Approximately 300 posters were initially assembled into this collection in 2009. In 2013, a group of approximately 200 more posters were processed and integrated into the collection.

This collection was processed by Amy Sabourin in 2009 and, with the addition of 200 items, by Morgan Clendenning in 2013.

In 2022, in response to evolving standards regarding the language used to describe individuals and communities with disabilities, Gayle O’Hara added a Historical Note to this finding aid.

Detailed Description of the Collection Return to Top

Series 1: propaganda posters (russia, south america, europe, canada),1914-1996 return to top, series 2: propaganda posters (united states),world war i, circa 1914-1920 return to top, series 3: propaganda posters (united states),world war ii, 1939-1949 return to top, series 4: international relations propaganda posters (united states and international),world war ii, 1939-1945 return to top, series 5: french posters return to top, series 6: miscellaneous, 1914-1990 return to top, names and subjects return to top, subject terms.

  • World War, 1914-1918 -- Europe -- Posters
  • World War, 1914-1918 -- Posters
  • World War, 1914-1918 -- Propaganda
  • World War, 1914-1918 -- United States -- Posters
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Europe -- Posters
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Posters
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Propaganda
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- United States -- Posters

Corporate Names

  • American Library Association. Library War Service

Finding aid prepared by Amy Sabourin and Morgan Clendenning. 2016

CC Attribution

About Creative Commons Licenses in Archives West

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Propaganda Posters From All Over the World to Inspire Your Design

Guidelines for creating propaganda posters:.

Use bold, simple colors

Add frames and labels

Be geometric

Go big with text and messaging

Now onward, to inevitable poster design victory!

Using bold, simple colors

propaganda posters black and white

New York Public Library. USSR. (1917-1921.) Dym trub. Dykhan’e Sovetskoi Rossii. (Additional title: The Smoke of Chimneys is the Breath of Soviet Russia.)

Just Say No to Propaganda Posters!

… Hang on, that sounded a little propaganda-y. We’re a freethinking bunch here on Team PicMonkey, so we don’t advocate manipulating the minds of the masses with the power of your design. However, we do appreciate design in general, and propaganda posters are undeniably iconic examples. So what can we learn from them?

As it turns out, propaganda posters of the twentieth century can teach us a lot. Many were created by artists as part of government-run contests, and exemplify techniques and themes from art movements such as Modernism, Art Deco, and Constructivism. However, propaganda is unique in that it’s high on emotional appeal and intended to influence attitudes towards specific policies: the quintuple-shot espresso of government outreach, if you will.

Propaganda posters are famously direct, and their color palette is no exception. Many iconic propaganda posters were designed using as few as three colors, often black, white, and a warm shade like red.

propaganda posters black and white

I.M. Toidze. 1941. “The Motherland Calls.”

propaganda posters black and white

J. Howard Miller. 1942. “We Can Do It!”

Even posters that feature more colors, like Rosie the Riveter’s realistically shaded skin and hair, tend to focus on a few bold shades that grab the eye. In Rosie’s case, they’re the three primary colors, with a peppy si-se-puede yellow lighting the background.

Pro tip: Generate your own custom color palette based on propaganda posters and use it for any project you like. Simply choose a poster with colors that strike you, then follow our tutorial to create your palette.

Adding frames and labels

propaganda posters black and white

Wikimedia Commons. 1920. Russian First of May poster.

Elaborately framed pieces are a hallmark of Art Nouveau, an art style popular from 1890 to 1920, which is why you’ll see intricate frames and graphics pop up in the propaganda from the WWI and Bolshevik eras.

propaganda posters black and white

New York Public Library. USSR. (1917-1921.) Vpervye v istorii chelovechestva Oktiabr’skaia revoliutsiia osmelilas’ vlastno potrebovat’ ot vekovechnykh ugnetatelei trudiashchikhsia rasplaty za krov’ i slezy soten pokolenii rabov. [ … ] My pobedim! (Additional title: For the first time in the history of mankind October Revolution took the liberty to demand from the ages long opressors of working people the payment for blood and tears of hundreds generations of the slaves. [ … ] We will gain!)

We love these garnishes: not only are they beautifying, but they can be a great way to organize information. Spotlight your revolutionary tagline by putting it on a pedestal (or over a semi-transparent box). Fancy up your pastoral proletariat scene with decorative corners. Put a frame on it!

propaganda posters black and white

James Montgomery Flagg. (c. 1917.) “Uncle Sam Wants You.”

If it’s good enough for Uncle Sam, it’s good enough for you. Check out how the flag-colored frame supports the patriotic message of the poster.

P.S., you know who has some sweeeeet corners, frames, and other decorative flourishes? Uh, yeah, that’s little old PicMonkey. Find them in the Frames tab, as well as in the Corners, Garnishes, and Labels graphic groups.

Being geometric

propaganda posters black and white

Koretskiy V. B., Gitsevich V. A. (1932.) “The Soviet trade unions-the vanguard of the world-wide workers’ movement.”

Let’s say you’re less about curlicues, and more about those straight-shooting geometric shapes. In that case, you’ll wanna skip on ahead in the history of art from nouveau to deco—and the famous Russian art form, Constructivism.

Just as Russian Communists envisioned a totally new way of ordering society, Russian Constructivist art envisioned new ways of creating shapes, inspired by emerging technology. What this meant for propaganda posters in the 1910s and ’20s was a focus on geometry and abstract shapes.

propaganda posters black and white

Aleksandr Rodchenko. (1925.) “Lengiz, Books in all Branches of Knowledge.”

Shapes, man!

propaganda posters black and white

Japan. 1931. “Kusunoki Masashige Festival.”

Meanwhile, if you’ve ever admired the radiating grandeur of a rising-sun-style graphic flourish, Art Deco says you’re welcome. Chevrons, sunbursts, and zig-zags are hallmarks of the Art Deco style, and can be seen in a number of twentieth-century propaganda posters—including this Japanese number portraying modern-day samurai.

If you like an artistic element on a specific poster, whether it’s a graphic or a style of portraying people, hit the search engines to figure out what artistic school it comes from. Chances are, other work in that style will have more inspiration for you.

Going big with your text

propaganda posters black and white

Z.P. Nikolaki. (1918.) “Hello! This is liberty speaking—billions of dollars are needed and needed now.”

