In World War One, for the first time, whole nations and not merely professional armies were in mortal combat. Propaganda was global, with a clear message. Hate the enemy; our cause is just; support our soldiers; unite with our allies. In this pre-radio and television age, posters were one of the most important means of spreading propaganda. Governments invested heavily in posters that grabbed attention, and some of them became symbols of national resolve.
The need to raise money to pay for the war by selling war bonds (or ‘liberty bonds’ in the US) provided one of the most important patriotic themes for posters. A recurring idea was the portrayal of money (coins and banknotes) as an active force in military engagement: a French poster of 1915 for instance depicted a large gold coin with a Gallic cockerel on it, crushing a German soldier, with the slogan: ‘Deposit your gold for France – Gold fights for victory’.
This Russian poster – part of a series advertising war bonds – is a similar call to action. Its message is ‘Everything for Victory! Subscribe to 5½% War Loans’ – presumably to buy the much-needed shells stacked high in the wagons on which the soldiers are riding off to the front.
Other images in the series of posters with the same text showed a woman working steadfastly in a factory, and a gunner standing precariously on top of a biplane.
- Article by:
- David Welch
Professor David Welch explores nations’ reliance on propaganda in World War One, with a focus on symbols and slogans of nationhood and patriotism.