Fighting For An Ideal America

Whether created by government or by corporations, the production-incentive posters conveyed social, economic, and political ideas through imagery. Throughout the war, the imagery on such posters celebrated the middle-class home, the traditional nuclear family, consumerism, and free enterprise. Pictures of men and women conveyed assumptions about the roles of each in victory and offered a vision of life in an ideal postwar period.

The Sheldon-Claire Company, a Chicago ad agency, produced a series of wartime posters extolling an idealized America.

"This is America....where the family is a sacred institution..."
(Photo, 91-1541.
Gift of Sheldon-Claire Company.)

"This is America... smile, man, smile"
(Photograph by John Vachon. Photo 91-16227.
Gift of Sheldon-Claire Company)

"This is America...where Main Street is bigger than Broadway..."
(Photograph by Walker Evans, 91-2541.
Gift of Sheldon-Claire Company.)

"This is America...where a man picks his job"
(Photograph by Korth, 91-16226.
Gift of Sheldon-Claire Company.)

Poster images were very carefully created. Designers chose an "average Joe" to personify American workers, to gain the "common man's" allegiance to production goals. The average working woman, on the other hand, was often idealized as a fashion model in denim. This glamorized image was intended to convince women that they would not have to sacrifice their femininity for war work.

"Keep 'em Rolling, Pal...Produce for Victory"
(Photograph by Otto Hagel, 91-16246, 163799.03
24 x 36". Gift of Sheldon-Claire Company.)

"Man for Man...Produce for Victory!"
(Photograph courtesy Newsweek Magazine.
91-2748, 63799.15, 24 x 36".
Gift of Sheldon- Claire Company.)

War Imagery posed a problem for some retailers, who shied away from displaying blood-and-guts battle scenes in their windows. The Kroger Company turned instead to a fantasy of grim possibilities. This surrealistic image of schoolchildren in gas masks was another way of saying "It could happen here".

"Dear God, Keep Them Safe!"
(Kroger Grocery and Baking Company.
Poster, 164204.04, 48 x 36", 90-3773.
Gift of Kroger Grocery and Baking Company.)

"Don't Let Anything Happen to Them!"
(Oldsmobile Division, General Motors Corporation
Poster, 164371.37, 30 x 40", 1942.
Gift of Oldsmobile Division, General Motors Corporation.)

"Make Today a Safe Day"
(Artist: J. Howard Miller,
Westinghouse Headquarters Industrial Relations
Poster, 1985.0851.26, 17 x 22, 91-2539. Purchase.)

Warning against inflation, the "Retail Activities Campaign" of the Office of Economic Stabilization encouraged women to avoid paying black-market prices for food and other items, as an added responsibility of homemaking.

"Make This Pledge"
(Attributed to U.S. Office of Economic Stabilization.
Poster, 1984.0473.068, 20 x 28 1/2",
91-2544. Purchase.)

With victory in sight, posters turned toward idealized images of the comforts and conveniences of life far from the factory scene.

"Despite War Restrictions, America's Living Standard...."
(Unattributed. Poster, 1989.0674, 20 x 27", 91-2454. Purchase.)

"This is America...a nation with more homes"
(Sheldon Claire Company.
Poster, 167134.05, 24 x 36", 91-2540.
Gift of Sheldon-Claire Company.)

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