Saving Food, Saving Lives: WW1 Food Posters
This collection of propaganda posters was produced by the United States Food Administration during the First World War. The publicly-administrated program advocated for conservation of food resources for overseas allies and encouraged the idea of eating more locally grown fruits and vegetables. Take a look through these emotive, surprising and historically influential designs.
The Home Garden
Due to desperate food shortages in Europe, America was called upon to supply food to its allies. Americans were encouraged to keep gardens so that extra food could be sent to soldiers and starving civilians.
This poster’s title and three figures reference the famous American Revolution painting The Spirit of ’76 by Archibald Willard. Instead of musical instruments, the trio carry wheat and vegetables in a new show of American patriotism.
Stars and Stripes
The posters needed to appeal to the patriotic spirit of Americans because unlike British rationing, the government wished Americans to restrict their diets voluntarily.
In this example, mounted American troops carry their national flag against a dramatic sunset backdrop. The artist’s choice of background is incredibly patriotic, calling all Americans to prevent food waste to support the war effort.
Influencing Public Opinion
The United States joined the war in April 1917. America’s greatest artistic talents were mobilised to win over American public opinion on an unpopular war. The Food Administration posters were part of this ‘pictorial publicity’ for the war effort.
New York artist Wallace Morgan’s design was influenced by his time as an official artist in the American Expeditionary Force. The soldier’s confronting gaze reminds Americans at home of the meagre conditions experienced daily by frontline soldiers.
Blood or Bread
According to head of the U.S. Food Administration Herbert Hoover, ‘second only to military action [food] was the dominant factor’ in the war.
The posters often referred to the military aspect alongside the issue of food consumption.
Henry Patrick Raleigh was one of the most famous and prolific American illustrator artists of his time. This poster is one of five designs he created for the Food Administration campaign.
‘Don’t waste it’
The Administration’s primary concern was waste.
This poster outlines six ways Americans could prevent food waste. Some families had meatless and wheatless days each week, replacing wheat with corn and barley.
Perhaps there are some nuggets of wisdom here for the modern day?
What God gives us
This cheery, colourful poster has a serious message. It appeals to those of a religious conscience, arguing that God gives Americans an abundance of food and so it is their duty to share the bounty with its allies so that they too can live.
Fish feed themselves
Random and unintentionally funny, this poster is an otherwise solemn and beautifully rendered design by famous American wildlife artist Charles Livingston Bull.
At a time when conservation of resources was of utmost importance, the self-sufficiency of fish made it an excellent natural product for conscientious consumption.
Do Your Share
Men were asked to do their share by eating everything on their plate and not leaving food to waste. Children received similar instructions during the war.
This comical cartoon-style poster highlights the variety of designs employed by the Food Administration to run home its message. The disapproving stare of the waiter is just fantastic!