Many propaganda posters of the twentieth century were used in the context of war: to build morale and coordinate action at home, or to persuade and undermine abroad. So they don’t pussyfoot around when it comes to message, there’s no time! Our people are out there!!! LOOSE LIPS SINK SHIPS, ARTHUR.

propaganda posters black and white

Roy Nockolds, The National Archives (UK). (1942.) “In Germany…someone is doing the same job as you. Beat him!”

propaganda posters black and white

Food Information Committee of the Government of Canada. “Save Food—Waste Nothing.”

What’s the lesson here for us? Experiment with big, bold text—in terms of both typography and message.

Don’t get us wrong: we love a delicately crafted, multi-metaphored turn of phrase as much as the next word jockey. Sometimes, though, simpler is more effective. That’s how we get “When you ride alone, you ride with Hitler” and “This man is your friend, he fights for freedom.”

propaganda posters black and white

United States Office of Facts and Figures. (1942.) “This man is your friend.”

So don’t hold back! Get right to the point, capitalize with abandon, and tug at some heartstrings. (Or guilt-strings, as with the famous British poster that asks, “Daddy, what did you do in the Great War?”)

Of course, propaganda is all about knowing your audience. The over-the-top phrasing on many of these old posters makes us giggle today, so either adjust your message accordingly, or lean hard into the comedy.

So there you have it! A few of the styles and techniques common to propaganda posters that can influence your own designs. Now get out there and take over the world!

… But like, not literally.

Elisa Chavez

Elisa Chavez is a content writer here at PicMonkey, where she hopes to change the world one dinosaur selfie at a time. She is also a nationally ranked slam poet, champion shopper, and doting dog mama.

Related Articles

Modern Political Propaganda Posters & the Principles of Art

The history of the political poster is long and disputed, but generally dates back to 19th century Europe. However, political propaganda posters did not really gain widespread popularity until World War I. Early in US history, political candidates would send around information via pamphlets with their name and an image. These early examples were purely informative, and while they could be considered art, the locust of “artistic” propaganda and campaign posters is rooted in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Around World War I, the need for aid and assistance grew, and appealing to the general public was essential. Eye-catching graphics and a compelling message proved effective tools for mass produced posters. With these essential principles of design, artists were able to create a memorable and successful campaign.

The first poster in question is from WWI, advertising a campaign for knitters to make socks for servicemen stationed at the front lines.

propaganda posters black and white

The first element that draws the viewer’s eye is the very clear message “Our Boys Need Sox Knit Your Bit.” Enclosed by the large dark box that immediately catches the eye, the inspiring call of the campaign is clear. The use of scale on the word “SOX” clearly communicates what it is the Red Cross was looking for. The angle of the knitting needles and the movement of the yarn also leads the eye back down to the important information. While not perfectly symmetrical, there is plenty of balance from the left side to the right side, a universally satisfying principle of design. The warm color palette, while popular at the time, also lends warmth and hominess to the poster, encouraging everyday people to take up a greater cause.

After the start of WWI, the need for more troops in Great Britain increased, and an iconic poster was created. Designed by Alfred Leete in 1914, the poster depicts Lord Kitchener pointing at the viewer. This poster inspired many copies, most notably the “Uncle Sam Wants You” version in the United States. Similarly to the knitting poster, this poster also plays with scale to bring the eye around to the important sections. The foreshortening of the pointing arm employed new artistic norms to give the effect that he is directly pointing at the viewer, individualizing the visual experience.

propaganda posters black and white

The popularity of political propaganda posters only increased after WWI. Posters for campaigns, government motions, and opposition parties flourished. Take the 1938 poster for the Labour Party in England, for example. The first aspect that a viewer may see is the stark contrast between the background, the text, and the imagery. The slanted angle of the text at the top mimics the angle of the key in the middle. This movement centers the eye in the evocative image of a clenched fist. Unlike previous posters, scale isn’t the primary design factor, and  the emphasis is rooted contrast and dynamic positioning. The key is composed of text itself, the “Savage Government” phrase a subtle and witty rebuke of dominant political forces.The stability of the “Labour” text both in the alignment of the text and the color that was used introduces themes of strength in relation to the Labour Party itself. This positioning implies that if one were to vote for the Labour Party, it would bring stability to an askew government.

propaganda posters black and white

When WWII began, another round of wartime posters were commissioned by the British government. Artist Abram Games designed multiple posters, all with various messages to the people, from growing your own food to warnings about illicit behaviors. His work took a very interesting approach with a split of text and imagery based posters. One such poster is one warning soldiers about talking to the wrong people and potentially endangering the lives of servicemen.

propaganda posters black and white

This particular poster combines a number of contemporary design principles to elicit an emotional response. Unlike previous examples, the text is not the primary communicative principle, instead reinforcing the dizzyingly terrifying image. The strong use of movement in the radiating spiral leading to three figures being pierced by a sword conveys the urgency and seriousness of the issue. The repetition of the figures highlights the stakes of the issue, and the vague, centralized face of the soldier puts a contemporary viewer into the image. The intense red of the spiral matches the red of “Your,” which further links the soldier and the consequences of their actions.

Another iconic poster from WWII is the “Rosie the Riveter” poster that encouraged women to join the workforce, particularly in the defense industry. Designed for Westinghouse by J. Howard Miller, the poster features the profile of a woman with her arm flexed. She is shown wearing coveralls and a bandana with a fierce look of determination in her eyes. Above her is a text bubble that says “We Can Do It!”

propaganda posters black and white

Here again, contrast is used to emphasize the foreground. The yellow is energetic and attention-grabbing, equating the energy of the modern women to Rosie’s strength. The bulk of Rosie’s body lies on one side of the golden ratio line, while the strong arm is on the other side, a visually satisfying concept overall. The positioning of her arm leads the eye up to the text, the short, punchy message a perfect slogan for the movement. The power of this poster and the meaning behind it has remained constant to this day, with multiple renditions of it being created for various movements, most recently images of frontline doctors and nurses fighting COVID-19.

propaganda posters black and white

In the early 60s, variations of Lyndon B. Johnson’s campaign poster began to utilize design techniques. Johnson was portrayed looking at the camera, looking away, or with his running mate. Partially due to the growth of photographic interest at this time, photography is heavily used in political posters between the 60s and early 2000s. Interestingly, the text is the focus of the piece, its colorful background contrasted by the black and white image. This image follows a composition technique called the rule of thirds, where the image is broken up into three columns and three rows, with the important elements falling into each one of those sections. Additionally, the layout of the red and blue, iconic colors for US politics, frames Johnson’s portrait, highlighting him as a patriotic American candidate. With Johnson in the middle, he can be shown “bridging the gap” between Republicans and Democrats, bringing the country into the middle.

