In April 1917, soon after the United States’ entry into the First World War, President Woodrow Wilson created the Committee on Public Information (CPI). George Creel headed the CPI which existed to unify public opinion in favor of the war and help sell bonds financing its cost. Dozens of promotional posters used to sell Liberty Bonds and boost American patriotism during World War I will be displayed at Frontier Homestead State Park from April 3 – May 13, 2019.
The CPI issued movie reels, newspaper and magazine articles, pamphlets, exhibits, and short speeches, but found its most effective national media approach to be posters. The country’s top advertising illustrators created some 700 posters, which used simple, emotional imagery and messages to sell the war effort. The CPI distributed the posters throughout the states – the equivalent today of a series of memes gone viral – and the intended cultural impact succeeded.
Meanwhile, Utah and its citizens answered the nation’s call to support the war effort in multiple ways. Thousands of young men enlisted in the military, Utahans purchased millions of dollars of Liberty Bonds, and the production of vital metals and agricultural goods was increased to meet the growing demands of a nation at war.
The Works Progress Administration gathered this collection of original World War I posters in Utah in the 1930s. Through them, we can experience how an “advertising” campaign was used to stir feelings of patriotism, and engage Utahans in the larger national effort. They can analyze the similarities between soldiers of 100 years ago and today, contrast the depiction of American soldiers with enemy solders, and consider how the colors and wording affects them. They can also consider how these 100-year-old posters would work in today’s world. Additionally material from the Cedar City Public Library and local resident Jay Jones provide information about the Iron County servicemen who fought “Over There.”
This special exhibit is presented by Frontier Homestead State Park through the Utah Division of Arts & Museums Traveling Exhibition Program