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

Joseph Pennell. Building Engines for the Allies, 1917. Lithograph from the artist's American War Work series. Joseph and Elizabeth Robins Pennell Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (052.00.00)

Wartime Work

Joseph Pennell's wartime drawings and prints continued his lifelong fascination with industrial subjects—a theme he called the "Wonder of Work." Pennell's work for the federal Committee on Public Information's Division of Pictorial Publicity accorded him special access to such sensitive sites as shipyards and munitions factories, and the backs of his drawings often bear censor clearance stamps. Pennell observed: "But just as the greatest human energy has been given to war work, given to make things to explode, to kill, to destroy; so the greatest machines have been turned to do this work with the greatest skill and accuracy and the greatest is the working of the great machinery in the great mills which I find so inspiring—so impressive —for the mills are shrines of war."