Making the World Safe for Democracy: Posters of the Great War in New Hampshire
November 11, 2017, through January 5, 2019
The New Hampshire Historical Society commemorated World War I and examined its impact on the Granite State with exhibition, Making the World Safe for Democracy: Posters of the Great War in New Hampshire. Featuring 15 posters from the Society’s collection, the exhibition examined the use of this popular art form to shape public opinion and mobilize American citizens to fight a distant war.
Europe plunged into World War I on July 28, 1914, when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, pitting Germany and Austria-Hungary against Britain, France, and Russia. Long isolated from the conflicts of Europe, many Americans were not eager to enter the war, and the United States remained neutral until April 6, 1917, when Congress declared war on Germany. Just a week after the declaration of war, President Woodrow Wilson created the Committee on Public Information with an entire division—the Division of Pictorial Publicity—dedicated to the creation and distribution of poster propaganda.
An inexpensive form of communication possessing both visual appeal and easily decipherable messages, posters worked well to reach a public already accustomed to this method of advertising used to sell products and services. The posters were designed to evoke a range of emotions from patriotism, loyalty, duty, and thrift, to hatred of the enemy. With powerful images and a few well-chosen words, these posters urged the people of New Hampshire and the nation to purchase liberty bonds, conserve food and raw materials, extend aid to those who suffered the war’s devastation, and enlist in the army, navy, and Red Cross. The posters were the creations of an army of artists who gave their time and talents to the war effort. The iconic images these artists produced shaped people’s views about American ideals and defined a new patriotism that would characterize the American spirit for decades to come.
The exhibition Making the World Safe for Democracy: Posters of the Great War in New Hampshire was on display from November 11, 2017, through January 5, 2019.