Trove of war posters discovered at library
ROCHESTER, N. H. — One poster in a recently discovered trove vilifies the Nazis with a sword through a Bible and the words “This Is the Enemy.” Some encouraged self- sacrifice by promoting recycling, planting gardens and buying potatoes. Still others warned that loose lips can literally sink ships and get American soldiers killed.
This stash of 190 propaganda posters from World War I and World War II were found last year on top of two sawhorses in the basement of a Rochester, New Hampshire, library. Fragile but mostly in good condition, the posters offer viewers a glimpse of what life was like during war time and the extent that the American government went to maintain support for the conflict by playing on fear, patriotism and civic duty.
“Some of these are really neat,” library director Brian Sylvester said as he thumbed through the posters.
“Most of them were about supporting the military,” he said. “I would call that the main theme. Patriotism. Purchasing war bonds, growing a victory garden, being in support of rationing all that stuff. There is a neat one that has all these pictures of bombs and stuff. The way the artist drew it is there is a skillet at the top dumping out waste fat. That was used for munitions.”
Sylvester said it is unclear how the posters ended up in the library’s basement, but the themes give some clues that they were likely there for decades. About 50 posters dating back to World War I championed the American Red Cross, which kept its records at the library. Dozens more promoted war bonds, while two dozen highlighted a World War I program in which libraries collected books to be sent to troops overseas.
An original Office of Price Administration rationing poster is shown from the archive on Thursday at the Rochester Public Library in Rochester, N. H.