US posters in the 1970s through the early 2000s showed much of the same style; an image of the candidates in the center with a heavy use of red and blue and other patriotic imagery. In 2008, the return to graphic posters came in the form of a poster by Shepard Fairey .

propaganda posters black and white

Barack Obama’s presidential campaign posters were an immediate hit, with multiple imitations flooding social media. The poster itself is simple, with a portrait of President Barack Obama with a single word “Hope” underneath. Contrast is used in this poster via the “paper cut out” style to create forms from the dark tones up to the light. “Hope” is integrated into Obama’s figure, presenting him as the literal embodiment of virtue. The use of color shifting is also prominent, as this poster isn’t a primary red or blue, but more of a nuanced color palette. This change in pace from previous campaign posters signaled a youthfulness and “coolness” of a new campaign.

propaganda posters black and white

Another effective poster in the 2010s came from the Hillary Clinton campaign of 2016. Designed by Michael Bierut, the logo is a simple H with an arrow passing through it. While it wasn’t an instant hit, and caused some uproar within the graphic design community, it does tell a story. First and foremost, the Clinton 2016 poster is the most pared down of the posters in this article, and it marks a new era of campaign design which is simplistic, and stark. Strong lines and blocky shapes lend an aura of strength and stability, while the arrow passing through shows progress and movement. The combination of these elements combine to form an H, successfully advertising the candidate. This poster and others from 2016 do show a return to the primary blue and red amidst a more divided political landscape.

Throughout history, posters employ a number of design techniques to subliminally message their viewers and pull in attention. Political posters and advertisements use the part of the brain that responds to art, connecting to people on a more emotional level. Graphic design has been and continues to be a strong form of communication, and it will be interesting to see how it progresses over time.

Benjamin Krudwig

Los Angeles based designer with a passion for photography and textiles. Follow @benjamin_krudwig on instagram!

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propaganda posters black and white

World War II Propaganda Posters, 1941–1945

propaganda posters black and white

Use this primary source imagery to analyze major events in history.

Suggested Sequencing

  • Use this primary source with the  Photographs: Women at Work on the Homefront during World War II, 1941–1945  Primary Source to show how Americans experienced WWII in the United States.

Introduction

World War II presented an existential threat to the United States in many ways. Thus, the country mobilized its resources and citizens on an unprecedented scale to meet the industrial and manpower demands of war. However, the war effort did not just involve physical entities like guns, planes, and soldiers. The U.S. government was very aware of the psychological burdens of war and recruited leading artists and filmmakers to create propaganda to influence the public and motivate Americans to support the war.

Sourcing Questions

  • Why did the U.S. government create propaganda?
  • Who helped the government create the propaganda materials?

A woman clutches papers to her chest. The poster reads “Longing won’t bring him back sooner…get a war job! See your US Employment Service.”

Figure 1: War Manpower Commission recruitment poster by Lawrence Wilbur, 1944. Printed by the Government Printing Office for the War Manpower Commission.

A shirtless, muscular soldier loads a gun with a bullet that is several feet long. The poster says “Man the guns. Join the Navy.”

Figure 2: U.S. Navy recruitment poster by McClelland Barclay, 1942.

Two men, one white and one African American, use drills to work on the same piece of equipment. The men are in black and white. An American flag is behind them in color. The poster reads “United We Win.”

Figure 3: War Manpower Commission poster. Photograph by Alexander Liberman, 1943.

A woman holds a baby. Two crooked black hands reach out for them. One hand is labeled with the swastika; the other hand is labeled with a red circle with white rays coming out. The caption reads “Keep these hands off! Buy the new victory bonds.”

Figure 4 : Victory Bonds poster by G. K. Odell.

A man drives a car. An outline of Hitler rides in the passenger seat. The caption reads “When you ride alone you ride with Hitler! Join a car-sharing club today!”

Figure 5 : Car-sharing poster by Weimer Pursell, 1943. Printed by the Government Printing Office for the Office of Price Administration

Comprehension Questions

  • ( Figure 1 ) Who was the intended audience of this poster?
  • ( Figure 1 ) What do you notice about this woman’s features? Why do you think she is portrayed this way?
  • ( Figure 2 ) Who was the intended audience of this poster?
  • ( Figure 2 ) Why would the government be recruiting this audience?
  • ( Figure 2 ) What do you notice about this man’s features? Why do you think he is portrayed this way?
  • ( Figure 3 ) The U.S. government was aware that segregation would make some African Americans less likely to want to assist in the war effort. How do you think this poster is meant to address that problem?
  • ( Figure 3 ) Why did the artist use the colors that are in this poster?
  • ( Figure 4 ) Whose hands are encroaching on the woman in this poster?
  • ( Figure 4 ) Why does the poster depict a woman and a child?
  • ( Figure 5 ) Who was the intended audience of this poster?
  • ( Figure 5 ) Why would the government encourage people to not drive alone?

Historical Reasoning Questions

  • Consider the current conflict the U.S. is engaged in against terrorism around the world. Do you see propaganda like these posters to encourage assisting in the war effort? If not, why?
  • This United States Navy Recruiting Station poster  was created as part of the propaganda effort during World War I. What similarities and differences do you notice between this and the second picture?

Image 1: https://www.archives.gov/exhibits/powers_of_persuasion/its_a_womans_war_too/images_html/longing.html

Image 2: https://www.archives.gov/exhibits/powers_of_persuasion/man_the_guns/images_html/man_the_guns.html

Image 3: https://www.archives.gov/exhibits/powers_of_persuasion/united_we_win/images_html/united_we_win.html

Image 4: https://www.archives.gov/exhibits/powers_of_persuasion/warning/images_html/keep_these_hands_off.html

Image 5: https://www.archives.gov/exhibits/powers_of_persuasion/use_it_up/images_html/ride_with_hitler.html

World War I: 100 Years Later

A Smithsonian magazine special report

The Posters That Sold World War I to the American Public

A vehemently isolationist nation needed enticement to join the European war effort. These advertisements were part of the campaign to do just that

Jia-Rui Cook

propaganda posters black and white

On July 28, 1914, World War I officially began when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. In Europe and beyond, country after country was drawn into the war by a web of alliances. It took three years, but on April 2, 1917, the U.S. entered the fray when Congress declared war on Germany.

