Patriotism surged in America after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Volunteerism
efforts not only boosted morale at home and abroad, but also provided
necessary financial and manpower support for the war effort. This 1942
print, published by the General Cable Corporation, typifies the colorful,
patriotic themed poster messages of the period encouraging each citizen
to be involved.
Service on the home front
As America mobilized for war, men, women and children on the home front supported
the war effort in numerous ways. This World War II poster, produced by
the WPA (Works Progress Administration), makes an appeal to citizens of
all ages to join civilian defense organizations like the Citizens Defense
Corps, Citizens Service Corps and American Unity and to participate in
community salvage programs and victory gardening efforts.
Americans! Share the meat
During wartime, rationing of food items on the home front became a necessity in
order to ensure that the troops had enough to eat. Since large amounts
of red meat were sent to feed both American and Allied troops, the government
set limits on meat consumption by civilians. This 1942 poster issued by
the Government printing office alerts consumers to basic individual limits,
but also offers suggestions for items like liver, sweetbreads, poultry
or fish that can be used to supplement the weekly allotment.
Liberty Loan Drive
Mobilizing a nation for war is an expensive undertaking. Citizens were
encouraged to loan money to the government through the purchase of war
bonds. This 1918 poster promoted the purchase of Liberty bonds during
one of four World War I government initiated war bond drives. Fundraisers
promoted bonds as a patriotic duty and even children participated by collecting
change to buy war stamps.
Reach your boy overseas
In both world wars, letter writing was a popular means of improving
the morale of troops overseas. During the latter years of World War II,
V-mail became a popular and inexpensive way of communicating with loved
ones. V-mail letter forms could be purchased inexpensively at stores or
post offices. Completed forms were then photographed, put on film, flown
overseas, reproduced at mail centers and delivered to the recipients.
This 1942 poster produced by the Government Printing Office promotes the
usage of V-mail as being reliable, fast and patriotic.
Our boys need sox
The American Red Cross is well known for its wartime support efforts.
The Production Corps, one of its most popular volunteer units, was organized
in 1916 to make surgical dressings and clothing for both war refugees
and our own troops. “Comfort items” such as hand-knitted socks,
sweaters, soap and razors were also requested for the men. Between 1917
and 1919, over 370 million relief articles were produced by adult and
junior Red Cross Production Corps members. This World War I poster recruits
volunteers to join a nationwide knitting campaign sponsored by the Red
Cross to supply soldiers and civilians with warm clothing.
After Pearl Harbor was bombed, Americans became fearful of a possible
attack on the United States mainland. Civilians volunteered to coordinate
civil defense and home safety efforts in their local areas. Spotters studied
aircraft silhouettes, blackout accessories were made available and air
raid drills were practiced on a regular basis. This 1940’s WPA poster
reminded citizens of the proper procedures to be followed during air raid
The fruits of victory
Feeding overseas forces during World War I caused food shortages on the home
front. In addition to rationing, the government encouraged families to
plant war or “victory gardens” to supplement the nation’s
food supply. The National War Garden Commission was created to help citizens
learn how to plant gardens and conserve food by canning and drying. This
1918 poster features a patriotic image of a woman surrounded by home grown
vegetables and canned goods and promotes a free book produced by the Commission.
Victory gardens were also popular during World War II and in 1943, yielded
a third of the total U.S. vegetable crop.
Women in the war
The focus of American industry in the 1940’s shifted from producing household
goods to making tools to support the war effort. Factories and businesses
couldn’t find enough male workers to keep operating around the clock,
so women were enlisted to fill the gap. Children were left in government
sponsored day care centers while their mothers joined assembly lines producing
war related items. In an effort to sway negative public opinion about
women working outside of the home, The War Manpower Commission created
this 1942 patriotic poster promoting the importance of the role of women
defense workers in the war effort.
the world’s at peace
Popular sheet music can provide a glimpse into the social and cultural aspects
of an historical period. Hundreds of patriotic and political songs have
been composed during war times. Studying their lyrics, music and illustrations
can offer a unique view into the lives and emotions of soldiers and their
loved ones on the home front. Both the words and images of this 1918 International
Peace Song reflect the joy and relief felt throughout the world at the
end of World War I.