The US Army, Navy and Air Force run some of the best recruitment campaigns on television. Slick, emotional and award-winning, these commercials are the hallmark of every major televised sporting event from the Super Bowl to NBA playoffs.
However it was posters that sold World War I to the American public, and abroad, and they were very creative and effective. A major tool for broad dissemination of information, countries on both sides of the conflict distributed posters widely to garner support, urge action, recruit soldiers and boost overall morale. In fact the use of posters during the Great War was larger than any other time during history, pre-dating radio and film which were used later on for World War II.
Now a century later, these rare works of art will be auctioned off by New York City auction house Guernsey’s. The collection was amassed by Brooklyn-born Colonel Edward McCrahon, who first joined the French Army (where he got interested in the posters) and then enlisted in the US Army once we entered the war. After the war, he spent the next 16 years amassing what was one of the largest collection of WWI posters.
On June 30 – July 1, an unreserved auction of the most extensive collection of war posters known to exist will take place online. The Colonel McCrahon Collection reflects true international flavor of the war, of note are the many foreign language posters printed here in the U.S. that functioned as outreach to the large clusters of immigrants in cities such as New York. A sampling includes:
There are approximately 2,000 posters available in the auction, roughly half are from the United States, with the balance reflecting the many different nations involved in WW I.