The government didn’t have time to waste while its citizens made up their minds about joining the fight. How could ordinary Americans be convinced to participate in the war “ Over There ,” as one of the most popular songs of the era described it?

Posters—which were so well designed and illustrated that people collected and displayed them in fine art galleries—possessed both visual appeal and ease of reproduction. They could be pasted on the sides of buildings, put in the windows of homes, tacked up in workplaces, and resized to appear above cable car windows and in magazines. And they could easily be reprinted in a variety of languages.

To merge this popular form of advertising with key messages about the war, the U.S. government’s public information committee formed a Division of Pictorial Publicity in 1917. The chairman, George Creel, asked Charles Dana Gibson, one of most famous American illustrators of the period, to be his partner in the effort. Gibson, who was president of the Society of Illustrators, reached out to the country’s best illustrators and encouraged them to volunteer their creativity to the war effort.

These illustrators produced some indelible images, including one of the most iconic American images ever made: James Montgomery Flagg’s stern image of Uncle Sam pointing to the viewer above the words, “I Want You for U.S. Army.” (Flagg’s inspiration came from an image of the British Secretary of State for War , Lord Kitchener, designed by Alfred Leete.) The illustrators used advertising strategies and graphic design to engage the casual passerby and elicit emotional responses. How could you avoid the pointing finger of Uncle Sam or Lady Liberty? How could you stand by and do nothing when you saw starving children and a (fictional) attack on New York City?

“Posters sold the war,” said David H. Mihaly, the curator of graphic arts and social history at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California, where 55 of these posters will go on view August 2. “These posters inspired you to enlist, to pick up the flag and support your country. They made you in some cases fear an enemy or created a fear you didn’t know you had. Nations needed to convince their citizens that this war was just, and we needed to participate and not sit and watch.” There were certainly propaganda posters before 1917, but the organization and mass distribution of World War I posters distinguished them from previous printings, Mihaly said.

Despite the passage of 100 years—as well as many wars and disillusionment about them—these posters retain their power to make you stare. Good and evil are clearly delineated. The suffering is hard to ignore. The posters tell you how to help, and the look in the eyes of Uncle Sam makes sure you do.

“ Your Country Calls!: Posters of the First World War ” will be on view at the Huntington from August 2 to November 3, 2014. Jia-Rui Cook wrote this for  Zocalo Public Square .

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  • Claire Stokoe
  • Jun 13, 2010

51 Powerful Propaganda Posters And The People Behind

  • 13 min read
  • Inspiration , Showcases , Paintings , Graphic Design
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More about Claire Stokoe ↬

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War Propaganda Posters are well known. But at its core, it is a mode of communication aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position, and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Although propaganda is often used to manipulate human emotions by displaying facts selectively, it can also be very effective at conveying messages and hence can be used in web design, too.

Notice that propaganda uses loaded messages to change the attitude toward the subject in the target audience. When applied to web design, you may experiment with techniques used in propaganda posters and use them creatively to achieve a unique and memorable design.

In this article, we look at various types of propaganda posters and the people behind it , people who are rarely seen next to their work. You will also see how the drive for propaganda shaped many of the modern art movements we see today. Notice that this post is more than an ultimate showcase of propaganda artists. Something or somebody is missing? Please let us know in the comments to this post!

William Orpen: England, 1917

Orpen studied at the Slade School in London alongside the likes of Augustus John and Wyndham Lewis. He produced some of his best work while at the school and became known for his portraits. A friend of Orpen then arranged for him to paint the pictures of senior military officials, such as Lord Derby and Churchill. In 1917, he was recruited by the government’s head of War Propaganda to the Western front to paint images of war-torn France. It was there that Orpen painted his most famous piece, “Dead Germans in a Trench.”

Dimitri Moor: Russia, 1917–1921

Dimitri Moor (or Dmitry Stakhievich Orlov) changed the face of graphic design in Soviet Russia back in 1918. His work dominated both the Bolshevik Era (1917–1921) and the New Economic Policy (1921–1927). The main theme of Moor’s work is the stark contrast between the oppressive evil and the heroic allies. A lot of pressure was put on Russian workers to rise up against imperialism.

A lot of Moor’s artwork was restricted to black and red. Black was generally used for the main part of the poster, and all of the solid colors for the capitalists. Red was used for socialist elements such as flags and workers’ shirts.

This is a lesser known poster by the artist, appealing for help for those staving from the Russian famine in 1920. It features the single word “Pomogi,” meaning help. The drawing is of an old man who is just skin and bone. The last stalks of barley are barely visible in the background.

El Lissitzky: Russia, 1920

El Lissitzky spent his whole career absorbed by the belief that the artist could be an agent for change and good, and his work in a lot of respects shows this. He himself was a huge agent of change in the artistic movements of the time. He was one of the fathers of suprematism, along with Kazimir Malevich; and along with many of his peers, he changed the look of typography, exhibition design, photo montage and book cover design. Most of the modern techniques we see today and that appear in film and modern kinetic typography are the product of Lissitzky’s work.

One of his most famous pieces, shown below, really embodies Lissitzky’s work. It is so avant garde that even a lay person could recognize the style. The abstract geometric shapes and clear color pallet scream of modernist art, and yet the poster has a real message. It describes the Russian revolution that took place in 1917. The white circle represents the royalists from the old regime, and the red triangle represents the communists moving in and changing opinion. It has been described as a stylized battle plan for communist victory.

You might also recognize it from Franz Ferdinand’s album cover:

Then in 1921, El Lissitzky accepted a job as the Russian cultural ambassador to Germany. His work influenced a lot of the iconic designs of the Bauhaus and De Stijl movements. His last poster, seen below, was a return to propaganda, with a poster encouraging the Russian people to help Russia build more tanks to win the war against Nazi Germany.

Strakhov Braslavskij: Russia, 1926

Braslavskij was known for his posters that promoted the emancipation of women. During this time in Russia, the idea of gender equality was growing. Emancipated women were seen to be supporters of the communist agenda, and so they needed to be freed from their so-called duties as wives and mothers.

The emancipation of women and the socialist movement went pretty much hand in hand. In the poster below, we see almost a confluence of the sexes. The woman is drawn somewhat androgynously, wearing masculine clothing that hides her female figure, and a cold hard stare that hides her emotions. Behind her is her place of work, showing that women can do the same hard labor as men, and she carries the red flag of the communist movement.

