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WWI Posters


In 1916, war was raging in Europe. Newspapers and magazines carried graphic accounts of the horrific events as they unfolded. Some of those publications promoted American isolationism, but another popular medium of the day encouraged military service. In the era before radio and television, perhaps the most striking communication device was the poster.

With the North Dakota National Guard being called to the Mexican Border for action against "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mexico" Mexican "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revolutionary" revolutionary "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pancho_Villa" "Pancho" Villa , it was evident that recruitment was needed both to build up units of the Guard and to bolster the US military for a possible entrance into the widening conflict in Europe. Circulating throughout the state were posters depicting gallant officers on horseback and men wielding cannons with slogans of “Men Wanted for the Army.”

Posters were also popular north of the border, and on this date in 1916, the museum curator at the State Historical Society of North Dakota, Dr. Melvin Gilmore, was arranging a complete collection of posters from Canada he obtained on a recent trip across the border. The posters encouraged enlistment for an all-volunteer Canadian army. On his trip Gilmore noted that most store windows prominently displayed posters depicting the sinking of the Lusitania and atrocities in Belgium, proclaiming a need to “Take Up the Sword of Justice.” Many posters encouraged the enlistment of units of the same vocation such as sawmill hands, which comprised the Canadian Forestry Battalion. Posters urged participants to “Play a Man’s Part” or to take part in the “Great Adventure,” beckoning thrill seekers with “some danger” and “some pleasure.” There were even posters proclaiming the formation of a brigade known as the “American Legion,” which consisted of an American unit of volunteers who would not lose their U-S citizenship by joining. Many of these Americans joined for the pay and the adventure, while others were naturalized US citizens patriotically joining up, having immigrated to the United States from Canada or Europe.

Dr. Gilmore’s efforts had netted a collection of posters that was declared one of the finest in the United States. It was considered second only to a collection at Harvard University, which had sent representatives to Europe to build its collection.

During his tenure as curator of the North Dakota museum, Dr. Gilmore continued to amass an extensive collection of posters, both domestic and foreign. The highly creative, often emotionally oriented works of art enticed support and elicited patriotic pride to help secure victory in the massive global conflict known as the “War to End All Wars.”

Dakota Datebook by Jim Davis


“Dr. Gilmore Secures Many War Posters”, The Bismarck Daily Tribune, August 16, 1916 Page 3

World War One Posters, Series #10935, State Historical Society of North Dakota