The more than 500 United States and international WWII-era posters and related material held in Milner Library's Government Documents World War Poster Collection illustrate how government agencies, organizations and companies across the globe used visual media to influence public opinion on the home and war fronts. Designed by important artists of the period, the posters convey a broad range of messages using a variety of artistic styles. These iconic visual artifacts share the common goal of communicating with, and influencing, a mass audience in public spaces.
As a federal depository library, Milner Library received many of the U.S. posters from the federal government’s Government Printing Office. Other items were donated, including the French broadside bulletins by Illinois State (Normal) University alumnus, Ernest R. Pirka (1940–42), who was stationed in France during the war.
Please note the collection includes items for their historical perspective and significance. Milner Library in no way condones the use of language or images that is offensive to persons of any race, religion, disability status, ethnicity, national origin, gender or sexual orientation.
Artists contrasted zipped or button-lipped cartoon characters and wartime scenes of devastation and personal injury to send the message loose lips on the home front could unintentionally reveal information to spies and saboteurs.
Conservation and sacrifices on the home front played an important role in protecting those serving overseas and in winning the war. Growing and preserving food was inspired by catchy “Can All You Can” designs or via easy step-by-step instructions on canning.
Resonating with vibrant patriotic symbols such as the Statue of Liberty and the American flag, “War Bond” drive posters from the U.S. Treasury Department were instrumental in soliciting donations to finance the war and provided another mechanism those on the home front could contribute to war efforts.
The German-created Nazi propaganda piece, American Illustrated News, targeted international spectators and press attending the XIth Olympiad in Berlin. Herbert Dassel, C. H. Kleukens and Paul Stadlinger shared graphic design credits and Karl Bergmann served as its editor. Printed on fragile newsprint, this now rare item was donated by an Illinois State University emeritus faculty member, Harlan W. Peithman.
From rivet guns to machine guns, posters explicitly made the connection from the factory to the frontlines.
Women are depicted in a wide variety of war roles including “Jenny on the Job,” a model production worker drawn by artist Kula Robbins in a series of posters issued by the U.S. Public Health Services.