I am a history buff and a packrat, descended from a long line of history-loving packrats. However, I was still surprised to find these historical treasures in the attic – a box of WWII “propaganda posters.” My father fought in WWII and married my beautiful Mother in the spring of 1946, “when the boys came home.” I’m happy to say that my 94-year-old Mother is alive and well, and taking her quarantine at home for COVID-19 in stride. She says she remembers seeing posters like these on display during the War, but the ones I found in the attic didn’t belong to her. They are huge (some 5 feet tall) – clearly meant to be displayed in businesses and public places (you can click each image to zoom in):
There were many posters like this, some of which are iconic (like Rosie the Riveter and “Uncle Sam Wants You”). I found more than a dozen, each with a different theme such as encouraging people to save precious fuel for the winter, to can fruits and vegetables from their “victory garden,” not to discuss troop movements, watch out for saboteurs, and buy war bonds. I thought I’d post photos of a few like this one, encouraging people not to travel (to save fuel), a poignant plea from The Red Cross for women to volunteer as nurses, and an encouraging quote from President Franklin Roosevelt.
Through 21st century eyes, these posters seem quaint and even naïve. But, I was thinking today how difficult it would have been to get everyone in the country pointed in the same proverbial direction before smartphones, the internet, or television. These days I wonder whether 24/7 access to information is a blessing or a curse – but on balance, it is a blessing to be able to distribute information as fast as an electron can travel. Seventy years from now, my grandchildren won’t find highly-colored, government-issued COVID-19 posters. But, perhaps it’s good for us to be reminded that our nation has fought enemies a lot bigger than COVID-19. We could use a little of the spirit that carried our grandparents through such times. Even if it sounds naïve and quaint, I agree with FDR:
“The state of this nation is good, the heart of this nation is sound, the spirit of this nation is strong, the faith of this nation is eternal.”