The curious thing is that the image shows not so much the emancipation of women as it does a way to turn women into men, dressing them in men’s clothing, showing them as working in factories, and hiding their femininity. It seems the real reason to emancipate women was simply to increase the workforce and thus strengthen the communist movement.

Hans Schweitzer: Germany, 1930s

In Germany in the 1930s, propaganda was in full swing and being used by Hitler’s advisers to call the German people to arms and spread lies about the Jews. One of the most famous artists behind Nazi propaganda was Hans Schweitzer, known as “Mjolnir.” This poster by Hans Schweitzer shows the typical pro-Nazi theme of the German army’s strength, depicting an S.A. man standing next to a solider. The text reads, “The guarantee of German military strength!”

This next poster by Mjolnir, titled “Our Last Hope: Hitler” was used in the presidential elections of 1932, when Germany was suffering through its great depression. Nazi propagandists targeted the German people who were unemployed and living on the breadline, and they suggested Hitler as their way out, their savior.

The propaganda then used the scapegoat of the Jews, blaming them for all of Germany’s problems and the war. Many posters were entitled, “He is guilty for the war.” This was the key message of Hitler to start his campaign of terror and for the ethnic cleansing that ensued. Almost the entire campaign from beginning to end was driven by the artist Mjolnir. Just as the media molds public opinion today, Mjolnir most definitely molded the opinion of the German people through his designs. There is no doubts about the immorality and emotional deception of these designs; they are still worth mentioning because they were extremely powerful and effective at the time.

Valentina Kulagina: Russia, 1930

Kulagina was one of the few female poster artists to emerge from the 20th century. Her art was heavily influenced by suprematism, and you can see the similarity between her work and that of El Lissitzky. This poster, called “To Defend USSR” was created by Kulagina in 1930. It takes a cubist perspective in its multi-dimensional shapes, and it shows the Red army as huge almost robotic figures, marching from the factories to fight the war. They are surrounded by the tiny white airplanes of the royalists, which appear to have no effect on them at all and in fact seem to be flying through the figures.

Phillip Zec: England, 1930

Phillip Zec was probably best known for his depictions of Nazis as snakes and vultures. At the time, Nazis were usually drawn as bumbling clowns or buffoons. But Zec brought out the more sinister side of the German regime in his drawings. Hitler reportedly hated Zec so much that he added him to his black list and ordered his arrest following the invasion of Britain. He blamed Zec’s Jewish ancestry for his extreme ideas.

This poster by Zec was a call for women to join the war effort by working in the munitions factories.

This ugly toad is former Prime Minister of France Pierre Laval, who decided to work closely with the Nazi command during World War II.

This illustration is about the French Resistance, telling Hitler that it was very much alive.

Gino Boccasile: Italy, 1930

Gino Boccasile was a supporter of Benito Mussolini and produced a lot of propaganda for him. His posters became increasingly racist and anti-semitic as his support for the German puppet state increased. After the war, Boccasile was sent to prison for collaborating with the fascist regime. The only work he could find after his release from prison was as a pornographic artist and working in advertising for Paglieri cosmetics and Zenith footwear.

He became well known for his advertising and pornography.

Pablo Picasso: Spain, 1937

Picasso painted Guernica in response to the bombing of the town by Germany and Italy, which were following orders from Spanish Nationalist forces, on 26 April 1937. It must be said that it was commissioned to Picasso long before the bombing of the town und was supposed to be a classic painting first; after the bombings, Picasso changed his drawing to respond to the recent bombing. The giant mural shows the tragedy of war, using innocent civilians as the focal point. It became a huge symbol of anti-war, and upon completion it was exhibited worldwide to spread the message. The piece also educated other countries about the horror of the Spanish Civil War, which till then most people had never heard of.

Norman Rockwell: US, 1939

Norman Rockwell is probably one of the best known of the propoganda movement. He admitted that he was just a propaganda stooge for the Saturday Evening Post. The newspaper paid many artists and illustrators to whitewash American news with patriotism and propaganda for around 50 years.

His work has often been dismissed as idealistic or sentimental. His depiction of American life included young boys running away from a “No swimming” sign, and happy-go-lucky US citizens going about their business unaware of the crumbling world around them.

Rockwell’s famous Rosie the Riveter poster is shown below, representing the American women who worked in the munitions and war supplies factories during World War II. This was a call to arms for the women of America to become strong capable females and support the war effort.

J. Howard Miller’s “We Can Do It!,” commonly mistaken to depict Rosie the Riveter, conveyed the same message:

Rockwell was always unhappy with the politics of the Saturday Evening Post, so in his later years, he took up the controversial subject of racism in America. He became respected as a painter for these hard-hitting pieces of American culture, much more so than for his work for the Saturday Evening Post. The piece below is called “The Problem We All Live With.” It is not known whether this painting is based solely on the Ruby Bridges story, because it was also thought that the idea came from John Steinbeck’s book Travels With Charley .

The subject was the integration of black children in American schools. Little Ruby Bridges was filmed making her way into the William Franz School at 8:40 am. At this time, a gigantic crowd of 150 white women and male youth had gathered. They threw tomatoes and shouted vile comments at the tiny girl. It is hard to look at this picture without being affected.

Xu Ling: China, 1950

It is hard to find details on these Chinese artists, but we can focus on what they intended to convey with their artwork. This piece is a caricature of the American commander in Korea at that time, General MacArthur. It shows the US as an abhorrent evil, and Macarthur is shown stabbing a Korean mother and child. Bombs labeled US are being dropped on cities in China in the background as the US invades Korea.

Ye Shanlu (???): China, 1952

Again, little is known of the artist, but we do know this piece told people to get immunized against any epidemics to combat germ warfare. The Chinese were convinced that the US was planning to use bacterial weaponry against them, so they set about organizing massive inoculation drives to protect the Chinese people.

Ning Hao: China, 1954

Along the lines of Rosie the Riveter, this Ning Hao piece reflects women being asked to work in the factories alongside men, partially to support their emancipation, but mostly to increase the labor force in China.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Ireland, 1968

Jim Fitzpatrick was a well-known Irish Celtic artist of his time, but he is probably best known for his Che Guevara poster in 1968. It is said that Fitzpatrick took the death of the revolutionary personally. He had once met him when Guevara flew into Ireland in 1963 and checked into the Marine Hotel pub in Kilkee. Fitzpatrick was only a teenager at the time and had been working there over the summer. The poster became a global icon during the anti-Vietnam war protests and is now the symbol of F.A.R.C. in Columbia, a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary guerrilla organization, which is involved in the ongoing Colombian armed conflict. Zapatista Army of National Liberation (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, EZLN), a revolutionary group based in Chiapas, the southernmost state of Mexico, uses this symbol as well.

