World War I Poster Art


On February 4, the National Constitution Center
unveiled an exhibit created in partnership with the USAHEC.

The posters shown below will be on exhibition in the Center's Posterity Hall.

Click here to visit the National Constitution Center.


Within weeks of the United States entering the First World War in 1917, President Woodrow Wilson knew that national support of the American people would be essential to winning the war.

The Society of Illustrators in New York City was tasked to find a way that artists might assist in the war effort. Under the leadership of Charles Dana Gibson, its members launched what became the Division of Pictorial Publicity. It was part of the Committee on Public Information, created by President Wilson and charged with designing posters that would encourage patriotism and sacrifice on the home front. More than three hundred of America's foremost designers, illustrators, painters, and cartoonists worked for the division. They had the responsibility to illustrate for the people the demands of the Great War and to place on every wall in America the call to patriotism and service by showing the stories of courage, suffering, heroism, and, most importantly, confidence for victory.

From the very start of the project, the Philadelphia Sketch Club, with some of the most famous artists in America as members, was well positioned to be at the center of the Division of Pictorial Publicity's war poster campaign. The Club joined in that great artistic effort of inspiring a nation to victory with many of the most successful posters. They were designed by illustrators and artists such as Howard Chandler Christy, Joseph Pennell, C.B. Falls, J.D. Sheridan, and H. Devitt Welsh, the Assistant Secretary of the Division of Pictorial Publicity. From April 1917 to the war's end in November, 1918, illustrators and artists submitted over seven hundred poster designs to various government agencies such as the United States Food Administration, the Liberty Loan Program, and Recruitment, as well as to private groups such as the Red Cross.

Posters made an important contribution to America's successful war effort in World War I. Their brilliant color and urgent demands projected a sense of patriotism: "the stuff that holds a nation together." Artists designed posters with national symbols and icons such as the American flag, the Statue of Liberty, Uncle Sam, and the girl next door to inspire the American nation to contribute to the call of liberty. Every American citizen was asked to stand up and take his or her patriotic place in the defense of our great country. To do less would be un-American. After the war, Congress tallied up the bill and found that two- thirds of the cost of the war was raised by poster bond drives.

The posters in this exhibition were created by Philadelphia Sketch Club artists to inspire Americans during World War I.

About the Philadelphia Sketch Club This year, the Philadelphia Sketch Club celebrates its 150th anniversary. Its mission remains the same as when it was founded in 1860: "to support and nurture working visual artists, the appreciation of the visual arts, visual arts education, and the historical value of the visual arts to the community."