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Collections & Critiques

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Hidden deep in the basement depths of Widener Library off the corridor which leads to the stacks, is a small display of English, French, Italian, German, and United States World War posters. Coming at a time when this generation has heard more war talk than ever before, the exhibit is both interesting and timely.

All the sentimentalism, rabid patriotism, and bitter feeling which go into the making of any great war may be seen here, as it were, in a birds-eye view. The means by which people were raised to unprecedented heights of jingoism by master professional, propagandists may be understood in every line. Something new in the world at the time, the posters are simple and direct, but very effective, and even now when war is considered the world's greatest evil, they have a punch which strikes home in a forceful manner.

The different methods used by the propagandists, who deftly adapted themselves to the temperaments of their various peoples, is a real lesson in psychology. For the American people the posters are in the heroic mould. They invariably show a tall, stalwart young man about to strike down a German, at the same time rescuing some helpless woman. For the French, who were bearing the brunt of the suffering caused by the war, a more sentimental style was in order. Their posters usually show war orphans or women weeping over a dead husband or lover. For the Germans and Italians the illustrations are more savage, the favorite theme being soldiers fighting in fierce combat amidst scenes of carnage.

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