The image was also used during the violent Paris student riots in 1968. Across the rest of the West, the Marxist Che Guevara image is overused by any kid suffering from teenage angst.

Huynh Van Thuan: Vietnam, 1972

I could not find any information about Huynh Van Thuan, but I found this piece reminiscent of 1960s movie posters about the Vietnam war and so decided to include it.

Micah Ian Wright: US, 2003

After Micah Wright graduated, he worked a while for Nickelodeon and wrote for The Angry Beavers cartoon. Then in 2003, just before the invasion of Iraq, Micah published his anti-war protest book. The book was filled with satires of old war propaganda posters that Micah had reprinted with modern war messages.

Brian Lane Winfield Moore: US, 2009

Brain Moore is a modern propaganda artist who exhibits his work on his blog . He lives in Brooklyn and is probably best known for his promotion of net neutrality and his work during the 2009 Iranian election protests. The posters are based on old WWII propaganda posters but updated in their message to match today’s technology and Web culture.

This poster was a comment on the 2009 Iran election protests. He borrowed the old “loose lips” refrain and replaced it with tweets.

This next one was about the proposed Internet regulation that would supposedly curb illegal activities on the ‘net and help fight the “war on terror.”

Unknown artist: UK, 2010

I could not identify the artist behind this one but had to include it for its clever use of old Tory values and the play on the Scooby Doo gang’s unveiling of the monster. The Tory party now occupies 10 Downing Street, and David Cameron is now Prime Minister of United Kingdom. This poster shows the lack of faith in Cameron’s promise to be a force for change and not just another Thatcher.

Nick Griffin is not an artist, he is the chairman of the British National Party (BNP). Just as most other national parties across the globe, BNP is a good example of propaganda techniques being used to produce an emotional rather than rational response to the information presented. BNP has used them to build their hate-filled ranks for years. BNP is extremely good at speaking to people in plain, emotional language and affecting those who experience personal problems and want to find someone who can be blamed for these problems.

Just like many other national parties, BNP is blaming foreigners for these problems and uses strong religious metaphors to deliver the message. Very powerful, yet extremely unethical. This is an example of propaganda being used to manipulate people in a very deceptive, unfair manner.

Further Reading

  • The Legacy Of Polish Poster Design
  • 35 Beautiful Vintage and Retro Photoshop Tutorials
  • Retro Futurism At Its Best: Designs and Tutorials
  • Learning From The Past: Design Legacies & Arts

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Washington State University Libraries Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections

Guide to the propaganda poster collection 1914-1996 sc 005, table of contents, summary information, preferred citation.

[Item Description]

Propaganda Poster Collection, 1914-1996 (SC 005)

Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.

Return to Top »

Biography/History

Prior to the advent of broadcast radio and television, governments looked to other media to communicate information to their citizens. One of the most eye-catching formats is the propaganda poster, the use of which peaked during World War I and remained pervasive through World War II. The U.S. government alone produced an estimated 20,000,000 copies of more than 2,500 distinct posters during the First World War. Through these "weapons on the wall," governments persuaded their citizens to participate in a variety of patriotic functions, from purchasing war bonds to conserving scarce resources. These posters also strengthened public support for the wars by providing "message control" about the government's allies and enemies.

Many terms historically used to describe individuals and communities with disabilities are offensive and were used to dismiss, discount and dehumanize these individuals and communities. Terms often focused on a perceived impairment and not the person. MASC recognizes the harm caused by these terms. We retain the language in this finding aid to document history and preserve context.

Scope and Content

This collection contains 517 posters, most issued by governments to influence behavior and public morale. Most items are from the period beginning with the start of World War I and concluding with the end of World War II.

The posters found here were collected by the Washington State University Libraries, dating back into the 1910s. They became part of the College's War Library, a collection established in 1937-1938, consisting of rare books, pamphlets, posters, and other ephemera. The collection continued to grow through donations from various sources. In 2009, approximately 300 posters were assembled into this collection. In 2013, approximately 200 more posters were added to the collection. Dating largely from World War II and post-World War II, most of the added posters are in French and are directed toward Parisians, announcing war updates and requesting public action. The additions also include United States World War I and World War II posters, and Russian post-World War I posters.

Poster titles were transcribed from the item, where no title was available, one was created by the collection processors, Amy Sabourin and Morgan Clendenning, and is shown in brackets.

English translations were supplied by collection processor, Amy Sabourin.

Series 1: Propaganda Posters (Russia, South America, Europe, Canada), 1914-1996

Subseries 1.1: Russian Language Posters, 1917-1996

Subseries 1.2: South American Posters, World War I, 1914-1918

Subseries 1.3: European Posters, World War I, 1914-1918

Subseries 1.4: Canadian Posters, World War I, circa 1914-1918

Series 2: Propaganda Posters (United States), World War I, circa 1914-1920

Subseries 2.1: Food Conservation and Material Donations, 1914-1919

Subseries 2.2: Financial Aid: War Savings Stamps, 1914-1918

Subseries 2.3: Financial Aid: Red Cross, 1914-1918

Subseries 2.4: Financial Aid: War Bonds, 1914-1919

Subseries 2.5: Financial Aid: United War Work Campaign, Y.M.C.A, Y.W.C.A; 1914-1919

Series 3: Propaganda Posters (United States), World War II, 1939-1949

Subseries 3.1: Food and Resource Conservation, 1939-1945

Subseries 3.2: Financial Aid: War Bonds, 1939-1945

Subseries 3.3: Public Morale, 1942-1945

Subseries 3.4: Military Recruitment and Training Aids, 1939-1949

Subseries 3.5: Public Information and Safety, 1942-1944

Series 4: International Relations Propaganda Posters (United States and International), World War II, 1939-1945

Series 5: Propaganda Posters (France), World War II and Post World War II, 1939-1960

Subseries 5.1: French World War II, 1939-1945

Subseries 5.2: French Post-World War II, 1943-1955

Series 6: Miscellaneous, 1914-1990

Arrangement

The collection is arranged in six series; three of these are further divided into subseries.

