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Patriotism and Persuasion: Posters of World War I

June 3 - August 28, 2005


(above: Unnamed, My daddy Bought Me a Government Bond of the Third Liberty Loan - Did yours?, poster, 30 x 20 inches, The United States Printing & Lithograph Co., New York )

The Ventura County Museum of History & Art is presenting, Patriotism and Persuasion: Posters of World War I, an exhibit featuring more than 36 vintage posters from the Great War (1914 - 1919). The exhibit will explore how the posters' powerful images and captivating slogans stirred patriotism, united Americans against the enemy, recruited soldiers, and solicited participation in fundraising and humanitarian campaigns. The posters will be on display from June 3 through August 28, 2005.

In addition to the posters, the exhibit tells the stories of Ventura County residents who participated in the Great War. Items include area newspaper stories, personal diaries, uniforms, mementos, and photographs from the Museum's Historical Research Library and private collections. They demonstrate how Ventura County citizens served their country, both overseas and on the homefront. (right: Unnamed, Teufel Hunden - German Nickname for U.S. Marines, ca 1914-1918, poster)

The Argabrite family of Ventura donated the World War I poster collection to the Museum in 1925. The poster designs of well-known American artists are highlights of the collection. Howard Chandler Christy's glorious Lady Liberty waving the stars and stripes and leading the troops amplifies the message "Fight or Buy Liberty Bonds." Fred Strothmann's menacing German soldier makes it clear that Americans must "Beat Back the Hun with Liberty Bonds." And James Montgomery Flagg's depiction of Uncle Sam insisting "I Want You for the U.S. Army" [1] has become one of the best-known images of the 20th century.

Posters played a vital role during the conflict. From the time the United States declared war against Germany in 1917 until shortly after the Armistice in 1918, the federal government printed and distributed more than 20,000,000 posters, more posters than were produced during the entire war (1914 to 1918) by all of the other countries involved combined. In a time before television and widespread radio, they were a highly effective means of spreading information, shaping public opinion, recruiting soldiers, encouraging thrift, and raising money.

The Ventura County Museum of History & Art will host a reception for the exhibit opening of Patriotism & Persuasion: Posters of WWI on Thursday, June 2, 2005 from 5:30-8:00pm. The Harmony Channel Quartet will perform. Hors d'oeuvres provided by Chicago for Ribs, Ventura. Admission is free. Reservations preferred but not required. Call 805-653-0323 x 10 to make reservations. The reception is part of the Alive After Five campaign featuring music, poetry, and art exhibitions at various galleries, stores and restaurants throughout Ventura's Downtown Cultural District.


(above: James Montgomery Flagg (1877-1960), I Want You for the U.S. Army, 1917, lithograph)


Also on view

The Museum presents, Print by Print: Building Our Photography Collection, featuring historic and contemporary fine art photographs by Ventura County photographers, June 3 - August 28, 2005 in the Hall Gallery. The photographs, taken between 1931 and 1995, were given to the Museum by Santa Paula gallery owner John Nichols and his wife, Leslie, in 2004.

Nichols has collected and exhibited fine art photography in his Santa Paula gallery since 1984. He believes that "Santa Paula has historically been the center of fine art photography in Ventura County," and he traces this back to the 1930s, when the Fall Farm Festival Exhibition of Photography was organized in that city. The Nichols included in their donation an exhibition program for the event's second annual occurrence dated 1937, five 1930s photographs by legendary photographers Harry Bostwick, Horace Bristol, Vern M. Freeman and Ira Hinckley who participated in that exhibition, and works of contemporary photographers Gene Cooper, Sharon Hardee, David Hartung, Mark Matthews, Michael Moore, John Nichols, Charles Spink, Charlotte Watts and Mary Ellen Wortham.

Photography eventually came to be accepted as a form of fine art and was included in the annual Santa Paula Art Show, initiated in 1936 by Cornelis Botke, Jessie Arms Botke and Douglas Shively. That highly regarded event, now called the Santa Paula Art and Photography Show, recently observed its 69th consecutive year.


Editor's note

1. RL readers may also enjoy reading more about the poster I Want You for the U.S. Army at the Library of Congress web site.

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