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Whether it’s for selling a new idea or selling a war, propaganda posters have been used as a central tool by society to stimulate and provoke the masses into action and thought. Due to their cost-effectiveness and simple production process, the poster is the obvious choice when demanding the public’s attention. Though the earliest forms of propaganda began taking shape in pre-modern day, the peak of the propaganda poster came during World War I.
War posters of the era commonly featured art that aimed to recruit soldiers and fuel patriotism at home, raise funds for the war effort, quell discord, and inspire harmony on the home front. One example of the many prints created to encourage American recruitment and support was the famous poster by James Montgomery Flagg of Uncle Sam pointing directly at the viewer, demanding he “wants you” for the U.S. army.
Though used heavily during wartime, the value and efficacy of posters has not been limited to combat. The propaganda poster has proven a successful method of mass persuasion; their visibility and influence discernable in matters of human rights, suffrage, ecological concerns, healthcare, and other debates of the day.
Originally published for the cover of Leslie's Weekly on July 6, 1916 with the title "What Are You Doing for Preparedness?", James Montgomery Flagg’s “Uncle Sam” poster was printed over four million times between 1917 and 1918
In February of 2015, a World War II “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster was auctioned off by Onslows for £15,000
Though it began as just one room when it opened in 2002, The Shanghai Yang Pei Ming Propaganda Poster Art Museum in Shanghai, China now has a collection of over 6,000 Chinese propaganda posters from 1940 to 1990
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