American Treasures of the Library of Congress: Memory, Exhibit Object Focus

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Lest Liberty Perish

Lest Liberty Perish from the Face of the Earth
Joseph Pennell (1857-1926)
Lest Liberty Perish from the Face of the Earth
Watercolor sketch for poster, 1918
Prints & Photographs Division
Joseph Pennell bequest, ca. 1937 (3.12)

The Division of Pictorial Publicity was part of the Committee on Public Information, America's central propaganda agency during World War I. Painters and illustrators were urged by director Charles Dana Gibson, eminent illustrator of the Gilded Age, to contribute their work to build support for the war at home and to defray the enormous costs of troops and equipment by enlisting subscribers. Ultimately 700 poster designs were produced. For the Fourth Liberty Loan Drive of 1918, printmaker Joseph Pennell conjured up this image of New York City "bombed, shot down, burning, blown up by an enemy." Because the aircraft of the day were unable to cross the Atlantic, Pennell's scenario was implausible; but his design was unanimously accepted and mass produced.

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