World War I

Prior to 1917 the United States remained neutral in the conflict spreading through Europe. Woodrow Wilson campaigned for his 1916 re-election on the slogan "He kept us out of war", referring to Wilson's peaceful response to the sinking of Lusitania by a German U-boat in 1915.

When British intelligence shared the Zimmermann telegram with the United States, hopes of neutrality died and America officially entered the war on April 6, 1917.



Fred Spear, 1915

As Charles Dana Gibson discussed ways to support the war effort with the Society of American Illustrators, Committee on Public Information Chairman George Creel asked him to appoint a committee to supply art for the government.

More than 300 artists and cartoonists volunteered to produce paintings and sketches, including many famous artists of the time.

Posters like Fred Spear's "Enlist", which depicts a mother and child killed in the unprovoked attack on Lusitania, provoked a visceral response that helped unite public sentiment about the war.

Join the tanks

"Join the tanks"

Tank Corps Recruiting Office (Publisher), 1917 or 1918

By the end of the war, the Division of Pictorial Publicity had submitted 700 poster designs to 58 different patriotic organizations and government departments.

The work done by the volunteer artists under Charles Dana Gibson's leadership helped turn public opinion during the war and unite Americans' resolve to win through evocative full-color lithographs and artfully decorated text communicating the government's message.