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EIU Teaching with Primary Sources

The Art of War: WWI and WWII Posters

art of war header

Introduction | Primary Sources and Analysis Tools 
Library of Congress Resources | Primary Source Set

Choose a link below to access printable PDF versions of these materials including additional information, color images and citations.
Art of War: WWI and WWII Posters Resource Booklet 
Primary Source Set

Library of Congress Resources


American Treasures of the Library of Congress.   Memory. The Most Famous Poster

From the Home Front and the Front Lines. This exhibition consists of original materials and oral histories drawn from the Veterans History Project collections at the Library of Congress. With an emphasis on World War I (1914-1918), World War II (1939-1945), the Korean War (1950-1953), the Vietnam War (1965-1975), and the Persian Gulf War (1991), the Veterans History Project, by act of Congress, collects and preserves the experiences of America's war veterans and those who supported them. Accessed 2.18.08

Prints and Photographs

Prints and Photographs Division: Online Catalog-WPA Posters The WPA Poster Collection consists of 907 posters produced from 1936 to 1943 by various branches of the WPA. Of the 2,000 WPA posters known to exist, the Library of Congress's collection of more than 900 is the largest. The posters were designed to publicize exhibits, community activities, theatrical productions, and health and educational programs in seventeen states and the District of Columbia, with the strongest representation from California, Illinois, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The results of one of the first U.S. Government programs to support the arts, the posters were added to the Library's holdings in the 1940s.
Accessed 2.18.08

Prints and Photographs Searching World War I Posters 1914-1920. American, Australian, Austrian, British, Canadian, French, German, Italian and other posters supporting the war effort.

Rosie Pictures: Select Images Relating to American Women Workers During World War II  The selected images were issued by the U.S. government or by commercial sources during World War II, often to encourage women to join the work force or to highlight other aspects of the war effort. Original titles and captions have been retained. Locations for both original and surrogate images are listed, where appropriate.

American Memory

Newspaper Pictorials : World War I Rotogravures During the World War I era (1914-18), leading newspapers took advantage of a new printing process that dramatically altered their ability to reproduce images. Rotogravure printing, which produced richly detailed, high quality illustrations—even on inexpensive newsprint paper—was used to create vivid new pictorial sections. Publishers that could afford to invest in the new technology saw sharp increases both in readership and advertising revenue.

The images in this collection track American sentiment about the war in Europe, week by week, before and after the United States became involved. Events of the war are detailed alongside society news and advertisements touting products of the day, creating a pictorial record of both the war effort and life at home. The collection includes an illustrated history of World War I selected from newspaper rotogravure sections that graphically documents the people, places, and events important to the war.
Accessed 2.18.08

The By the People, For the People: Posters from the WPA, 1936-1943 collection consists of 908 boldly colored and graphically diverse original posters produced from 1936 to 1943 as part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal. Of the 2,000 WPA posters known to exist, the Library of Congress's collection of more than 900 is the largest. These striking silkscreen, lithograph, and woodcut posters were designed to publicize health and safety programs; cultural programs including art exhibitions, theatrical, and musical performances; travel and tourism; educational programs; and community activities in seventeen states and the District of Columbia. The posters were made possible by one of the first U.S. Government programs to support the arts and were added to the Library's holdings in the 1940s.
Accessed 2.18.08

Unlike most American Memory presentations, American Women is not a collection of digital items. It is a gateway--a first stop for Library of Congress researchers working in the field of American women's history. The site contains a slightly expanded and fully searchable version of the print publication American Women: A Library of Congress Guide for the Study of Women's History and Culture in the United States (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 2001). The guide has been redesigned for online use, with added illustrations and links to existing digitized material located throughout the Library of Congress Web site. These materials are supplemented by a small number of newly digitized items that provide a sample of the many relevant types of materials available in Library of Congress holdings
Accessed 2.18.08

Wise Guide

“Are You Doing All You Can?”  Then as now, patriotism surged during wartime. During World Wars I and II, volunteer efforts not only boosted morale at home and abroad, but also provided necessary financial and manpower support for the war efforts. This 1942 print (below left), published by the General Cable Corp., typifies the colorful poster exhortations of the period that encouraged each citizen to be involved in the war effort.
Accessed 1.23.09

Experiencing the War?” World War II was the most widespread war in history, spanning much of the globe. More than 70 million people lost their lives, making it the deadliest conflict in human history. Ken Burn' PBS series "The War" tells the story of the Second World War through the personal accounts of a handful of men and women from four quintessentially American towns. Accessed 1.23.09

Web Guides

A Guide to World War I Materials Compiled by Kenneth Drexler, Digital Reference Specialist The digital collections of the Library of Congress contain a wide variety of material related to World War I, including photographs, documents, newspapers, films, sheet music, and sound recordings. This guide compiles links to World War I resources throughout the Library of Congress Web site. In addition, this guide provides links to external Web sites focusing on World War I and a bibliography containing selections for both general and younger reader.
Accessed 2.18.08

A Guide to World War II Materials Compiled by Mark Hall. World War II (1939-1945) was the largest international event of the twentieth century and one of the major turning points in U.S. and world history. In the six years between the invasion of Poland and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the world was caught up in the most destructive war in history. Armed forces of more than seventeen million fought on the land, in the air, and on the sea. The digital collections of the Library of Congress contain a wide and diverse selection of materials relating to this period. This guide gathers in one place links to World War II related resources throughout the Library of Congress Web site.
Accessed 2.18.08

Teacher's Page

Today in History is designed to help educators use American Memory Collections to teach history and culture.

Presentations and Activities

On The Homefront: America During World War I and World War II  How were people at home dealing with the changes in their lives during the war. Explore American Memory resources that illustrate homefront contributions during World War I and World War II.


Collection Connection

“By the People, For the People: Posters from the WPA, 1936-1943 is part of the Collection Connection.  What types of images and phrases did these posters employ to emphasize community involvement? Do you think that these efforts were effective ways to call for public conservation and donations? Why or why not? How do you think that the public responded to these requests? Do you think that the public was required to make personal sacrifices? If so, how? Why do you think that some posters emphasized the limited discussion of military topics? Do you think that this is censorship? Why or why not? What types of public service information did posters provide regarding the war?
Accessed 2.18.08

Search on war for posters that reflect life during War World II in the United States and abroad. Take on the persona of someone who lived during that era, such as a blue-collar worker in the steel industry, an African-American soldier, or a Japanese American living on the West Coast, perhaps a child. Using the posters as a source of background information and authentic detail, write a short story or a character sketch with the following questions in mind.

“Newspaper Pictorials: World War I Rotogravures: 1913-1919” and is part of the Collection Connection  Countries on both sides of the war used posters to engage their citizens in the effort. Recruiting posters sought enlistees for the military, while other posters urged citizens to contribute by buying war bonds, contributing to relief organizations, or conserving food.
Accessed 2.18.08 at




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