World War II Poster Collection

C1:184
1939–1945
403 unique posters, 568 total

Bits of careless talk are pieced together by the enemy. Stevan Dohanos. 1943

During World War II, the United States government, through the Office of War Information and the U.S. Treasury, mobilized the best advertising men available to create posters that would speak to the nation. The images portrayed played on deep levels of fear, pride, duty, and patriotism in illustrating subjects such as recruitment and enlistment; fund-raising through liberty loans; communications; and the medical, social, economic, and industrial aspects of the war. Some posters also addressed the civilian war effort. Citizens were told through posters that they needed to work hard and sacrifice at home in order to beat the enemy. To that end, the ad men succeeded. People felt as though their efforts at home were truly helping “the boys” overseas. The Library of Virginia’s World War II Poster Collection consists of 403 unique posters, with 568 total posters in the collection.

As with the World War I Poster Collection, this collection uses the graphic arts to portray a message. In contrast to the WWI posters, which are reminiscent of fine art drawings (most notably by Howard Chandler Christy and James Montgomery Flagg), the design of the WWII posters follows the commercial illustration style of the time, popularized by artists such as John Atherton, Adolph Treidler, and J. Walter Wilkinson and his son, Walter G. Wilkinson. The smallest poster is 9 x 20 cm and the largest poster is 115 x 144 cm. The Library’s holdings are larger in number than those of many other historic institutions in the Richmond area and are on par with the collections at Virginia Tech and the George C. Marshall Museum in Lexington.

The complete collection of posters are cataloged and scanned and can be viewed through the Library’s catalog. [nggallery id=63]

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