Buying war bonds, planting victory gardens, and joining scrap drives are just some of the many things that were encouraged by propaganda posters during World War II. While these pieces’ messages are no longer relevant today, they continue to serve as a reminder of the effort it took by all citizens to ensure freedom.
And from now through Nov. 25, the public may view 12 of these historic posters in an exhibit at the Alfred State Hinkle Memorial Library.
On loan from the Olean Public Library’s permanent art collection, the posters will be accompanied by a small book and historical exhibit detailing the role of the poster as an art form, and as a means of advertising and encouraging participation in the war effort.
Michelle Margeson, secretary to the library director at Alfred State, said that while the war years are often romanticized, the posters on display represent some of the struggles that US citizens had to endure during World War II.
“This exhibit shows how propaganda played a significant and powerful role in swaying public opinion in all countries during World War II,” she said. “We hope that patrons leave the exhibit recognizing the sacrifices that all US citizens had to make to support the war effort, and draw similarities between past and current propaganda art and advertising.”
Propaganda art during World War II, Margeson said, was instrumental in provoking diverse emotions in US soldiers, enemies, and citizens. She noted editorial cartoonists were also very effective at introducing war themes into their stories, even before the US entered the war, to sensitize public opinion.
“Comic books and cartoons, leaflets, radio messages, books, and movies encouraged a range of opinions about the US entering the war, and reflected our commitment to the cause,” Margeson said. “These posters are a very small sample of how emotions generated by art and advertising can motivate people to act.”
Margeson noted the posters will be displayed to coincide with Veterans’ Day, and also to commemorate the upcoming 75th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December.
“Not just during times of officially declared war, but both in dangerous and uncertain times, as well as during peacetime, soldiers must make sacrifices, as must their families, friends, and communities,” she said. “In recognizing this universal truth, it is our hope that in these contentious times, we will unite on these two important days to support our soldiers and veterans, and to embrace our similarities as Americans, rather than focus on our differences.”
Also in November, the library will be officially opening the newly renovated Hinkle Library Gallery on the 10th. The renovation was made possible by the generous gifts made to the “50 Years-50 Donors-50 Dollars” campaign that was initiated in conjunction with the library’s 50th anniversary in 2015.
The exhibit will be open for viewing during normal library hours. To inquire about exhibiting your work in the Hinkle Gallery, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 607-587-4313.