Monthly Archives: May 2012

Propaganda Posters of World War I

While the United States did not enter the First World War until 1917, they produced more war propaganda posters than all the other belligerent countries combined: 20 million copies of approximately 2,500 different posters.  The United States’s Publicity Bureau quickly learned that propaganda posters worked as “a silent and powerful recruiter.”

Posters were an excellent way to disseminate news and information in an era before radios were commonplace in homes.  The images were effective, and one did not have to be literate to understand their meaning.

Harry A. Garfield, the head of the wartime United States Fuel Administration, spoke of posters’ ability to get the word out to people:

“I can get the authority to write a column or a page about fuel—but I cannot make everybody or even anybody read it. But if I can get a striking drawing with or without a legend of a few lines, everyone who runs by must see it.”

Some of the most successful poster artists came from magazine and book publishing, which makes sense, as they had been trained to create artwork that was evocative.  And that was the point of propaganda posters–to appeal to one’s emotions and give one cause for immediate action.

Below is a selection of war propaganda posters found in the digital “North Carolinians and the Great War” project by UNC Chapel Hill’s Documenting the American South program.  These posters were widely distributed in North Carolina, and throughout the United States.  You can see the full collection here.

Source: American Posters of the Great War by Dr. Libby Chenault

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Last Dispatches

The Harry Ransom Center (a research library and museum at the University of Austin in Texas) is putting together what looks like a wonderful exhibit to mark the 100th anniversary of World War I.  The new exhibit will tell the story of the war through letters and diaries from soldiers, among other primary resources.  The museum gave The Daily Beast website a look at the final letters from famous English writers, which is posted on their website (visit it here: Last Letters from World War I Literary Heroes).

Seeing these last letters in the soldiers’ own handwriting humanizes the war in a way that nothing else can.

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“Dear Lucky Agent” Contest

Right now Writer’s Digest is offering a wonderful opportunity for all of us hopeful writers out there!  The 10th “Dear Lucky Agent” contest is going on now.  And it’s free to enter!  Find out more here: http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/ninth-free-dear-lucky-agent-contest

Wish me luck!

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If Walls Could Talk

Lucy Worsley, author of If Walls Could Talk

I am a social history enthusiast.  I have always enjoyed learning about societal customs; why things were done the way they were, and how they reflected what was happening in the world at that time.  So imagine my delight when I stumbled upon If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home by British historian Lucy Worsley.  Worsley’s book and accompanying BBC documentary on the subject is a fascinating look at how four rooms of the house (the kitchen, the bedroom, the bathroom, and the living room) changed over time, both in form and function.  Beginning with the medieval period and moving forward to the 20th century, Worsley charts how advances in material goods for the home transformed these rooms into what we know today.  And she does it in an extremely entertaining way.  Worsley tests out things like Tudor-era toothpaste, baking hedgehog in a medieval kitchen (which consisted of a fire built in the middle of the room), and demonstrating how a woman in a Georgian era gown would have, um,  taken care of business.

No easy task, given the amount of fabric with which to wrestle.

So far I’ve only seen the documentary, which Edwardian Promenade was kind enough to put up on their YouTube site.  You can view it here.  It’s tempted me to purchase Worsley’s book as well.

Lighting a gas lamp in a Victorian living room.  Gas lighting was called “illuminated air” when it first became available.

You can get a taste of what Lucy Worsley learns in each room by reading the BBC article about the show.  And if you want even more information, Worsley has a blog in which she goes into further detail about her experiences.

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Birdsong: Part II

I’m a bit behind posting my thoughts on part II of Birdsong.  The conclusion of the series did not disappoint.  I know that there have been some mixed reviews about this adaptation, but I felt the production was solid throughout and thoroughly enjoyed it.

One of the main complaints has been the flashbacks to Stephen’s life before the war threaded in throughout his wartime experience.  But as I said before, I think this only strengthened the story.  The horrors of the war are so vividly depicted that the viewer needs a chance to escape to a time before the nightmare began, just as it is likely the soldiers would have done when things became too much to bear.

Stephen going over the top during the Somme Offensive

Birdsong portrays the First World War very well, hitting all of the major notes that made this war so devastating, including the horrendous loss of life during the Somme Offensive.  I don’t want to write too much in the event some of you have not seen it, but I strongly urge you to watch it online on PBS while it is still available.

There’s also a good interview with Eddie Redmayne about his role as Stephen Wraysford which you can read here.

Jack Firebrace & Stephen Wraysford

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