The propaganda posters that sold World War I to the American public, 1914-1918

The United States entered World War I as an allied power in 1917 as an ally of Britain and France. By the time World War I came, the United States was a leader in the recently discovered art of filmmaking and the new profession of commercial advertising.

Such newly discovered technologies were instrumental in shaping the American mind and turning public opinion into a pro-war position.

The government had no time to waste while its citizens made up their mind to join the fight. How can ordinary Americans be convinced to participate in war "over there"?

The posters – which were so well designed and illustrated that people collected and displayed them in fine art galleries – had both visual appeal and ease of reproduction.

They can be affixed to the sides of buildings, mounted in the windows of homes, in workplaces, and resized to appear over cable car windows and magazines. And they could easily be reprinted in different languages.

To combine this popular form of advertising with prominent messages about the war, the US Government's Public Information Committee formed the Department of Pictorial Propaganda in 1917.

The committee, headed by former investigative journalist George Krell, emphasized the message that America's involvement in the war was absolutely necessary to achieve Europe's salvation from German and enemy forces.

In his book titled "How We Advertised America", Krell states that the committee was brought into existence to make World War I a battle that would be "a decision for mankind".

He called the committee a voice created to advocate the justice of America's cause before a jury of referendums. Creel also refers to the committee as "the giant enterprise in sales" and "the world's greatest adventure in advertising".

The committee's message resonated deeply within every American community and also served as the organization responsible for carrying the full message of American ideals to every corner of the civilized world.

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