Administrative Information

Publication information.

Washington State University Libraries Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections  © 2016

https://libraries.wsu.edu/masc/

Terrell Library

P.O. Box 645610

Pullman, WA, 99164-5610 USA

509-335-6691

[email protected]

Restrictions on Access

This collection is open and available for research use.

Restrictions on Use

Copyright restrictions may apply.

Acquisition Information

The Washington State University Libraries acquired these posters from various sources during the 20th century. Approximately 300 posters were initially assembled into this collection in 2009. In 2013, a group of approximately 200 more posters were processed and integrated into the collection.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Amy Sabourin in 2009 and, with the addition of 200 items, by Morgan Clendenning in 2013.

In 2022, in response to evolving standards regarding the language used to describe individuals and communities with disabilities, Gayle O’Hara added a Historical Note to this finding aid.

Alternative Form Available

A digital collection containing all items, except number 94 (which was too large to scan), was created in January of 2013. This can be viewed as the Propaganda Poster Digital Collection .

Names and Subjects

Corporate name(s), subject(s) :.

  • American Library Association. Library War Service
  • World War, 1914-1918 -- Posters
  • World War, 1914-1918 -- United States -- Posters
  • World War, 1914-1918 -- Europe -- Posters
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Posters
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- United States -- Posters
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Europe -- Posters
  • World War, 1914-1918 -- Propaganda
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Propaganda
  • Political Campaigns
  • Media and Communications

Detailed Description of Collection

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White Supremacist Propaganda Soared Last Year, Report Finds

The report, by the Anti-Defamation League, said three far-right groups were responsible for the large majority of the hateful fliers, banners and graffiti.

A sign that reads “no more antisemitism” hangs on a barricade in front of a stage in Washington, D.C. Two men in black suits and one man in a gray suit, all wearing hats, face the crowd, with the Washington Monument in the distance.

By Alan Feuer

Antisemitic leaflets dropped at private homes in Southern California. Fliers saying, “Stand Up White Man,” left in driveways in suburban Indiana. A laser projector casting hateful messages outside a football stadium in Florida.

Propaganda efforts by white supremacist groups soared in 2022 as such incidents reached a five-year high across the country, according to a new report by the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism.

In the report , released on Thursday morning, researchers for the A.D.L. say they have identified more than 6,750 separate occasions last year on which white supremacist organizations distributed racist, antisemitic or otherwise hateful fliers, stickers, banners, images, posters or graffiti. That is a nearly 40 percent rise in similar incidents compared with 2021 and a more than fivefold increase since 2018, according to the report.

Propaganda by hate groups serves not only to frighten and harass those who see it, but can also act as a powerful recruiting tool. Moreover, it can desensitize people to acts of aggression against victims — and even inspire violence in its viewers, scholars of political violence say.

While most propaganda efforts by white supremacist groups are targeted at local communities and are often limited in scope, in many cases they seek to capitalize on more prominent events. The A.D.L. has previously pointed out that some groups piggybacked on hateful behavior last year by the rapper Kanye West, who made a torrent of antisemitic remarks and attended a highly publicized dinner in November with Nick Fuentes, a white supremacist leader, and former President Donald J. Trump.

“There’s no question that white supremacists and antisemites are trying to terrorize and harass Americans and have significantly stepped up their use of propaganda as a tactic to make their presence known in communities nationwide,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive of the A.D.L., said in a statement that accompanied the report.

While the A.D.L.’s researchers determined that at least 50 separate organizations distributed white supremacist propaganda last year, three groups — Patriot Front, Goyim Defense League and the White Lives Matter movement — were responsible for more than 90 percent of the incidents. While these groups are not household names, as are other far-right organizations like the Proud Boys or the Oath Keepers militia, they have steadily promoted their racist, antisemitic and white supremacist messages by a variety of means in recent years, including at marches, rallies and public harassment campaigns.

Patriot Front, which promotes the idea of a white ethno-state in the United States, was responsible for the majority of the propaganda efforts last year, according to the report. It often cloaked its overtly white supremacist ideas in softer and more palatable phrases like “Reclaim America” and “One Nation Against Immigration.”

The group broke away from another organization, Vanguard America, in August 2017 after the bloody “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va. Last year, it was involved in a number of public marches, including one that targeted a local Pride event in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and resulted in the arrests of dozens of its members, including its founder, Thomas Rousseau.

Goyim Defense League has sought in recent years to spread an especially vitriolic version of antisemitism both online and in public. In October, after Mr. West, now known as Ye, made a series of antisemitic statements, Goyim Defense League and other groups, capitalizing on the publicity, used a laser projector to display a message on the outside of a college football stadium in Jacksonville, Fla. reading, “Kanye is right about the Jews.”

The White Lives Matter network, which first emerged in 2015 as the Black Lives Matter movement was quickly gaining prominence, engaged in propaganda efforts last year that included distributing stickers with a QR code linking to its Telegram account, according to the report. The network also passed out literature about the “great replacement” conspiracy theory , which holds that leftists are purposefully seeking to change the racial balance of the country by encouraging immigration.

The group scored a victory in October when Mr. West appeared at an event during Paris Fashion Week wearing a “White Lives Matter” T-shirt. While the stunt cost Mr. West several lucrative marketing contracts, it also provided immeasurable publicity to the white supremacist network that coined the phrase.

Alan Feuer covers extremism and political violence. He joined The Times in 1999. More about Alan Feuer

IMAGES

  1. Your country needs you: The history of wartime propaganda posters

    propaganda posters black and white

  2. Second world war British propaganda posters

    propaganda posters black and white

  3. Photos: U.S. propaganda art, posters of World War II

    propaganda posters black and white

  4. British Propaganda Tin Sign Asking Women to Come Into the Factories

    propaganda posters black and white

  5. PURL 1.2

    propaganda posters black and white

  6. World War II Propaganda Posters: Rare Posters From New Book

    propaganda posters black and white

COMMENTS

  1. The Colors of Propaganda · Decoding Political Propaganda · Nabb

    Communication experts classify propaganda as white, black, or gray depending on the transparency of the source. Determining the source of a message is an important tool in the analysis of propaganda. White Propaganda In white propaganda, the producer of the material is clearly marked and indicated. Black Propaganda

  2. Famous Propaganda Posters From the Last 100 Years

    Printed in 1918, this WWI-era image depicts German militarism embodied by a ferocious gorilla standing on the ground (labeled "America") carrying a bloodied club as well as a young woman. The poster served as another call for American men to fight in the war. "Guerillero Heroico"

  3. PDF Propaganda in Black & White

    Propaganda in Black & White: An Exploration of Overt and Covert U.S. Government Propaganda The United States Government has engaged in numerous propaganda campaigns to win support for its activities at home and to combat enemies abroad.

