Top of page

Exhibition Echoes of the Great War: American Experiences of World War I

Joseph Pennell. Lest Liberty Perish from the Face of the Earth, 1918. Watercolor drawing for a Fourth Liberty Loan drive poster. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (101.00.00)

Lest Liberty Perish

As head of the U.S. Government Division of Pictorial Publicity during World War I, renowned illustrator Charles Dana Gibson recruited fellow artists to contribute their work in support of the war and appointed Joseph Pennell as an associate. Prominent in Pennell's body of wartime prints and drawings is his startling poster design for the Fourth Liberty Loan drive of 1918. Pennell stressed the potentially dire consequences of inaction: "New York City bombed, shot down, burning, blown up by an enemy. A fleet of aeroplanes fly over Lower Manhattan, flames and smoke envelop the burning skyscrapers, in the foreground Liberty, from a pile of ruins, rises headless on her pedestal, her torch shattered." His proposed title, "Buy Liberty Bonds or You Will See This," was ultimately softened to a more poetic alternative.