Old State Capitol, through December 17
Life was considerably different in America 100 years ago. The average price of a home was $5,000, and a gallon of gas cost about 16 cents. A Coca-Cola would set you back a nickel. But the biggest worry on most citizens’ minds was the country’s entry into World War I. To muster support for its military efforts, the federal government launched a campaign of colorful posters featuring the work of well-known artists. Some 50 of these illustrated advertisements are now on display at the Old State Capitol as part of the exhibit “Campaigning for Victory: Poster Art of the Great War.”
“These original posters were created to encourage Americans to participate in the war effort,” says Old State Capitol curator Lauren Davis. “They are often referred to as propaganda posters and included messages about enlisting, volunteering, buying war bonds and rationing food.”
Even as the war was being waged, an LSU history professor saw the value in these posters and collected more than 100 of them, says Davis. In the 1930s, he donated them to the Louisiana American Legion, which had its offices in what is now the Old State Capitol. Today, the posters are held by the Louisiana State Archives, and Davis and her team drew from this treasury to find works for this show.
“Most of the posters are crafted by artists, and I find it interesting that our government really considered how to best spread the patriotic messages by using imagery,” Davis says. “The messages they convey—particularly asking everyone to pitch in and help in the war effort—are important to reflect on. We saw this day-to-day homefront support during World War I and II, but our modern wars tend to be so detached from our everyday lives. We hope this exhibit will shine a light on this important event in world history.”