  4. PDF Propaganda in Black & White

    "Propaganda in Black and White" will be available for tour 2017 through 2020. Dates are subject to change. Project Status: In development Contact: Dee Harris, [email protected] 816.268.8086 More About this Exhibition

  5. 25 Most Powerful Propaganda Posters That Made All The Difference

    The Great Powers intervened and defeated Chinese forces. 3. Anti - Smoking Propaganda. awesome-fun. A very simple, yet powerful anti-smoking poster. Sometimes dubbed as one of the most clever anti-smoking advertisement ever. 4. "You Can Be Someone's Superhero!", Hellenic Association Of Blood Donors, (2013).

  6. We Can Do It!: World War II Posters at the Still Picture Branch

    This series consists of color and black and white posters that were distributed and predominately produced by the Office of War Information's Art Section of the Graphics Division of the Domestic Operations Branch. The posters address recruitment, national security, conservation of resources, fund raising, and propaganda.

  7. These World War II Propaganda Posters Rallied the Home Front

    These World War II Propaganda Posters Rallied the Home Front These World War II Propaganda Posters Rallied the Home Front As the U.S. sent troops to the front lines, artists were recruited to...

  8. Propaganda Poster Collection

    517 items, (8 oversize drawers) Collection Number SC 005 (collection) Summary This collection contains 517 posters, most issued by governments to influence behavior and public morale. Most items are from the period beginning with the start of World War I and concluding with the end of World War II. Repository

  9. CONTENTdm

    30.5 x 44.5 cm. Black and white. Propaganda poster featuring a charcoal drawing depicting two angelic beings carrying the flags of Britain and France in pursuit of a German officer who leaves a trail of crosses in his wake. The artist was inspired by a painting by Pierre-Paul Prud'hon titled: <i>Justice and Divine Vengeance Pursuing Crime</i>.

  10. PDF The Propaganda POSTERS of WWII

    The U.S. government produced posters, pamphlets, newsreels, radio shows, and movies-all designed to create a public that was 100% behind the war effort. In 1942 the Office of War Information (OWI) was created to both craft and disseminate the government's message. This propaganda campaign included specific goals and strategies.

  11. Propaganda Posters From All Over the World for Inspiration

    Propaganda posters are famously direct, and their color palette is no exception. Many iconic propaganda posters were designed using as few as three colors, often black, white, and a warm shade like red. I.M. Toidze. 1941. "The Motherland Calls.". J. Howard Miller. 1942.

  12. 50 powerful examples of visual propaganda and the meanings ...

    Check out the Pink Black White Photo Modern Women's Rights Poster template. 05. Rosie the Riveter Rosie the Riveter was created in 1943 by Norman Rockwell, and actually represents the American women that worked in the munitions and war supplies factories in WWII.

  13. Modern Political Propaganda Posters & the Principles of Art

    The popularity of political propaganda posters only increased after WWI. Posters for campaigns, government motions, and opposition parties flourished. ... Interestingly, the text is the focus of the piece, its colorful background contrasted by the black and white image. This image follows a composition technique called the rule of thirds, where ...

  14. World War II Propaganda Posters, 1941-1945

    Figure 2: U.S. Navy recruitment poster by McClelland Barclay, 1942. Figure 3: War Manpower Commission poster. Photograph by Alexander Liberman, 1943. Figure 4: Victory Bonds poster by G. K. Odell. Figure 5: Car-sharing poster by Weimer Pursell, 1943. Printed by the Government Printing Office for the Office of Price Administration.

  15. Anti-Japan World War II propaganda poster

    About this record. This is a black-and-white Australian propaganda poster with the heading 'The hand that waved a fan takes the dagger of the League of Blood'. At the bottom of the poster is the text 'We've always despised them - NOW WE MUST SMASH THEM! At the top of the poster, an illustration shows a Japanese man in traditional dress waving a ...

  16. The Posters That Sold World War I to the American Public

    "Posters sold the war," said David H. Mihaly, the curator of graphic arts and social history at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California, where ...

  17. 51 Powerful Propaganda Posters And The People Behind

    Propaganda is most well known in the form of war posters. But at its core, it is a mode of communication aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position, and that doesn't have to be a bad thing. Although propaganda is often used to manipulate human emotions by displaying facts selectively, it can also be very effective at conveying messages and hence can be used ...

  18. Guide to the Propaganda Poster Collection 1914-1996

    N/A; 40 x 53 cm. Black and white. Propaganda poster featuring a charcoal drawing depicting a young girl lying in the street in a puddle of blood while a line of troops marches by. 7: 28: Le Kas Allemand circa 1914-1918 Creator/Publisher: Creator Unidentified. Printed at 99 Boulevard Raspail, Paris.

  19. How was propaganda used in World War One?

    Dramatic depictions of events were used to motivate people to join the army. 1,000 civilians died after the Lusitania, a passenger ship, was attacked by a German submarine in 1915. Posters tried ...

  20. Visual Puppeteer: Japanese Propaganda During WWII

    The rise of modern Japan: political, economic and social change since 1850. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2000. Japanese propaganda differed quite a bit from its Western counterpart. On one front, Japanese artwork was somewhat simplistic, focusing black and white images with an occasional color spot to highlight key areas.

  21. Black propaganda

    Black propaganda is a form of propaganda intended to create the impression that it was created by those it is supposed to discredit. Black propaganda contrasts with gray propaganda, which does not identify its source, as well as white propaganda, which does not disguise its origins at all.It is typically used to vilify or embarrass the enemy through misrepresentation.

  22. White propaganda

    Jacques Ellul, in one of the major books on the subject of propaganda, Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes, mentions white propaganda as an acknowledgment of the awareness of the public of attempts being made to influence it.

  23. White Supremacist Propaganda Soared Last Year, Report Finds

    A report by the Anti-Defamation League identified a rise in hate propaganda by white supremacist groups last year. ... images, posters or graffiti. That is a nearly 40 percent rise in similar ...